The theme of temple building dominates the prophecy of Haggai. The neglected option of translating the prophetic application of the priestly ruling found in Hag 2:14 as past tense is shown to be syntactically viable and the best solution to a number of interpretive issues related to the meaning of Haggai 2. The usual practice of translating the verse in the present tense is shown to be problematic, for none of the common explanations of the people’s (supposedly) present defilement is convincing. A past-tense translation of Hag 2:14 relieves the interpreter of the need to work out the source of the people’s state of uncleanness, for it was their earlier neglect of the ruined temple that caused God to reject their sacrifices (a fault exposed by the prophet in chapter 1) and this has been remedied with the commencement of temple-rebuilding.

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