(Calvin on the Prophet Haggai. Part 3)
Chapter 2 
Haggai 2:1-5 
1 In the seventh [month], in the one and twentieth [day] of the 
month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 
2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, 
and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the 
residue of the people, saying, 
3 Who [is] left among you that saw this house in her first glory? 
and how do ye see it now? [is it] not in your eyes in comparison of 
it as nothing? 
4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O 
Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye 
people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I [am] with you, 
saith the LORD of hosts: 
5 [According to] the word that I covenanted with you when ye came 
out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 
    The Prophet now states another reason why he had been sent by 
God, in order that he might obviate a temptation which might have 
hindered the work that was begun. We have seen that they were all 
stirred up by the celestial spirit to undertake the building of the 
Temple. But as Satan, by his many arts, attempts to turn back the 
godly from their course, so he had devised a reason by which the 
desire of the people might have been checked. Inasmuch as the old 
people, who had seen the splendour of the former temple, considered 
this temple no better than a cottage, all their zeal evaporated; 
for, as we have said, without a promise there will continue in men 
no ardour, no perseverance. Now we know what had been predicted by 
Ezekiel, and what all the other Prophets had testified, especially 
Isaiah, who had spoken highly of the excellency of the Church, and 
shown that it was to be superior to its ancient state. (Isaiah 33: 
21.) Besides, Ezekiel describes the form of the Temple, and states 
its dimensions. (Ezek. 41: 1.) As then the faithful had learnt from 
these prophecies that the new Temple would be more splendid than the 
ancient, they were in danger, not only of becoming cold in the 
business, but also of being wholly discouraged, when they perceived 
that the new Temple in no respect reached the excellency and 
grandeur of the ancient Temple. And these things are described at 
large by Josephus. 
    But we may easily conclude, from the words of the Prophet, that 
there was then a danger lest they should lay aside the work they had 
begun, except they were encouraged by a new exhortation. And he says 
that this happened in the seventh month, and on the first day of the 
    Here arises a question, How was it that they so soon compared 
the new with the old building. Seven or eight days had passed since 
the work was begun: nothing, doubtless, could have been then 
constructed, which might have afforded a ground of comparison. It 
seems then strange, that the Prophet had been so soon sent to them. 
An answer to this will be easily found, if we bear in mind. that 
what I have stated at the beginning of the first chapter, that the 
foundations of the Temple had been previously laid, but that there 
had been a long interruption: for the people had turned to their own 
private concerns, and all had become so devoted to their own 
advantages, that they neglected the building of the Temple. For it 
is wholly a false notion, that the people had returned from exile 
before the appointed time, and it has been sufficiently refuted by 
clear proofs; for scripture expressly declares, that both Cyrus and 
Darius had been led by a divine impulse to allow the return of the 
people. Hence, when the Jews returned to their country, they 
immediately began to build the Temple; but afterwards, as I have 
said, either avarice, or too anxious a desire for their own private 
benefit, laid hold on their minds. As then the building of the 
Temple had been for some time neglected, they were again encouraged, 
as our Prophet has shown to us. They had now hardly applied their 
hands to the work, when, through the artifice of Satan, such 
suggestions as these crept in - "What are ye doing, ye miserable 
men! Ye wish to build a Temple to your God; but what sort of Temple 
will it be? Certainly it will not be that which all the Prophets 
have celebrated. For what do we read in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and 
Ezekiel? Have not all these testified that the Temple which would be 
rebuilt after our return from Babylonian exile would be more 
splendid than the other? But we now build a shed. Surely this is 
done without authority. We do not then fight under the guidance of 
God; and it would be better for us to leave off the work; for our 
service cannot be approved of God, except it be founded on his Word. 
And we see how far this Temple comes short of what God has 
    We now hence learn, that it was not without reason that Haggai 
was sent on the eighth day to recover the people from their 
indifference. And hence also we may learn how necessary it is for us 
to be constantly stimulated; for Satan can easily find out a 
thousand impediments, by which he may turn us aside from the right 
course, except God often repeats his exhortations to keep us awake. 
Eight days only have elapsed, and the people would have ceased from 
their work, had not Haggai been sent to encourage them again. 
    Now the cause of this cessation, which the Prophet designed to 
obviate and to remove, ought to be especially noticed. The people 
had before ceased to work, because they were immoderately devoted to 
their own interest, which was a proof of base ingratitude and of 
profane impiety: for those who had no care for building the Temple 
were most ungrateful to God; and then their impiety was intolerable, 
inasmuch as they sought boarded houses to dwell in, being not 
content with decent houses without having them adorned, while the 
Temple was left, as it were, a wilderness. But the cause was 
different, when Haggai was sent the second time; for their 
indifference then arose from a good principle and a genuine feeling 
of religion. But we hence see what a subtle contriver Satan is, who 
not only draws us away openly from God's service, but insinuates 
himself in a clandestine manner, so as to turn us aside, under the 
cover of zeal, from the course of our vocation. How was it that the 
people became negligent after they had begun the work? even because 
it grieved the old men to see the glory of the second, so far 
inferior to the first Temple. For though the people animated 
themselves by the sound of trumpets, yet the old among them drowned 
the sound by their lamentations. Whence was this? even because they 
saw, as I have said, that this Temple was in no way equal to the 
ancient one; and hence they thought that God was not as yet 
reconciled to them. Had they said, that so great an expense was not 
necessary, that God did not require much money to be laid out, their 
impiety should have been openly manifested; but when they especially 
wished that the splendour of the Temple would be such, as might 
surely prove that the restoration of the Church was come, such as 
had been promised by all the Prophets, we doubtless perceive their 
pious feeling. 
    But we are thus reminded, that we ought always to beware of the 
intrigues of Satan, when they appear under the cover of truth. When, 
therefore, our minds are disposed to piety, Satan is ever to be 
feared, lest he should stealthily suggest to us what may turn us 
aside from our duty; for we see that some leave the Church because 
they require in it the highest perfection. They are indignant at 
vices which they deem intolerable, when they cannot be corrected: 
and thus, under the pretext of zeal, they separate themselves and 
seek to form for themselves a new world, in which there is to be a 
perfect Church; and they lay hold on those passages in which the 
Holy Spirit recommends purity to the Church, as when Paul says, that 
it was purchased by Christ, that it might be without spot or 
wrinkle. As then these are inflamed with a zeal so rigid that they 
depart from God himself and violate the unity of the Church; so also 
there are many proud men who despise the Church of God, because it 
shines not forth among them in great pomp; and they think that God 
does not dwell in the midst of us, because we are obscure and of no 
great importance, and also because they regard our few number with 
    In all these there is some appearance of piety. How so? Because 
they would have God to be reverenced, so that they would have the 
whole world to be filled with the fear of his majesty; or they would 
have much wealth to be gathered, so that sumptuous offerings might 
be made. But, as I have already said, Satan thus cunningly 
insinuates himself; and hence we ought to fear his intrigues, lest, 
under plausible pretences, he should dazzle our eyes. But the best 
way of caution is to regard what God commands, and so to rely on his 
promises as to proceed steadily in our course, though the 
accomplishment of the promises does not immediately correspond with 
our desires; for God designedly keeps us in suspense in order to try 
our faith. Though then he may not as yet fulfil what he has 
promised, let it yet be our course to attempt nothing rashly, while 
we are obeying his command. It will then be our chief wisdom, by 
which we may escape all the crafts of Satan, simply to obey God's 
word, and to exercise our hope so as patiently to wait the 
seasonable time, when he will fulfil what he now promises. 
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are not only alienated in mind from 
thee, but also often relapse after having been once stirred up by 
thee, either into perverseness, or into our own vanity, or are led 
astray by various things, so that nothing is more difficult than to 
pursue our course until we reach the end of our race, - O grant that 
we may not confide in our own strength, nor claim for ourselves more 
than what is right, but, with our hearts raised above, depend on 
thee alone, and constantly call on thee to supply us with new 
strength, and so to confirm us that we may persevere to the end in 
the discharge of our duty, until we shall at length attain the true 
and perfect form of that temple which thou commandest us to build, 
in which thy perfect glory shines forth, and into which we are to be 
transformed by Christ our Lord. Amen. 

(Calvin... on the Prophet Haggai)

(continued in Part 4...)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvhag-03.txt