Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 30: Zechariah, Malachai, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-fifth
Zech. 14:1, 2
1. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee.
1. Ecce dies venit Iehovae, et dividentur spolia tua in medio tui.
2. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
2. Et congregabo omnes gentes contra Ierusalem in proelium, et capietur urbs, et diripientur domus; mulieres stuprabuntur; et exibit dimidia pars urbis in exilium, et residuum populi non excidetur ex urbe.
Zechariah pursues the same subject as in the preceding chapter: for having promised a joyful and happy state to the faithful, who despising their indulgences in Chaldea had returned to their own country, he now reminds them that their peaceful condition in Judea would not be without many trials and troubles; and therefore he exhorts them to patience, lest they should faint in their adversities, and repent of their return.
Some apply this chapter to the time of Antichrist, some refer it to the last day, others explain it of the destruction of the city which happened in the reign of Vespasian; but I doubt not but that the Prophet meant here to include the calamities which were near at hand, for the city had not yet been built, 178 the Jews having been much harassed by their neighbors; and we also know how atrocious was the tyranny which Antiochus exercised: in short, there was a continued series of evils from the time the city and the temple began to be built till the coming of Christ. As then the Jews, who had preferred foreign countries to their own, might have boasted of their lot and despised their brethren, as though they had foolishly and thoughtlessly removed from foreign lands, and had been too precipitate in returning, God designed to declare by the mouth of Zechariah what evils were at hand, that the faithful might with a courageous mind be prepared to undergo their trials, and that they might never succumb under any evils, for the Lord had promised more to them than what they could have attained in Chaldea and other countries. Having now explained the meaning of the Prophet, I shall come to the words. 179
Behold, he says, the day shall come to Jehovah, and divided shall be thy spoils in the midst of the city. By the demonstrative particle Behold, the certainty of the prophecy, as it has been elsewhere said, is intimated; for the Prophet points out as by the finger what could not yet be comprehended by human minds. And he says, that the day would come to Jehovah, that they might know that they would suffer a just punishment when the Lord treated them in this manner; for men, we know, indulge themselves and seek pleasures, and when God seems not to deal kindly with them, they raise a clamor as though he were too severe. Hence the Prophet reminds them, that so great a calamity would not come without a cause, for God would then execute his judgment. He does not expressly describe it, but he speaks as though he summoned them before God’s tribunal. Now when we understand that we have to do with God, it avails us nothing to murmur. It is then better to be silent when God is set forth as being in the midst of us, for it is certain that he will not in chastising us exceed what is just.
But here is described a hard affliction; for Zechariah intimates that the city would be exposed to the will of enemies, so that they would divide at pleasure their spoils in the very midst of it. What conquerors snatch away, they afterwards in private divide among themselves; and we know that many cities have been plundered, when yet the conquerors have not dared to expose to view their spoils. But the Prophet means here that there would be no strength in the Jews to prevent their enemies from dividing the spoils at their leisure in the midst of the city.
He afterwards adds, I will gather all nations against Jerusalem. He confirms what I have already said, that God would be the author of those calamities, and thus he puts a restraint on the Jews, that they might not expostulate with him respecting the severity of their punishment. He then shortly intimates, that the nations would not come by chance to attack Jerusalem; and that whatever commotions would arise, they could not be ascribed to chance or to fortune, or to the purposes of men, but to the decree of heaven. He then bids them to look to God, that they might humble themselves umber his mighty hand, according to what Peter also does. (1Pe 5:6.) He might have said in a briefer manner, “All the nations shall conspire;” but he ascribes this to God, and says, that he will bring them, like a prince, who collects an army, which he commands to fight under his banner. And by naming all nations, he reminds them that their trials would not be light; for such would be the union of enemies, and so large would be their number, that Jerusalem would be brought nigh to utter ruin. But afterwards he subjoins a consolation to moderate the grievousness of that calamity: yet he says first -
Taken shall be the city, plundered shall be the houses, and the women shall be ravished. What usually happens to a city taken by storm, the citizens of Jerusalem, the Prophet says, would have to endure. It is indeed an extreme outrage, when women are ravished by enemies; and then, poverty is often more grievous than death; and yet he says, that when deprived of their substance they would have to witness an outrage more hard to be borne than death itself, because their women would be subjected to such a disgrace.
He adds, that half part of the city would depart. He had said before that a third part only would be saved; but he now seems to be inconsistent with himself. But as to number we need not anxiously enquire, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for the Prophets often mention half part and then the third, when yet they mean the same thing. It is the same as though he had said, that the destruction would be so great, that hardly half of them would remain alive.
Now follows the consolation which I have mentioned, — that the residue of the people would not be exterminated from the city. By these words the Prophet teaches them, that though hard would be the condition of the city, as it would be reduced nearly to a waste, yet they who having returned to their country sincerely worshipped God, would be blessed; for the Church would ever remain safe, and that how much soever God might lessen the number, yet a part of the Church, however small, would be kept safe. The object then of the Prophet is to comfort the faithful, that they might sustain whatever evils might be at hand, and look for what God promises, even that a Church would again emerge, and that God would really prove that Jerusalem was not in vain his sanctuary, where he would bless the remnant which escaped, and escaped through his wonderful favor. He afterwards adds —
3. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
3. Et egredietur Iehova, pugnabit contra gentes istas, sicut die quo proeliatus est in die proeli.
Zechariah here amplifies the favor of God, — that he will go forth openly, and avowedly carry on war against all the enemies of Jerusalem. It was not indeed a small mitigation of their evils, that a part of the Church would be saved. But the Prophet declares here what is still far better, — that when God afflicted his Church, and suffered it to be violently assailed by enemies, he would become at length the avenger of all the wrongs they might have done. We know how we are wounded and tried, when God gives loose reins to the ungodly, and when they grow wanton in their wickedness and triumph, insult God, and almost spit as it were at the very clouds. When therefore the ungodly thus petulantly exult, and God in the meantime hides himself and is still, it is difficult to wait patiently for the issue. Hence the Prophet promises that God will become the avenger, after having allowed his Church to be for a time chastised by ungodly and wicked enemies.
Go forth, he says, shall Jehovah. We know the meaning of this metaphorical expression. The Prophets sometimes extend the phrase, “Go forth shall God from his holy place,” as though they said — that the Jews would find by experience that God’s name is not invoked in vain in his temple, and that it has not been said in vain, that God is seated between the cherubim. But the Prophet seems here to speak of God generally, as going forth armed from his recesses to resist the enemies of his Church. Go forth then shall God; for he had for a time concealed his power. In a like manner, we know that God hides his face from us when he brings us no help, and when we also think that we are neglected by him. As then God, as long as he hides his power, seems to be without power, hence the Prophet says here, Go forth shall Jehovah, and he will fight against these nations
By these words he intimates, that there is no reason for the faithful to envy their enemies, even when all things go on prosperously with them; for they will at length find that they cannot injure the Church without God undertaking its cause, according to what he has promised,
“I will be an enemy to thine enemies.” (Ex 23:22.)
But as this is a thing difficult to be believed, he calls to mind ancient history, —
As in the day, he says, in which he fought in the day of battle. Some confine this part to the passage through the Red Sea; but I think that Zechariah includes all the instances which God had given to the Jews to prove that they were the objects of his care. God then, not only once, not at one time, nor in one manner, had put forth his power, that the Jews might plainly see that they became conquerors through his aid. This is what Zechariah means. He in effect says, “Both you and your fathers have long ago found that God is wont to fight for his Church; for he has honored you with innumerable victories; you have been often overwhelmed with despair, and his favor unexpectedly shone upon you, and delivered you beyond all that you hoped for: you had often to contend with the strongest enemies; they were put to flight, even when ye were wholly unequal to them in number, and yet God bestowed upon you easy victories. Since then God has so often and in such divers ways cast down your enemies, why should you not hope for the same aid still from him?”
We hence see why the Prophet now refers to the ancient battles of God, even that he might by facts confirm the Jews in their hope, and that they might not doubt but that God was endued with power sufficiently strong to subdue all the ungodly, for he loses none.
And he adds, in the day of battle, even when there is need of help from heaven. He indeed calls it the day of engagement or contest, for so the word קרב, koreb, properly means. When therefore it was necessary for God to engage with enemies, then his power appeared: “There is hence no reason for you hereafter to doubt, but that he will still prevail against your enemies.” We know that this mode of speaking is frequently and commonly used by the Prophets, that is, when they adduce examples of God’s favor and power, by which he has proved that there is in him alone sufficient help for the deliverance of his Church.
It behaves us now to apply to ourselves what is here said, for Zechariah did not only speak for the men of his age, or for those of the next generation, but he intended to furnish the Church with confidence till the end of the world, so that the faithful might not faint under any trials. Whenever then the ungodly prevail, and no hope shines on us, let us remember how often and by what various means God has wonderfully delivered his Church as it were from death; for it was not his purpose only once to help and aid his own people, but also to animate us, that we at this day may not despond, when we endure evils with which the fathers formerly struggled. He then adds —
4. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
4. Et stabunt pedes ejus in die illa super montem Olivarum, qui est e regione Ierusalem ab Oriente; et scindetur mons Olivarum a dimidia parte sui ab Oriente ad Occidentem (vel, versus Orientem et Occidentem) vallis magna valde; et discedet dimidia pars montis ad Aquilonem, et dimidia pars ejus ad Meridiem.
He continues the same subject, that God’s power would be then conspicuous in putting enemies to flight. He indeed illustrates here his discourse by figurative expressions, as though he wished to bring the Jews to see the scene itself; for the object of the personification is no other but that the faithful might set God before them as it were in a visible form; and thus he confirms their faith, as indeed it was necessary; for as we are dull and entangled in earthly thoughts, our minds can hardly rise up to heaven, though the Lord with a clear voice invites us to himself. The Prophet then, in order to aid our weakness, adds a vivid representation, as though God stood before their eyes.
Stand, he says, shall his feet on the mount of Olives. He does not here promise a miracle, such as even the ignorant might conceive to be literal; nor does he do this in what follows, when he says, The mount shall be rent, and half of it shall thorn to the east and half to the west 180 This has never happened, that mount has never been rent: but as the Prophet could not, under those grievous trials, which might have overwhelmed the minds of the godly a hundred times, have extolled the power of God as much as the exigency of the case required without employing a highly figurative language, he therefore accommodates himself, as I have said, to the capacity of our flesh.
The import of the whole is, — that God’s power would be so remarkable in the deliverance of his Church, as though God manifested himself in a visible form and reviewed the battle from the top of the mountain, and gave orders how everything was to be done.
He says first, Stand shall his feet on the mount of Olives. Why does he not rather say, “In the city itself?” Even because he meant by this mode of speaking to show, that God would watch, that he might see what would be necessary for the deliverance of his Church. All these things, I know, are explained allegorically, — that Christ appeared on the mount of Olives, when he ascended into heaven, and also, that the mount was divided, that it might be passable, and that the apostles might proceed into the various parts of the world, in order that they might assail all the nations: but these are refinements, which, though they please many, have yet nothing solid in them, when they are by any one properly considered. I then take a simpler view of what the Prophet says, — that God’s hand would be sufficiently conspicuous, whenever his purpose was to aid his miserable and afflicted Church.
The same view is to be taken of what follows, that a great valley would be in the middle, for the rent would be one half towards the north and the other half towards the south. It is the same thing as though he had said, that Jerusalem was as it were concealed under that mountain, so that it was hid, but that afterwards it would be on an elevated place, as it is said elsewhere, “Elevated shall be the mountain of the Lord,” say both Isaiah and Micah, “above all mountains.” (Isa 2:2; Mic 4:1.) That hill, we know, was small; and yet Isaiah and Micah promise such a height as will surpass almost the very clouds. What does this mean? Even that the glory of the God of Jerusalem will be so great, that his temple will be visible above all other heights. So also in this place, Rent, he says, shall be the mount of Olives, so that Jerusalem may not be as before in a shaded valley, and have only a small hill on one side, but that it may be seen far and wide, so that all nations may behold it. This, as I think, is what the Prophet simply means. But those who delight in allegories must seek them from others. It now follows —
5. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
5. Et fugietis in vallem montium (vel, per vallem,) quia pertinget vallis montium ad Azal (alii vertunt, ad proximum; alii ad excelsum;) et fugietis sicuti fugistis a facie motus diebus Uziae regis Iehudah; et veniet Iehova, Deus meus; omnes sancti tecum.
The Prophet says again, that God’s presence would be terrible, so that it would put to flight all the Jews; for though God promises to be the deliverer of his chosen people, yet as there were still mixed with them hypocrites, his language varies. But we must further observe, that though the Lord may appear for our deliverance, it yet cannot be but that his majesty will strike us with fear; for the flesh must be humbled before God. What the Prophet then says is the same as though he had said, that the coming of God, which he had just mentioned, would be fearful to all, not only to open enemies whom he would come to destroy, but also to the faithful, though they knew that he would put forth his power to save them. And thus the Prophet seems to reason from the less to the greater; for if the faithful, who look anxiously for God, yet tremble and quake at his presence, what must happen to his enemies, who know that he is against them? As then the Prophet bids here the faithful to be prepared reverently to look for God, so also he shows that he will be dreadful to all the ungodly, in order that the elect might not hesitate to flee to his aid and to rely on him.
Flee, he says, shall ye through the valley of the mountains. Some imagine this to have been a valley so called, because it was of long extent, stretching through chains of mountains; but we read nothing of this in scripture. It seems to me probable, that valleys of the mountains were all those places called, which were rough, impassable, and intricate. Since then there was much wood, and no easy passage through these countries, the Prophet says that there would be a long valley, which never was before, but which the rending, of which he had spoken, would produce. And for the same purpose he adds, Reach shall the valley of the mountains to Azal. This I think is a proper name of a place; 181 yet some render it, next; but I see not for what reason. The meaning then is, — that where there were previously many hills which were not passable, or even mountains through which it was difficult to penetrate, there would be one continuous and even valley to a place very remote.
And he says, that flight would be hasty, as in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; for it appears from sacred history that Judah was then shaken with a terrible earthquake. The Jews, as they are bold in their conjectures, suppose that this happened when Uzziah approached the altar to burn incense to God; and Jerome has followed them. But at what time that earthquake happened is not certain. Amos says that he began to prophecy two years after an earthquake, (Am 1:1;) but for what cause the earth was then shaken we nowhere read: and yet we learn from this as well as from other passages, that it was an awful sign and presage of God’s vengeance. God then intended to announce to the Jews a dreadful calamity, when he thus shook the earth. And for the same purpose also does Zechariah now say, that the flight would be precipitous, as when the Jews retook themselves to flight, as it were in extreme despair, in the time of Uzziah. As then ye fled from the earthquake, so shall ye flee now. A long time had indeed intervened from the death of Uzziah to the return of the people; hence the Prophet intimates that it would be an unusual calamity, for the like had not happened which had caused so much terror to the Jews for many ages.
But we must remember what I have said — that this coming of God is not described as fearful for the purpose of threatening the Jews; but rather in order to show that the ungodly would not be able to stand in the presence of God, as he would terrify even those for whose aid he would come forth. And we must also observe what has been stated that God varies his address by his Prophets; for now he speaks to the whole Church, in which hypocrites are mingled with the sincere, and so threatening must be blended with promises, and then, he directs his words especially to the elect alone, to whom he manifests his favor.
He says at length, And come shall Jehovah, my God. The Prophet repeats what he had said shortly before — that God’s power would be made evident to the Jews, as though they saw it with their eyes. There is indeed no necessity to suppose that God would actually descend from heaven; but he teaches us, as I have said, that though God’s power would be for a time hidden, it would at length appear in the deliverance of his elect, as though God descended for the purpose from heaven. He calls him his God, in order to gain more credit to his prophecy. He no doubt thus courageously assailed all the ungodly, to whom promises as well as threatening were a mockery; and he also intended to support the minds of the godly, that they might not doubt but that this was promised them from above, though they heard but the voice of a mortal man. The Prophet then with great confidence claims God here as his God, as though he had said — that there was no reason for them to judge of what he said by any worldly circumstance or by his person; in short, he declares here that he was sent from above, that he did not rashly intrude himself, so as to promise anything which he himself had invented, but that he was favored with a divine mission, so that he represented God himself.
And this also is the object of the conclusion, which has been overlooked by some. All the saints with thee. There seems to be here a kind of indignation, as though the Prophet turned himself away from his hearers, whom he observed to be in a measure prepared obstinately to reject his heavenly doctrine; for he turns his discourse to God. The sentence seems indeed to lose a portion of its gracefulness, when the Prophet speaks so abruptly, Come shall Jehovah my God, all the saints with thee 182 He might have said “all the saints with him:” but as I have said, he addresses God, as though he could not, on account of disgust, speak to malignant and perverse men, and this serves much to confirm the authority of his prophecy; for he not only declares boldly to men what was to be, but also appeals to God as his witness; nay, he seems as though he had derived by a secret and familiar colloquy what he certainly knew was committed to him by God. But by saints, as I think, he understands the angels; for to include the holy patriarchs and kings, would seem unnatural and far-fetched: and angels, we know, are called saints or holy in other places, as we have seen in the third chapter of Habakkuk (Hab 3:1); and they are called sometimes elect angels. In short, the Prophet shows, that the coming of God would be magnificent; he would descend, as it were, in a visible manner together with his angels, that men’s minds might be roused into admiration and wonder. This is the meaning.
Zech. 14:6, 7
6. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark:
6. Et erit, die illo non erit lumen pretiosum et coagulatum (ad verbum est, non erit lumen pretiositatum et coagulationum.)
7. But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light.
7. Et erit, die uno (ille notus est Iehovae) non dies, neque nox; et erit (aut, accidet) ad tempus vespertinum, ut sit lumen.
The Prophet confirms what we have already observed that the Church would be subject to many troubles and commotions, so that the faithful should not enjoy the common light, but be more miserable than men in general. And he has ever the same object in view, to prepare the faithful to exercise patience, and to remind them that they are not to promise themselves such enjoyments in the holy land, as though they were to be free from the trials of the cross. Lest then they should deceive themselves with vain hopes, he sets before them many evils and many calamities, that they might confidently wait for the aid, of which he had spoken, while immersed in thick darkness, and hardly able to distinguish between day and night. But the rest shall be considered tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast deigned to separate us to be thy peculiar treasure, and leadest us daily under thy banner, and invites us so kindly and gently by the voice of thy gospel, — O grant, that we may not reject so great a kindness, nor render ourselves unworthy of our holy calling; and whatever evils must be borne by us, may we sustain them with resigned minds, until having at length finished the contests by which thou wouldst now exercise and prove our faith, we shall be received into that blessed rest, which is laid up for us in heaven, and has been purchased for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-sixth
We explained shortly yesterday why the Prophet says, that there would be for some time no difference between day and night; it was to prepare the faithful for all changes, and to show that they are not to promise themselves anything certain or sure in this world. Days and nights revolve throughout all seasons of the year, but the Prophet shows that there would be an uncertain time, as though it were twilight, or that there would not be constant light, but light mixed with darkness. The two verses ought to be connected together, when he says, In that day there shall not be precious light and mingled light, or, on the contrary, thick darkness. What he says afterwards, In that day there shall not be day or night, is disjoined by some, but not rightly, as we shall presently see.
But with regard to the words, light of preciousnesses, it is agreed among all writers that the word יקרות, ikarut, means what is excellent. As to this word then there is no ambiguity; for the Prophet means that it shall not be a light day, such as is wont to be during a clear sky. But as to the second word, interpreters differ. It is written יקפאון, ikophaun: קפא, kopha, means to coagulate, to become thick: hence יקפאון, ikophaun, signifies density or dense darkness. Some think it to be in construction; and others, that ו, vau, is to be put in; and this is probable, as we may see from the context, though yet it may have a twofold meaning. If indeed we join these two words, the Prophet may understand that the light would not be very clear, and that there would not be thick darkness. But we may take the light of densities for that which is steady and fixed, which gains such strength, that it cannot be darkened. But I prefer a different view: we know that the copulative in Hebrew is often taken adversatively; and this exposition is the most suitable, — that there would not be clear light, but on the contrary, a density, that is, thick darkness, which would obscure the light of the sun, or hinder the eyes of men from enjoying clear light. This seems to be the meaning of our Prophet, In that day there shall not be light, that is, that day shall not be clear, that is, so far that it can be numbered among fair and bright, or clear days; but on the contrary, there will be densities, that is, it will be a cloudy time, for much darkness will fill the sky, and prevent men to see the sun. 183
As to the subject itself, it is sufficiently apparent what the Prophet meant; for as I said yesterday, and have again reminded you, it was to be a perilous time, so that the miserable Jews would hourly and every moment be filled with fear, as they should see many dangers around them; and there would ever be some appearance of a sudden change. As when we find the south wind blowing, and the heavens covered with clouds, a shower is expected, and every one keeps within floors, and they who travel dare not proceed lest a storm overtakes them; so also the Prophet says, that this time would be like cloudy and dark days.
The same is the meaning of what he adds, It shall be one day, when it shall not be day and night; as though he had said, that there would not be any settled state of weather. Interpreters have given a very different view — that it would be neither day nor night. Some give this reason, because the Lord will rule his Church by faith; and we indeed know that our salvation is hid under the safe keeping of faith. Others give an entirely different meaning, — that the Lord will so fill heaven and earth by his own brightness, that there will be no need for the sun and the moon, according to what is said by Isaiah,
“Shine to thee shall not the sun by day nor the moon by night; but to thee shall Jehovah be an eternal light.” (Isa 60:19.)
But these are mere refinements. The real meaning of the Prophet, I doubt not, is, — that men would be in continual trepidation, as wile the air is in various ways agitated, when clouds arise, when the thunder is heard, and when the light of the sun disappears. When such is the state of the sky, men we know fear, for there is hardly a distinction between day and night. Thus our Prophet warns the faithful as to future events, and prepares them for patience, lest any storm should overwhelm them, and they should despond when overtaken by it, but that they might look for what had been foretold, even for darkness mixed with light, which would be a continual twilight: and the word, twilight, the ancients have said, is derived from one signifying what is doubtful (crepusculum a crepero.)
But we must also notice what he afterwards says, that this day would towards evening be light. He here intimates, that there will ever be a joyful end to the troubles of the faithful. Though then they were tossed by many cares, and troubled with various kinds of fear, as though they were in darkness, yet he says, that the evening would be clear. And this ought to be carefully observed, for with this solace alone is the Spirit wont to ease the sorrows of the godly, that is, that after God has for a while tried them, there will come shortly an end, and that a joyful one, to all their evils, so that God will shine on them like the sun in its meridian splendor. He calls, in short, the attention of the faithful to this end, because God makes thus a distinction between the elect and the reprobate; for though he afflicts both alike, and overwhelms them as with darkness, there is yet light prepared for his elect; and after having suffered them for a time to lie in darkness, he will make them at length to emerge into clear light; but he deprives the reprobate of every hope.
This is the subject which the Prophet now handles; as though he had said, — “There is no reason for the faithful to be disheartened by adversities, when darkness on all sides surrounds them; for the Lord will at length restore light to them, of which it was needful for them to be deprived for a time.” But Zechariah speaks not here of one day, but of a period which would be like a dark day, even until Christ by his coming restored the full light, as the Sun of Righteousness, according to what he is called by Malachi.
Then he says, that this day is known to Jehovah, in order that the faithful night depend on his good pleasure, and not too anxiously enquire about an event hidden from them and the whole world. The day then is known, says Zechariah, only to God, though he speaks of things well known, and which the Jews had at length to know by experience. But his object must be regarded, for his purpose was to restrain the godly, that they might not unnecessarily torment themselves, for we are wont to be too curious to know things: when God’s design is to calm us, and to make us rely on his providence, then many thoughts come across our minds, and toss us here and there, and thus we torment ourselves with anxiety. As then it is disease is innate in human nature, the Prophet supplies a seasonable remedy, — that the faithful are to allow themselves to be ruled by God, and to follow the example of their father Abraham, “The Lord will provide:” when he was in extremity and no escape was open he committed himself to God’s providence. So also Zechariah says, that it would be entirely dependent on the will of God alone, now to cover the heavens with darkness, and then to restore the sun, and also to blend darkness with light; and nothing is better for men than to check themselves, and not to enquire more than what is right, nor take away anything from God’s power, for whenever men murmur against God’s judgments, it is the same thing as though they wished to penetrate into heaven, and concede nothing to him except what they themselves think right. Then, in order to check this presumption, the Prophet says, that this day is known to Jehovah, so that the faithful might patiently wait until the ripened end should come, for our curiosity drives us here and there, so that we always wish to be certain about the end, “How long is this to endure?” and thus we complain against God; but when we are not able to subordinate our minds to his will, then we break forth as it were into a furious temper.
We hence see how useful a doctrine this clause contains, where the Prophet sets God as the judge and the arbitrator of all events, so that he afflicts the Church as long as it pleases him, sets bounds to adversities, and regulates all things as it seemeth good to him; and he also covers the heavens with thick clouds, and takes away the sight of the sun. All this then is what the Prophet would have us to know is in God’s power, and directed by his counsel. It now follows-
8. And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.
8. Et accidet die illo, Exibunt aquae vivae e Ierusalem; medium earum ad mare Orientale, et medium earum ad mare novissimum, (vel, posterius,) aestate et hyeme erunt.
Here is subjoined a more cheering prophecy, — that the grace of God would yet prevail. Whatever evils, and troubles, and dangers, and fears, and diseases awaited the faithful, he yet says that in such miseries they would still be made happy. And this ought to be carefully observed, for nothing can be more suitably found to alleviate our sorrows than to put in the balance God’s benefits on one side, and on the other the punishments and chastisements which he brings on us; for as God’s mercy and kindness always greatly preponderate, it cannot be but that we shall be able to say with holy Job,
“If good things have we received from the Lord’s hand,
why should we refuse evil things?” (Job 2:10.)
This then is what Zechariah sets before us, — that though the Church may be harassed by many cares, and subject to many fears, and terrified by many dangers, and be as it were in trepidation, yet the grace of God, if rightly viewed, is sufficient to administer invaluable comfort, for go forth shall living waters from Jerusalem 184
This prophecy no doubt refers to the kingdom of Christ, and this may be sufficiently proved by other passages. The Prophet then has hitherto spoken of the many afflictions, which were nigh at hand, in order that the Jews might not faint or entirely fail; but he now directs their minds to the kingdom of Christ, from whence they were to look for not only a deliverance from all evils, but also the full restitution of the Church, and as it were the renovation of the world.
There is here no doubt an implied contrast between living waters and those which soon dry up: hence he says, that they would flow continually summer and winter. 185 Judea, we know, was subject to want of water, and there were no waters around Jerusalem, except the spring of Siloam, which had waters in abundance, and supplied the wants of the citizens. But the Prophet promises living waters, which would not be like occasional streams, but flow continually. At the same time he seems to regard something higher. As by living waters he understands those which are spiritual, so he compares these waters with all those streams which are earthly; as though he had said, “the fountain from which the two streams arise is inexhaustible, so that its exuberance shall never fail, but shall send forth streams from one sea to the opposite sea, and shall water the farthest regions of the earth.”
By the eastern sea many understand the Lake Asphaltes, but it seems to me more probable that the Prophet speaks of the Persian Sea; 186 for if he had said that the waters would go forth to that lake, the distance would be very short; but he meant on the contrary to show, that the copiousness of the waters would be so large and abundant that though they would pass through the whole earth, yet their flow would never cease. By the hinder sea he no doubt meant the Mediterranean. The import of the whole is, — that thong the earth were previously dry, yet such would be the abundance of waters as to be sufficient for all, not only as in former times to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews in whatever part of the country they might dwell.
Now, since the language is metaphorical, we must bear in mind what I have lately said, — that here is set forth the spiritual grace of God; nor is it a new thing to apply the word waters to the Spirit of God:
“I will pour forth waters on the dry land
and rivers on the thirsty land” (Isa 44:3;)
“I will give clean waters.” (Eze 36:25.)
There is a twofold reason why Scripture gives the name of waters to the Holy Spirit, — because he performs the two offices of cleansing and of watering: for we are like barren and dry land, except the Lord by his Spirit from heaven gives us new vigor and conveys moisture to us. As then the earth derives moisture from heaven, that it may produce fruit, so also we must have conferred on us by the hidden power of the Spirit whatever vigor we may possess. Since then Zechariah promises a fountain of living waters, he understands that God’s grace would be offered to all the Jews, so that they might drink and be satisfied, and no more be exposed as formerly to the want of water.
If any one objects and says, that this interpretation seems forced, the answer is ready at hand, which is this, — that as it is certain that the prophet here speaks of the kingdom of Christ, this rule is to be remembered, — That whatever is foretold of Christ’s kingdom, must correspond with its nature and character. Since then the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, there is no doubt but that when Scripture, as we have seen, promises a large produce of corn and wine, an abundance of all good things, tranquillity and peace, and bright days, it intends by all these things to set forth the character of Christ’s kingdom. We hence see what the prophet means by living waters; and then, why he says that they would go forth to the east and to the west; and lastly, why he adds, that they would flow in winter as well as in summer. It now follows —
9. And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.
9. Et erit Iehova in regem super totam terram; die illo erit Iehova unus, et nomen ejus unum.
Here the prophet shows more clearly, and without using a figurative language, what might otherwise be more obscure: he says, that Jehovah would be king. Here Zechariah compares the kingdom of Christ with those periods of misery and calamities which had preceded, and which had continued till the coming of Christ. We indeed know that there had been the most dreadful scattering through the whole land, since the time the ten tribes separated from the family of David; for since the body of the people ceased to be one, they wilfully contrived ruin for themselves. When therefore the Israelites fought against Judah, the wrath of God appeared, the fruit of their defection. We indeed know that David was not made king by the suffrages of men, but was chosen by the decree of God. Hence when the kingdom of Israel departed from the son of David, it was the same as though they had refused to bear the authority of God himself, according to what he said to Samuel,
“Thee have they not despised, but me,
that I should not reign over them.” (1Sa 8:7.)
And yet Samuel was only a governor for a time over the people; but when the people through a foolish zeal wished a king to be given then, God complains that he was despised in not being allowed to reign over them alone. This was more fully completed, when the ten tribes separated themselves from the lawful kingdom which God himself had established and had commanded to be inviolable. From that time then God was not their king. This is one thing.
Afterwards we know that the kings of Israel joined themselves with the kings of Syria to overthrow the kingdom of Judah, and that the Jews also sent for aid to the Assyrians, and afterwards had recourse to the Egyptians. At length the kingdom of Israel was cut off; then the kingdom of Judah, and the city was destroyed and the temple burnt, so that the worship of God for a time ceased. They afterwards returned; but we know they were ever oppressed by hard and cruel tyranny: when they perceived that they were unprotected, because they had refused to take shelter under the wings of God. Though he had so often told them that they would be safe and secure under his protection, they yet refused that favor. Therefore the Jews then found to their great loss that God was not their king.
Hence when Zechariah now speaks of the restoration of the Church, he rightly says, that Jehovah would be king; 187 that is, though the Jews had been torn asunder and pillaged by tyrants, though they had suffered many reproaches and wrongs, yet God would become again their king, that He might defend them against all unjust violence and keep them under His protection. Nothing indeed can be more blessed than to live under the reigns of God; and this highest happiness is ever promised to the faithful.
We now understand the Prophet’s meaning as to this part; but he shows immediately after that this cannot be hoped for, except the Jews really attended to true religion and worshipped God aright and cast away their superstitions. Hence he joins together these two things, — that the condition of the people would be a happy one, because God would undertake the care of them and perform the office of a king, — and then, that God would be their king, in order that he might be rightly and sincerely worshipped by them: there shall be, he says, one Jehovah. Here the Prophet briefly shows that the legitimate worship of God cannot be set up, unless superstition be abolished. We indeed know that God is jealous, as he calls himself, so that he cannot bear rivals: for when we devise for ourselves any sort of deity, we instantly take from God what is his own. The Prophet then teaches us, that God cannot be truly worshipped, except he shines alone as the supreme, so that our religion may be pure and sound. In short, he indirectly condemns here those superstitions by which the earth had been corrupted and polluted, and also the superstitions by which true religion had been adulterated and the worship under the law had been violated. For this reason he says, that Jehovah would be one 188
He expresses this still clearer by saying, that his name would be one. This second clause may indeed appear useless; for whatever can be said of God is comprehended in his oneness. But as we are wont by various artifices to cover superstitions, and ever devise new excuses and new disguises, by which our impiety may seem specious and plausible, the Prophet expressly adds here, that God’s name is one; as though he had said, “It is not enough for men to declare that they acknowledge one true God or one supreme deity, except also they agree in some true and simple faith, so that the name of this one true God may be celebrated on the earth.” But the idea of the Prophet will become more clear if we notice the difference between the one true God and the name of the only true God, or the one name of God. All the philosophers with one mouth teach, that there are not many gods, but some supreme deity, who is the source of divinity: and this is what has been believed by all heathen nations. But in course of time they began to imagine that from this source many gods have emanated; and hence has come a multitude of false gods, so that some worshipped Jupiter, others Mercury, others Apollo; not because they thought that there are many gods partaking of original divinity; but because they imagined that gods have proceeded from the supreme fountain. As then the Jews might have sought subterfuges, and excused themselves by saying that they did not in heart worship many gods, the Prophet adds the second clause, — that the name of God is one; which means, that there is a certain way in which God is to be worshipped, that there is a certain fixed rule, so that no one is to follow what he himself may imagine to be right, and that the majesty of God ought not to be profaned by various errors, nor should men be lost each in his own notion, but that all ought to attend to the voice of God, and to hear what he testifies of himself.
We now then understand what the Prophet means: he says first, that things would be in a happy state in Judea, when God would be regarded as one, that is, when the whole land had been cleansed from its defilements, and when true religion again prevailed: but as this purity would not easily obtain footing in the world, and as men easily decline from it, he adds, that the name of God would be one, in order that the Jews might understand that God cannot be rightly worshipped except he be alone worshipped; and that it cannot be one, unless there be one faith, prescribed and certain, and not alternating between diverse opinions, like that of the heathens, whose religion is no other than to follow what they themselves imagine or what they have derived from their ancestors.
Now this is a remarkable passage: God distinguishes himself from all idols and his worship from all superstitions; and the more attentively we ought to consider what the Prophet teaches us, because our inclinations, as I have said, to vanity, is so great, and this is what experience itself sufficiently shows, and we also see how easily superstition, like a whirlwind, carries us away, and not only one superstition, but innumerable kinds of superstition. The more then it behaves us to notice this truth, so that the one name of God may prevail among us, and that no one may allow himself the liberty of imagining anything he pleases; but that we may know what God ought to be worshipped by us. And Christ also condemns for this reason all the forms of worship which prevailed in the world, by saying to the woman of Samaria,
“Ye know not what ye worship, we Jews alone,” he says,
“know this.” (Joh 4:22.)
We hence see that this one thing is sufficient to condemn all superstitions, that is, when men follow their own fancies, and observe not a fixed and unchangeable rule, which cannot deceive. It follows —
10. All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin’s gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king’s winepresses.
10. Vertetur tota terra quasi planities a Geba ad Rimmon versus meridiem Ierusalem; exaltabitur et habitabitur loco suo, (sub se, ad verbum,) a porta Ben-jamin ad locum portae primae, ad portam angulorum, et ab arce Chananeel ad torcularia Regis.
The Prophet in this verse promises two things, — that the city would be in a very prominent place, so as to be seen at a distance, and also, that it would be a secure and peaceable habitation.
With regard to the former part he says, Turned shall be the whole land into a plain 189 We indeed know that Jerusalem was situated with mountains around it, its foundations, as it is said in Ps 87:1, were on the holy mountains. As then the country was uneven on account of its many hills, the Prophet says, that it would become a wide plain, so that travelling would not be rough and difficult as before; and further, that Jerusalem would not be low in a deep place, but would be on a plain, which would not prevent it from being seen from whatever quarter the visitants might come. The whole land, he says, shall be a plain from Geba to Rimmon. As we do not fully know what sort of country that was, nor where Geba and Rimmon were, I shall not speak here particularly on every word; but it is enough for us to understand the design of what is said, which was to show — that steep places would become level ground, so that Jerusalem might be seen from far, and that the surface being level there would be no mountains to impede a distant view. 190
Then follows the second clause, Inhabited shall be Jerusalem in its own place; that is, though it was formerly pulled down, and now lies as it were dilapidated, and the buildings already begun are very imperfect, yet it shall on itself be inhabited, it shall have the same limits, the same boundaries: in short, the Prophet means, that the size of the city would be the same as it was formerly.
Zechariah, we know, performed the office of a teacher, when the Jews began, not without great hindrances, to build the city. They were not able at first to take in the whole compass; indeed they thought this impracticable, until they were encouraged by Ezra and Nehemiah, as we learn from the books of both. Since then the city they began to build was confined in its limits, Zechariah says, that there was no reason to despair, for in a short time it would again attain its ancient splendor, and be extended to all its gates, as it is afterwards stated. And a description of the ancient city, when destroyed, is no doubt given here when he says,
From the gate of Benjamin to the place of the first gate, (he mentions the place of the gate, for there was then no gate, as that part of the city remained as yet desolate,) to the gate of the corners, from the citadel of Hananeel to the wine-vats of the king. Though we know not fully now how far the ancient Jerusalem extended, or what was its exact situation, it is yet certain that the Prophet meant that such would be the greatness and magnificence of the city, that its condition would fully equal its ancient splendor which then had disappeared. The city, as it is well known, had been very large; though writers do not agree on the subject, yet it is commonly admitted, that it included 30 stadia. This was certainly no common size; and hence the Prophet states what all thought to be incredible, that though the extent of the city was small, it would yet become a new Jerusalem, not inferior to the former either in largeness or in magnificence, or in any other respect. But we must defer what remains till tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou gatherest us for this end, that we may be to thee a peculiar people, and as thou hast separated us from profane men, that thy legitimate worship may prevail among us, — O grant, that we may all attend to thy word, and surrender ourselves wholly to thee, and never thorn aside either to the right hand or to the left, but continue to observe the rule which thou hast prescribed, so that we may know by the continual flowing of thy favor that thou rulest in the midst of us; and may we by this enjoyment be stimulated more and more to love, worship, and fear thee, so that consecrating ourselves, body and soul, truly and from the heart, to thee, we may make continual advances in true religion, until having at length put off all the filth of our flesh we shall come to that blessed inheritance, which has been purchased for us by the blood of thy only begotten Son — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-seventh
11. And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
11. Et habitabunt in ea, et excidium non erit amplius: et habitabitur Ierusalem confidenter.
Zechariah concludes what he said in the last verse by saying, that Jerusalem when restored by God to its pristine state would be a populous city, for the indefinite verb here used means the same as though he had said, that the number of people would be as great as it had been before, though a small portion only had returned. We indeed know how difficult it is to fill a city with inhabitants when once deserted, especially after a long interval of time. But the Prophet here exhorts the Jews to entertain hope, for the Lord would gather again a large number of men, so as to fill the city with inhabitants.
He adds, there shall be no more utter destruction 191 By the word חרם, cherem, I have no doubt, the Prophet means all utter ruin, such as had happened when the people were driven into exile. And for this reason and in the same sense, Isaiah says, that God had sworn that the destruction of the city would be like the deluge of Noah, (Isa 54:9;) for he should never again bring such a grievous and dreadful vengeance on his people. But we learn from the whole passage, that this prophecy extends to the kingdom of Christ; for though Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, it is yet true that God bad been the perpetual guardian of that city, inasmuch as the fullness of time had come when Christ was revealed. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, that such should be the moderation of God’s anger, that the name of the city would wholly perish, nor the whole people be forced to migrate. This then is what he understands by חרם, cherem
He now adds, that those who returned thither shall dwell safely in Jerusalem, for the Lord would protect them, and by an extended hand defend them against all enemies. We have elsewhere reminded you of the Prophet’s object; for he wished to goad the tardiness and sloth of those who made so much of their pleasures in Chaldea, that to return to the inheritance promised them from above was unpleasant and grievous to them. Hence he shows of how great a benefit of God they had deprived themselves; for being dispersed among the heathen nation they knew not that God’s aid was provided for them. They indeed deprived themselves of that promise which especially belonged to the remnant who dwelt at Jerusalem. The Prophet had also a particular regard to those miserable inhabitants of the land, who having been stimulated by God’s promises, had despised all dangers and all difficulties, and then had undergone, not grudgingly, vast troubles that they might possess their own country. The Prophet then shows that they had no reason to repent, for the Lord would bless them, and make them to dwell safely in the midst of enemies, by whom we know they were on every side surrounded, and further, that the city would become populous, though they were not then many in number. It follows —
12. And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.
12. Et haec erit plaga qua percutiet (vel, plagabit) Iehova omnes populos, qui pugnaverint contra Ierusalem, —liquescet (alii vertunt, tabescet) caro ejus, dum ipse stabit super pedes suos; et oculi ejus liquescent in foraminibus suis; et lingua ejus liquescet in ore ipsorum.
The Prophet adds, that though there would not be wanting many ungodly men, who should distress the Church, and attempt many things for its destruction, yet God would be a defender and would inflict punishment, which would exhibit a clear and decided proof of that paternal favor which he manifests towards his Church. But these things do not seem to harmonise — that the people should dwell safely at Jerusalem, and yet that there would be enemies violently disturbing the city: but by saying, that they should dwell safely, he means not that there would be none anxious to do them harm; but that trusting in God’s protection they would continue safe in the greatest dangers, as they would feel persuaded that God, who promised to stand on their side, would be stronger than all. The habitation of the godly would then be secure, not because they dreaded no attacks of enemies, but because they firmly believed that they would be preserved by a power from above, though the devil excited many people on all sides against them, and also prepared and suborned many wicked men to contrive their ruin.
And to this power it behaves us to raise up our thoughts when various enemies rage against us, so that we may dwell in safety and wait with quiet minds until God shall deliver us; for our safety is concealed under the faithful protection of God, which is only made known to us by the word and promises. Let us, however, bear in mind what the Prophet teaches us here — that when God gives loose reins to enemies, his vengeance is near, so that he will visit with punishment all those wrongs and injuries which we patiently endure.
This, he says, shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people. He mentions all people again, lest a multitude of enemies should terrify the faithful, when they found themselves unequal to them, and almost overwhelmed by their vast number; they were not to doubt but that the hand of God would prevail. Then he adds, His flesh shall consume away, or melt away: there is a change of number, but the sense is not obscured; for he says, This shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people; his flesh shall melt away, as though he was speaking of one man; and then he immediately adds, while he shall stand on his feet; and his eyes shall melt away, and his tongue in their mouth 192 We see how the Prophet changes the number three times; but there is in the subject itself nothing ambiguous. He means that it would be nothing to God, when resolved to punish the adversaries of his Church, whether they were many or few; for he can easily destroy them all, as though he had to do only with one man. But it seems also that Zechariah had another thing in view — that as God’s vengeance would regard each individual, no one of them would be safe, and that thus the vengeance of God would be universal, without any exception, and executed on all armies and on each individual.
We must now notice the kind of punishment which is here described — that God would destroy them all without the hand or the aid of men: his flesh, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve. In this case divine vengeance is more clearly seen, that is, then enemies, though no one fights with them, yet of themselves consume away: and then he adds, when they shall stand on their feet; and yet their flesh shall melt away. The Prophet no doubt alludes to the curses of the law, among which this is especially to be observed — that God in various ways consumes the wicked, so that they melt away when no cause appears. (Deut. 28:21, 22.)
The meaning then is, that God has various means by which he can reduce to nothing our enemies, though they may seek aid on every side. We are therefore taught by these words to cast all our cares on God; for when our enemies seem to be placed beyond the chance of danger, and confidently boast that nothing adverse can happen to them, yet in God’s hand is their death and life, so that they can be consumed by his breath only. There is then no reason for us to depend on earthly means, when we seek to be certain respecting the destruction of our enemies; for God can inwardly consume them; though they may seem to stand whole and sound, yet they will be dissolved, so that even their eyes shall melt away in their cavities, that is, they shall fail without any external force. We indeed know that eyes are well protected; being covered with their defences, they seem to be beyond the reach of harm. But the Prophet intimates that the hidden vengeance of God can penetrate into the bowels and marrow; in short, that there is nothing so safe that it can escape the vengeance of God. The tongue also, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve (it is the same verb) in their mouth. He afterwards adds —
13. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.
13. Et accidet, die illo erit tumultus Iehovae magnus in illis; et apprehendet quisque manum socii sui; et ascendet manus ejus contra manum proximi sui (vel, evanescet; alii vertunt, excidetur manus ejus, quia [עלה] etiam significat excidere.)
The Prophet seems again to be inconsistent with himself; for after having declared that God would be the defender of his people, so as to destroy and consume all people for their sake, he now adds that there would be intestine discords, by which the Jews would wilfully consume one another; while yet there is nothing more improbable than that the people, who live under God’s protection, should so divide themselves into factions, as to perish miserably without any outward enemy. But these things do not ill accord, provided we bear in mind what I have already said — that these things are to be taken in a different sense; for the Prophet at one time warns the faithful of the evils which were impending, lest being shaken by their suddenness, they should despond; at another time he promises them a happy condition, for they would ever be the objects of God’s care. So then we may explain the matter thus — “Though enemies on every side should unite and conspire against you, though they should hasten with great fury and rage to destroy you, and though a vast member at home, and domestic enemies from the bosom of your city, should rise up against you, yet God will prevail against them, and all your enemies shall at length be for your good and benefit.”
This then is the reason why Zechariah blends together what seems to be wholly inconsistent. It was necessary to know both these things — that the faithful might be fully persuaded that God watched over their safety, for it was his purpose to defend the holy city, and to be its perpetual guardian — and then, that they might also be prepared in their minds to bear many trials and troubles, lest they should promise to themselves a joyful state, and thus indulge in carnal security. Having now explained the Prophet’s intention, we must briefly notice the words.
He says that there would be a great tumult from Jehovah among them. This no doubt refers to the Jews; for the Prophet shows that they would be not only exposed to external injuries, but also to another evil — that they would arm themselves against one another, as though they would tear out their own bowels. A tumult, he says, shall be among them, which is the extreme of evils that can happen to a city or people; for no danger is nearer than when they who ought as one man to unite strength and courage to repel an enemy, rage internally against themselves.
But this passage deserves special notice, as here is described to us the condition of the Church, such as it is to be until the end of the world; for though the Prophet speaks here of the intermediate time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, yet he paints for us a living representation, by which we can see that the Church is never to be free or exempt from this evil — that it cannot drive away or put to flight domestic enemies. And we must also observe, that this tumult, as he says, would be from Jehovah 193 He means that whenever the Church is rent, and sects burst forth, and many hypocrites and ungodly men, who for a time pretend to be God’s true servants, furiously assail true religion — whenever these things arise, the Prophet means that they do not happen by chance, but that they are God’s judgments, in order to prove the faith of his people, and to humble his Church, and also to give to his people a victory and a crown. However this may be, though their own ambition rouses heretics, and all the ungodly, to disturb the Church, and though the devil excites them by his own fans, yet God sits in the chief place, and whatever commotions rage in the Church proceed from him. Hence Paul says that heresies must be, that those who are approved may become manifest. (1Co 11:19.) Certainly this is not the object of the devil; but Paul shows that it is the high purpose of God, so that he may distinguish by severe trial between his sincere servants and hypocrites; for he not only permits tumults to arise, but even stirs them up. And hence also we learn, that nothing is better than to flee to him when ungodly men race and distort our peace; for he can easily by a nod silence those commotions which he excites.
He adds, Every one shall lay hold on the hand of his companion, and rise up (or perish) shall his hand against the hand of his neighbor. This passage may admit of a twofold meaning. The first is, that every one for the sake of obtaining help will lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, and yet without any advantage, for his own hand would perish, that is, he who sought aid for his friend could not support himself: and this is the meaning given by many interpreters; as though the Prophet had said, that the state of things would be so desperate, that every one would be constrained to seek help from his friend, and yet could not obtain what he desired, for while attempting to lay hold on the hand of his friend, he would find that he could not grasp it. But a different meaning would better correspond with the next verse, — that every one would violently lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand would rise up against the hand of his neighbor. I think then that this part is added as explanatory, — that when God raised tumults among the Jews, every one would start forward to act violently against his neighbor, and raise up his hand to hurt him: for it follows —
14. And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance.
14. Atque etiam Iehudah pugnabit contra Ierusalem, et congregabitur exercitus (alii vertunt, opulentiam, quod etiam non male quadraret) omnium gentium in circuitu aurum et argentum et vestes ad copiam multam (ad multitudinem valde, ad verbum.)
Zechariah speaks here no doubt on the same subject; for he adds, that there would be an intestine war between the country and the city, though they were but one body, and since their return they were under the same Divine banner: God had indeed been their leader in their journey, and was in short the only remaining glory of the people. It was then something horribly monstrous, that Judah should join himself to enemies in order to destroy the city: yet the Prophet says that this evil, as well as other evils, would soon be witnessed; so that they would have not only to sustain the assaults of enemies, who would come from far, but would also find their brethren hostile and hurtful to them: Fight then shall Judah against Jerusalem 194
At what time this happened, it is well known; for under Antiochus we know that both the city and the whole land were full of traitors; inasmuch as hardly one in a hundred continued to follow true religion. Thus it happened, that almost all were trodden under foot. It was not then without reason foretold by Zechariah, that the Jews would become cruel enemies to their own brethren.
He then adds, Collected shall be the armies of all nations. The word חיל, chil, means forces, wealth and strength. I am disposed to follow what I have already said, — that the army or strength of all nations around would be collected to overthrow Jerusalem. The Prophet intimates in these words that the Jews would apparently be the most miserable of men, were their condition estimated by their state at that time; for there would be harassing traitors within, so that they had to fear intrigues and hidden dangers, and many people also from every part would unite to destroy them. Nothing can be imagined more miserable than to be assailed from within and from without by almost the whole of mankind. But there will presently follow a consolation; and hence we must bear in mind what I have said, that threatening are given by way of warning, that the faithful might courageously bear those ruinous attacks, relying on the hope of a better state of things, according to what God had promised.
When afterwards he mentions gold, and silver, and garments, he intimates that the enemies, whom he speaks of, would not come, as though they were hungry, running to the prey; but that they would be so savage as to seek nothing but blood; for they would be furnished with necessaries, having an abundance of gold and silver. For what purpose then would they come? Not to satiate their avarice, but only to gorge human blood, and thus to extinguish the memory of the chosen people. Even to hear this was terrible; but it was necessary to warn the faithful, lest they should be surprised by any sudden event. He afterwards adds —
15. And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague.
15. Et talis erit plaga equi, muli, cameli, et asini, et cujuslibet jumenti (vel, animalis,) quod erit in castris istis, sicuti plaga haec.
Zechariah in this verse raises up the minds of the godly, so that they might know that their energies would effect nothing, but that after having tried every thing they would be put to flight by the power of God. And hence appears more evident what has been twice repeated, — that the Prophet does not simply denounce calamities to terrify the Jews, but to animate them to constancy, that they might boldly exult, even when nearly overwhelmed by a vast heap of evils.
The meaning then is, — that after Satan had tried every thing to effect the ruin of the Church, and the ungodly had left nothing undone, there would yet be a successful issue to the faithful; for God would execute his vengeance, not only on men, but also on horses and camels, and on all cattle: and since God’s wrath would burn against all animals, which are in themselves innocent, it may with certainty be concluded, that those enemies who had provoked him by their cruelty, could not escape his judgment, and the punishment described here by the Prophet. He then subjoins -
16. And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles.
16. Et erit, (hoc est, accidet,) ut quisque residuus fuerit ex cunctis gentibus quae venerint contra Ierusalem, ascendat ab anno in annum ad adorandum, (vel, ad supplicandam,) Regem Iehovam exercituum, et celebrandum celebritatem tabernaculorum.
Zechariah here advances farther, — that those who shall have escaped the ruin of which he had spoken shall be so humbled that they would of their own accord submit to God. He said before, that God would take vengeance and destroy all the enemies of his Church; but the promise here is still more valuable, — that he would turn the hearts of those who escaped punishment, so that without any constraint they would become obedient; for come, he says, shall they every year to worship God in his temple. Then the sum of what is said is this, that God would subdue all the enemies of his Church, and in two ways, for some he would destroy, and he would humble others, so as to make them willing servants and ready of themselves to obey his authority. It shall be then that every one who shall remain of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall ascend to supplicate God, or humbly to worship God.
If the time be inquired, I answer, that whenever the Prophets speak of the conversion of the nations, they are wont to speak always in general terms; but that this is an hyperbolical language, and that still there is nothing unreasonable in this excess, for surely it was a wonderful work of God when a great number from the nations became subject to him. We indeed know, that the name of the people of Israel was universally hated, so that their religion was disliked by almost the whole world. It was then a thing incredible when Zechariah said, that men from all countries would be so changed as to worship the true God of Israel. But many Churches we know were everywhere formed in the world, and men without number professed God’s name, and undertook his yoke, and embraced that religion which before had been despised by them, and which indeed they had persecuted with the greatest hatred. It is therefore no wonder that the Prophet should say, that the remnant who escaped the sword of vengeance would at length become the willing servants of God. But we ought to notice, as I have said, the mode of speaking commonly adopted by the Prophets, for, in order to amplify the grace of God, they speak in general terms, though what they say ought to be confined to the elect alone.
Ascend, he says, shall every one from year to year. Zechariah speaks here also according to the apprehensions of the people. Festivals, we know, were appointed by God; the Israelites ascended at least three times a year unto the temple, but as this was too hard and difficult for the miserable exiles to do, who had been scattered through all countries, those influenced by zeal for religion were wont to descend unto Jerusalem once a year. To this custom of the law the Prophet now alludes, as though he had said, “God indeed spares some, yet they will at length come to his service without any constraint, and submit to the God of Israel.” But he speaks, as I have said, according to the rites of the law; and of this mode of speaking we have often reminded you: I shall therefore pass by the subject, but some additional remarks shall be made at the end of this chapter. Ascend then shall every one to supplicate the king, Jehovah of hosts; that is, that they might confess the only true God to be king: for he has regard to the Prophecy which we considered yesterday, when he said that the only true God would be king. So also in this place, confirming the former truth he says, that they who had before furiously assailed the Church would become the worshipers of God, for they would understand him to be the king of the whole world. But the remainder shall be deferred to another time.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that thy Church at this day is miserably torn by many discords, and that there are so many traitorous ministers of Satan, who cease not to disturb it, — O grant, that we may find by experience what thou hast promised by thy Prophet, even that thou wilt be the perpetual guardian of those whom thou hast been pleased once to choose as thine own, and whom thou hast received into thine own embrace, so that they may courageously proceed amidst all discords, and come forth at length as conquerors: and may it please thee also to put forth thine hand, and to execute that vengeance which thou hast denounced by the same Prophet, so as to destroy and reduce to nothing not only those who openly oppose thee and thy servants and children, but also those serpents, who by intrigues and frauds and by other base means, harass and torment thy Church, until we shall at length attain a full victory and triumph in thy celestial kingdom, together with our head, even Christ Jesus our Lord. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-eighth
Zech. 14:17, 18
17. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
17. Et erit, Qui non ascenderit e familiis terrae in Ierusalem ad supplicandum Regi, Iehovae exercituum, etiam non erit super eos pluvia.
18. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
18. Et si familia Egypti non ascenderit et non venerit, etiam non super eos; erit autem plaga qua percutiet, (plagabit, ad verbum,) Iehova gentes quae non ascenderint ad celebrandam festivitatem Tabernaculorum.
Zechariah goes on here with the same subject, — that the name of the only true God would be known throughout the whole world, so that all nations would unite in his worship, while the whole earth was before polluted with various superstitions, and every one followed his own god: but the more clearly expresses here than in the last lecture, that vengeance was prepared for all the despisers of the true God. He says then, that the curse of God is laid up for all those who would not come to Jerusalem humbly to worship God to there.
We have said that in these words is set forth the legitimate worship of God; for after the coming of Christ it was not necessary to ascend into Jerusalem according to what John says in Joh 4:21
“The time comes and now is, that the true worshippers of God shall worship God, neither in this mountains nor at Jerusalem;”
but in every part of the world. But the Prophets speak according to the state of things in their time, and always describe the spiritual worship of God according to the types of the law. To ascend then into Jerusalem amounts to the same thing as to embrace true religion and cordially to engage in the worship of the only true God, such as has been prescribed in his word. The meaning then is, — that all who despised the God of Israel would be accursed.
Then what follows is mentioned by the Prophet as a part for the whole; he declares that there would be no rain on the despisers of God; as though he had said, that they would perceive God’s vengeance, as he would take away from them all the necessaries of life; for by rain the Prophet means whatever is needful for the support of life. And we know that as to the blessings of God needful for the present life, the chief thing is, when he renders the heavens and the earth the servants as it were of his bounty to us: for how can we be supplied with food, except the earth by his command open its bowels and the heavens hear the earth, as it is said elsewhere, (Ho 2:21;) so that rain may irrigate it, and render it fruitful, which must be otherwise barren?
We now then understand the design of the Prophet, — that in order to invite all nations to the pure worship of God, he declares that all who refused to serve the only true God would be accursed. He further intended by this prophecy to animate the Jews, that they might firmly proceed in the course of true religion until the coming of Christ, and never doubt but that the God whom they worshipped would be the supreme king of the whole world, though before hidden as it were in a corner of the world, while worshipped in Judea alone. The Prophet then intimates that though God had been despised by all nations, his name would yet be sanctified and adored; and also, that if any deprived him of his legitimate worship they would be visited with punishment, because they were destined to perish through famine and want, inasmuch as the heavens would deny rain to them, and the earth would not give them food.
But Zechariah speaks expressly of the Egyptians: and we indeed know that they were most inveterate enemies to true religion; and he might have also mentioned the Assyrians and the Chaldeans; but as the Egyptians were nearer and more contiguous to the holy land, their hatred towards the Jews was more virulent. This is the reason why Zechariah speaks of them particularly. It may at the same time appear strange that he threatens them with want of rain; for we know that Egypt expects no rain from above, because of the peculiar condition of the country; for according as the Nile overflows, do the inhabitants look for a fruitful produce of corn and of all other things. The Prophet then ought not to have thus threatened the Egyptians, for they might have justly laughed at him for saying that there would be no rain for them, the want of which is not much felt there. But the Prophet’s intention was simply what I have already explained, — that God would be a Father to the Jews, and also to others who joined in his worship according to the law. Though then the Egyptians had no need of rain, yet by this metaphor Zechariah denounced on them sterility as the punishment of impiety.
And we may further observe, that though the overflowing of the Nile irrigated the whole land and made it fruitful, yet rain was by no means useless; and it is said in Ps 105:32, “He turned their rain into hail,” Egypt being the place spoken of; for the Lord destroyed all its fruit, because the rain was turned into hail. It appears also evident from history, that rain is desirable in Egypt in order to render the produce more abundant. But the Lord has favored that country with a peculiar benefit by supplying the want of rain by the Nile.
There is then nothing doubtful in the meaning of the Prophet, as his object was to show, that the Lord would constrain all people to become obedient to true religion, not only those Jews who were far removed from Judea, but even the Egyptians themselves, who had been always most alienated from true and pure worship.
He adds, There shall be upon them the plague. He now speaks more generally; and what he before specifically mentioned, he now declares in general terms, — that God would execute vengeance and destroy and reduce to nothing all those who took not on them the yoke, so as to worship him sincerely, together with the Jews, according to what the law prescribes. He again repeats the words, who ascended not into Jerusalem; not that he intended to confine the worship of God to ceremonies or rites under the law; but because it was necessary, until Christ abrogated all the ancient rites, that the worship of God should be thus described; nor could it then be separated from these external exercises.
But here it may be rightly inquired, why the Prophet speaks specifically of the feast of tabernacles, since the passover was deemed first among the festivals. The reason seems to me to have been this, — because it was difficult to believe that the Jews would return to their own country, that God would become again their redeemer. Many interpreters say, that the Prophet speaks of the feast of tabernacles, because it behaved them to be sojourners in the world: but a similar reason might be given for other days. We must then inquire why he mentions the feast of tabernacles and not other feasts. Now we know that when the Prophets speak of the second restoration of the people, they often call attention to that wonderful deliverance from Egypt by which God had proved that he possessed sufficient power to redeem and save his own people. To this instance does Zechariah now allude, as I think, and says, that God would restore his people by his wonderful and inexpressibly great power, so that they might justly celebrate the feast of tabernacles as their fathers formerly did: for we know why God commanded the Jews to dwell every year under the branches of trees; it was, that they might be mindful of that deliverance which had been granted to their fathers; for they had continued forty years in the desert, where they had no buildings, but huts only, made of branches of trees. When therefore they went forth from their houses, and dwelt as it were in the open air in tents, they thus revived the memory of the wonderful manner by which their fathers were delivered. Hence God, in order to show that their return from the Babylonian exile was worthy of being remembered, says here that the feast of tabernacles would be celebrated 195
In short, the Prophet means that God would be such a deliverer of his people, that all the nations, even from the remotest parts, would acknowledge it as a remarkable miracle: it is the sense then as though he had said, that the deliverance of the people would be an evidence of divine power so manifest and illustrious, that all nations would acknowledge that the God of Israel is the creator of heaven and earth, and is so endued with supreme power, that he governs the whole world; and, in a word, that he is the only true God who ought to be worshipped. 196 It afterwards follows —
19. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
19. Haec erit poena Egypti et poena omnium gentium, quae non ascenderint ad celebrandum celebritatem tabernaculorum.
He repeats the same thing, and almost in the same words; but yet it is not done without reason: for we ought to consider how difficult it was to believe what is said, as the Jews who had returned to their country were few in number, and unwarlike, and on every side opposed by their enemies. Since then the Church was almost every moment in danger, it was no wonder that the faithful had need of being strengthened under their trials, which often disturbed and harassed their minds. This then is the reason why the Prophet repeats often the same thing.
This, he says, shall be the sin of Egypt and of all nations, etc. The word חטאת, chethat, properly means wickedness, sin; but as piaculum in Latin sometimes means sin, and sometimes expiation, so חטאת, chethat, in Hebrew: it signifies at one time sin, at another the sacrifice by which sin is atoned: and hence Christ is said to have been made sin; for when he offered himself as an expiation, he sustained the curse which belonged to us all, by having it transferred on himself (Ga 3:13.) As Christ then was an expiation, he was on this account called sin. And the Greek translators did not change the name, because they saw that חטאת, chethat, in Hebrew, is taken for a sacrifice or punishment as well as for sin; hence they used the word hamartia indiscriminately. 197
So then the Prophet says that this would be the sin or the punishment of Egypt and of all nations, as though he had said, “If they despise the God of Israel and condemn his worship, such a contumacy shall not be unpunished; for God will show himself to be the vindicator of his own glory.” And hence we conclude, that nothing ought to be more desired by us than that God should reveal himself to us, so that we may not presumptuously wander after superstitions, but purely worship him; for no one rightly worships God, except he who is taught by his word. It is then a singular favor, when the Lord prescribes to us the rule by which we may rightly worship him: but when we assent not to his true and legitimate worship, we here see that our whole life is accursed. It now follows —
20. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness Unto The Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar.
20. Die illo erit super fraena (aut, phaleras; alii vertunt, frontalia; alii, collaria; dicemus postea de hac voce; vel, stabula, hoc meum est, et postea dicam rationem; super stabula ignitur) equi (hoc est, equorum, est mutatio numeri) sanctitas Iehovae; et erit (hoc est, erunt; iterum est mutatio numeri) lebetes in domo Iehovae sicuti phialae (sic vertit Hieronymus, alii vertunt, pelves) coram altari.
Zechariah teaches us in this verse, that God would become the king of the world, so that all things would be applied to his service, and that nothing would be so profane as not to change its nature, so as to be sanctified for the service of God. This is the import of the whole. There is some obscurity in the words; but interpreters for the most part have been led astray, because they have not sufficiently attended to the design of the Prophet; and thus they have wrested the words to their own views, while they did not understand the subject.
There will be, he says, an inscription on the shades or head coverings of horses, Holiness to Jehovah. No interpreters have perceived that there is here an implied comparison between the mitre of the high priest and all profane things; for since the high priest was a type of Christ, there was inscribed on his tiara, Holiness to Jehovah, קדש ליהוה, kodash la-Ieve, and as the holiness of the temple, and of everything belonging to the service under the law, depended on the priesthood, this inscription must be viewed as extending to everything in the temple, to the altar, to the sanctuary, to the sacrifices, to the offerings, to the candlestick, to the incense, and in short, to all sacred things.
What now does the Prophet mean? There shall be, he says, that inscription which the high priest bears on his head, Holiness to Jehovah; there shall be, he says, this inscription on the stables of the horses
As to the word מצלות, metsalut, it is only found here. Some derive it from צול, tsul, and others from צלע, tsale; but the more received opinion is that it comes from צלל, tsalal, in which the ל, lamed, is doubled. And some render it trappings; others, reins; others, bells; and all only conjecture, for there is no certainty. 198 Some also render it the deep; and this sense may be also suitable. But what I have already stated seems to me more probable — that the shades or blinkers of horses are meant, and are here metaphorically called stables. Though then the stable of a horse is a mean and sordid place, and often filthy, yet the Prophet says that it would become holy to the Lord.
The meaning then is, that no place was so profane which would not be made holy when God reigned through the whole world. But if any one prefers trappings, or warlike harness, I do not object; for this view also is not unsuitable. Nothing is less holy than to shed human blood; and hence the Scripture says, that their hands are polluted who justly slay an enemy in war; not because slaughter is of itself sinful, but because the Lord intended to strike men with terror, that they might not rashly commit slaughter. It would not then ill suit this place to say, that the Lord would make holy the trappings of horses, so that nothing disorderly would hereafter be done in war, but that every one putting on arms would acknowledge God to be a judge in heaven, and would not dare, without a just cause, to engage with his enemy.
Ridiculous and puerile is what Theodore says in the first book of his Ecclesiastical history. He quotes this passage, and says that it was fulfilled when Helena, the mother of Constantine, adorned the trappings of a horse with a nail of the cross; for her purpose was to give this to her son as a sort of charm. One of those nails by which she thought Christ was crucified, she put in the royal diadem; of the other she caused the bit of a bridle to be made, or according to Eusebius, to be partly made; but Theodore says that the whole was made of it. These are indeed rank trifles; but yet I thought proper to refer to them, that you might know how foolish that age was. Jerome indeed rejects the fable; but as it was believed by many, we see how shamefully deluded at that time were many of those who were accounted the luminaries of the Church. I now return to the words of the Prophet.
He says, that upon the stables, or upon the trappings of the horses, there would be this inscription — Holiness to Jehovah — קדש ליהוה, kodash la-Ieve: then he adds, All the pots in the house of Jehovah shall be as the vessels before the altar; that is, whatever was before only applied to profane uses, would be invested with holiness. I then give this interpretation — that pots or kettles would be like the vessels of the altar, as the whole apparatus for cooking would be converted to the service of God; as though he had said that there would be no profane luxuries, as before, but that common food would be made holy, inasmuch as men themselves would become holy to the Lord, and would be holy in their whole life and in all their actions.
But most go astray in supposing that the trappings would be made into pots; for the Prophet meant another things that holiness would exist among men in peace as well as in war, so that whether they carried on war, or rested at home, whether they ate or drank, they would still offer a pure sacrifice to God, both in eating and drinking, and even in warfare. Such then is the view we ought to take of the Prophet’s words — that all the pots in the house of Jehovah shall be like the vessels before the altar; that is, “whatever has hitherto been profaned by the intemperance and luxuries of men, shall hereafter become holy, and be like the vessels of the temple itself.”
Jerome philosophises here with great acuteness, as the Prophet intimated that the sacrifices offered under the law would be of no account, because God would no longer require the fat of beasts, nor any of the ritual observations, but would desire only prayers, which are the sacrifices approved by him; and hence he renders מזרקים, mesarekim, bowls, and not vessels, a word of wider meaning; but it signifies the latter.
We now see that what Zechariah meant was this — that God would so claim the whole world as his own, as to consecrate men and all their possessions wholly to his own service, so that there would be no longer any uncleanness, that whether they ate or drank, or engaged in war, or undertook any other work, all things would be pure and holy, for God would always be before their eyes. Let us proceed -
21. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.
21. Et erit omnis lebes in Ierusalem et Iehudah sanctitas Iehovae exercituum; et venient omnes qui sacrificabunt et accipient ex ipsis et coquent in ipsis; et non erit Chamanaeus (alii vertunt non erit mercator) amplius in domo Iehovae exercituum die illo.
The Prophet explains here more clearly what we have already considered — that such would be the reverence for God, and the fear of him through the whole world, that whatever men undertook would be a sacrifice to him: he therefore says, that all the kettles, or pots, or vessels, would be sacred to God. And this is fulfilled when men regard this end — to glorify God through their whole life, as Paul exhorts us to do. (1Co 10:31.) Our provisions and our beds, and all other things, become then holy to God, when we really devote ourselves to him, and regard in all the actions of our life the end which I have mentioned, even to testify in truth that he is our God, and that we are under his guidance. By such comparisons then does Zechariah teach us, that men will be sacred to God; for nothing they touch shall be unclean, but what was before profane shall be sanctified to his glory. 199
Come, he says, shall they who sacrifice, and shall boil flesh in pots; as though he had said, That such would be the multitude of men who would ascend to offer sacrifices to God, that the vessels of the temple before in use would not be sufficient. It would hence be necessary to apply for that purpose what was previously profane. The language of Isaiah is similar, for he says that they who were Levites would become priests of the first order, and that those of the common people would become Levites, so that they might all come nigh to God. (Isa. 66:20, 21.) The meaning then of the Prophet is now clear — that he wished to stir up the Jews to constancy and firmness, who regarded their small number as their reproach and were almost disheartened: as then they thought that they had in vain returned to their own country, as the Lord did not gather the whole people, he says that God’s worship would become more celebrated than at the time when the state of things was most flourishing in Judea; for assemble they would, from the whole world, to offer sacrifices to God at Jerusalem, so that the whole city, with all its utensils, would be sacred to God, for the pots and the sacred vessels of the temple, used before under the law, would not be sufficient.
And he adds, And there shall be no Canaanite in the land: the meaning is, that the Church would become pure from all defilements: and this change ought to have given no small comfort to the Jews in their sad and calamitous state; for God had used no small severity, when all were driven into exile; and many tokens of this dreadful rigour still remained, since very few worshipped God, and were despised by all, so that true religion was exposed to the contempt and ridicule of all nations. This compensation then, that the Lord would by this remedy cleanse his Church from its filth, must have greatly allayed their sorrow: on this subject I have already said much.
Zechariah now briefly promises that the Church would become pure, so that all would from the heart and sincerely worship God, and that there would be no mixture of hypocrites to pollute the temple and holy things. But this seems strange, since the Church has ever been contaminated by many pollutions: and hence John the Baptist compares it to a floor, where the chaff is mixed with the wheat; and it is also compared to a net, into which are gathered many fishes, some good and some bad; and also at this day, in the kingdom of Christ, the Church is subject to this evils that it cannot cast out all corruptions: it seems then that the Prophet has spoken hyperbolically. But what we have elsewhere said ought to be borne in mind — that a comparison is made between the ancient state of the people and their second state, when the Church was renewed. As the religion had been in the most disgraceful manner corrupted, and as the Jews had impudently boasted that they were the holy people of God, while they were the most wicked of men, the Prophet justly says, that the Church when renewed would be purer; for the Lord would cleanse it by the cross, as gold and silver are cleansed, which are not only tried by the fire, but become also brighter, because the dross is removed. This is simply what the Prophet means when he says, that there will be no Canaanite among the people of God; that is, there will be no foreign or profane men, mingled with the faithful, to pollute the pure worship of God.
Some have wrested the passage and applied it to the last coming of Christ. But this is inconsistent with the subject in hand. At the same time I allow that the kingdom of Christ, according to the prophetic mode of writing, is here described from its commencement to its end. When God therefore purposed to renew his Church, he cleansed it from much filth, and still daily cleanses it, nor will he cease to do so, until, after all the defilements of the world having been removed, we shall be received into the celestial kingdom. Whenever then the Prophets speak of perfection under the reign of Christ, we ought not to confine what they say to one day or to a short time, but we ought to include the whole time from the beginning to the end. Hence when Christ appeared in the world, then began to shine the splendor of which Zechariah now speaks: but the Lord will go on until that shall be completed which now makes continual progress.
Some read, There shall be a merchant no more, etc.; and they have some reason for what they say, for the word is sometimes rendered merchant: but as in this case, we must have recourse to allegories, and take merchants for impious corrupters who make a merchandise of God’s worship, or give this interpretation, that there shall be no merchant any more, because all would freely bring their offerings, — as these explanations are not appropriate, it is better to take the passage simply as it is — that the Lord will gather his elect, so that pure sacrifices will be offered by them all; and that there will be no hypocrites any more to contaminate and corrupt the Church, or to adulterate the worship of God. 200
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to choose us as thy peculiar treasure, and to consecrate us to thyself in the person of thy only-begotten Son, — O grant, that we may so follow holiness through the whole course of our life, that thy glory may shine forth in all our works: and may we never undertake anything except for this end — that thy name may be more and more glorified, and may we be holy both in body and soul, and free from all the pollutions of the flesh and of the world, that we may be thus confirmed in the hope of our calling, and be encouraged to proceed during the remainder of our course, until we shall at length reach that glory which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
End of Calvin’s Commentary on Zechariah
This was not done till the time of Nehemiah, who returned to Judea about ninety years after the first return under Zerubbabel, and several years, probably thirty or forty, after the date of this prophecy. — Ed.
Dathius truly says, that interpreters have toiled much in the explanation of this chapter, some taking the words in a spiritual sense, others maintaining that what is here said was fulfilled before the coming of Christ, and a third party holding that all is as yet unfulfilled. He was disposed on the whole to assent to the opinion of Grotius, the same in part with that of Calvin — that this prophecy, as well as some in the preceding chapters, were fulfilled in the times of the Maccabees. See 1Ma 6:26, etc. He indeed admits that this theory does not remove all the difficulties, but leaves less than any other.
Marckius doubted not but that the beginning of this chapter is a prophecy concerning the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and he quotes Jerome, Cyril, and Theodoret as having expressed the same opinion. Lowth, Scott, Adam Clarke, and Henderson take the same view. But the sequel of this chapter may be better explained by the events which followed the attacks of the Greco-Syrian kings on Jerusalem, (see 2Ma 4,) than by the events which followed the ruin of that city by the Romans. Blayney viewed the contents of this chapter, and much of what is found in the preceding chapters, as yet unfulfilled: and so does Newcome in part.
Henry is doubtful whether this chapter and the preceding are to be understood of the whole period from the Prophet’s days to the days of the Messiah, or to some events during that time, or to Christ’s coming and the setting up of his kingdom upon the ruins of the Jewish polity. — Ed.
“This sign,” [God’s feet standing on the mount,] says Kimchi, “is a type of the clearing of the Gentiles who came against Jerusalem, and who shall fall scattered about.” The Targum gives this paraphrase, “He shall be revealed in his power.” “The rending,” says Drusius, “signifies the flight of the nations, who, on finding God fighting against them, shall flee away in all directions: so that the mountain on which the besiegers fixed their camp shall seem as though divided into parts.”
Theodoret’s language is to the same purpose; he regarded the mountain as symbolic of the enemies assembled against the city — [ὄρος καλει τήν φάλαγγα των πολεμίων], etc.
Marckius’s view of the text is as follows: This mountain rendered access on the east to the city and temple difficult, and intercepted the morning light and the flowing of waters in that direction, both which are referred to afterwards in verse 7 and 8. God’s descent on this mountain was a sign of his great displeasure with that nation, and the rending of the mountain was emblematic of a way being made open for the gospel to spread throughout the world. And he regarded the Lord’s coming in the next verse as his coming in the ministration of the gospel to render it successful through the world by means of his saints, his apostles, and ministers. — Ed.
So thought Kimchi, Drusius, Grotius, Newcome, and also Henderson Jerome renders it “proximum — nearest or next,” i.e., the temple. The verb [נסתם], with a prefixed [ו], rendered, “Ye shall flee,” occurs three times in this verse, and may be the Niphal of [סתם], to stop or close up, as well as the second person plural of [נם], to flee. The Septuagint, the Targum, Symmachus, and the Arabic, take the first meaning, which Dathius and Blayney have adopted: then the verse would be as follows, —
5. And closed up shall be the valley of the mountains, Reach shall the valleys of the mountains to Azal; Yea, closed up shall it be, as it was closed up At the earthquake, in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah.
There are two objections to this version; the one is, that [מפני], “from the presence,” before “earthquake,” is not a suitable proposition to come after “closed up:” but to “flee from the presence of,” or from, the earthquake, is an appropriate language. Hence the verse itself clearly shows that the right version is that which has been adopted by most of modern critics. — Ed.
The greatest number of MS. have “and” before “all saints,” as well as the Septuagint, the Targum, the Syriac, and the Arabic. The three last verses have also “his” before “saints.” Very many MS., the Septuagint, the Targum, and the early versions, have “with him,” instead of “with thee.” Then the best reading would be, —
And come shall Jehovah my God,
And all his saints with him.
Blayney proposes another version, —
And Jehovah shall come,
The God of all holy ones with thee.
He considers that Jerusalem, addressed in the second person in verse first, is addressed here, “with thee,” and that what is meant is, that God, the protector of all holy ones, all true believers, would march as it were with Jerusalem as its ally against the nations beforementioned in verse third. Taking the text as it is, the rendering is no doubt literal: but the best authorities are in favor of the text as amended above. — Ed.
In favor of [ו] instead of [י] before [קפאון], there are many MS., the Keri and all the early versions. The word means condensity, that is, of darkness, as it answers to night in the next verse; it may then be rendered “thick darkness.” The [ו] following a negative may often be rendered “nor.” The first idea of [יקר] is bright, splendid, clear; and then, as what commonly belongs to what is bright, etc., — precious, excellent. It is here in the plural, but has the meaning of an adjective, — a mode of speaking common in Hebrew. It is evident that this verse is more fully explained in the next; there can then be no difficulty about the construction and the meaning, —
6. And it shall be in that day, That there will be no clear light nor thick darkness:
7. But one day will that be, known to Jehovah, No day, and no night; But it shall be, at the time of the evening, That there will be light.
By “one day” we are to understand a peculiar day, distinguished from every other. To separate the two verses, as is done by Henderson, seems not at all right: and his rendering of the second line, “That there shall not be the light of the precious orbs,” bears on it hardly any trace of the Original. — Ed.
“Living, that is, running waters. This passage refers to the wide effusion of divine knowledge from Jerusalem when restored.” — Newcome.
The Gospel blessings are often mentioned as waters. See Isa 55:1; Jer 2:13; Eze 47:1; Joh 4:10. “Perennial waters” is the rendering of Dathius. — Ed.
“In those countries most springs failed during summer.” — Newcome.
Both Newcome and Henderson consider it to be the Lake Asphaltes or the Dead Sea. The land of Canaan is here throughout contemplated, and not the whole world, as Calvin and many others have thought. The land of Canaan was emblematic of the land of the Church, the whole world; hence what is promised to extend to the extremities of its borders is to be understood, when it appertains to Christ’s kingdom, as extending to the utmost limits of the earth. — Ed.
It is added, “over all the earth,” according to our version and Newcome and Henderson; but it ought to be, “over the whole land,” as it appears evident from the verses which follow; and our version and Newcome render the same phrase, “all the land” in the next verse, while Henderson, more consistent with himself, but not with the meaning of the passage, retains the words, “all the earth.” — Ed.
Henderson seems to have unnecessarily introduced another version,
In that day Jehovah alone shall be,
And his name alone.
The obvious meaning is, that there would be but “one Jehovah” acknowledged, to the exclusion of all pretended deities, and that his “name” would be one to the exclusion of every other name. It is an announcement suitable to the previous state of things, when many gods were acknowledged, and many names given to them, under which they were worshipped. Much more emphatical and expressive is the usual rendering, —
In that day there shall be one Jehovah, and his name one.
[Εσται κύριος εἱς καὶ τὸ ὄνομα αὐτου ἕν]. — Septuagint
“One name” is mentioned, because the heathens pretended to worship the true God under various names. — Ed.
I would render the words, —
All around shall the whole land be like a plain.
The verb [סב], means to turn or go round, to be in a circuit. — Ed.
“Geba” was in Benjamin, north of Jerusalem, Jos 21:17; and “Rimmon” was in Judah, south of Jerusalem, Jos 15:32. — Ed.
Rendered “a curse — [ἀνάθεμα],” by the Septuagint, by Marckius, Newcome, and Henderson,—”slaughter — occisio,” by the Targum. The verb means especially two things — to devote a thing to God — and to devote a thing to death, or to entire ruin. From this latter meaning has come the idea of a curse and destruction, which is evidently what is intended here. The Jews were not to be a curse so as to be utterly destroyed, though they were to be subject to many evils. They are not utterly cut off even now according to the doctrine of St. Paul. — Ed.
The way to account for this is, that the words, [את-כל-העמים], at the beginning of the verse, are to be rendered, “every one of the peoples,” or, “each of the nations.” Then the singular number here refers to “every one,” or “each” nation of the nations. — Ed.
Literally it is “the tumult of Jehovah,” that is, proceeding from him, occasioned or produced by him. The arrangement of the words would lead us to make such a version as the following—
13. And it shall be in that day, That there shall be a tumult from Jehovah, Great shall it be among them; And they shall strengthen them; And raised up shall his hand be against his neighbor.
The two last lines describe the tumult and confusion; some would strengthen the hands of their neighbors, others would raise up their hands against them. The verbs “strengthen,” with no preposition before “hand,” cannot mean to seize or lay hold on in an unfriendly manner. See Isa 35:3; Jer 23:14; and see also Isa 41:13; Eze 30:25.
The state of things described here corresponds exactly with the account given by Josephus, and in the books of the Maccabees, of the Jewish nation in those days; they were not only assailed by outward enemies, but also by traitors among themselves. — Ed.
Most commentators render this line, “And Judah shall fight in Jerusalem,” but contrary to Scripture usage. The verb used here for “fight,” when followed by [ב], almost invariably means to “fight against.” The exception which Henderson makes as to place, is not well founded. The very same form of words occurs in Ne 3:8 and the rendering is, “against Jerusalem.” See also 1Sa 23:1. The history of the Jews, as detailed both by Josephus and the Maccabees, fully bears out what is here said: and this corresponds with what is said of Judah in chapter 12:2. Whatever view may be taken of this and the preceding chapters, it cannot be denied but that there is a striking coincidence between what they contain, and the events connected with the Jews from the time of Ezra to the coming of Christ. — Ed.
See Ne 8:13-18.
The two verses, 17 and 18, I would render thus, —
17. And it shall be, that whosoever shall not ascend, Of the families of the land, to Jerusalem, To worship the King, Jehovah of hosts.
18. Not on them shall be rain; And if the family of Egypt Shall not ascend and shall not come,— On them shall be the plague, Which Jehovah will bring on all the people Who will not ascend to keep the feast of tabernacles.
The “land” of Judah, not earth or the world, is what is meant, as it is evident from the contrast in the next verse, “the family of Egypt.” The word [ארף] means commonly in the Prophets the land of Canaan. The words [ולא] before “on them” in verse 18, are left out of four MS., in the Septuagint and the Syriac; and they seem to be wholly misplaced here. I render [גוים] “people,” and supply [כל] before it, as in verses 14 and 16, supported by very many MS., and by the Septuagint. The word here and everywhere in this chapter, in verses 2,3,14,16, and 19, is in my view improperly rendered “nations,” viewed as heathen nations. It has no doubt this meaning in many places, but it means also people or peoples, i.e., the people of Israel. See De 4:6; Jos 5:6. It is a word of general import, signifying the body of a nation; and her and elsewhere in this chapter it means the whole community of the Jews, whether residing in the land of Canaan or in other parts of the world, especially in Egypt. Intestine broils, and not wars with heathens, are referred to in this chapter. Hence we clearly see the reason why “the feast of tabernacles” is mentioned, and why a curse is denounced on those who neglected it. — Ed.
The Targum paraphrases it “the punishment of sin,” and so do Jun., and Trem., and Piscator. The word “sin” is retained by Jerome, Cyril, and Marckius. But Newcome and Henderson, in accordance with our version and that of Calvin, render it “punishment.” — Ed.
It is rendered “bridle — [τὸν χαλινὸν],” by the Septuagint, the Syriac, and Jerome; “trappings,” by the Targum; “the deep — [βυθον],” by Aq. and Theod; “shady procession — [περίπατον συσχιον],” by Sym; and “bells,” by Drusius, Grotius, Marckius, Newcome, and Henderson. The last says, that they “were small metallic plates, suspended from the necks or heads of horses and camels for the sake of ornament, and making a tinkling noise by striking against each other like cymbals.” The notion of Blayney, that the horses and their bells were trophies taken from enemies and dedicated to God, seems not consistent with the tenor of the passage: for the things employed by the Jews are here mentioned, which were to be used in a holy manner, to the glory of God. — Ed.
Drusius, Grotius, and some others, take another view, thinking what the number of vessels required for sacrifices would be very great, so that pots would be used, the bowls belonging to the altar being not sufficient. Grotius says that Antiochus the Great sent 20 thousand pieces of silver (20 mille nummos argenteos) to be spent in sacrifices in the temple, and that Demetrius sent 150 thousand annually; and he refers to Josephus, 12:3 and 13:5. But Marckius justly says, that there is no reference here to number, but to consecration, and agrees in the view given here by Calvin. The same is also taken by Henry, Newcome, Scott, and Henderson.
The literal accomplishment of what is here said was at the time posterior to Nehemiah, the last reformer recorded in Scripture, who lived many years — probably from fifty to sixty — after Zechariah, and about ninety years after the first return under Zerubbabel. After Nehemiah, and for nearly three centuries, the state of the Jews was very flourishing and prosperous. Their calamities chiefly commenced in the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes, and continued, with some intermission, until their final overthrow by the Romans. — Ed.
The word is rendered “Canaanite — [χαναναιος],” by the Septuagint, — “merchant” by the Targum and Aquila, and is taken in this sense by Jerome, Newcome, and Henderson: but Theodoret and Cyril take the first sense, and the latter explains it by “stranger and idolater — [αλλογευνὴς και εἰδωλολάτρης].” It is justly observed by Marckius, that there is nothing in the passage that can lead us to give the word its secondary meaning of a merchant. — Ed.