(Calvin on the Prophet Haggai. Part 6)

Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-third. 
Haggai 2:15-19 
15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from 
before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 
16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty 
measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to 
draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 
17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all 
the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 
18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and 
twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the 
foundation of the LORD'S temple was laid, consider it. 
19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig 
tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought 
forth: from this day will I bless you. 
    I am under the necessity of joining all these verses together, 
for the Prophet treats of the same thing: and the import of the 
whole is this - that the Lord had then openly punished the tardiness 
of the people, so that every one might have easily known that they 
acted very inconsistently in attending only to their private 
concerns, so as to neglect the Temple. The Prophet indeed speaks 
here in a homely manner to earthly men, addicted to their own 
appetites: had they really become wiser, or made greater progress in 
true religion, he might have addressed them differently, and would 
have no doubt followed the rule mentioned by Paul, 'We speak wisdom 
among those who are perfect.' (1 Cor. 2: 6.) But as they had their 
thoughts fixed on meat and drink, and were intent on their private 
advantages, the Prophet tells them what they could comprehend that 
God was angry with them, and that the proofs of his curse were 
evident, as the earth did not produce fruit, and they themselves 
were reduced to want. We hence perceive the object of the Prophet: 
but I shall run over the words, that the subject may become more 
    "Lay it", he says, "on your heart". Here the Prophet indirectly 
condemns their insensibility, as they were blind in things quite 
manifest; for he does not here direct their thoughts to heaven, nor 
announce deep mysteries, but only speaks of food and daily support. 
Since God, then, impressed clear marks of his wrath on their common 
sustenance, it was an intolerable stupidity in them to disregard 
these. And the Prophet often repeats the same thing, in order to 
shame the Jews; for their tardiness being so often reproved, ought 
to have made them ashamed. Lay it on the heart, he says; that is, 
Consider what I am going to say; from this day and heretofore, he 
says, before a stone was laid on a stone; that is, from that day 
when I began to exhort you to build the Temple, consider what has 
happened to this very day. 
    Then he adds, Before ye began, he says, to build the Temple, 
was it not that every one who came to a heap of twenty measures 
found only ten? that is, was it not, that when the husband men 
expected that there would be twenty measures in the storehouse or on 
the floor, they were disappointed? because God had dried up the 
ears, so they yielded not what they used to do; for husband men, by 
long experience, can easily conjecture what they may expect when 
they see the gathered harvest; but this prospect had disappointed 
the husband men. God, then, had in this case given proofs of his 
curse. Farther; when any one came to the vat, and expected a large 
vintage, had he not also been disappointed? for instead of fifty 
casks he found only twenty. 
    He afterwards adds, I have smitten you with the east wind: for 
"shidafon" is to be taken for a scorching wind; and the east wind 
proved injurious to Judea by its dryness. So also "yerakon" is 
mildew, or a moist wind, from which mildew proceeds; for we know 
that corn, when it has much wet, contracts mildew when the sun emits 
its heat. As to the meaning of the Prophet there is no ambiguity, 
for he intended to teach them that they were in various ways 
visited, that they might clearly perceive that God was displeased 
with them. He then mentions the hail: for when famine happens only 
from the cold or from the heat, it may be ascribed to chance or to 
the stars: but when God employs various scourges, we are then 
constrained to acknowledge his wrath, as though he were determined 
to awaken us. This is the reason why the Prophet records here 
various kinds of judgements. And he says, In every work of your 
hands. Some read, "And every work," &c., which is improper; for they 
were not smitten in their own bodies, but in the produce of the 
earth. Then he adds, And you returned not to me, that is, "During 
the whole of that time I effected nothing, while I was so often and 
in such various ways chastising you. And yet what good has the 
obduracy of your hearts done you? ye have not returned to me." 
    Lay it, he says, on your heart from this day, and heretofore, 
&c. He repeats what he had said, even from the twenty-fourth day of 
the ninth month. We have seen before, that the Prophet was sent on 
that day to reprove the people for their sins. Lay it then on your 
heart, he says, frame this day, &c. We see how emphatical is this 
repetition, because in things evident the Jews were so insensible 
that their want and famine could not touch them: and we know that 
there is no sharper goad to stimulate men than famine. Since then 
the Lord snatched away their food from their mouth, and they 
remained inattentive to such a judgement, it was a sure evidence of 
extreme stupidity. It is on this account that the Prophet often 
declares, that the Jews were extremely insensible; for they did not 
consider the judgements of God, which were so manifest. He now 
subjoins, Is there yet seed in the barn? Jerome reads, "in the bud;" 
and the probable reason why he thus rendered the word was, that he 
thought that the clauses would not correspond without giving the 
meaning of bud to "megurah"; but, as I think, he was mistaken. The 
Hebrews propose what I cannot approve, for some of them read the 
sentence as an affirmation, "For there is seed in the barn;" because 
they dared not to commit the seed to the ground in their state of 
want. And others read it as a question, as though he had said, that 
the time of harvest was far off, and that what they had remaining 
was so small that it was not enough to support them. But, in my 
judgement, the "seed" refers not to what had been gathered, but to 
what had been sown. I therefore doubt not but that he speaks of 
God's blessing on the harvest which was to come after five months, 
to which I shall presently refer. Some, indeed, render the words in 
the past tense, as though the Prophet had said, that the Jews had 
already experienced how great the curse of God was; but this is a 
forced view. The real meaning of the Prophet is this, Is there yet 
seed in the barn? that is, "Is the seed, as yet hid in the ground, 
    He then adds affirmatively, neither the vine, nor the fig tree, 
nor the pomegranate, nor the olive had yet produced any thing; for 
it was the ninth month of the year; and the beginning of the year, 
we know, was in the month of March. Though then they were nearly in 
the midst of winter, they remained uncertain as to what the produce 
would be. In the month of November no opinion could be formed, even 
by the most skilful, what produce they were to expect. As then they 
were still in suspense, the Prophet says, that God's blessing was in 
readiness for them. What he had in view was, to show that he brought 
a sure message from God; for he speaks not of a vintage the prospect 
of which had already appeared, nor of a harvest when the ears had 
already made their appearance. As then there was still danger from 
the hail, from scorching winds, and also from rains and other things 
injurious to fruit and produce of the land, he says, that the 
harvest would be most abundant, the vintage large, that, in a word, 
the produce of the olive and the fig tree would be most exuberant. 
The truth of the prophecy might now be surely known, when God 
fulfilled what he had spoken by the mouth of his servant. I now 
return to the subject itself 
    As I have before observed, the Prophet deals with the Jews here 
according to their gross disposition: for he might in a more refined 
manner have taught the godly, who were not so entangled with, or 
devoted to, earthly concerns. It was then necessary for him to speak 
in a manner suitable to the comprehension of the people, as a 
skilful teacher who instructs children and those of riper age in a 
different manner. And he shows by evidences that the Jews were 
unthankful to God, for they neglected the building of the Temple, 
and every one was diligently and earnestly engaged in building his 
own house. He shows by proofs their conduct, - How? Whence has it 
happened, he says, that at one time your fruit has been destroyed by 
mildew, at another by heat, and then by the hail, except that the 
Lord intended thus to correct your neglect? It then follows, that 
you are convicted of ingratitude by these judgements; for you have 
neglected God's worship, and only pursued your own private 
advantages. This is one thing. 
    The latter clause contains a promise; and by it the instruction 
given was more confirmed, when the people saw that things suddenly 
and unexpectedly took a better turn. They had been for many years 
distressed with want of sustenance; but, when fruitfulness of a 
sudden followed, did not this change manifest something worthy of 
their consideration? especially when it was foretold before it 
happened, and before any such thing could have been foreseen by 
human conjectures? We see then, that the Prophet dwells on two 
things, - he condemns the Jews for their neglect, and proves that 
they were impious and ungrateful towards God, for they disregarded 
the building of the Temple; and them, in order to animate them and 
render them more active in the work they had begun, he sets before 
them, as I have said, what had taken place. God had, indeed, 
abundantly testified, by various kinds of punishment that he was 
displeased with them: but when he now promises that he would deal 
differently with them, there hence arises a new and a stronger 
    But some one may here raise an objection and say, that these 
evidences are not sure or unvaried; since it often happens, that 
when people devote themselves faithfully to the service of God they 
are pressed down by adverse events; yea, that God very often 
designedly tries their faith by withholding from them for a time his 
blessing. But the answer to this may be readily given: I indeed 
allow that it often happens that those who sincerely and from the 
heart serve God, are deprived of earthly blessings, because God 
intends to elevate their minds to the hope of eternal reward. God 
then designedly withdraws his blessing often from the faithful, that 
they may hunger and thirst in this world; as though they lost all 
their labour in serving him. But it was not the Prophet's design to 
propound here an evidence of an unvarying character, as he counted 
it sufficient to convince the Jews by experience, that nothing 
prevented them from acknowledging that their avarice displeased God, 
except their extreme stupidity. The Prophet then does here reprove 
their insensibility; for, while they greatly laboured in enriching 
themselves, they did not observe that their labour was in vain, 
because God from heaven poured his curse on them. This then might 
have been easily known by them had they not hardened themselves in 
their vices. And what the Prophet testifies here respecting the 
fruitful produce of wine, and corn, and oil, and of other things, 
was still, as I have said, a stronger confirmation. 
    Now, if any one objects again and says - that this was of no 
value, because a servile and mercenary service does not please God: 
to this I answer - that God does often by such means stimulate men, 
when he sees them to be extremely tardy and slothful, and that he 
afterwards leads them by other means to serve him truly and from the 
heart. When therefore any one obeys God, only that he may satisfy 
his appetite, it is as though one laboured from day to day for the 
sake of wages, and then disregards him by whom he has been hired. It 
is certain that such a service is counted as nothing before God; but 
he would have himself to be generously worshipped by us; and he 
loves, as Paul says, a cheerful giver. (2 Cor. 6: 7.) But as men, 
for the most part, on account of their ignorance, cannot be led at 
first to this generous state of mind, so as to devote themselves 
willingly to God, it is necessary to begin by using other means, as 
the Prophet does here, who promises earthly and daily sustenance to 
the Jews, for he saw that they could not immediately, at the first 
step, ascend upwards to heaven; but it was not his purpose to stop 
short, until he elevated their minds higher. Let us then know, that 
this was only the beginning, that they might learn to fear God and 
to expect whatever they wanted from his blessing, and also that they 
might shake off their stupor, under which they had previously 
laboured. In short, God deals in one way with the rude and ignorant, 
who are not yet imbued with true religion; and he deals in another 
way with his own disciples, who are instructed in sound doctrine. 
When I say that the Prophet acted thus towards the Jews, I speak not 
of the whole nation; but I regard what we have observed at the 
beginning of this book - that the Jews cared for nothing then but to 
build their own houses, and that there was no zeal for religion 
among them. As then the recollection of God was nigh buried among 
them, the Temple being neglected, and every one's anxiety being 
concentrated in building his own house, we hence learn how grossly 
earthly their affections were. It is therefore no wonder that the 
Prophet treated them in the manner stated here. Let us proceed - 
Haggai 2:20-23 
20 And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and 
twentieth day of the month, saying, 
21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the 
heavens and the earth; 
22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy 
the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow 
the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their 
riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 
23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O 
Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and 
will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD 
of hosts. 
    The Prophet now proceeds still farther; for there is here a 
really gratuitous and spiritual promise, by which God affirms that 
he will have a care for his people to the end. He does not now speak 
of wine and corn, in order to feed the hungry; but he shows that he 
would be an eternal Father to that people; for he could not and 
would not forget the covenant he made with their fathers. There is 
no doubt but he points out Christ in the person of Zerubbabel, as we 
shall presently see. So that it is right to distinguish this 
prophecy from the last; for God has before shown, that the worship 
which the Jews had for a time disregarded was pleasing to him, as a 
reward was in readiness, and also that he was offended with the 
negligence previously reproved, as he had inflicted manifest 
punishment, not once, nor for a short time, but for many years, and 
in various ways. What then does follow? In this second prophecy he 
addresses Zerubbabel, and promises to be a Saviour to the people 
under his authority. 
    With regard to these words, some think that a continued act is 
signified when he says, "I shake the heavens and the earth;" and 
they give this explanation - "That though it belongs to me to shake 
the heaven and the earth, and I am wont to subvert kingdoms, yet I 
will render firm the sacred kingdom which I have raised among my 
people." But this view is very frigid: and we see even from this 
chapter what is meant by the shaking of the heaven and of the earth, 
of which mention is made. The Apostle also rightly interprets this 
passage, when he teaches us, that this prophecy properly belongs to 
the kingdom of Christ. (Heb. 12: 26.) There is therefore no doubt, 
but that the Prophet means here something special, when he 
introduces God as saying, "Behold, I shake the heavens and the 
earth." God then does not speak of his ordinary providence, nor 
simply claim to himself the government of the heaven and of the 
earth, nor teach us that he raises on high the humble and the low, 
and also brings down the high and the elevated; but he intimates, 
that he has some memorable work in contemplation, which, when done, 
would shake men with fear, and make heaven and earth to tremble. 
Hence, the Prophet no doubt intended here to lead the Jews to the 
hope of that redemption, some prelude of which God had then given 
them; but its fulness could not as yet be seen - nay, it was hid 
from the view of men: for who could have expected such a renovation 
of the world as was effected by the coming of Christ? When the Jews 
found themselves exposed to the wrongs of all men, when so small a 
number returned, and there was no kingdom and no power, they thought 
themselves to have been as it were deceived. Hence the Prophet 
affirms here, that there would be a wonderful work of God, which 
would shake the heaven and the earth. It is therefore necessary that 
this should be applied to Christ; for it was, as it were, a new 
creation of the world, when Christ gathered together the things 
scattered, as the Apostle says, in the heaven and in the earth. 
(Col. 1: 20.) When he reconciled men to God and to angels, when he 
conquered the devil and restored life to the dead, when he shone 
forth with his own righteousness, then indeed God shook the heaven 
and the earth; and he still shakes them at this day, when the gospel 
is preached; for he forms anew the children of Adam after his own 
image. This spiritual regeneration then is such an evidence of God's 
power and grace, that he may justly be said to shake the heaven and 
the earth. The import of the passage is, that it behaved the Jews to 
form a conception in their minds of something greater than could be 
seen by their eyes; for their redemption was not yet completed. 
    Hence he subjoins - I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms; I 
will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations; and I will 
overthrow the chariot and him who sits in it; come down shall the 
horses and their riders; every one shall fall by the sword of his 
brother. He confirms here the former sentence - that nothing would 
be an hindrance that God should not renew his Church. And rightly he 
adds this by way of anticipation; for the Jews were surrounded on 
all sides by inveterate enemies; they had as many enemies as they 
had neighbours; and they were hated even by the whole world. How 
then could they emerge into that dignity which was then promised to 
them, except God overturned the rest of the world? But the Prophet 
here meets this objection, and briefly shows that God would rather 
that all the nations should perish, than that his Church should 
remain in that dishonourable state. We then see that the Prophet 
here means no other thing then that God would overcome all those 
impediments, which Satan and the whole world may throw in the way, 
when it is his purpose to restore his Church. 
    We now perceive the Prophet's designs, and we also perceive the 
application of his doctrine. For whenever impediments and 
difficulties come in our way, calculated to drive us to despair, 
when we think of the restoration of the Church, this prophecy ought 
to come to our minds, which shows that it is in God's power, and 
that it is his purpose to overturn all the kingdoms of the earth, to 
break chariots in pieces, to cast down and lay prostrate all riders, 
rather then to allow them to prevent the restoration of his Church. 
    But in the last verse the Prophet shows why God would do this - 
even that Zerubbabel might prosper together with the whole people. 
Hence he says - In that day saith Jehovah, I will take thee, 
Zerubbabel, and will set thee as a signet, for I have chosen thee. 
As we have before said, God addresses Zerubbabel here, that in his 
person he might testify that he would bless the people whom he 
intended to gather under that sacred leader; for though Zerubbabel 
never had a kingdom, nor ever wore a crown, he was yet of the tribe 
of Judah; and God designed that some spark of that kingdom should 
exist, which he had raised in the family of David. Since, then, 
Zerubbabel was at that time a type of Christ, God declares here that 
he would be to him as a signet - that is, that his dignity would be 
esteemed by him. This comparison of a signet is found also in other 
places. It is said in Jer. 22: 24 - "Though this Coniah were a 
signet on my right hand I would pluck him thence." But here God says 
that Zerubbabel would be to him a signet - that is, "Thou shalt be 
with me in high esteem." For a sealing signet is wont to be 
carefully preserved, as kings seek in this way to secure to 
themselves the highest authority, so that more trust may be placed 
in their seal than in the greatest princes. The meaning, then, of 
the similitude is, that Zerubbabel, though despised by the world, 
was yet highly esteemed by God. But it is evident that this was 
never fulfilled in the person of Zerubbabel. It hence follows that 
it is to be applied to Christ. God, in short, shows, that that 
people gathered under one head would be accepted by him; for Christ 
was at length to rise, as it is evident, from the seed of 
    But this reason is to be especially noticed - Because I have 
chosen thee. For God does not here ascribe excellencies or merits to 
Zerubbabel, when he says that he would hold him in great esteem; but 
he attributes this to his own election. If, then, the reason be 
asked why God had so much exalted Zerubbabel, and bestowed on him 
favours so illustrious, it can be found in nothing else but in the 
goodness of God alone. God had made a covenant with David, and 
promised that his kingdom would be eternal; hence it was that he 
chose Zerubbabel after the people had returned from exile; and this 
election was the reason why God exalted Zerubbabel, though his power 
at that time was but small. We indeed know that he was exposed to 
the contempt of all nations; but God invites here the attention of 
the faithful to their election, so that they might hope for more 
than what the perception of the flesh could conceive or apprehend; 
for what he has decreed cannot be made void; and in the person of 
Zerubbabel he had determined to save a chosen people; for from him, 
as it has been said, Christ was to come. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as we are still restrained by our 
earthly cares, and cannot ascend upward to heaven with so much 
readiness and alacrity as we ought - O grant, that since thou 
extendest to us daily so liberal a supply for the present life, we 
may at least learn that thou art our Father, and that we may not at 
the same time fix our thoughts on these perishable things, but learn 
to elevate our minds higher, and so make continual advances in thy 
spiritual service, until at length we come to the full and complete 
fruition of that blessed and celestial life which thou hast promised 
to us, and procured for us by the blood of thy only begotten Son. 
End of the Commentaries on Haggai.

(Calvin... on the Prophet Haggai)

(... conclusion, Calvin on the Prophet Haggai)

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvhag-06.txt