(Calvin on the Prophet Haggai. Part 2)

Commentaries on the Prophet Haggai 
Chapter 1 
Haggai 1:1 
In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the 
first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the 
prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and 
to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 
    The Prophet mentions here the year, the month, and the day in 
which he began to rouse up the people from their sloth and idleness, 
by the command of God; for every one studied his own domestic 
interest, and had no concern for building the Temple. 
    This happened, he says, in the second year of Darius the king. 
Interpreters differ as to this time; for they do not agree as to the 
day or year in which the Babylonian captivity began. Some date the 
beginning of the seventy years at the ruin which happened under 
Jeconiah, before the erasing of the city, and the destruction of the 
Temple. It is, however, probable, that a considerable time had 
passed before Haggai began his office as a Prophet; for Babylon was 
taken twenty years, or little more, before the death of king Cyrus; 
his son Cambyses, who reigned eight years, succeeded him. The third 
king was Darius, the son of Hystaspes, whom the Jews will have to be 
the son of Ahasuerus by Esther; but no credit is due to their 
fancies; for they hazard any bold notion in matters unknown, and 
assert anything that may come to their brains or to their mouths; 
and thus they deal in fables, and for the most part without any 
semblance of truth. It may be sufficient for us to understand, that 
this Darius was the son of Hystaspes, who succeeded Cambyses, (for I 
omit the seven months of the Magi; for as they crept in by deceit, 
so shortly after they were destroyed;) and it is probable that 
Cambyses, who was the first-born son of Cyrus, had no male heir. 
Hence it was that his brother being slain by the consent of the 
nobles, the kingdom came to Darius. He, then, as we may learn from 
histories, was the third king of the Persians. Daniel says, in the 
fifth chapter, that the city of Babylon had been taken by Cyrus, but 
that Darius the Mede reigned there. 
    But between writers there is some disagreement on this point; 
though all say that Cyrus was king, yet Xenophon says, that Cyaxares 
was ever the first, so that Cyrus sustained only the character, as 
it were, of a regent. But Xenophon, as all who have any judgement, 
and are versed in history, well know, did not write a history, but 
fabled most boldly according to his own fancy; for he invents the 
tale that Cyrus was brought up by his maternal grandfather, 
Astyages. But it is evident enough that Astyages had been conquered 
in war by Cyrus. He says also that Cyrus married a wife a 
considerable time after the taking of Babylon, and that she was 
presented to him by his uncle Cyaxares, but that he dared not to 
marry her until he returned to Persia, and his father Cambyses 
approved of the marriage. Here Xenophon fables, and gives range to 
his own invention, for it was not his purpose to write a history. He 
is a very fine writer, it is true; but the unlearned are much 
mistaken who think that he has collected all the histories of the 
world. Xenophon is a highly approved philosopher, but not an 
approved historian; for it was his designed object fictitiously to 
relate as real facts what seemed to him most suitable. He fables 
that Cyrus died in his bed, and dictated a long will, and spoke as a 
philosopher in his retirement; but Cyrus, we know, died in the 
Scythian war, and was slain by the queen, Tomyris, who revenged the 
death of her son; and this is well known even by children. Xenophon, 
however, as he wished to paint the image of a perfect prince, says 
that Cyrus died in his bed. We cannot then collect from the 
Cyropaeda, which Xenophon has written, anything that is true. But if 
we compare the historians together, we shall find the following 
things asserted almost unanimously: - That Cambyses was the son of 
Cyrus; that when he suspected his younger brother he gave orders to 
put him to death; that both died without any male issue; and that on 
discovering the fraud of the Magi, the son of Hystaspes became the 
third king of the Persian. Daniel calls Darius, who reigned in 
Babylon, the Mede; but he is Cyaxares. This I readily admit; for he 
reigned by sufferance, as Cyrus willingly declined the honour. And 
Cyrus, though a grandson of Astyages, by his daughter Mandane, was 
yet born of a father not ennobled; for Astyages, having dreamt that 
all Asia would be covered by what proceeded from his daughter, was 
easily induced to marry her to a stranger. When, therefore, he gave 
her to Cambyses, his design was to drive her to a far country, so 
that no one born of her should come to so great an empire: this was 
the advice of the Magi. Cyrus then acquired a name and reputation, 
no doubt, only by his own efforts; nor did he venture at first to 
take the name of a king, but suffered his uncle, and at the same 
time his father-in-law, to reign with him; and yet he was his 
colleague only for two years; for Cyasares lived no longer than the 
taking of Babylon. 
    I come then now to our Prophet: he says, In the second year of 
Darius it was commanded to me by the Lord to reprove the sloth of 
the people. We may readily conclude that more than twenty years had 
elapsed since the people began to return to their own country. Some 
say thirty or forty years, and others go beyond that number; but 
this is not probable. Some say that the Jews returned to their 
country in the fifty-eighth year of their captivity; but this is not 
true, and may be easily disproved by the words of Daniel as well as 
by the history of Ezra. Daniel says in the ninth chapter that he was 
reminded by God of the return of the people when the time prescribed 
by Jeremiah was drawing nigh. And as this happened not in the first 
year of Darius, the son of Hystaspes, but about the end of the reign 
of Belshasar before Babylon was taken, it follows that the time of 
the exile was then fulfilled. We have also this at the beginning of 
the history, 'When seventy years were accomplished, God roused the 
spirit of Cyrus the king.' We hence see that Cyrus had not allowed 
the free return of the people but at the time predicted by Jeremiah, 
and according to what Isaiah had previously taught, that Cyrus, 
before he was born, had been chosen for this work: and then God 
began openly to show how truly he had spoken before the people were 
driven into exile. But if we grant that the people returned in the 
fifty-eighth year, the truth of prophecy will not appear. They 
therefore speak very thoughtlessly who say that the Jews returned to 
their country before the seventieth year; for thus they subvert, as 
I hare said, every notion of God's favour. 
    Since then seventy years had elapsed when Babylon was taken, 
and Cyrus by a public edict permitted the Jews to return to their 
country, God at that time stretched forth his hand in behalf of the 
miserable exiles; but troubles did afterwards arise to them from 
their neighbours. Some under the guise of friendship wished to join 
them, in order to obliterate the name of Israel; and that they might 
make a sort of amalgamation of many nations. Then others openly 
carried on war with them; and when Cyrus was with his army in 
Scythia, his prefects became hostile to the Jews, and thus a delay 
was effected. Then followed Cambyses, a most cruel enemy to the 
Church of God. Hence the building of the Temple could not be 
proceeded with until the time of this Darius, the son of Hystaspes. 
But as Darius, the son of Hystaspes, favoured the Jews, or at least 
was pacified towards them, he restrained the neighbouring nations 
from causing any more delay as to the building of the Temple. He 
ordered his prefects to protect the people of Israel, so that they 
might live quietly in their country and finish the Temple, which had 
only been begun. And we may hence conclude that the Temple was built 
in forty-six years, according to what is said in the second chapter 
of John; for the foundations were laid immediately on the return of 
the people, but the work was either neglected or hindered by 
    But as liberty to build the Temple was given to the Jews, we 
may gather from what our Prophet says, that they were guilty of 
ingratitude towards God; for private benefit was by every one almost 
exclusively regarded, and there was hardly any concern for the 
worship of God. Hence the Prophet now reproves this indifference, 
allied as it was with ungodliness: for what could be more base than 
to enjoy the country and the inheritance which God had formerly 
promised to Abraham, and yet to make no account of God, nor of that 
special favour which he wished to confer - that of dwelling among 
them? An habitation on mount Sion had been chosen, we know, by God, 
that thence might come forth the Redeemer of the world. As then this 
business was neglected, and each one built his own house, justly 
does the Prophet here reprove them with vehemence in the name and by 
the command of God. Thus much as to the time. And he says in the 
second year of Darius, for a year had now elapsed since liberty to 
build the Temple had been allowed them; but the Jews were negligent, 
because they were too much devoted to their own private advantages. 
    And he says, that "the word was given by his hand to 
Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, and to Joshua, the son of 
Josedech". We shall hereafter see that this communication had a 
regard without distinction to the whole community; and, if a 
probable conjecture be entertained, neither Zerubbabel nor Joshua 
were at fault, because the Temple ass neglected; nay, we may with 
certainty conclude from what Zechariah says, that Zerubbabel was a 
wise prince, and that Joshua faithfully discharged his office as a 
priest. Since then both spent their labour for God, how was it that 
the Prophet addressed them? and since the whole blame belonged to 
the people, why did he not speak to them? why did he not assemble 
the whole multitude? The Lord, no doubt, intended to connect 
Zerubbabel and Joshua with his servant as associates, that they 
three might go forth to the people, and deliver with one mouth what 
God had committed to his servant Haggai. This then is the reason why 
the Prophet says, that he was sent to Zerubbabel and Joshua. 
    Let us at the same time learn, that princes and those to whom 
God has committed the care of governing his Church, never so 
faithfully perform their office, nor discharge their duties so 
courageously and strenuously, but that they stand in need of being 
roused, and, as it were, stimulated by many goads. I have already 
said, that in other places Zerubbabel and Joshua are commended; yet 
the Lord reproved them and severely expostulated with them, because 
they neglected the building of the Temple. This was done, that they 
might confirm by their authority what the Prophet was about to say: 
but he also intimates, that they were not wholly free from blame, 
while the people were thus negligent in pursuing the work of 
building the Temple. 
    Zerubbabel is called the son of Shealtiel: some think that son 
is put here for grandson, and that his father's name was passed 
over. But this seems not probable. They quote from the Chronicles a 
passage in which his father's name is said to be Pedaiah: but we 
know that it was often the case among that people, that a person had 
two names. I therefore regard Zerubbabel to have been the son of 
Shealtiel. He is said to have been the governors of Judah; for it 
was necessary that some governing power should continue in that 
tribe, though the royal authority was taken away, and all 
sovereignty and supreme power extinguished. It was yet God's purpose 
that some vestiges of power should remain, according to what had 
been predicted by the patriarch Jacob, 'Taken away shall not be the 
sceptre from Judah, nor a leader from his thigh, until he shall 
come;' &c. (Gen. 49: 10.) The royal sceptre was indeed taken away, 
and the crown was removed, according to what Ezekiel had said, 'Take 
away the crown, subvert, subvert, subvert it,' (Ezek. 21: 26, 27;) 
for the interruption of the government had been sufficiently long. 
Yet the Lord in the meantime preserved some remnants, that the Jews 
might know that that promise was not wholly forgotten. This then is 
the reason why the son of Shealtiel is said to be the governor of 
Judah. It now follows - 
Haggai 1:2-4 
2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time 
is not come, the time that the LORD'S house should be built. 
3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 
4 [Is it] time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and 
this house [lie] waste? 
    They who think that seventy years had not passed until the 
reign of Darius, may from this passage be easily disproved: for if 
the seventy years were not accomplished, an excuse would have been 
ready at hand, - that they had deferred the work of building the 
Temple; but it was certain, that the time had then elapsed, and that 
it was owing to their indifference that the Temple was not erected, 
for all the materials were appropriated to private uses. While then 
they were thus taking care of themselves and consulting their own 
interest, the building of the Temple was neglected. That the Temple 
was not built till the reign of Darius, this happened, as we have 
said, from another cause, because the prefects of king Cyrus gave 
much annoyance to the Jews, and Cambyses was most hostile to them. 
But when liberty was restored to them, and Darius had so kindly 
permitted them to build the Temple, they had no excuse for delay. 
    It is however probable that they had then many disputes as to 
the time; for it may have been, that they seizing on any pretext to 
cover their sloth, made this objection, - that many difficulties had 
occurred, because they had been too precipitate, and that they had 
thus been punished for their haste, because they had rashly 
undertaken the building of the Temple: and we may also suppose that 
they took another view of the time as having not yet come, for 
easily might this objection occur to them, - "It is indeed true that 
the worship of God is deservedly to be preferred to all other 
things; but the Lord grants us this indulgence, so that we are 
allowed to build our own houses; and in the meantime we attend to 
the sacrifices. Have not our fathers lived many ages without a 
Temple? God was then satisfied with a sanctuary: there is now an 
altar erected, and there sacrifices are offered. The Lord then will 
forgive us if we defer the building of the Temple to a suitable 
time. But in the meantime every one may build his own house, so that 
afterwards the Temple may at leisure be built more sumptuously." 
However this may have been, we find that true which I have often 
stated, - that the Jews were so taken up with their own domestic 
concerns, with their own ease, and with their own pleasures, that 
they made very little account of God's worship. This is the reason 
why the Prophet was so greatly displeased with them. 
    He declares what they said, "This people say, The time is not 
yet come to build the house of Jehovah". He repeats here what the 
Jews were wont to allege in order to disguise their sloth, after 
having delayed a long time, and when they could not, except through 
consummate effrontery, adduce anything in their own defence. We 
however see, that they hesitated not to promise pardon to 
themselves. Thus also do men indulge themselves in their sins, as 
though they could make an agreement with God and pacify him with 
some frivolous things. We see that this was the case then. But we 
may also see here, as in a mirror, how great is the ingratitude of 
men. The kindness of God had been especially worthy of being 
remembered, the glory of which ought to have been borne in mind to 
the end of time: they had been restored from exile in a manner 
beyond what they had ever expected. What ought they to have done, 
but to have devoted themselves entirely to the service of their 
deliverer? But they built, no, not even a tent for God, and 
sacrificed in the open air; and thus they wilfully trifled with God. 
But at the same time they dwelt at ease in houses elegantly fitted 
    And how is the case at this day? We see that through a 
remarkable miracle of God the gospel has shone forth in our time, 
and we have emerged, as it were, from the abodes below. Who does now 
rear up, of his own free-will, an altar to God? On the contrary, all 
regard what is advantageous only to themselves; and while they are 
occupied with their own concerns, the worship of God is cast aside; 
there is no care, no zeal, no concern for it; nay, what is worse, 
many make gain of the gospel, as though it were a lucrative 
business. No wonder then, if the people have so basely disregarded 
their deliverance, and have almost obliterated the memory of it. No 
less shameful is the example witnessed at this day among us. 
    But we may hence also see how kindly God has provided for his 
Church; for his purpose was that this reproof should continue 
extant, that he might at this day stimulate us, and excite our fear 
as well as our shame. For we also thus grow frigid in promoting the 
worship of God, whenever we are led to seek only our own advantages. 
We may also add, that as God's temple is spiritual, our fault is the 
more atrocious when we become thus slothful; since God does not bid 
us to collect either wood, or stones, or cement, but to build a 
celestial temple, in which he may be truly worshipped. When 
therefore we become thus indifferent, as that people were thus 
severely reproved, doubtless our sloth is much more detestable. We 
now see that the Prophet not only spoke to men of his age, but was 
also destined, through God's wonderful purpose, to be a preacher to 
us, so that his doctrine sounds at this day in our ears, and 
reproves our torpor and ungrateful indifference: for the building of 
the spiritual temple is deferred, whenever we become devoted to 
ourselves, and regard only what is advantageous to us individually. 
We shall go on with what follows to-morrow. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we must carry on a warfare in this 
world, and as it is thy will to try us with many contests, - O 
grant, that we may never faint, however extreme may be the trials 
which we shall have to endure: and as thou hast favoured us with so 
great an honour as to make us the framers and builders of thy 
spiritual temple, may every one of us present and consecrate himself 
wholly to thee: and, inasmuch as each of us has received some 
peculiar gift, may we strive to employ it in building this temple, 
so that thou mayest be worshipped among us perpetually; and 
especially, may each of us offer himself wholly as a spiritual 
sacrifice to thee, until we shall at length be renewed in thine 
image, and be received into a full participation of that glory, 
which has been attained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten 
Son. Amen. 
Lecture One Hundred and Twenty-ninth. 
    When the Prophet asks, whether the time had come for the Jews 
to dwell in splendid and well furnished houses, and whether the time 
had not come to build the Temple, he intimates, that they were 
trifling in a very gross manner with God; for there was exactly the 
same reason for building the Temple as for building the city. How 
came they to be restored to their country, but that God performed 
what he had testified by the mouth of Jeremiah? Hence their return 
depended on the redemption promised to them: it was therefore easy 
for them to conclude, that the time for building the Temple had 
already come; for the one could not, and ought not to have been 
separated from the other, as it has been stated. He therefore 
upbraids them with ingratitude, for they sought to enjoy the 
kindness of God, and at the same time disregarded the memorial of 
    And very emphatical are the words, when he says, "Is it time 
for you to dwell in houses?" For there is implied a comparison 
between God, whose Temple they set no value on, and themselves, who 
sought not only commodious, but sumptuous dwellings. Hence the 
Prophet inquires, whether it was consistent that mortal men, who 
differ not from worms, should possess magnificent houses, and that 
God should be without his Temple. And to the same purpose is what he 
adds, when he says, that their houses were boarded; for "sfunim", 
means in Hebrew what we express by Cambrisees. Since then they were 
not satisfied with what was commodious, without splendour and luxury 
being added, it was extremely shameful for them to rob God at the 
same time of his Temple, where he was to be worshipped. It now 
follows - 
Haggai 1:5,6 
Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 
Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not 
enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, 
but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages [to 
put it] into a bag with holes. 
    Here the Prophet deals with the refractory people according to 
what their character required; for as to those who are teachable and 
obedient, a word is enough for them; but they who are perversely 
addicted to their sins must be more sharply urged, as the Prophet 
does here; for he brings before the Jews the punishments by which 
they had been already visited. It is commonly said, that experience 
is the teacher of fools; and the Prophet has this in view in these 
words, "apply  your hearts to your ways;" that is, "If the authority 
of God or a regard for him is of no importance among you, at least 
consider how God deals with you. How comes it that ye are famished, 
that both heaven and earth deny food to you? Besides, though ye 
consume much food, it yet does not satisfy you. In a word, how is it 
that all things fade away and vanish in your hands? How is this? Ye 
cannot otherwise account for it, but that God is displeased with 
you. If then ye will not of your own accord obey God's word, let 
these judgements at least induce you to repent." It was to apply the 
heart to their ways, when they acknowledged that they were thus 
famished, not by chance, but that the curse of God urged them, or 
was suspended over their heads. He therefore bids them to receive 
instruction from the events themselves, or from what they were 
experiencing; and by these words the Prophet more sharply teaches 
them; as though he had said, that they profited nothing by 
instruction and warning, and that it remained as the last thing, 
that they were to be drawn by force while the Lord was chastising 
    He says that they had sown much, and that small was the 
produce. They who render the clause in the future tense, wrest the 
meaning of the Prophet: for why did he say, apply your heart to your 
ways, if he only denounced a future punishment? But, as I have 
already stated, he intimates, that they very thoughtlessly champed 
the bridle, for they perceived not that all their evils were 
inflicted by God's hand, nor did they regard his judgement as 
righteous. Hence he says, that they had sowed much, and that the 
harvest had been small; and then, that they ate and were not 
satisfied; that they drank and had not their thirst quenched; that 
they clothed themselves and were not warmed. How much soever they 
applied those things which seemed necessary for the support of life, 
they yet availed them nothing. And God, we know, does punish men in 
these two ways either by withdrawing his blessings, by rendering the 
earth arid and the heavens dry; or by making the abundant produce 
unsatisfying and even useless. It often happens that men gather what 
is sufficient for support, and yet they are always hungry. It is a 
kind of curse, which appears very evident when God takes away their 
nourishing power from bread and wine, so that they supply no support 
to man. When therefore fruit, and whatever the earth produces for 
the necessities of man, give no support, God proves, as it were by 
an outstretched arm, that he is an avenger. But the other curse is 
more frequent; that is, when God smites the earth with drought, so 
that it produces nothing. But our Prophet refers to both these kinds 
of evils. Behold, he says, Ye have sown much and ye gather little; 
and then he says, "Though ye are supplied with the produce of wine 
and corn, yet with eating and drinking ye cannot satisfy yourselves; 
nay, your very clothes do not make you warm." They might have had a 
sure hope of the greatest abundance, had they not broken off the 
stream of God's favour by their sins. Were they not then extremely 
blind this experience must have awakened them, according to what is 
said in the first chapter of Joel. 
    He says at the end of the verse, "He who gains wages, gains 
then for a perforated bag". By these words he reminds them, that the 
vengeance of God could not only be seen in the sterility of the 
earth, and in the very hunger of men, who by eating were not 
satisfied; but also in their work, for they wearied themselves much 
without any profit, as even the money cast into the bag disappeared. 
Hence he says, even your work is in vain. It was indeed a most 
manifest proof of God's wrath, when their money, though laid up, yet 
vanished away. 
    We now see what the Prophet means: As his doctrine appeared 
frigid to the Jews and his warnings were despised, he treats them 
according to the perverseness of their disposition. Hence he shows, 
that though they disregarded God and his Prophets, they were yet 
sufficiently taught by his judgements, and that still they remained 
indifferent. He therefore goads them, as though they were asses, 
that they might at length acknowledge that God was justly displeased 
with them, and that his wrath was conspicuous in the sterility of 
the land, as well as in everything connected with their life; for 
whether they did eat or abstained from food, they were hungry; and 
when they diligently laboured and gathered wages, their wages 
vanished, as though they had cast them into a perforated bag. It 
follows - 
Haggai 1:7,8 
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 
Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I 
will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 
    The Prophet now adds, that since the Jews were thus taught by 
their evils, nothing else remained for them but to prepare 
themselves without delay for the work of building the Temple; for 
they were not to defer the time, inasmuch as they were made to know, 
that God had come forth with an armed hand to vindicate his own 
right: for the sterility of which he had spoken, and also the famine 
and other signs of a curse, were like a drawn sword in the hand of 
God; by which it was evident, that he intended to punish the 
negligence of the people. As God then had been robbed of his right, 
he not only exhorted the people by his Prophets, but also executed 
his vengeance on this contempt. 
    This is the reason why the Prophet now says, "Apply your 
heart", and then adds, "Go up to the mountain, bring wood", &c. And 
this passage strikingly sets forth why God punished their sins, in 
order that they might not only perceive that they had sinned, but 
that they might also seek to amend that which displeased God. We may 
also, in the second place, learn from what is said, how we are to 
proceed rightly in the course of true repentance. The beginning is, 
that our sins should become displeasing to us; but if any of us 
proceed no farther, it will be only an evanescent feeling: it is 
therefore necessary to advance to the second step; an amendment for 
the better ought to follow. The Prophet expresses both here: He says 
first, Lay your heart on your ways; that is, "Consider whence comes 
this famine to you, and then how it is that by labouring much ye 
gain nothing, except that God is angry with you." Now this was what 
wisdom required. But he again repeats the same thing, "Lay your 
heart on your ways," that is, "Not only that sin may be hated by 
you, but also that this sloth, which has hitherto offended God and 
provoked his wrath, may be changed into strenuous activity." Hence 
he says, " Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and let the house 
be built". 
    If any one is at a loss to know why the Prophet insists so much 
on building the Temple, the ready answer is this that it was God's 
design to exercise in this way his ancient people in the duties of 
religion. Though then the Temple itself was of no great importance 
before God, yet the end was to be regarded; for the people were 
preserved by the visible Temple in the hope of the future Christ; 
and then it behaved them always to bear in mind the heavenly 
pattern, that they might worship God spiritually under the external 
symbols. It was not then without reason that God was offended with 
their neglect of the temple; for it hence clearly appeared, that 
there was no care nor zeal for religion among the Jews. It often was 
the case that they were more sedulous than necessary in external 
worship, and God scorned their assiduity, when not connected with a 
right inward feeling; but the gross contempt of God in disregarding 
even the external building, is what is reprehended here by the 
    He afterwards adds, "And I will be propitious in it", or, I 
will take pleasure in it. Some read, "It will please me;" and they 
depart not from the real meaning of the verb: for "ratzah" is to be 
acceptable. But more correct, in my view, is the opinion of those 
who think that the Prophet alludes to the promise of God; for he had 
said, that he would on this condition dwell among the Jews, that he 
might hear their prayers, and be propitious to them. As, then, the 
Jews came to the Temple to expiate their sins, that they might 
return to God's favour, it is not without reason that God here 
declares that he would be propitious in that house. 'If any one 
sin,' said Solomon, 'and entering this house, shall humbly pray, do 
thou also hear from thy heavenly habitation.' (1 Kings 8: 30.) We 
further know that the covering of the ark was called the 
propitiatory, because God there received the suppliant into favour. 
This meaning, then, seems the most suitable - that the Prophet says, 
that if the Temple was built, God would be there propitious. But it 
was a proof of extreme impiety to think that they could prosper 
while God was adverse to them: for whence could they hope for 
happiness, except from the only fountain of all blessings, that is, 
when God favoured them and was propitious to them? And how could his 
favour be sought, except they came to his sanctuary, and thence 
raise up their minds by faith to heaven? When, therefore, there was 
no care for the Temple, it was easy to conclude that God himself was 
neglected, and regarded almost with scorn. We then see how 
emphatically this was added, I will be propitious there, that is, in 
the Temple; as though he had said, "Your infirmity ought to have 
reminded you that you have need of this help, even of worshipping me 
in the sanctuary. But as I gave you, as it were, a visible mirror of 
my presence among you, when I ordered a Temple to be built for me on 
mount Sion, when ye despise the Temple, is it not the same as though 
I was rejected by you?" 
    He then adds, "And I shall be glorified, saith Jehovah". He 
seems to express the reason why he should be propitious; for he 
would then see that his glory was regarded by the Jews. At the same 
time, this reason may be taken by itself, and this is what I prefer. 
The Prophet then employs two goads to awaken the Jews: When the 
Temple was built, God would bless them; for they would have him 
pacified, and whenever they found him displeased, they might come as 
suppliants to seek pardon; this was one reason why it behaved them 
strenuously to undertake the building of the Temple. The second 
reason was, that God would be glorified. Now, what could have been 
more inconsistent than to disregard God their deliverer, and so late 
a deliverer too? But how God was glorified by the Temple I have 
already briefly explained; not that it added anything to God; but 
such ordinances of religion were then necessary, as the Jews were as 
yet like children. It now follows - 
Haggai 1:9 
Ye looked for much, and, lo, [it came] to little; and when ye 
brought [it] home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. 
Because of mine house that [is] waste, and ye run every man unto his 
own house. 
    Here the Prophet relates again, that the Jews were deprived of 
support, and that they in a manner pined away in their distress, 
because they robbed God of the worship due to him. He first repeats 
the fact, "Ye have looked for much, but behold little". It may 
happen that one is contented with a very slender portion, because 
much is not expected. They who are satisfied with their own penury 
are not anxious though their portion of food is but scanty, though 
they are constrained to feed on acorns. Those who are become 
hardened in enduring evils, do not seek much; but they who desire 
much, are more touched and vexed by their penury. This is the reason 
why the Prophet says, Ye have looked for much, and, behold, there 
was but little; that is, "Ye are not like the peasants, who satisfy 
themselves with any sort of food, and are not troubled on account of 
their straitened circumstances; but your desire has led you to seek 
abundance. Hence ye seek and greedily lay hold on things on every 
side; but, behold, it comes to little." 
    In the second place he adds, "Ye have brought it home". He 
farther mentions another kind of evil - that when they gathered 
wine, and corn, and money, all these things immediately vanished. Ye 
have brought it home, "and I have blown upon it". By saying that 
they brought it home, he intimates that what they had acquired was 
laid up, that it might be preserved safely; for they who had filled 
their storehouses, and wine-cellars, and bags, thought that they had 
no more to do with God. Hence it was that profane men securely 
indulged themselves; they thought that they were beyond the reach of 
danger, when their houses were well filled. God, on the contrary, 
shows that their houses became empty, when filled with treasures and 
provisions. But he speaks still more distinctly - that he had blown 
upon them, that is, that he had dissipated them by his breath: for 
the Prophet did not deem it enough historically to narrate what the 
Jews had experienced; but his purpose also was to point out the 
cause, as it were, by the finger. He therefore teaches us, that what 
they laid in store in their houses did not without a cause vanish 
away; but that this happened through the blowing of God, even 
because he cursed their blessing, according to what we shall 
hereafter see in the Prophet Malachi. 
    He then adds, "Why is this? saith Jehovah of hosts". God here 
asks, not because he had any doubts on the subject, but that he 
might by this sort of goading rouse the Jews from their lethargy, - 
"Think of the cause, and know that my hand is not guided by a blind 
impulse when it strikes you. You ought, then, to consider the reason 
why all things thus decay and perish." Here again is sharply 
reproved the stupidity of the people, because they attended not to 
the cause of their evils; for they ought to have known this of 
    But God gives the answer, because he saw that they remained 
stupefied - "On account of my house, he says, because it is waste." 
God here assigns the cause; he shows that though no one of them 
considered why they were so famished, the judgement of his curse was 
yet sufficiently manifest, on account of the Temple remaining a 
waste. "And you, he says, run, every one to his own house". Some 
read, "You take delight, every one in his own house;" for it is the 
verb "ratzah", which we have lately noticed; and it means either to 
take pleasure in a thing, or to run. Every one, then, runs to his 
house, or, Every one delights in his house. But it is more suitable 
to the context to give this rendering, "Every one runs to his 
house." For the Prophet here reminds the Jews that they were slow 
and slothful in the work of building the Temple, because they 
hastened to their private houses. He then reproves here their ardour 
in being intent on building their own houses, so that they had no 
leisure to build the Temple. This is the hastening which the Prophet 
blames and condemns in the Jews. 
    We may hence learn again, that they had long delayed to build 
the sanctuary after the time had arrived: for, as we have mentioned 
yesterday, they who think the Jews returned in the fifty-eighth 
year, and that they had not then undergone the punishment denounced 
by Jeremiah, are very deluded; for they thus obscure the favour of 
God; nay, they wholly subvert the truth of the promises, as though 
they had returned contrary to God's will, through the permission of 
Cyrus, when yet Isaiah says, that Cyrus would be the instrument of 
their promised redemption. (Is. 45: 5.) Surely, then, Cyrus must 
have been dead before the time was fulfilled! and in that case God 
could not have been the redeemer of his people. Therefore Eusebius, 
and those who agree with him, did thus most absurdly confound the 
order of time. It now follows - 
Haggai 1:10,11 
Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is 
stayed [from] her fruit. 
And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, 
and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon 
[that] which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon 
cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands. 
    He confirms what the last verse contains - that God had made it 
evident that he was displeased with the people because their zeal 
for religion had become cold, and, especially, because they were all 
strangely devoted to their own interest and manifested no concern 
for building the Temple. Hence, he says, therefore the heavens are 
shut up and withhold the dew; that is, they distil no dew on the 
earth; and he adds, that the earth was closed that it produced no 
fruit; it yielded no increase, and disappointed its cultivators. As 
to the particle "'al-ken", we must bear in mind what I have stated, 
that God did not regard the external and visible Temple, but rather 
the end for which it was designed; for it was his will then that he 
should be worshipped under the ceremonies of the law. When, 
therefore, the Jews offered mutilated, lame, or diseased sacrifices, 
they manifested impiety and contempt of God. It is yet true, that it 
was the same thing as to God; but he had not commanded sacrifices to 
be offered to him for his own sake, but that by such services they 
might foster true religion. When, therefore, he says now, that he 
punished their neglect of the Temple, we ought ever to regard that 
as a pattern of heavenly things, so that we may understand that the 
coldness and indifference of the Jews were reproved; because it 
hence evidently appeared that they had no care for the worship of 
    With respect to the withholding of dew and of produce, we know 
that the Prophets took from the law what served to teach the people, 
and accommodated it to their own purposes. The curses of the law are 
general. (Deut. 11: 17.) It is therefore the same thing as though 
the Prophet had said, that what God had threatened by Moses was 
really fulfilled. It ought not to have been to them a new thing, 
that whenever heaven denied its dew and rain it was a sign of God's 
wrath. But as, at this day, during, wars, or famine, or pestilence, 
men do not regard this general truth, it is necessary to make the 
application: and godly teachers ought wisely to attend to this 
point, that is, to remind men, according to what the state of things 
and circumstances may require, that God proves by facts what he has 
testified in his word. This is what is done by our Prophet now, 
withheld have the heavens the dew and the earth its produce. 
    In a word, God intimates, that the heavens leave no care to 
provide for us, and to distil dew so that the earth may bring forth 
fruit, and that the earth also, though called the mother of men, 
does not of itself open its bowels, but that the heavens as well as 
the earth bear a sure testimony to his paternal love, and also to 
the care which he exercises over us. God then shows, both by the 
heavens and the earth, that he provides for us; for when the heavens 
and the earth administer and supply us with the blessings of God, 
they thus declare his love towards us. So also, when the heaven is, 
as it were, iron, and when the earth with closed bowels refuses us 
food, we ought to know that they are commissioned to execute on us 
the vengeance of God. For they are not only the instruments of his 
bounty, but, when it is necessary, God employs them for the purpose 
of punishing us. This is briefly the meaning. 
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou kindly and graciously invites 
us to thyself, we may not wait until thou stimulates us with goads, 
but cast aside our sloth and run quickly to thee. And when our 
torpor so possesses us as to render punishment necessary, permit us 
not to harden ourselves; but being at length effectually warned, and 
we return to the right way, and strive so to render all we do 
approved by thee, that we may find a door opened to thy grace and 
favour: and being made partakers of those blessed, by which thou 
affordest a taste of that goodness which we shall enjoy in heaven, 
may we ever aspire thither, and be satisfied with the abundant 
blessings which we daily and even continually receive from thine 
hand, in such a manner as not to be detained by this world; but may 
we, with minds raised up to heaven, ever tend upwards, and labour 
for that perfect happiness which is there laid up fur us by Christ 
our Lord. Amen. 
Lecture One hundred and Thirtieth. 
Haggai 1:12 
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of 
Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, 
obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the 
prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear 
before the LORD. 
    The Prophet here declares that his message had not been without 
fruit, for shortly after the whole people prepared themselves for 
the work. And he names both Zerubbabel and Joshua; for it behaved 
them to lead the way, and, as it were, to extend a hand to others. 
For, had there been no leaders, no one of the common people would 
have pointed out the way to the rest. We know what usually happens 
when a word is addressed indiscriminately to all the people: they 
wait for one another. But when Joshua and Zerubbabel attended to the 
commands of the Prophet, the others followed them: for they were 
dominant, not only in power, but also in authority, so that they 
induced the people willingly to do their duty. One was the governor 
of the people, the other was the high priest; but the honesty and 
faithfulness of both were well known, so that the people 
spontaneously followed their example. 
    And this passage teaches us that though God invites all to his 
service, yet as any one excels in honour or in other respects, so 
the more promptly he ought to undertake what is proposed by the 
authority of God. Our Prophet, no doubt, meant to point out this due 
order of things, by saying, that he was heard first by Zerubbabel 
and Joshua, and then by the whole people. 
    But as all had not returned from exile, but a small portion, 
compared with that great number, which, we know, had not availed 
themselves of the kindness allowed them - this is the reason why the 
Prophet does not simply name the people, but the remnant of the 
people, "she'rit ha'am". As also the gift of prophecy had been for a 
long time more rare, and few appeared among the people who had any 
decided evidence of their call, such as Samuel, Isaiah, David, and 
others possessed, the Prophet, for this reason, does here more 
carefully commend and honour his own office: he says that the people 
attended to the voice of Jehovah - How? By attending, he says, to 
the words of Haggai the Prophet, inasmuch as Jehovah their God had 
sent him. He might have said more shortly that his labour had not 
been without fruit; but he used this circuitous mode of speaking, 
that he might confirm his own call; and he did this designedly, 
because the people had for a long time been without the opportunity 
of hearing God's Prophets, for there were none among them. 
    But Haggai says nothing here but what belongs in common to all 
teachers in the Church: for we know that men are not sent by divine 
authority to speak that God himself may be silent. As then the 
ministers of the word derogate nothing from the authority of God, it 
follows that none except the only true God ought to be heard. It is 
not then a peculiar expression, which is to be restricted to one 
man, when God is said to have spoken by the mouth of Haggai; for he 
thus declared that he was God's true and authorised Prophet. We may 
therefore gather from these words, that the Church is not to be 
ruled by the outward preaching of the word, as though God had 
substituted men in his own place, and thus divested himself of his 
own office, but that he only speaks by their mouth. And this is the 
import of these words, "The people attended to the voice of Jehovah 
their God, and to the words of Haggai the Prophet". For the word of 
God is not distinguished from the words of the Prophet, as though 
the Prophet had added anything of his own. Haggai then ascribed 
these words to himself, not that he devised anything himself, so as 
to corrupt the pure doctrine which had been delivered to him by God, 
but that he only distinguished between God, the author of the 
doctrine, and his minister, as when it is said, "The sword of God 
and of Gideon," (Jud. 7: 20,) and also, "The people believed God and 
Moses his servant." (Ex. 14:  31.) nothing is ascribed to Moses or 
to Gideon apart from God; but God himself is placed in the highest 
honour, and then Moses and Gideon are joined to him. In the same 
sense do the Apostles write, when they say, that "it had pleased the 
Holy spirit" and themselves. (Acts 15: 22.) 
    And hence it is evident how foolish and ridiculous are the 
Papists, who hence conclude that it is lawful for men to add their 
own inventions to the word of God. For the Apostles, they say, not 
only alleged the authority of the Holy Spirit, but also say, that it 
seemed good to themselves. God then does not so claim, they say, all 
things for himself, as not to leave some things to the decision of 
his Church, as though indeed the Apostles meant something different 
from what our Prophet means here; that is, that they truly and 
faithfully delivered what their had received from the spirit of God. 
    It is therefore a mode of speaking which ought to be carefully 
marked, when we hear, that the voice of God and the words of Haggai 
were reverently attended to by the people. - Why? Inasmuch, he says, 
as God had sent him; as though he had said, that God was heard when 
he spoke by the mouth of man. And this is also worthy of being 
noticed, because many fanatics boast, that they allow regard to the 
word of the Lord, but are unwilling to give credit to men, as that 
would be even preposterous; and they pretend, that in this way what 
belongs to the only true God is transferred to creatures. But the 
Holy spirit most easily reconciles these two things - that the voice 
of God is heard when the people embrace what they hear from the 
mouth of a Prophet. Why so? because it pleases God thus to try the 
obedience of our faith, while he commits to man this office. For if 
the Lord was pleased to speak himself, then justly might men be 
neglected: but as he has chosen this mode, whosoever reject God's 
Prophets, clearly show that they despise God himself. There is no 
need of inquiring here, why it is that we ought to obey the word 
preached or the external voice of men, rather than revelations; it 
is enough for us to know that this is the will of God. When 
therefore he sends Prophets to us, we ought unquestionably to 
receive what they bring. 
    And Haggai says also expressly, that he was sent by the God of 
Israel; as though he had said, that the people had testified their 
true piety when they acknowledged God's Prophet in his legitimate 
vocation. For he who clamorously objects, and says that he knows not 
whether it pleases God or not to send forth men to announce his 
word, shows himself to be wholly alienated from God: for it ought to 
be sufficiently evident to us that this is one of our first 
    He afterwards adds, that the people "feared before Jehovah." 
Haggai confirms here the same truth - that the people received not 
what they heard from the mouth of mortal man, otherwise than if the 
majesty of God had openly appeared. For there was no ocular view of 
God given; but the message of the Prophet obtained as much power as 
though God had descended from heaven, and had given manifest tokens 
of his presence. We may then conclude from these words, that the 
glory of God so shines in his word, that we ought to be so much 
affected by it, whenever he speaks by his servants, as though he 
were nigh to us, face to face, as the Scripture says in another 
place. It now follows - 
Haggai 1:13,14 
Then spake Haggai the LORD'S messenger in the LORD'S message unto 
the people, saying, I [am] with you, saith the LORD. 
And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of 
Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of 
Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the 
people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of 
hosts, their God, 
    The Prophet tells us here, that he had again roused the leaders 
as well as the common people; for except God frequently repeats his 
exhortations, our alacrity relaxes. Though then they had all 
attended to God's command, it was yet necessary that they should be 
strengthened by a new promise: for men can be encouraged, and their 
indifference can be corrected, by no other means, to such a degree, 
as when God offers and promises his help. This, then, was the way in 
which they were now encouraged, I am with you. And experience 
sufficiently shows, that we never really and from the heart obey, 
except when we rely on his promises and hope for a happy success. 
For were God only to call us to our work, and were our hope 
doubtful, all our zeal would doubtless die away. We cannot then 
devote our services to God, except he supports and encourages us by 
promises. We also see, that it is not enough that God should speak 
once, and that we should once receive his word, but there is need 
that he should rouse us again and again; for the greatest ardour 
grows cold when no goads are applied. 
    And the Prophet makes known again his vocation, for he says, 
that "he spake in the message of Jehovah", for he was his messenger. 
The word "mal'ach" means a messenger; and as angels are called 
"mal'achim", some foolish men have thought that Haggai was one of 
the celestial angels, clothed with the form of man: but this is a 
most frivolous conjecture; for priests, we know, are honoured with 
this title in the second chapter of Malachi, and God in many other 
places calls his Prophets messengers or ambassadors. There is, 
therefore, no doubt but that Haggai meant simply to testify, that he 
brought forward nothing presumptuously, but was a faithful dispenser 
of the word; for he knew that he was sent by God; and that he might 
attain attention, he was able justly to testify that his message 
came from heaven. 
    Hence he says, that he spake as a "messenger of Jehovah in the 
message of Jehovah"; that is, he spoke according to his calling, and 
not as a private individual, but as one who derived his authority 
from heaven, and could call to order the whole people; for he was to 
give way neither to the chief priest nor to Zerubbabel the ruler of 
the people, inasmuch as he was superior to them on this account, 
because he had a message which had been committed to him by God. We 
now then understand the design of the Prophet. 
    And we hence learn that there is no dignity which exempts us 
from obedience common to all, when God's word is addressed to us. 
Doubtless Joshua the high priest was superior to all the rest in 
matters of religion, and he was the chief angel or messenger of the 
God of hosts; and yet he refused not to submit himself to God's 
Prophet, for he understood that he was in a special manner appointed 
by God to this office. Zerubbabel, the governor of the people, 
followed also his example. Let us, then, know that God's word is 
proclaimed under this condition, that no eminence, either in honour 
or in dignity, exempts us, as it were, by a sort of privilege, from 
the obligation of receiving it. 
    The Prophet at length adds, that the people hastened quickly to 
the work, because God had given encouragement to them all. He had 
lately spoken of the fruit of his doctrine; but he now declares that 
his voice had not so penetrated into the hearts of all, as though it 
had been of itself efficacious, but that it had been connected with 
the hidden influence of the Spirit. 
    And this passage is remarkable; for the Prophet includes both 
these things - that God allows not his word to be useless or 
unfruitful - and yet that this proceeds not from the diligence of 
men, but from the hidden power of the Spirit. The Prophet, then, did 
not fail in his efforts; for his labour was not in vain, but brought 
forth fruit. At the same time, that that saying might remain true, 
'He who plants and he who waters is nothing,' (1 Cor. 3: 7,) he 
says, that the Israelites were ready for the work, because the Lord 
roused them; Jehovah, he says, stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel, 
the spirit of Joshua, and of the whole people. It is not right to 
restrict the influence of the Spirit to one thing only, as some do, 
who imagine that the Israelites were confirmed in their good 
resolution, as they say, having before spontaneously obeyed the word 
of God. These separate, without reason, what ought to be read in the 
Prophet as connected together. For God roused the spirit of 
Zerubbabel and of the whole people; and hence it was that they 
received the message of the Prophet, and were attentive to his 
words. Foolishly, then, do they imagine that the Israelites were led 
by their own free-will to obey the word of God, and then that some 
aid of the Holy Spirit followed, to make them firmly to persevere in 
their course. But the Prophet declared, in the first place, that his 
message was respectfully received by the people; and now he explains 
how it was, even because God had touched the hearts of the whole 
    And we ought to notice the expression, when it is said that the 
spirit of Zerubbabel and of all the people was stirred up. For much 
sloth, we know, prevailed, especially among the multitude. But as to 
Zerubbabel and Joshua, they were, as we have said, already willing, 
but delayed until the coldness under which they laboured was 
reproved. But the Prophet here simply means, that they became thus 
obedient through the hidden impulse of God, and also that they were 
made firm in their purpose. God does not form new souls in us, when 
he draws us to his service; but changes what is wrong in us: for we 
should never be attentive to his word, were he not to open our ears; 
and there would be no inclination to obey, were he not to turn our 
hearts; in a word, both will and effort would immediately fail in 
us, were he not to add his gift of perseverance. Let us, then, know 
that Haggai's labours produced fruits, because the Lord effectually 
touched the hearts of the people; for we indeed know that it is his 
special gift, that the elect are made disciples, according to that 
declaration, 'No one comes to me, except my Father draw him.' (John 
6: 24.) It is therefore said that they came and did the work in the 
house of Jehovah. 
    We may also hence learn, that no one is fit to offer sacrifices 
to God, or to do any other service, but he who has been moulded by 
the hidden operation of the Spirit. Willingly, indeed, we offer 
ourselves and our all to God, and build his temple; but whence is 
this voluntary action, except that the Lord subdues us, and thus 
renders us teachable and obedient? It is afterwards added - 
Haggai 1:15 
In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year 
of Darius the king. 
    The Prophet mentions even the time when they commenced the 
building of the temple. Three-and-twenty days interposed between the 
first message and the beginning of the work. It hence appears how 
ignorant he was who divided the chapters, having begun the second 
chapter at this verse, where the Prophet shows, as it were by his 
finger, how much was the distance between the day in which he began 
to exhort the people, and the success of which he speaks. He then 
simply tells us here when the Temple began to be built - that is, in 
the second year of Darius the king, and in the twenty-fourth day of 
the sixth month. He had previously said that a message was given to 
him in the second year of Darius the king, and in the sixth month, 
and on the first day. Then from that day to the twenty-fourth the 
people delayed; not that they disregarded the command of the 
Prophet, but because it was not so easy a thing to persuade them 
all, that they might unanimously undertake the work. Though then the 
promptitude of the people is commended, we must yet observe that 
there was some mixture of weakness; for the effect of the doctrine 
did not appear till the twenty-fourth day. It afterwards follows - 

(Calvin... on the Prophet Haggai)

(continued in Part 3...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvhag-02.txt