This Volume completes CALVIN’S COMMENTARIES on the TWELVE MINOR PROPHETS, — a Work which, had he written no ether, would have been sufficient to have rendered him illustrious as a faithful, lucid, and practical expounder. In course of time, when his Comments shall be carefully read, his high merits will no doubt be duly acknowledged. The Translator can bear this testimony, that before he read CALVIN on the Minor Prophets, it was to him one of the least interesting and the least instructive portions of the ancient Scriptures; but that he finds it now one of the most interesting. It practically exhibits to us especially two things, which it greatly concerns us all to know, — what God is, and what man is. It sets before us manifest facts which prove the wonderful mercy and forbearance of God, and also the amazing tendency of man to superstition, and his persistency in his course notwithstanding all the powerful means adopted for his restoration.
ZECHARIAH began to prophesy two months after HAGGAI, as we find by comparing <370115>Haggai 1:15, with <380101>Zechariah 1:1. Ezra mentions them as the two Prophets who encouraged the rebuilding of the Temple. <150501>Ezra 5:1; 6:14.
The greatest part of ZECHARIAH was written, according to Lowth, in prose; but he adds that “some parts about the end of his Prophecy (Zechariah 9, 10. and the beginning of 11.) are poetical and highly embellished, and that they are sufficiently perspicuous, though written by a Prophet, who of all is perhaps the most obscure.”fm2a The testimony of Jerome, as to his obscurity, is the same; he says that he is “the most obscure as well as the longest of the Twelve Minor Prophets.” Marckius concedes a majestic elegance to his diction, and says, that “his enigmatical symbols may be fitly compared with those of AMOS, EZEKIEL, DANIEL, and of JOHN, the Prophet of the New Testament.” “His prose,” according to Henderson, “resembles most that of EZEKIEL; it is diffuse, uniform and repetitious. His prophetic poetry possesses much of the elevation and dignity to be found in the earlier Prophets, with whose writings he appears to have been familiar.”
The Book contains four parts: the first is a short message to the Jews, <380101>Zechariah 1:1-6; the second includes the rest of the first six chapters, which record a series of eight visions confined to one single night, and vouchsafed to the Prophet three months after the first message; the third contains two chapters, the seventh and the eighth; and the fourth, the six remaining chapters.
Since the days of CALVIN a dispute has arisen, originated by Mede, respecting this last portion. Owing especially to a quotation in <402709>Matthew 27:9, 10, where JEREMIAH, and not ZECHARIAH, is mentioned, many since the time of Mede, such as Hammond, Newcome, and several German divines, have adopted the notion, that these chapters have somehow been misplaced, and that they belong to the book of JEREMIAH. This view has been strongly opposed by Blayney and others, who, together with Scott, Adam Clarke, and Henderson, consider that there is no sufficient ground for such a supposition, and who for various reasons think that there is a typographical mistake in Matthew.fm2b
“It is alleged,” observes Blayney, “that the Evangelist St. Matthew, <402709>Matthew 27:9, cites a passage found in <381113>Zechariah 11:13, as spoken, not by Zechariah, but by the Prophet Jeremiah. But is it not possible, nay, is it not much more probable, that the word Ieremiou may have been written by mistake by some transcribers of MATTHEW’S Gospel, than that those of the Jewish Church, who settled the Canon of Scripture, of whom ZECHARIAH himself is supposed to have been one, should have been so grossly ignorant of the right author of those chapters as to place them under a wrong name? It is not, I think, pretended that these chapters have been found in any copy of the Old Testament otherwise placed than as they now stand. But in the New Testament there are not wanting authorities for omitting the word Ieremiou.”
The other arguments urged by Mede and others are successfully combated by Blayney as well as by Henderson.
The first is, that many things are mentioned in these chapters which correspond not with ZECHARIAH’S time; the second, that the prophecy in Zechariah 11:concerning the destruction of the Temple and of the people, is not suitable to the scope of ZECHARIAH’S commission, which was to encourage the people to build the Temple; and the third, that the style of these chapters is different from that of the preceding ones. These reasons, especially the two last, are justly said to be easily accounted for by the supposition that ZECHARIAH wrote the former portions while he was young, (<380204>Zechariah 2:4,) and these chapters in his advanced years. And Blayney thinks that he is the ZECHARIAH mentioned by our Savior in <402335>Matthew 23:35, and that he was slain by the Jews on account of these prophecies which he announced in his old age.fm2c
The last of the Old Testament Prophets, as admitted by all, was MALACHI. Who and what he was, we are left without any knowledge. Some have supposed him to have been EZRA under another name, or under the name of his office, as MALACHI means a messenger. But most think that he lived near a century after HAGGAI and ZECHARIAH. Usher places him in the year 416 before Christ, and Blair in 436. It appears certain from <390310>Malachi 3:10, that his time was after the building of the Temple. It is most probable that he was contemporary with NEHEMIAH, especially after his second return from Persia, as the same things are condemned by both, — foreign marriages and the neglect of paying tythes. The Jews are wont to call him the seal (µtwj) of the Prophets.
It is observed by Lowth that MALACHI wrote “in a middle sort of style, and evidently in such a style as seems to prove that Hebrew poetry had declined since the Babylonian exile, and that being now in advanced age it was somewhat verging towards senility.”fm2d But Henderson speaks in a higher strain, “Considering the late age in which he lived, the language of Malachi is pure; his style possesses much in common with the old Prophets, but is distinguished more by its animation than by its rhythmus or grandeur.”
The interesting character of the COMMENTARY will be found to be in no degree diminished in this Volume, but on the contrary increased, ,though some of the subjects had been before discussed. The same thoughts, no doubt, sometimes occur, but their different connections ever introduce some variety. The Commentator follows his text, and very seldom deviates from what it strictly requires, and the application of it to present circumstances is generally natural and obvious, and for the most part confined to a few sentences; so the reader’s attention is not diverted from the passage that is explained. The main object throughout seems to be to interpret God’s Word and to impress it on the mind and heart, and so to apply it as to render it the rule of our life and the support of our hopes.
The curious reader, fond of novelties, and enamoured with speculative and fanciful notions, or one whose chief delight is in dry criticisms, will not find much in CALVIN to gratify him: but those who possess a taste for Divine Truth, who seek to understand what they read, and desire to be fed by “the sincere milk of the Word,” will, through a blessing from above, be abundantly compensated by a careful perusal of his Comments. This is not said merely as a matter of inference from the character of their contents, but as the result of personal experience. The testimony which the Translator can fully bear is similar to that of Bishop Horne, when he finished his Commentary on the Psalms, that the labor has been attended with so much pleasure and enjoyment, that the completion of his work occasions regret as well as joy; for the time during which he has been engaged in translating CALVIN has been the happiest period of his life.
As to the INDICES, added to this Volume, the most important is that to the subjects: and it is more useful than general readers may perhaps consider it to be. The very reading of it may convey no small measure of information. The variety of subjects handled in these Volumes is very great, so that they include almost everything in the wide range of Theology, not indeed discussed at large, but briefly touched upon and explained.
But as an illustration of the usefulness of this Index, let the word Faith be taken; and almost everything connected with it will be found mentioned and referred to. Turn again to the word Faithful, (Fideles,) which some of my co-workers have rendered Believers, and perhaps in some instances more appropriately; and hardly anything belonging to the character, spirit, life, and trials of God’s people, will be found wanting. If there be a wish to know what Popery is, what is found under the word Papists will disclose almost the whole character of the system; and by referring to the Comment all its main lineaments will be found clearly exhibited in the character of the superstitions and idolatries of the Jews. The real features of errors are the same in every age, only somewhat modified by a change of circumstances: but an enlightened observer can read Popery in the history of the ancient Jews as clearly as in its own history. This of course cannot be done by the spiritually blind and the deluded; and yet so striking and palpable is the likeness in not a few instances, that it is impossible for any not to see it, except they be totally blind, and their judgment wholly perverted.
There have been many Commentators before and after the time of CALVIN, but it may be doubted whether any of them possessed his combined excellencies, especially the capacity of being so plain as to be understood by common readers, and of being at the same time so profound as to be interesting and instructive to the most learned; so that his Comments do in this respect retain, in a measure, the character of the book he interprets and explains. Of his superiority over his predecessors we have the striking testimony of the learned Arminius, who, as he differed from him on several points of no small importance, may justly be considered to have been an impartial witness. His words are remarkable, — “Next to the reading of Scripture, which I strongly recommend, I advise you to read the Commentaries of Calvin, on whom I bestow higher eulogies than Helmichius did; for I consider that he is incomparable in interpreting Scripture, and that his Commentaries are of more value than all that the library of the Fathers transmits to us; so that I concede to him even a spirit of prophecy superior to that of most, yea, of all others.fm2e
As to posterior Commentators, his comparative merits cannot indeed be rated so high, as there have been in later years Writers in this department of no ordinary character. Not to mention Foreign Divines, our own might with advantage be referred to, such as Henry, Lowth, Whitby, Doddridge, Scott, and Adam Clarke. And yet none of these can be regarded as in all respects equal to CALVIN as a Commentator. Some of them excel him as Critics, and others in the number of their practical deductions; but he surpasses them all in pointing out and illustrating the main drift of a passage, in catching as it were its very spirit, and in the power he possessed of impressing on the mind in a few words both its meaning and its practical lessons. The Comment never diverts us from the Text, it never occupies as it were its place; but the Text itself, expounded and illustrated, is left fixed and riveted on the mind.
THE PROPHECIES of ZECHARIAH come next. He was a fellow-helper and colleague Of HAGGAI, and also of MALACHI, as it will presently appear. These three, then, were sent by God nearly at the same time, that they might assist one another, and that they might thus by one consent and one mouth confirm what God had committed to them. It was indeed of great service that several bore their testimony: their prophecies gained thus greater authority; and this was needful, for the people had to contend with various and most grievous trials. Satan had already raised up great opposition to them; but there were still greater evils at hand. Hence, to prevent them from despairing, it was necessary to encourage them; by many testimonies.
But what our Prophet had especially in view was, to remind the Jews why it was that God dealt so severely with their fathers, and also to animate them with hope, provided they really repented, and elevated their minds to the hope of true and complete deliverance. He at the same time severely reproves them; for there was need of much cleansing, as they still continued in their filth. For though the recollection of their exile ought to have restrained them, and to have made them careful to fear and obey God, yet it seemed to have been otherwise; and it will appear more fully as we proceed, that being not conscious of having been punished for their sins, they were so secure, that there was among them hardly and fear of God, or hardly any religion. It was therefore needful to blend strong and sharp reproofs with promises of favor, that they might thus be prepared to receive Christ. This is the substance of the whole fm1 I shall now proceed to the words.

1. 1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,
1. Mense octavo, fm2 anno secundo Darii, fuit sermo Iehovae ad Zachariam, filium Barachiae, filii Addo (Iddo, ad verbum) prophetae, (vel, prophetam, ) fm3 dicendo,
2. The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.
2. Iratus est Iehova erga patres vestros ira.
3. Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
3. Dices igitur ad eos, Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Revertimini ad me, dicit Iehova exercituum; et revertar ad vos, dicit Iehova exercituum.

WE here learn what we have already stated, — that Haggai and Zechariah were by God joined together, that they might confirm each other’s doctrine, for they had to do with a refractory people: besides, the people had to endure hard and arduous trials, so that they needed more than a common testimony to confirm them. Haggai commenced the work of his office in the sixth month; Zechariah shortly followed him, in the eighth month of the same year. It has already been shown who was the Darius mentioned here; though some interpreters dissent, we may yet learn from certain and indubitable proofs, that he was the son of Hystaspes. We shall again speak of this Darius, when a better occasion will offer itself: I wished only in passing to say thus much.
The word of Jehovah came to Zechariah. We have already said that the word of God comes in two ways to men. God addresses all from the least to the greatest; but in the first place he sends his word especially to his Prophets, to whom he commits the office of teaching. The word of God thus comes to private individuals, and it comes also to teachers, who sustain a public character, and become God’s interpreters or messengers. It was thus that God’s word came to Zechariah, not that he might keep to himself what God had said, but that he might be a faithful dispenser of his truth.
With regard to Zechariah, they are mistaken who regard him as the son of Jehoiadah, they are mistaken by Christ in <402335>Matthew 23:35. Zechariah is indeed said there to have been killed between the temple and the altar, and he is called the son of Barachiah: fm4 but the counting of years will easily prove their mistake, who would have him to be the same Zechariah. The former, who is called in sacred history the son of Jehoiadah the priest, was slain under Joash. Let us now see how many kings succeeded him, and also how many years he reigned. That Zechariah must have been almost two hundred years old at the Babylonian exile, if he was alive, had be been a boy when he was stoned. Now this Zechariah, of whom we now speak, performed the office of a Prophet after the return of the people from exile. He must then have been not only more than a hundred and fifty years of age, but must have exceeded two hundred years when he died. The idea respecting the renascence of men, being a reverie of the Jews, is not worthy of a record, much less of a refutation. He is however called the son of Barachiah; but the probable conjecture is that Jehoiadah the priest had two names, and it does not appear that he was a prophet. However this may be, the Zechariah who was stoned in the temple by the order of the king, was the son of the high priest, and died more than a hundred years before the Babylonian exile. For we have said that this Darius was not the Mede who reigned with Cyrus, but the son of Hystaspes, who reigned a long time after, that is, after Cambyses and the Magi. Their want of knowledge is easily proved, who think that these Prophets were sent by God before the completion of the time mentioned by Jeremiah. As then the seventy years had elapsed, this Prophet was no doubt born after the time when the city was destroyed, the temple pulled-down, and the people led captive into Babylon. I come now to the doctrine itself.
Angry was Jehovah with anger against your fathers. fm5 The Prophet here refers to the severity of the punishment with which the Jews had been visited, in order that posterity might know that God, who so rigidly punishes the despisers of his word and instruction, ought not to be provoked. For by saying that God was angry with anger, he means, that God was in no common measure offended with the Jews, and that the very grievousness of their punishment was a clear evidence how displeased God was with them. But the object of the Prophet was to rouse the Jews, that they might begin seriously to fear God on seeing how dreadful is his wrath. The Apostle states it as a general truth, that it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, (<581030>Hebrews 10:30:) so also the Scripture speaks everywhere. But Zechariah mentions here to his own people a signal evidence of God’s wrath, which ought to justly to have smitten all of them with terror. He does not then speak here of a thing unknown, but reminds them seriously to consider how terrible is God’s vengeance; as a proof of this, their fathers had been deprived of their perpetual inheritance, they had suffered many degradations, and had also been harassed and oppressed by tyrants; in short, they had been nearly sunk in the lowest depths. Since then God has so severely dealt with their fathers, the Prophet bids them to know that God ought to be feared, lest they should grow wanton or indulge themselves in their usual manner, but that they might from the heart repent, and not designedly provoke God’s wrath, of which their fathers had so severe an experience.
It then follows, Thou shalt say to them, Return ye to me, and I will return to you. fm6 The Prophet now expresses more clearly for what purpose he had spoken of God’s vengeance, with which he had visited his chosen people, even that their posterity might take heed to themselves; for the common proverb, “Fools by adversity become wise,” ought in this case to have been verified. For where there is really a teachable spirit, men become instantly attentive to what God says: but even when they are sluggish and slothful, it is a wonder, that when they are smitten, the strokes which they feel do not shake off at least in some degree their torpor. Hence the Prophet, after having spoken of the punishments which God had inflicted, exhorts the Jews to repentance.
It ought however to be observed, that our Prophet not only speaks of repentance, but shows also its true character, that the Jews might not seek carelessly to please God, as is commonly the case, but that they might sincerely repent; for he says, return ye to me, and I will return to you. And this was not said without reason, when we consider in what sort of delusions the Jews indulged themselves immediately after their return. We have seen that they became devoted to their private concerns, while the temple remained desolate; and we also know what sacred history relates, that they married heathen women, and also that many corruptions prevailed among them, so that religion almost disappeared. They indeed retained the name of God, but their impiety showed itself by clear signs. It is then no wonder that the Prophet sharply stimulates them to repentance.
It must at the same time be noticed, that we cannot enjoy the favor of God, even when he kindly offers to be reconciled to us, except we from the heart repent. However graciously, then, God may invite us to himself, and be ready to remit our sins, we yet cannot embrace his offered favor, except our sins become hateful to us; for God ceases not to be our judge, except we anticipate him, and condemn ourselves, and deprecate the punishment of our sins. Hence we then pacify God when real grief wounds us, and we thus really turn to God, without dissimulation or falsehood. Now the experience of God’s wrath ought to lead us to this; for extremely heedless are they who, having found God to be a Judge, do carelessly disregard his wrath, which ought to have filled their hearts with fear. “Let no one deceive you with vain words,” says Paul, “for on account of these things comes the wrath of God on the children of unbelief,” or on all the unbelieving. (<490506>Ephesians 5:6.) Paul bids us to consider all the evidences which God gives of his wrath in the world, that they may instruct us as to the fear of God; how much more then should domestic examples be noticed by us? For the Prophet speaks not here of foreign nations; but says, angry has God been with anger against your fathers. Since, then, it appeared evident that God had not spared even his chosen people, they ought, unless they were in the extreme refractory, to have carefully continued in obedience to the law. Hence the Prophet here condemns their tardiness, inasmuch as they had made so little progress under the chastisements of God.
We thus see that no excuse can be brought before God, if we do not make a right use of all the punishments by which he designs to recover us from our sins. We have referred to that general truth announced by Paul, that God’s judgment, executed on the unbelieving, ought to be feared; it hence follows that our insensibility is extreme, if we are not thoroughly moved when God teaches us by our own experience, or at least when he sets domestic examples before us, as when he punishes our fathers and others connected with us; for this mode of teaching comes much nearer to us.
But when the Prophet says, return ye to me, and I will return to you, he means, as I have before stated, that though God meets sinners, and is ready with extended arms to embrace them, his favor cannot come to those to whom it is offered, except a real feeling of penitence leads them to God. In short, the Prophet means, that though they had returned from exile, they could not expect a permanent state of safety, except they turned from the heart to him; for if they imitated their fathers, God had in readiness far severer scourges to chastise them; and they might also be again driven into exile. he then briefly reminds them, that if they wished to enjoy the incomparable kindness with which God had favored them, it was necessary for them seriously to return to him. Though, then God had already in part returned to them, that is, he had really proved that he was pacified and propitious to them, yet he had begun by many evidences to show that he was again offended with them; for their fruit had either withered through heat, or had been smitten by hail, as we have found elsewhere; (<370217>Haggai 2:17;) so that they had already labored for several years under want and other evils. God then had not so blessed them, that they could in every way recognize his paternal favor. This is the reason why the Prophet says, I will return to you when ye return to me.
We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet to be, that though God had delivered his people, they ought yet to have feared lest his wrath should suddenly burn against the ungrateful and the wicked, and that being not in full favor, they ought also to have known that God was still offended with them. So the Prophet shortly reminded them, that it was no wonder that God treated them with no great kindness, for they allowed no place for his favor, but provoked his wrath, like their fathers, inasmuch as they did not from the hear repent.
The Papists allege this passage in defense of free-will; but it is a most puerile sophistry. They say that the turning of God to men is the same as their turning to him, as though God promised the grace of his Spirit as a help, when men anticipate him. They imagine then that free-will precedes, and then that the help of the Spirit follows. But this is very gross and absurd. The Prophet indeed means that God would return to the Jews; for he shows that God would in every respect be a father to them, when they showed themselves to be dutiful and respectful children. We must therefore remember that God does not here promise the aid of his Spirit to assist free-will, and to help the efforts of man, as these foolish and senseless teachers imagine, but that he promises to return to the Jews to bless them. Hence the return of God here is nothing else than the prosperity which they desired; as though he had said — “Fear me from the heart, and ye shall not labor under hunger and thirst; for I shall satisfy you, as neither your fields nor your vines shall hereafter disappoint your hopes. Ye shall find me most bountiful, when ye deal with me in a faithful manner.” This is the meaning.
We must further bear in mind, that, according to the common usage of Scripture, whenever God exhorts us to repentance, he does not regard what our capacity is, but demands what is justly his right. Hence the Papists adopt what is absurd when they deduce the power of free-will from the command or exhortation to repent: God, they say, would not have commanded what is not in our power to do. It is a foolish and most puerile mode of reasoning; for if everything which God requires were in our power, the grace of the Holy Spirit would be superfluous; it would not only be as they say a waiting-mind, but it would be wholly unnecessary; but if men need the aid of the Spirit, it follows that they cannot do what God requires of them. But it seems strange that God should bid men to do more than what they can. It seems so indeed, I allow, when we form our judgment according to the common perception of the flesh; but when we understand these truths — that the law works wrath — that it increases sin — that it was given that transgression might be made more evident, then the false notion — that God requires nothing but what men can perform, comes to nothing. But it is enough for us to know, that God in exhorting us to repentance requires nothing but what nature dictates ought to be done by us. Since it is so, however short we are in the performance, it is not right to charge God with too much strictness, that he demands what is beyond our power.
The frequent repetition of God’s name by the Prophet is emphatical; it was done, that what he taught might more sharply goad the hearts of the people. Had he simply said, that he had a commission from above to remind the people of the punishments which their fathers had endured, and also to call them to repentance, this mode of teaching would not have so penetrated into their hearts, as when the name of God is so often brought before them — Thou shalt say, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Return to me, saith Jehovah of hosts, and I will return to you, saith Jehovah of hosts. It surely behoved the Jews, when they heard God’s name pronounced three times, to awake and to consider with whom they had to do. For what can be more base or more disgraceful than for men, when God anticipates them and desires to be united to them, to refuse to respond and to devote themselves to his service?
It is at the same time evident, that the Prophet adopted a mode of speaking then in use: and we know that the language of the Jews underwent a change after their Babylonian exile. It lost that clearness and elegance which it possessed before: as it clearly appears from the style of those who wrote after the exile. I allow also that previously the Prophets exhibited not the same degree of eloquence; for Isaiah differs greatly from Jeremiah and from Amos. It is yet quite evident from the writings of the last Prophets, that the language had become somewhat muddy after the return of the people from exile. Let us now proceed —

4. Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.
4. Ne sitis sicut patres vestri, quia clamarunt ad eos Prophetae superiores, sic dicit Iehovah exercituum, Revertimini quaeso a viis vestris malis, et ab operibus vestris malis; et mom audierunt, neque attenderunt ad me, dicit Iehovah.

In order to correct and to subdue the obstinacy of the people, he here upbraids them with having descended from wicked and perverse parents. The Jews, we know, too much flattered themselves; and we know that they were especially inflated with the vain boasting that they derived their origin from the holy fathers. But the Prophets had something else in view. We indeed know that when anything becomes customary, almost all become hardened and flatter themselves in their vice; for immorality is then counted almost as the law, and what is sanctioned by public consent seems lawful. Since then they had not ceased for many years to provoke the wrath of God, it was necessary to add this reproof, Be not like your fathers: for they no doubt imagined that God approved of them, as they were not worse than their fathers. But God shows that their fathers had been very wicked and perverse.
Let us learn from this passage, that the examples which are wont to be set up as a shield are so far from being of any weight before God, that they enhance our guilt: and yet we see that this folly infatuates many; for at this day the religion of the Papists seems to them holy and irreprehensible, because it has been handed down to them by their fathers. Hence, whenever they bring forward the fathers, they think it a sufficient defense against the charge of any errors. But nothing occurs more frequently in the Prophets than the truth, that examples tend more to kindle the wrath of God, when some men become the occasion of sin to others, and when posterity think that whatever has proceeded from their fathers is lawful.
But we must at the same time bear in mind the design of the Prophet, for he did not intend simply to show, that the Jews in vain alleged the examples of the ancient; but, as I have said, he intended to shake off their self-flatteries by which they lulled themselves asleep; and he intended especially to put down those evil practices, which by long use had prevailed among them. This then is the reason why he says, Be not like your fathers. The Spirit employs the same sentiment in many other places, especially in the ninety- fifth Psalm (<199501>Psalm 95:1), and also in other Psalms.
Then he says, that the Prophets, who had been sent by God, had cried to their fathers, but that they did not attend. As then contempt of the truth had for so many ages prevailed among the Jews, and as this impiety was not duly abhorred by them, since they thought themselves to be as it were in perpetual possession — these are the reasons why the Prophet expressly upbraids them with this, that God’s word had been formerly despised by their nation — cry then did the former Prophets. He also exaggerates again their crime and their sin, because God had often recalled them to himself but without success. Had the Prophets been silent, and had God applied no remedy for their defection, their ingratitude would not indeed have been excusable; but since Prophets had often been sent to them, in succession, one after the other, and each had endeavored to restore the wretched men to a state of safety, not to attend to their holy and serious admonitions, by which God manifested his care for their well-being, was a much more atrocious crime.
We hence learn, that when we find any people prone to this or that vice, it ought to be resisted with greater diligence; for Satan almost always employs this artifice — that when he finds us prone to this or that vice, he directs all his efforts to drive us headlong into it.
As then the Prophets had been for a long time despised by the Jews, Zechariah designedly brings before them that perverseness which had been too long known. cry then did the former Prophets, fm7 saying Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, return ye, I pray, from your evil ways, and from your evil works; but they heard not nor attended. After having spoken of God’s kind invitation, which was a singular pledge of his love, since he thus manifested his concern for their safety, he shows on the other hand how unworthily the Jews had conducted themselves, for they obstinately rejected this favor of God. They were indeed more than sufficiently proved guilty; for by saying, Return ye, I pray, from your evil ways and from your evil works, he assumes it as a fact that the reproofs given were just. And he farther says, that they refused to hear. Hence their perverseness was less endurable; for though they were self-condemned, they did not yet repent, nor deigned to hearken to God. And he subjoins the words, nor did they attend; for by this repetition fm8 is more fully expressed, not only their stupidity, but their strange madness, inasmuch as they had so rejected God, and closed up the door of his favor, as though they sought designedly to drive him far from them, lest he should come to them.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast not only once embraced us in thy paternal bosom, when it pleased thee to offer to us the salvation obtained by the death of thine only-begotten Son, but continuest also daily to invite us to thyself, and also to recall the wandering to the right way — O grant, that we may not always remain deaf and hardened against thy warnings, but bring to thee hearts really submissive, and study so to devote ourselves to thee, that it may be evident that we have not received thy grace in vain; and may we also continue in the constant fruition of it, until we shall at length fully attain that blessed glory, which having been obtained for us, id daily set before us by the teaching of the Gospel, that we may be confirmed in it. May we therefore make such continual advances, through the whole course of our life, that having at last put off all the corruptions of our flesh, we may be really united to thee in that perfect purity to which thou invitests us, and which we hope for, through the grace of thine only Son. — Amen.
5. Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?
5. Patres vestri, ubi sunt? et prophetas, an in perpetuum vivent?
6. But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.
6. Atqui verba mea et statuta mea, quae mandavi servis meis prophetis, annon apprehenderunt patres vestros? et reversi sunt et dixerunt, Sicut cogitaverat Iehova exercituum facere nobis secundum vias nostras, et opera nostra, ita fecit nobiscum.

In what we considered yesterday Zechariah reminded the Jews of the conduct of their fathers, in order that they might not, by their continued sins, bring on themselves new punishments. Many interpreters think that the sentiment contained at the beginning of the fourth verse is now confirmed, your fathers, where are they? for it seems t them that God is here exulting over the Jews — “Think now what has happened to your fathers; are they not all gone and destroyed?” They suppose also that the Jews answer, taking the latter clause as spoken by them, “The Prophets also, have they not perished? Why do you mention to us the fathers? There is no difference between them and the Prophets; it is not therefore a suitable argument.” And then in the third place, they consider that God refutes the answer given by the Jews, “But my word and my statutes, what I had entrusted to the Prophets, have not been without their effect.” This view of the passage has been adopted by many, and by all of the most ancient interpreters; and those who followed them have been disposed to subscribe to it. fm9 But more probable is the opinion of Jerome, who understands the latter clause of false Prophets, — “Your fathers and your Prophets, where are they?” as though God thus reproved the Jews: “See now, have not your fathers miserably perished, and also the Prophets by whom they were deceived?” Thus Jerome thinks that the object in both clauses is to shake off the delusions of the Jews, that they might not harden themselves against God’s judgments, or give ear to flatterers. This interpretation comes nearer to the design of the Prophet, though he seems to me to have something else in view.
I join the two clauses together, as they may be most fitly united — “Your fathers and my Prophets have both perished; but after their death, the memory of the doctrine, which has not only been published by my servants, but has also been fully confirmed, is to continue, so that it ought justly to terrify you; for it is very foolish in you to enquire whether or not the Prophets are still alive; they performed their office to the end of life, but the truth they declared is immortal. Though then the Prophets are dead, they have not yet carried away with them what they taught, for it never perishes, nor can it at any age be extinguished. The ungodly are also dead, but their death ought not to obliterate the memory of God’s judgments; but after their death these judgments ought to be known among men, and serve to teach them, in order that posterity may understand that they are not presumptuously to provoke God.” This seems to be the real meaning of the Prophet.
By saying, Your fathers where are they? and the Prophets do they live for ever? he makes a concession, as though he had said, “I allow that both your fathers and my Prophets are dead; but my words are they dead?” God, in a word, distinguishes between the character of his word and the condition of men, as though he had said, that the life of men is frail and limited to a few years, but that his truth never perishes. And rightly does he mention the ungodly as well as the Prophets; for we know that whenever God punishes the despisers of his word, he gives perpetual examples, which may keep men in all ages within the boundaries of duty. Hence, though many ages have passed away since God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, yet that example remains, and retains its use to this day; for the ruin of Sodom is a mirror in which we may see at this time that God is the perpetual judge of the world. Since then the ungodly have perished, the punishment with which God visited their sins ought not to be buried with them, but to be ever remembered by men. This is the reason why he says, “your fathers are dead: this you must admit; but as they had been severely chastised, ought ye not at this day to profit by such examples?” Then he says, “my Prophets also are dead; but it was my will that they should be the preachers of my truth, and for this end, that after their death posterity might know that I had once spoken through them.” To the same purpose are the words of Peter, who says, that he labored that the memory of what he taught might continue after he was removed from his tabernacle.
“As then,” he says, “the time of my dissolution is at hand, I endeavor as far as I can, that you may remember what I teach after my death.” (<610115>2 Peter 1:15.)
We now perceive the object of the Prophet.
He then immediately adds, But my words and my statutes fm10 which I have committed to my Prophets, have they not laid hold on your fathers? We have seen that he made a concession in the last verse; but here God expressly declares what I have stated — that though men vanish, or are hence removed after a short time, yet heavenly truth is ever firm, and retains its own power. But the Prophet uses another form of expression, My words, he says, which I have committed to my servants, the Prophets, have they not laid on fm11 your father? that is, “ought the remembrance of the punishment, by which I intended to teach you, and your children, and your grandchildren, that ye might not provoke my wrath as your fathers did, to be lost by you? Since the ye see the effect of my doctrine in your fathers, why do ye not consider, that as I am always the same, my words cannot possibly be in vain at the present day, or be without effect?” We now see how clearly the Prophet distinguishes between the word of God and the condition of men; for God does not declare what is empty, nor give utterance to words which produce no effect; but he executes whatever he has committed to his Prophets.
He then adds, They returned and said, fm12 As Jehovah of hosts had purposed to do to us on account of our ways and our works, so he hath done. Added here is a confession, which ought to have perpetually stimulated the Jews, while they saw that the obstinacy of their fathers had been subdued by the scourges of God. It is indeed true, that though they been sharply chastised, many of them did not yet really repent. God however extorted from them the confession that they were justly punished. Even the ungodly then had been constrained to give glory to God, and to confess that they were justly treated as guilty; but their children became immediately forgetful — was this a stupidity capable of being excused? He at the same time indirectly warns posterity that they might not imitate the negligence of their fathers, who would not have repented had they not been severely chastised; but that they might, on the contrary anticipate the judgment of God. We then see why the Prophet mentions that the Jews, who had been severely treated, freely confessed that they had been chastised by the hand of God; but we must notice the words.
He says, that the fathers had returned. Though their repentance was not sincere, yet God intimates that such was their punishment that it drew from them the confession that is here mentioned. What then could their posterity mean? or how could they become so audaciously mad against God, when they saw that their fathers and their obstinacy had been, as it were, broken down by the severe strokes by which God had smitten them? He then subjoins, and said, As Jehovah hath prepared to do. They confessed that they suffered evils not through chance, but that the purpose of God was thus fulfilled, which they had previously despised and almost derided. They further confessed, that they justly suffered; and they referred to their works and to their course of life. Since, then, the father had made this confession, who had hardened themselves long in their sins, their posterity were wholly without excuse in going on still to their own ruin, in containing impenitent, though warned by examples so memorable. This is the import of the passage. It now follows —

7. Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,
7. Die vicesima quarta undecimi mensis, hic est mensis Sebath, anno secundo Darii, fuit sermo Iehovae ad Zachariam, filium Berechiae, filii Addo (vel, Iddo, ) Prophetae, (vel, Prophetam; sed melius quadrat accusativus, ) dicendo,
8. I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.
8. Vidi nocte, et ecce vir equitans super equum rufum, (vel, rubicundum, ) et ipse stabat inter myrtos quae erant in profundo: post eum equi rufi, (vel, rubicundi, idem est nomen, ) varii, (vel, medii coloris, ) et albi.
9. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.
9. Et dixi, Qui isti, Domine mi? Et dixit mihi Angelus qui loquebatur mecum, Ego ostendam tibi quinam isti sint.
10. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.
10. Et respondit vir qui stabat inter myrtos et dixit, Hi sint quos misit Iehova ad perambulandum in terra.
11. And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.
11. Et responderunt Angelo Iehovae qui stabat inter myrtos et dixerunt, Perambulavimus in terra, et ecce tota terra quiescit et transquilla est.

Here is related a second prophecy, connected with a vision. At the beginning God alone spoke and gave commission to his Prophet to reprove the Jews: he now confirms the prediction as to the reduction of the city; for to the word is added a vision, which is, as we have seen elsewhere, a sort of seal. As the vision is obscure it may be variously explained, but I shall endeavor to accommodate it, without any refinements, to our use; and so no ambiguity will remain, provided we seek to be soberly and moderately wise, that is, provided we aim at no more than what edification requires.
The Prophet says, that a vision was given him; and he saw a horseman among the myrtles sitting on a red horse; and with him there were horses red, variegated fm13 and white, and having no doubt riders. So I understand the passage; for extremely gross is the idea that the horses spoke. There were then, as it were, a troop of horsemen; but the Prophet says, that one appeared as the chief leader, who was accompanied by others. In the meantime an angel stood at the side of the Prophet, who led him, and showed to him his concern for the holy city and the chosen people. He then adds, that these horsemen had returned from an expedition; for they had been sent to review the whole world and its different parts. He therefore says, that they had returned from their journey, and also that the whole earth was quiet, that men enjoyed peace and tranquillity everywhere. At length he adds, that the angel of God cried out, How long, Jehovah, wilt thou not show mercy to Jerusalem? For the angel, touched with grief on hearing that all the heathens were enjoying rest, expostulates with God; for it seemed a very unbecoming and strange thing that the faithful alone should be oppressed with adversities, while others lived in peace and enjoyed their pleasures. There follows at length an answer from God, as we shall presently see.
But let us now enquire the Prophet’s design. I regard this as the object — that horsemen were presented to the Prophet, that he might know that God does not remain shut up in heaven and neglect the affairs of men; but that he has, as it were, swift horses, so that he knows what things are everywhere carried on. As then kings having horses at command, send their riders here and there, and bid them soon to return to them that they may know what to do; so the Prophet ascribes here to God the character of a chief sovereign, who inquires respecting all the affairs of men. It is indeed certain, that God receives no information from angels, for nothing is hid from him: nay, all things were fully known to him before he created angels. God, therefore, needs no such helps in order to know what is going on from the rising to the setting sun; but such a mode of speaking often occurs in scripture; and it is a common thing, that God assumes the character of man in order that he may more familiarly instruct us. Let us then especially bear in mind, that the riders who appeared to the Prophet were angels, who are ever ready to serve God. And they were sent here and there, not that they might declare to God any thing unknown to him, but that we may believe that God cares for human affairs; and that though angels appear not to us they are always engaged, and survey the world, so that nothing is done without the knowledge and will of God. This is one thing.
The Prophet says also, that the vision was given him in the night: he refers no doubt to what actually took place, and also to the manner in which he was taught; for though the vision was not given in vain, yet God meant that it should not be plain, in order that he might give by little and little a glimpse of hope to the Jews. As then God did not intend to exhibit in full light what he afterwards in due time taught them, the vision appeared in the night. And to the same purpose is what he says respecting the angels, that they were in a dark or deep place, and that they were among the myrtles. For to consider what is here said allegorically seems to me frivolous. I will, therefore, not refinedly discuss here the nature of myrtles: but as we know that the trees are dark and afford a thick shade, God intended, I have no doubt, by the sight of them, to produce an effect on the Prophet’s mind, so that he might understand that the prophecy was yet obscure, and that the time for a plain and clear revelation was not come. There were then horsemen among the myrtles, that is, under these dark and shady trees; and also in a deep place and in a thick shade. We see how aptly these things correspond. Some think that by their colors is designated the state of the people, being that of sorrow and of joy; for though quietness in part was restored to the people, yet much darkness remained and much perplexity in their affairs: but as this idea is probable, I do not reject it, provided we retain what I have stated, that the obscurity of the Prophecy is noted by the deep valley and the myrtles.
There was one more eminent than the rest, and in this there is nothing unusual; for when God sends forth a company of angels, he gives the lead to some one: and this is the reason why one is described here as more illustrious than all the others. If we regard this angel to be Christ, the idea is consistent with the common usage of Scripture; for Christ, we know, being the head of angels, ever exercises such dominion over them, that in obeying God they do nothing but under his authority. It may be then that one angel assumed here a pre-eminence over the rest, that the Prophet might think of the Redeemer, who exercises power over angels and the whole Church.
With regard to the different colors the Prophet no doubt understood that they designated the offices allotted to angels, as some convey God’s benefits, and others come armed with scourges and swords. For what was the design of the vision in which some riders appeared on white horses, some on red, and some on bay, (or, on those of a mixed color, which is more probable,) except that God intended to show that he sent angels, not only that they might survey the state of things, but that they might also come to chastise men, or to be ministers of his benefits? Besides, it was God’s purpose, as I have already hinted, to make it known, that nothing is carried on in this world but what is known by angels, who are his emissaries and agents.
They said that the whole earth was then quiet, fm14 that is, the countries bordering on Judea, or the oriental regions. Hence a greater confidence might be entertained by the Jews, for with the prayer of the angel is connected a complaint — “God of hosts, what is thy purpose?” that is, “Is it thy will that all others should enjoy quietness and peace, while enemies are continually hostile and troublesome to thy people? Is it right that thy Church should be ever miserably distressed, while heathens, who have no care for religion, should be so bountifully favored by thee? Is it not better that the memory of thy name should be extinguished, and that all worship should fall to the ground, than that so unjust a reward should be returned to thy servants?” We now see the design of the vision, even that the Jews might be assured that the distresses which they endured would not be perpetual. How so? because God slept not in heaven, but had his runners; and further, since his will was that all nations should be tranquil, he would no doubt have at length a regard for his own people, so as to deliver them from their troubles.
Though then the vision is obscure, yet its design is not doubtful. Besides, if we are content with what is moderate, there will be found here nothing so perplexing but that we may easily learn at least the import of the Prophecy. But the curiosity of those interpreters has done much harm, who by examining every single syllable have advanced many puerile things. There is therefore nothing better than to attend to the design of the Prophet, and then to regard the circumstances of the time, and thirdly, to follow the analogy between the signs and things signified.
I have said that angels are here introduced, because it would be difficult for us to ascend to the highest glory of God. God, we know, is not constrained by necessity to employ angels as ministers to execute his judgments, to punish men, or to confer benefits: for God himself is sufficient for all these things. Why then does he employ angels and make use of their ministration, if it be superfluous? The obvious answer is this — as we are prone to unbelief, we ever tremble in dangers, except we know that God is prepared with many forces to help us in time of need. When it is said in Psalm 24 that angels encamp around those who fear God, is it not a much more effectual relief than if it had been simply said that God is our citadel? It is indeed said in many places that God is an unassailable fortress; but as many still continue to doubt when they hear that there is a sufficient defense for them in God, he consults now their weakness, and adds, “I come with a great host; I am not alone your helper, but there is a great army ready at my bidding. Whenever then it may please me a troop of angels, yea, many myriads shall assemble together.” When therefore God thus speaks, it is a mode of teaching suitable to the capacities of men. So now, when Zechariah sees many runners, who have been sent by God to perambulate and to survey the earth, it may with greater certainty be learnt that nothing is carried on without design or by chance in the world, but that all things come before God, and that the manner in which all things occur is set forth by the angels. In the same way is the representation given in the first chapter of Job (<180101>Job 1:1) All the sons of God, that is, angels, came before his throne; and also among them Satan came; for though he does not willingly obey God, yet while he perambulates the earth, he at the same time executes God’s judgments, though unwillingly. We now then see the reason why God did not himself appear, and testified to the Prophet, that whatever took place among the nations was known to him; but he shows that his runners rode swiftly through the whole earth, and returned afterwards to the heavenly tribunal, and proved that they had carefully performed their office.
Now the Prophet says, that he had this vision in the eleventh month, called Sebat, fm15 and on the twenty-fourth day of the month; that is, in the third month after his first Prophecy. He had in the eighth month sharply reproved the Jews: now a consolation is added, lest they should despair, but know that they were still the objects of God’s care. And possibly the reproof referred to had been effectual; nay, it is probable, that the Prophet did not labor in vain in exhorting the Jews to true and sincere repentance. When therefore they had given some evidence of religion, we see that God afterwards treated them more kindly, and set before them the hope of a future deliverance.
With regard to the night time, it is of importance to observe, that though God does not always set forth with full clearness his predictions, they are not yet without instruction, provided we be attentive, and provided also we suffer ourselves, while in darkness, to be ruled by the spirit of knowledge. By whatever different means then God may teach his faithful people, he always teaches them something useful, provided they murmur not when any thing is for a time obscure, but wait for the day of full revelation. And this is the design of Paul’s admonition, “If ye think otherwise, this also will God reveal to you.” Let us then know that God’s manner of teaching is not always the same, but that his teaching is always profitable, provided the faithful retain due moderation and sobriety, and suffer themselves to be guided step by step by God. This observation is to be applied to the whole verse, when it is said, that the horses and the horsemen stood under the myrtles, and also in a low place.
And, then, as to the various colors of the horses, it ought not to be deemed strange, that God should thus allot different offices to angels; for he does not always punish us by the ministry of Satan. He has celestial angels, when it pleases him, as executioners of his vengeance; and he sometimes employs devils for this purpose. However this may be, it is in his power to delegate angels as ministers of his kindness, or to send them to execute his vengeance, so that they appear in red color, or in some other. In conclusion, it ought also to be borne in mind, that angels do stand before the tribunal of God, after having diligently perambulated the earth, not after the manner of men: for it would be gross and puerile to imagine angels sitting on horses, inasmuch as they are spirits who are confined to no certain place; but as we cannot understand, according to our capacities, the celestial mysteries of God, it is necessary that such representations should be set before our eyes. however this may be, it ought to remain a fixed principle, that angels are always employed, for they survey the earth, that nothing may be done or carried on without design; and they are also sent with power and authority, so that they are, as it were, the hand of God: and at one time they execute his judgments, inflict punishments, as it has been said; and at another they come with blessings from God. This then is the meaning as to the horsemen. I cannot proceed farther: the rest I shall defer.
Grant, Almighty God, that since we live here as in thick darkness, and are also surrounded with so much darkness of ignorance, that we often entertain doubts as to thy providence, and think ourselves forsaken by thee whenever thou dost not immediately succor us, — O grant, that with our minds raised above, we may contemplate those things which thou hast once revealed to thy servant Zechariah, and not doubt, but thou lookest on us also and commandest thy angels to take care of us, and to raise us up in their hands, and to guide us in all our ways, yea, in all the crooked windings of this life, so that we may learn to commit ourselves to be wholly ruled by thee, and thus suffer ourselves to be drawn and turned here and there in the world, so as still to follow the way which thou hast pointed out to us, and to proceed straight towards the mark which thou hast been pleased to set before us, until we shall at length be gathered into that eternal rest, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
12. Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?
12. Et respondit Angelus Iehovae et dixit, Iehova exercituum, quousque tu non misereberis Ierusalem et urbium Iehudah, quas sprevisti (vel, detestatus es; alii vertunt, quibus iratus fuisti; [µ[z] utrumque significat; sed videtur melius quadrare prior ille sensus, quas ergo sprevisti) his septuaginta annis?

THE Prophet now shows that the angel who was his guide and teacher, became even a suppliant before God in behalf of the welfare of the Church. Hence the probable opinion is, that this angel was Christ the Mediator. For they who say that it was the Holy Spirit, who forms prayers in our hearts, seem to depart very far from the meaning of the Prophet: and it is nothing new, that Christ should exercise care over his Church. But if this view be disapproved, we may take any one of the angels to be meant. It is certain that it is enjoined them all to minister to the salvation of the faithful, according to what the Apostle says in the first chapter of the Hebrews <580101>Hebrews 1:1; and indeed the whole Scripture is full of evidences, which prove that angels are guardians to the godly, and watch over them; for the Lord, for whose service they are ever ready, thus employs them: and in this we also see the singular love of God towards us; for he employs his angels especially for this purpose, that he might show that our salvation is greatly valued by him.
There is then nothing wrong, if we say that any one of the angels prayed for the Church. But absurdly, and very foolishly do the Papists hence conclude, that dead saints are our advocates before God, or that they pray for us; for we never read that it is an office committed to the dead to intercede for us; nay, the duties of love, we know, are confined to the present life. When, therefore, the faithful remove from this world, having finished their course, they enter on a blessed life. Though then the case is different, yet the Papists foolishly pass from angels to the dead: for as it has been stated, the case of the faithful has been committed to angels, and they ever watch over the whole body, and over every member of it. It is then nothing strange that they offer prayers for the faithful; but it does not hence follow, that angels are to be invoked by us. Why does Scripture testify, that angels supplicate God for us? Is it that each of us may flee to them? By no means; but that being assured of God’s paternal love, we may entertain more hope and confidence; yea, that we may courageously fight, being certain of victory, since celestial hosts contend for us, according to what appears from many examples. For when the servant of Elisha saw not the chariots flying in the air, he became almost lost in despair; but his despair was instantly removed, when he saw so many angels ready at hand for help, (<120617>2 Kings 6:17;) so whenever God declares that angels are ministers for our safety, he means to animate our faith; at the same time he does not send us to angels; but this one thing is sufficient for us, that when God is propitious to us, all the angels have a care for our salvation. And we must further notice what is said by Christ,
“hereafter ye shall see angels ascending and descending,”
(<430151>John 1:51,)
which means, that when we are joined to the head, there will thence proceed a sacred union between us and angels; for Christ, we know, is equally Lord over all. When, therefore, we are united to the body of Christ, it is certain that angels are united to us, but only through Christ. All this favor then depends on the one true Mediator. Far then is it from being the case, that Scripture represents angels as patrons to whom we may pray. The meaning then is what we have stated, when Zechariah says, that the angel thus prayed, O Jehovah of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah?
The angel seems in this place to have indirectly blamed God for having too much delayed to bring help to his Church: but this mode of speaking, we know, frequently occurs in the prayers of the saints; they in a manner charged God with delay, that is, according to the perception of their flesh. But this is not inconsistent with the obedience of faith, since the faithful submit at length to the counsel of God. Hence, however familiarly they may often expostulate with God, when he seems to delay and to withhold his aid, they yet restrain themselves, and at length feel assured that what God has appointed is best. But they thus pour forth their cares and their sorrows into the bosom of God, in order to disburden themselves. The angel now adopts this form when he says, “How long wilt thou not show mercy?” It is not however the complaint of unreasonable fervor, as that of the ungodly, who in praying accuse God, rage against him, and quarrel with his judgments. The angel then was not moved by any turbulent feeling, nor were the saints, when they adopted this mode of praying; but they did what God allows us all to do; they thus disburndened their cares and sorrows.
We ought at the same time to notice the special import of the words, “how long,” ytmAd[, od-mati? The angel indeed afterwards explains himself, when he expressly mentions the term of seventy years. fm16 It was not then without design, or through a strong impulse of feeling, that the angel said, How long? but he had regard to a memorable prophecy, which was in the mouth of all the godly; for God had fixed seventy years for the exile of the people. Since the people knew that a time had been predetermined by God, he does net here supplicate God according to his own will, but only alleges the promise itself: and it is an usual thing with the saints to plead before God what he has promised to them. What indeed can better sustain our hope? and what can give us a greater encouragement in praying, than when we plead with God according to his promises? For God will have our prayers to be founded first on his gratuitous goodness, and then on the constancy of his faithfulness and truth. When therefore they thus address God, “O Lord, thou art true, and thou hast promised this to us; relying on thy word, we dare ask what otherwise we could not,” — they certainly do not exceed the limits as though they prescribed to God a law, but anxiously seek to obtain what had been freely offered. We have seen that the angel does not here complain of delay, but that he founded his plea on that remarkable prophecy, in which God had fixed the term of seventy years for his people.
The angel seems in this place to have indirectly blamed God for having too much delayed to bring help to his Church: but this mode of speaking, we know, frequently occurs in the prayers of the saints; they in a manner charged God with delay, that is, according to the perception of their flesh. But this is not inconsistent with the obedience of faith, since the faithful submit at length to the counsel of God. Hence, however familiarly they may often expostulate with God, when he seems to delay and to withhold his aid, they yet restrain themselves, and at length feel assured that what God has appointed is best. But they thus pour forth their cares and their sorrows into the bosom of God, in order to disburden themselves. The angel now adopts this form when he says, “How long wilt thou not show mercy?” It is not however the complaint of unreasonable fervor, as that of the ungodly, who in praying accuse God, rage against him, and quarrel with his judgments. The angel then was not moved by any turbulent feeling, nor were the saints, when they adopted this mode of praying; but they did what God allows us all to do; they thus disburdened their cares and sorrows. fm17
I have said, that it is more suitable to the passage to say, that the cities had been despised by God: but if any prefers the other view, I will not contend; yet whosoever will minutely consider the intention of the Prophet, will, I think, readily assent to the idea, that the cities had been despised or rejected by God, because he gave them no sign of his mercy. fm18 It now follows —

13. And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.
13. Et respondit Iehova angelo mecum loquenti verba bona (vel, dulcia) verba consolatoria.

The Prophet shows here, that though God did not immediately on the first day stretch forth his hand to the miserable Jews, he was yet propitious to them. But we must notice, that God speaks only, and does not yet manifest his power. The Prophet’s design must be here observed; for first he reminds the faithful that there was no reason for them to despair, or to be cast down with sorrow; for celestial angels prayed to God for them, and pleaded for their salvation. This is one thing. But a greater and fuller confirmation is added; for God testifies that he is ready to deliver the Jews, though he does not declare this immediately at first. And here we may remark, that it ought to be sufficient to sustain our hope and patience, when God testifies and affirms that he favors us, and that our salvation is dear to him, however miserable our condition may apparently be. God might indeed have immediately given a real proof to the Jews that the time had come to restore them to full prosperity: this he did not, but only made a promise. He gave words only: but his purpose was, by an actual trial, to prove the patience and obedience of his people, when he said that he had not forgotten his covenant, on which depended all the promises previously made.
But the Prophet seems to allude to a prophecy of Isaiah in the fortieth chapter,
“Comfort ye my people, saith your God.” <234001>Isaiah 40:1
The Prophets had been for a long time silent: it was indeed right that the Jews should remain long struggling, as they had for so many years hardened themselves against all threatening, and even despised all God’s judgments, according to what is said by Isaiah,
“Let us eat and drink, tomorrow we shall die.”
(<232213>Isaiah 22:13.)
As then the obstinacy of the people had been so great, it was proper that they should long mourn without comfort. But Isaiah says, that the time would come when God would command his servants to comfort his people again as in former times. Zechariah says now, that God spoke consoling words. We hence learn, that the desires of the godly and the prayer of the angel had been heard; for redemption was now nigh at hand, according to what is said in the hundred and second Psalm, “It is time for thee, O God, to have mercy on Sion, for its time is come;” that is, “The seventy years are completed, which it has pleased thee to assign for our exile.” It now follows —

14. So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.
14. Et dixit angelus qui loquebatur mecum, Clama dicendo, sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Zelatus sum Ierusalem et Sion zelo magno.

Zechariah now mentions the chief consolation to which he had referred; for it would not have been sufficient to say in general, and in a few words without explanation, that God gave a kind answer to the angel. For we know how strong were those temptations with which the faithful had to struggle. It was then needful for them to be furnished, not with light weapons, in so arduous a contest. This is the reason why Zechariah more fully expressed the words by which God then strengthened the faith of his people.
He says that the angel had spoken; and he thus intimates that the consolation was not given privately to the angel that he might keep it in his own bosom, but convey it to the whole people. This was not then a secret consolation but what the Lord intended to be proclaimed by his Prophets, according to what is said by Isaiah in the passage to which we have already referred — “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people saith your God.”
What God says, that he was moved with great zeal for Jerusalem and Sion, fm19 is according to the common language of Scripture. For as God cannot otherwise sufficiently express the ineffable favor which he has towards his elect he is pleased to adopt this similitude, that he undertakes the defense of his people according to what is done by a husband who fights with the greatest zeal for his own wife. This is the reason why he says that he was zealous for Jerusalem. And we ought especially to notice this mode of speaking, that we may not think that God is indifferent when he delays and defers his aid: for as we are hasty in our wishes so we would have God to be precipitant in the same manner; and we impute to him indifference when he does not hasten according to our desires. These doubts God checks when he testifies that he is zealous: for he intimates that his slowness did not proceed from neglect or because he despised or disregarded them; but that there was another reason why he held them in suspense. We may therefore be fully persuaded that even when God withholds his aid he is not otherwise affected towards us than the best of fathers towards his own children; and further that the signs of his love do not appear because it is not always expedient for us to be delivered soon from our troubles. Let this then be our shield against all hasty desires, so that we may not indulge our too ardent wishes, or think that our salvation is neglected by God, when he hides himself for a time and does not immediately stretch forth his hand to help us. It follows —

15. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.
15. Et ira magna ego irascor contra gentes has quietas; quia ego iratus fui parum, et adjuverunt in malum.

God here obviates the doubt which might have easily crept into the minds of the godly. “Why should he then give up the miserable Jews to the will of the Gentiles, and suffer these heathens at the same time to be in a quiet state and to enjoy their pleasures?” This indeed at the first view seemed very strange: if God had such a zeal towards Jerusalem, why did he not give some token at least of his favor? He therefore gives this answer, — That though the condition of the Gentiles was now better, there was yet no reason for the Jews to be discontented in their troubles, because they were to look forward to the end that was to come. It must further be noticed, that God speaks only here, and is not going forth prepared to execute his vengeance: and it is a real and just trial of faith, when God bids us to depend on his word.
The manner of speaking, used here deserves notice, God was angry with the quiet nations. It is not a superfluous repetition, when it is said, that the nations were quiet. Some render the word wealthy, but not so suitably; for as we have said before, the angel complained that while the whole world was tranquil, God severely chastised his Church alone. God then does here anticipate a temptation which would have otherwise distressed and even wholly disheartened the faithful; and he in effect says, “It is indeed true that the Gentiles all around are quiet, that there are no calamities, that there is no enemy, and that they are subject to no evils: this is no doubt true; but as I am angry, their happiness, while I am opposed to and displeased with them, is a curse.” God, then, does here elevate the thoughts of the godly, that they might know that happiness is to be found in his favor alone, and that whenever he is angry or displeased, though men may think themselves happy, and flatter themselves and exult in their condition, they are yet in a most miserable state; for all happiness is ruinous which does not flow from the fountain of God’s gratuitous love; in short, when God is not our Father, the more we abound in all kinds of blessings, the deeper we sink in all kinds of miseries. This then is the meaning, when God says that he was angry with the quiet nations.
What, then, is the application of this doctrine? That it behaved the Jews, though their condition was very hard according to the perception of men, to have yet acquiesced in the love of God, for they knew that he was their Father, and also, that though they saw their enemies happy, they were yet to regard it no otherwise than a cursed happiness. so also in the thirty-seventh Psalm, the faithful are bid not to envy the unbelieving, while they saw them flourishing in wealth and rolling in pleasures; for it behaved them to regard their end. Let us hence learn to raise up our thoughts to the contemplation of God’s hidden love, when he deals severely with us, and to be satisfied with his word, as we have there an indubitable evidence of his favor: nor let us envy our enemies and the wicked, however the whole world may applaud them, and they themselves luxuriate in their blessings, for we know that God is adverse to them.
A reason also follows, Because God was a little angry, and they helped forward the evil; that is, they exceeded moderation. The meaning is, that the reward of cruelty would be repaid to all the enemies of the Church, because they had exercised immoderate severity, when it was God’s purpose to chastise his children in a gentle and paternal manner.
It may be here first asked, How is it that God declares that he had been a little angry with his people, since his judgment, as pronounced by his servants, was most severe?
“Whosoever shall escape the famine, shall fall by the sword; whosoever shall escape the sword, shall fall among wild beasts.” (<261414>Ezekiel 14:14.)
And in many other places he declares the same, that there would be no hope of pardon to the people, but that they were all to perish; that is, the whole body: “Though Noah, Daniel, and Job,” he says, “were in this city, they shall deliver only their lives; but I will not hear their prayers for this irreclaimable people.” But the particle little, f[m, mot, must be applied to the elect: for though God in his dreadful vengeance consumed almost the whole people, yet a remnant, as we know, was preserved. This is the reason why God says, that he was but little angry with his people; for he speaks not of the reprobate and of that impure mass from which he purposed to cleanse his own house; but he has respect to his covenant. We now perceive for what purpose Zechariah says, that God was but moderately angry with his people.
But another difficulty meets us — In what sense did the nations help on the evil? For it hence follows, that the heathens were not restrained from raging immoderately and at their pleasure. And this place has been also laid hold of by that miscreant, who has been lately writing against God’s providence, holding that the wicked become wanton by means of God’s hand and power, and are not thereby restrained. But this is extremely foolish; for the Prophet here does not regard what the nations were able to do or had done; but, on the contrary, he speaks of their cruelty, that they thought that there ought to have been no end until the memory of that people had been obliterated. And this is the reason why Isaiah says, “Thou hast not seen her end.” He therefore upbraids the unbelieving, that they did not calculate rightly as to the end of the Church; for the unbelieving furiously attempted to destroy it, as though that promise could be made void, “My mercy I will not take away.” Since the unbelieving did not see her end, because it was the Lord’s will ever to preserve some remnant among his chosen people, the Prophet says, that they helped forward the evil. We now then perceive the intention of the Prophet, and see that the object is no other but to sustain the hope of the faithful, until what they heard from the mouth of God really took place. Let us proceed -

16. Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.
16. Propterea sic dicit Iehovah, Reversus sum ad Ierusalem in miserationibus; domus mea aedificabitur in ea, dicit Iehovah exercituum; et linea extendetur super Ierusalem.

This is a confirmation of the last prophecy, — that God purposed to put an end to his chastisement, as it is said by Isaiah, “They have received at Jehovah’s hand double for all their sins.” For in these words God reminds us that he was satisfied with the punishment he had inflicted on his people, like a father, who thinks that he had been sufficiently severe and rigid in punishing his son. So now, Thus saith Jehovah, I have returned to Jerusalem in mercies: for it was necessary to give the people the hope of pardon and reconciliation, that they might look forward with confidence. Hypocrites very quickly raise up their crests as soon as a kind word is addressed to them; but the faithful, being conscious of what is wrong, and having their sins before their eyes, do not so easily take courage; nor can they do so, until they are convinced that their sins are buried, and that they themselves are freed from guilt. Hence the Prophet says, that God had turned to Jerusalem, that the Jews might know that the punishment with which God had visited them was to be only for a time.
But in the meantime he exhorts them to humility: for the people could not from this prophecy entertain any hope, except they duly considered that they had suffered justly, because they had provoked God’s wrath. Hence the Prophet reminds them that what they had hitherto endured was to be imputed to their sins; but that God yet intended to treat them in a paternal manner; for, as I have already stated, he had promised that his mercy towards his elect and faithful would be perpetual. Hence he says, that he had returned in mercies to Jerusalem.
He then adds, My house shall be built in it; and over Jerusalem shall a line be stretched forth. Line, hwq, kue, is to be taken for a perpendicular line, as in <232817>Isaiah 28:17, and in other places. There is here an addition of h, he, for as it has been elsewhere said, the language had become somewhat degenerated. The import of the whole is, that there was a hope of the temple and of the city being built, because God had returned into favor with the people. There are then two things to be noticed, — that God was now pacified towards Jerusalem, — and that the fruit of reconciliation would be the building of the temp]e, the establishment of divine worship and of the dignity of the kingdom. The Prophet teaches us at the same time, that the building of the temple was not to be expected but as an instance of God’s gratuitous favor, so that the Jews might know that every hope would have been cut off, had not God been pleased to abolish their guilt.
This doctrine ought also to be extended to the state of the Church at all times: for whence comes it that the Church remains safe in the world? Nay, how is it that it sometimes increases, except that God indulges us according to his infinite goodness? For we cease not daily to provoke him, and deserve to be wholly exterminated from the world. There would then be no Church, were not God to preserve it in a wonderful manner through his goodness and mercies, and also to restore it when it seems to have wholly fallen. He at length adds —

17. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.
17. Adhuc clama, dicendo, Sic Iehova exercituum, Adhuc conterentur (alii vertunt, dispergentur, vel, se diffundent, vel, segregabuntur; sed dicemus de proprio sensu, conterentur ergo) urbes prae bono; et consolabitur Iehova adhuc Sion, et eliget adhuc Ierusalem.

I cannot finish today.
Grant, Almighty God, that though we are continually tossed here and there by various trials, and Satan ceases not to shake our faith, — O grant, that we may yet stand firm on the promise that thou hast once given us, and which thou hast also confirmed through thine only-begotten Son, even that thou wilt ever be propitious and reconcilable to us, so that we may not despair in our greatest troubles, but relying on thy goodness may utter our groans to thee, until the ripened time of our deliverance shall come: nor let us in the meantime envy the evanescent happiness of thy enemies; but patiently wait, while thou showest that the chief object of desire is to have thee propitious to us, and that accursed is every good thing which the ungodly receive while they provoke thee and make thee angry, until Christ shall at length reveal to us the real happiness and glory of thy Church, when he shall appear at the last day for our salvation — Amen.
I was not able in my last lecture fully to explain the verse in which the Prophet says that he was commanded by the angel to cry again, that God had returned to Jerusalem in mercies. The design of the words is this, — that though it was difficult to believe the restoration of Jerusalem, it was yet to be fully expected, for the Lord had so appointed. But he enlarges on what I have before stated; for the blessing of God is extended to the cities of Judah, though an express mention is made only of Jerusalem. Yet cities, he says, shall wear out through abundance of blessings; for so I think the verb hnxwpt, tephutzne, is to be taken, as futs means to spread, and also to wear out, and to break. Some elicit a forced meaning, that cities would spread themselves; others, that they would be separated, that is, that security would be so great, that cities, though distant from one another, would be in no danger or fear. But the meaning of the Prophet is clear, unless we designedly pervert it in a matter so manifest and easy. The cities, he says, shall be worn out or wearied through abundance of blessings, or as we say, elles seront entassees; for where there is a great heap, there is crushing. He therefore says, that so great and so full would be the abundance of all things, that the corn would press down itself, and that the vessels would hardly contain the vintage. We now perceive what the Prophet means, — that Jerusalem would yet be made complete, and also that other cities would be filled with all good things, because God would extend his favor to the whole people. fm20
He then adds, Comfort Zion will yet Jehovah, and he will yet choose Jerusalem. The particle ≈wp, oud, yet, is repeated; for the suspension of favor, of which we have before spoken, might have somewhat prevented the faithful from realising the promise. As then God’s favor was for a time hid, the angel declares, that such would be the change, that God’s goodness and love towards his chosen people would again shine forth as in former days.
As to the word “chosen,” it must be observed, that it is applied, not in its strict sense, to the effect or the evidence of election; for God had chosen before the creation of the world whom he had designed to be his own. But he is said to choose whom he receives into favor, because their adoption seems obliterated in the eyes of men, when there appears no evidence of his paternal favor. As for instance, whenever we read that God had repudiated his own people, it is certain, as Paul says, that the calling of God is without repentance, (<451129>Romans 11:29:) nor does he declare this only of the secret election of each, but also of that general election, by which God had set apart the race of Abraham from the rest of the nations. At the same time many of Abraham’s children were reprobates, as he instances in the case of Esau and of others: yet the election of God was unchangeable; and hence it was that there remained still some hope as to that people, that God would at length gather to himself a Church from the Jews as well as from the Gentiles, so that those who were then separated might be hereafter united together. Since then the calling of God is without repentance, ameta melhtov, how is it that the Lord is often said to choose, and is also said to reject his chosen? These expressions refer to the outward appearance of things. God therefore will secure his own election to the end; but as we cannot otherwise perceive but that we are rejected by God when he turns away his face from us, he is said to choose again those whom he has repudiated, that is, when he really and by a clear evidence proves that he has not forgotten their first adoption, but that he continues unchangeable in his purpose.
We now then understand what the Prophet means. I have more fully dwelt on this point, because it is necessary to understand this great truth, — that whatever blessings God confers on his own people proceed from eternal election, that this is a perpetual fountain, and yet that election is catachrestically fm21 applied to its evidences or effects, as also rejection is to be taken in the same sense for outward punishment, which seems at the first view to be an evidence of rejection, though it be not really so. Let us now proceed -

18. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
18. Et sustuli oculos meos, et vidi, et ece quatuor cornua.
19. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.
19. Et dixi ad angelum, qui loquebatur mecum, Qui isti? (hoc est, Qui sunt isti?) et dixit ad me, Haec sunt cornua quae ventilarunt Iehudah, Israel, et Ierusalem. (Ego conjungam etiam proximos versus)
20. And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
20. Et ostendit mihi Iehova quatuor fabros.
21. Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.
21. Et dixi, Cur isti? quid isti veniunt ad faciendum? (ad verbum, hoc est, Quorsum isti veniunt ut faciant?) et dixit dicendo, Haec sunt cornua quae ventilarunt Iehudah, ita ut nemo tolleret caput suum: et veniunti isti (fabri scilicet) ad terrendum (addo, cornua, quoniam relativum [µtwa] obscurum per se esset,) ut projiciant cornua gentium, quae sustulerunt cornu terram Iehudah, ut ventilarent eam.

Now follows another vision, by which God confirms what he had before testified to his Prophet. He then says, that though enemies should on every side rise up against the Church and cause it many troubles, there was yet a remedy in God’s hand, as he would break in pieces all horns by his hammers. He compares the Gentiles, who had been hostile to the Jews, to horns; and he afterwards compares to workmen the other enemies, whose hand and labor God would use for the purpose of breaking down the efforts of all those who would be troublesome to the Church. The import of the whole then is, — that though the Church would not be exempt and free from troubles, and those many, yet God would have in his hand those remedies by which he would check all the assaults of the wicked, however impetuously and violently they may rage against his miserable Church.
But let us see in the first place why the Prophet mentions four horns. The Jews refer to the Assyrians and the Babylonians, to the Persian, the Grecians, and the Romans; because we find in other places, and Daniel especially shows very clearly, (<270232>Daniel 2:32,) that there were to be four principal monarchies, by which God intended to give clear and memorable examples of his judgments. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, speaks here of the Moabites and of the Syrians, and of other nations, as well as of the Assyrians or Chaldees. They are then mistaken, as I think, who suppose that these four monarchies are intended here: fm22 but Zechariah says that they were four horns, because they arose from the four quarters of the world; for we know that the Jews were not harassed only on one side, but on the east and the west, on the north and the south. Since then enemies on every side joined their strength and their forces against the Jews, so that there was a cause for trembling from the four quarters of the world, that is, from all places around them, the Prophet says, that they had been scattered by four horns.
This view, however, seems still frigid, because it was not necessary for the Prophet to state what was well known to all: but God intended to show that the nations which had been inimical and hostile to the Jews, had done nothing but through his hidden impulse, in order that the Jews might understand that these were so many scourges by which he purposed to chastise them.
But we must join the latter part, — that God showed also to the Prophet four smiths, for these two visions are connected together. Whosoever then takes only the first part, acts very absurdly, for the meaning of the prophecy will not be thus evident. If then we would not mutilate what is connected, we must not separate what is added respecting the four smiths. Inasmuch then as the Jews had been on every side oppressed, God shows that he has remedies enough, and even from various quarters. The Prophet had seen four horns; he now sees four smiths, that is, he is made to know that God can immediately find means to check all disorders and tumults; for he can beat as it were on an anvil these horns, and break in pieces those which had previously scattered the Jews. The same view then is to be taken of the number four as in the former instance: for as the Chaldeans had raged against the Jews, so the Lord shows that he had enemies ready at hand, as he had already in part made it evident; for how was it that the Persian and Medes had so suddenly taken possession of Babylon, had they not been workmen whom God had employed to strike down the Babylonian horn? And whence was it that the Syrians, the Egyptians, and other nations had been made prostrate? It was because they were horns. But the Lord broke down the ferocity of so many nations by his many workmen, for he employed these as though they were hired and ready to do his service. We now apprehend the real object of the Prophet.
But though the Prophet intended by this prophecy to encourage and animate to patience his own nation, as the Spirit of God had given him this office; yet there is here set before us by the Lord as in a mirror, the real condition of the Church at this day. Let us not then wonder if the world rage on every side against the Church and if storms and tempests arise from the east as well as from the west: nor is it a new thing that many enemies from various parts unite together; and that God’s Church should thus have to bear many assaults. This is one thing. In the meantime let this be our consolation, — that God has many smiths at hand. Very apposite is the Prophet’s metaphor; for the hardiness of the horns was formidable LO the Jews; but the Prophet intimates that there is hardness in the hammers, capable of breaking in pieces all horns. God then, though we may be struck by our enemies, will find smiths to break them in pieces; and this indeed is what we have found by experience. How comes it, that the small number of those who purely worship God continue to exist, notwithstanding the rage of enemies, and in spite of so many consultations and devices? For what do all monarchies desire more, or with greater avidity, than to extinguish the memory of the gospel? If then we enquire, what is the condition of the whole world at this day, we shall find that there is hardly a city or a people, or a monarch, or even one of the least princes, whose race is not exhibited against the Church. How then comes it, that they do not put forth their strength and demolish the Church, which by one breath might a hundred times fall to the ground? How is this, except that God by his handlers breaks the horns, and that by means of smiths?
And who are these smiths? They are also horns; for they all wish to destroy as much as they can the Church; but God does not permit them; on the contrary he excites them to mutual wars to destroy one another. Though then all these are horns, ready to assault the Church, and though it appears evident from the comparison that they are as it were furious and vicious bulls, and as much as they can unite together to scatter the Church, yet God gives hammers to two or three of them, and bids them to check the ferocity of their associates. While all these are intent on striking and dispersing the Church by their horns, the Lord calls them to a different work, and as I have said, bids them to be smiths that they may strike and break in pieces these horns, even their associates, with whom they had previously wickedly conspired. And it is certainly a wonderful instance of God’s providence, that amidst so violent and turbulent commotions the Church should take breath, though under the cross; for except these hammers had broken the horns, we must have been pierced through, not only a hundred but a thousand times, and had been dashed into fragments. But God has turned aside their strokes and assaults by his hammers, and, as I have said, has employed his enemies for this purpose.
We now then see that this prophecy was not only useful in the age of Zechariah, but that it has been so in all ages, and that it ought not to be confined to the ancient people, but extended to the whole body of the Church.
But the Prophet, by saying that he asked the angel, sets before us an example of a truly teachable disposition. Though the Lord then may not immediately explain to us his messages, there is yet no reason for us in disdain to reject what is obscure, as we see to be done by many in our day; for when any thing seems ambiguous to them, they immediately reject it, and also complain that God’s word is extremely difficult; and such blasphemies are uttered by many at this day. But the Prophet, though perplexed, did not yet morosely reject what God had showed; on the contrary, he asked the angels. Though the angels are not nigh us, or at least do not appear to us in a visible form, yet God can by other means afford us help when there is any perplexity in his word: he promises to give us the spirit of understanding and wisdom, whenever there is need; and we also know that the preaching of the word and the sacraments are helps to lead us to himself. If then we neglect not these helps which God affords us, and especially if we ask him to guide us by his Spirit, there will certainly be nothing obscure or intricate in the prophecies, which he will not, as far as it is necessary, make known to us. He does not indeed give the Spirit in an equal degree to all; but we ought to feel assured, that though prophecies may be obscure, there will yet be a sure profit derived, if we be teachable and submissive to God; for we find that Zechariah was not deprived of his request, as the angel gave him an immediate answer.
It must also be observed, that in one place he calls him Jehovah, and in another angel; and indeed he speaks thus indiscriminately of one and the same person. It hence follows that God appeared among the angels. But we must remember what I have already said, that this chief angel was the Mediator and the Head of the Church; and the same is Jehovah, for Christ, as we know, is God manifested in the flesh. There is then no wonder that the Prophet should indiscriminately call him angel and Jehovah, he being the Mediator of the Church, and also God. He is God, being of the same essence with the Father; and Mediator, having already undertaken his Mediatorial office, though not then clothed in our flesh, so as to become our brother; for the Church could not exist, nor be united to her God without a head. We hence see that Christ, as to his eternal essence, is said to be God, and that he is called an angel on account of his office, that is, of a Mediator.
The meaning is now evident: God declares that the horns were those which dispersed or scattered Judah as well as Jerusalem, and the kingdom of Israel: but that he had as many smiths, fm23 who would by force and by hammers, shatter these horns in pieces, though for a time they would greatly harass the Church. It must be also noticed that horn is to be taken differently when the number is changed: the Gentiles are called horns in the plural number to show their hardness or their strength; and they are then said to lift up their horn in the singular number to show that they ferociously exerted all their power to lay prostrate or to scatter the people of God. Then follows —

1. I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.
1. Et sustuli oculos meos et vidi; et ecce vir in ejus manu funiculus mensurae.
2. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
2. Et dixi, Quo tu vadis? et dixit mihi, Ad metiendum Ierusalem, ut videam quanta latitudo ejus, et quanta longitudo ejus.
3. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him,
3. Et ecce angelus qui loquebatur mecum egressus est, et alter angelus egressus est in occursum ejus;
4. And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein.
4. Et dixit ad eum, Curre, dic puero huic, dicendo, In villis (vel, pagis) habitabitur Ierusalem prae multitudine hominis et pecoris (id est, honinum et pecorum) in medio ejus.

Added now is another vision for the same end; not that the former was difficult to be understood, but because there was need of confirmation in a state of things so disturbed; for though the return of the people was no common evidence of the goodness and favor of God yet as Jerusalem was not flourishing as formerly, as the temple was like a cottage as there was no form of a kingdom and no grandeur, it was difficult to believe what had been already exhibited. This is the reason why God confirms by many proofs the same thing; for we know how difficult the contest is, owing to the infirmity of the flesh, when grievous and sharp trials assail us.
Hence Zechariah says, that he saw in the hand of a man a measuring line. He calls him a man, who appeared in the form of man; and it is well known, and a common thing, that angels are called men. For though they put on a human form only for a time, yet as it was the Lord’s will that they should be seen in that form, they are called men, though with no propriety. If it be asked, whether angels did really put on human nature? the obvious answer is, that they never, strictly speaking, became really men. But we know that God treats us as children; and there is the same reason for the expression as for the thing itself. How was it that angels appeared in human form? even that their access to men might be easier. Hence God calls them men as in this place. Zechariah then says, that an angel appeared to him in the form of a man, having in his hand a measuring line.
He then asks him where he was going; the answer given is, to measure Jerusalem, to see what was its breadth and its length. The design of the prophecy is then stated, Behold, inhabited shall be Jerusalem throughout all its villages, fm24 as it could not contain within its walls so large a multitude of men. God then would so increase his people, that they could not be contained within its walls, but that the limits of the Church would be spacious. Inhabited then shall be Jerusalem throughout all its villages, that is, through the whole country around. This is the meaning.
We now see the design of the Holy Spirit. As a small portion only had returned from exile, the faithful might have become disheartened when they found that the restoration of the Church was very far from being so splendid as what had been so often predicted and promised. It was therefore necessary that they should be encouraged, in order that they might patiently wait while God was performing by degrees, and step by step, what he had testified. That they might not then confine God’s favor to a short period, or to a few days, the Prophet says here, that the measure of Jerusalem was different in the sight of God from what it was in the sight of men. With regard to the “line”, it was according to the ancient custom; for we know that they did not then use a ten foot pole or some such measure, but a line.
The Prophet, by saying that he raised up his eyes and saw this man, reminds us that Jerusalem was to be regarded prospectively: for they could hardly be induced then to build the city as a small and obscure town. We hence see that a difference is to be here noticed between the external aspect of Jerusalem, such as it was then, and its future condition, for which they were to look though not then visible. This then is the design of the prophecy, when it is said, that when Zechariah raised up his eyes, he saw a measure or a line in the hand of a man. He further reminds us that he was attentive to these visions, for by asking he proves that he was not asleep or indifferent, as many are who extinguish every light by their sloth; and I wish there was no such torpor prevailing among us in the present day! for we justly suffer punishment for our contempt, whenever we heedlessly and negligently attend to what God sets before us. Let us then learn greater attention and diligence from the Prophet’s example.
He asks where he was going, the answer given is, to measure: and then he shows what would be the measure of Jerusalem, that it would hereafter extend beyond the walls, as that compass would not contain the vast number of the people. “God will extend,” he says, “far and wide the holy city; it will no longer be confined as before to its own walls, but will be inhabited through all its villages.” There is then no doubt but that God intended here to bear witness respecting the propagation of his Church, which was to follow a long time afterwards, even after the coming of Christ. For though Jerusalem became wealthy and also large in its compass, and, as it is well known, a triple city, and heathen writers say that it was among the first of the cities of the East when Babylon was still existing, yet this prophecy was not verified in the state of Jerusalem, for it was not inhabited without its walls, nor did it spread through the whole of Judea. We hence conclude, that the spiritual Jerusalem is here described, which differs from all earthly cities.
It is said, that the angel went forth, and that another angel met him. It hence appears as from the whole of what the Prophet says, how carefully God provides for the safety of his Church; for he has ever angels as his emissaries, who hasten at his nod, and aid the Church in its necessities. Since then angels thus unite to secure the well-being of the Church, we hence perceive how dear to God are the faithful, in whose favor he thus employs all his angels; and we also see, that it was the Lord’s will that this prophecy should be clear and manifest to all the godly: go, and run to that young man, he says, and tell him. Zechariah had indeed asked for an explanation of the measure in the man’s hand, but from the fact that another angel met him, it appears, as I have already said, that God does not neglect the request and prayers of his people, provided only that they are desirous of learning; he will then perform the part of a true and faithful teacher towards them. But the word “run”, ought especially to be noticed: “go,” he says, “and even hasten, lest the youth should longer doubt, and explain the purpose of this prophecy.” He calls the Prophet a youth, because he was then among angels. He would not call him a man of full age, because he had before called an angel man. What rank could the Prophet hold among angels except that of a youth? This circumstance ought therefore to be observed as the reason why Zechariah spoke disparagingly or humbly of himself.
Now as to the import of the prophecy, we have already said, that here is described the heavenly Jerusalem, which is surrounded by no walls, but is open to the whole world, and which depends not on its own strength, but dwells safely though exposed on all sides to enemies; for the Prophet says not without reason, “through the villages shall Jerusalem be inhabited;” that is, it shall everywhere be inhabited, so that it will have no need of defense to restrain or hinder enemies to come near; for a safe rest shall be given to it, when every one shall quietly occupy his own place. It follows —

5. For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
5. Et ego illi, dicit Iehova, murus ignis (vel, igneus) in circuitu, et in gloriam ero in medio ejus.

He confirms in this verse what I have just mentioned — that Jerusalem would be safe, though without any fortifications; for God alone would be sufficient for walls, for towers, for fortresses, according to what is said by other Prophets: “God will be to thee a wall and a fortress”, (<232601>Isaiah 26:1), again, “he will be to thee a stronghold”. It is, therefore, a sentence in accordance with other prophecies when Jehovah testifies, that he would be a wall of fire. We indeed know, that though walls may be high and thick, they may be scaled by enemies; but who will dare to throw himself into the fire? It is then the same as though God had spoken thus — “Though there will be no watchmen to defend Jerusalem, no soldiers to protect it, in short, no guardians whatever, yet I alone shall be sufficient; for I shall not only be a wall to keep off enemies, but I shall be also a fire to fill them with terror.”.
He then adds, I will be for glory in the midst of her: as though he had said, “the real happiness of Jerusalem, within and without, will be in me alone and in my favor: within, in the midst of her I will be for glory; I will adorn her with every thing praiseworthy; and when there shall be any fear from the assault of enemies, I will be to her a wall of fire. For though she will not excel in strongholds and towers, and be without walls and fortresses, and shall be thus exposed to many evils, I shall yet strike all enemies with terror, so that they shall be kept afar off; and my Church shall be thus preserved safe, though destitute of all human aids, and without any defense.”
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet to be this — that though the Jews saw that they were but few in number, weak in strength, wretched and despised, they had yet reason to entertain hope; for though few returned from exile God was yet able to increase the Church and to make it a vast multitude, and that this was certain and decreed, for it was shown by the vision, that however unequal they were to their enemies, God was still sufficiently strong and powerful to defend them; and that however destitute they were of all blessings, God was still rich enough to enrich them, provided they relied on the blessing which he had promised; for he had engaged to render them happy and blessed within, and safe from enemies from without.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are on every side surrounded by many enemies, and as Satan never ceases to kindle the fury of many, not only to be hostile to us, but also to destroy and consume us, — O grant that we may learn to raise up our eyes to heaven, and trusting in thy protection may boldly fight in patience, until that shall appear which thou hast once testified in this remarkable prophesy, that there are many smiths in thine hall, and many hammers, by which thou breakest in pieces those horns which rise up to scatter us, and until at length, after having overcome all the devices of Satan, we shall reach that blessed rest which has been provided for us by the blood of thine only begotten Son. — Amen.
6. Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD.
6. Heus! Heus! et fugite e terra Aquilonis, dicit Iehova; quia in quatuor ventos coelorum dispersi vos, dicit Iehova.

THAT the design of the Prophet may be more clear, we must especially bear in mind the history of the case. When it was allowed the Jews, by the edict of Cyrus and of Darius, to return to their own land, that kindness was suspected by many, as though the two kings had a wish suddenly to oppress them when they had pained their object in their return. Some who dwelt comfortably among the Chaldeans and in other places, preferred to enjoy their rest rather than to return with so much trouble to their own country, where there were no houses prepared, and where there were only dreary desolations. As then the greater part of the people thus slighted the singular favor of God, of which the Prophets had so often spoken, it was necessary that this sloth, connected as it was with great impiety, should be reproved. For if any religion had touched their hearts, they must have preferred Jerusalem to the whole world, and the service of God to all earthly advantages and pleasures. Hence the self-indulgence in which the Jews had become torpid, deserved a sharp and severe reproof. This is the reason why the Prophet treats them here with so much sharpness, for otherwise they could not have been roused.
Ho! Ho! he says, as though he had said, “What means this delay? for when God has opened the door for you, ye still take your rest, as though Judea were not your inheritance, as though there were no difference between you and the profane heathens.” We now understand the object of the Prophet.
The particle ywh, eui, is used for stimulating them; and by it the Prophet reprehends their indifference, which was a proof, as I have said, of ingratitude; for the Jews in this way showed their contempt of that favor, which ought to have been preferred far before all the wealth and the pleasures of the world.
But the reason which is added seems far-fetched, or even unsuitable — For to the four winds of heaven have I scattered you; for this could not have served to rouse the Jews to leave Babylon, and to return to the holy land promised to them by God. Yet it was very efficacious towards producing an impression on their minds; for the Lord shows, in these words, that it was in his power to restore them in safety, inasmuch as they had not been scattered here and there, except through his just vengeance. Had their enemies prevailed against them, or had they without reason been expelled from their country, a doubt might have crept in whether the promise could be relied on; but when it appeared evident that their exile was a punishment inflicted by God, they might safely conclude that he would become the author of their restoration; for he who had inflicted the wound was able to heal it.
We now then see what the Prophet had in view: he intimates that the Jews had hitherto suffered punishment from God, because they obeyed not his word, but provoked by their obstinacy his extreme vengeance; they ought then now to entertain hope, because God was pacified towards them and ready to forgive them. As then their exile was from God, the Prophet intimates that their return would not be difficult when God became reconciled to them, because the Jews had to do only with the heavenly Judge himself. In short, the Prophet designs to show that the Jews acted foolishly by continuing in exile, when liberty was given them to return; and therefore he exhorts them to hasten in time, lest the season of God’s favor should pass away, and thus the door be again closed against them. That they might not hesitate whether this was possible, he shows that it was in God’s power, for he had driven them from their country; it would not therefore be difficult for him to open a way for their return whenever he pleased. fm25 He now adds —

7. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
7. Heus Sion! Servare, quae habitas apud filiam Babylonis.

The Prophet repeats the same thing, though briefly, and in other words: but while he briefly touches on what he meant to say, he confirms and renders more plain the contents of the former verse. He shows that it was a very great disgrace that Babylon should become as it were the grave of Sion; for God had chosen that mount as the place where he was to be worshipped. Babylon, we know, was a filthy cavern, accursed by God. It was therefore to subvert, as it were, the order of nature, for the Jews to bury, so to speak, the holy mount of God in that infernal region. This mode of speaking appears on the first view somewhat harsh, but it is yet most suitable; for by Sion the Prophet means the Jews, who were still dispersed in Chaldea. The temple had not indeed been moved from its place, but only burnt and destroyed by the Chaldeans, and there was no other temple built among the Babylonians. What then does the Prophet mean by saying, O Sion, who dwellest with the daughter of Babylon, return to thine own place? He even reminds the Jews that they were bound, as it were, to the temple; for it was a sacred and an indissoluble bond of mutual union between God and them. (<110613>1 Kings 6:13.) For when God proposed that a temple should be built for him on mount Sion, he at the same time added,
“I will dwell among you; this is my rest.” (<19D214>Psalm 132:14.)
Since the Jews, then, became united to their God, the temple ass introduced as a pledge of this sacred union. Thus justly and fitly does the Prophet give the name of Sion to the Jews; for they were, as it has been said, tied as it were to the temple, except they meant to deny God. Hence he says, “Is it right that you should dwell among the Chaldeans? for ye are as it were the stones of God’s temple. There is therefore for you no fixed and permanent abode except on mount Sion, as you are in a sense that very mount itself.” Therefore he says, “Sion, hasten and return to thine own place; for it is strange and preposterous that thou shouldest dwell with the daughter of Babylon.”
In short, the Prophet shows that God’s favor ought not to have been rejected, when he stretched forth his hand, and gave them a free liberty to return. As then God thus appeared as the deliverer of his people, the Jews ought not to have remained exiles, but immediately to ascend to Jerusalem, that they might again worship God. And why did the Prophet mention this? that the Jews might know that they had nothing to fear, though surrounded with dangers; that though Satan suggested many perils, many difficulties, many troubles, yet the grace of God would not be defective, or evanescent, or fallacious, but that he would complete his work, and not disappoint those to whom he had once testified, that there would be to them again a quiet habitation in the land of Judah. It now follows —

8. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
8. Quia sic dicit Iehova excercituum, Post gloriam misit me ad gentes quae spoliant vos; quia qui tangit vos tangit pupillam oculi sui (vel, ejus.)

The Prophet pursues the same subject; for he shows that the way was not opened to the Jews that they might soon after repent of their return, but that the Lord might be with them, as their deliverance was a signal proof of his kindness, and an evidence that he would commence what he had begun. He then says, that by God’s order the Gentiles would be restrained from effecting any thing in opposition to the Jews; as though he had said, “Your liberty has been granted by Cyrus and by Darius; many rise up to hinder your return, but whatever they may attempt they shall effect nothing; for God shall check all their efforts, and frustrate all their attempts.” But God’s herald does here publicly testify, that he was commissioned to prevent the nations from doing any injury, and to declare that the people brought back to Judea were holy to the Lord, and that it was not permitted that they should be injured by any. This is the import of the whole.
But a difficulty occurs here, for the context seems not consistent: Thus saith Jehovah, Jehovah sent me; for it is not the Prophet who receives here the office of a herald; but it seems to be ascribed to God, which appears inconsistent; for whose herald can God be? and by whose order or command could he promulgate what the Prophet here relates? It seems not then suitable to ascribe this to God, though the words seem to do so — Thus saith Jehovah, After the glory he sent me to the nations: Who is the sender? or who is he who orders or commands God? We hence conclude that Christ is here introduced, who is Jehovah, and yet the Angel or the messenger of the Father. Though then the being of God is one, expressed by the word Jehovah, it is not improper to apply it both to the Father and to the Son. Hence God is one eternal being; but God in the person of the Father commands the Son, who also is Jehovah, to restrain the nations from injuring the Jews by any unjust violence. The rabbis give this explanation — that the Prophet says that he himself was God’s herald, and thus recites his words; but this is forced and unnatural. I indeed wish not on this point to contend with them; for being inclined to be contentious, they are disposed to think that we insist on proofs which are not conclusive. But there are other passages of Scripture which more clearly prove the divinity and the eternal existence of Christ, and also the distinction of persons. If however any one closely examines the words of the Prophet, he will find that this passage must be forcibly wrested, except it be understood of Christ. We then consider that Christ is here set forth as the Father’s herald; and he says that he was sent to the nations.
What he adds — After the glory, is understood by some to mean, that after the glory had ceased, in which the Jews had hitherto boasted, the message of Christ would then be directed to the Gentiles. The meaning, then, according to them is this — that shortly after the glory of the chosen people should depart, Christ, by the Father’s command, would pass over to the nations to gather a Church among them. But this passage may be also applied to the nations, who had cruelly distressed the Church of God; as though he had said — “Though your enemies have had for a time their triumphs, yet their glory being brought to an end, God will send his messenger, so that they who have spoiled you may become your prey.” It still seems probable to me that the Prophet speaks of the glory which he had shortly before mentioned. We may then view him as saying, that as God had begun to exercise his power, and had in a wonderful manner restored his people, there would be no intermission until he had fully established his Church, so as to make the priesthood and the kingdom to flourish again. Then after the glory, imports as much as this — “Ye see the beginning of God’s favor, by which his power shines forth.” For doubtless it was no common instance of the Lord’s glory, which he had manifested in restoring his people; and thus the Prophet encourages their confidence, inasmuch as God had already in part dealt in a glorious manner with them. He then takes an argument from what had been commenced, that the Jews might hope to the end, and fully expect the completion of their deliverance. “The Lord,” as it is said elsewhere, “will not forsake the work of his own hands.” (<19D808>Psalm 138:8.) So the Prophet says now, After the glory, that is, “since God has once shone upon you in no common manner, ought you not to entertain hope; for he intended not to disappoint you of a full return to your country, but to fulfill what he had promised by his Prophets?”
As God had spoken of the restoration of his Church, and also of its perpetual condition, the Prophet here indirectly reproves the ingratitude of those who were not convinced that God would be faithful to the end, by seeing performed the commencement of his work. For as God had included both the return of his people and their continued preservation, so also his people ought to have included both favors: “The Lord, who has already begun to restore his people, will defend to the end those whom he has gathered, until their full and perfect redemption will be secured.” As then the Jews did not look for the end, though God led them as it were by the hand to the land of hope, the Prophet says to them, After the glory.
We may farther observe, that the glory mentioned here was not as yet fully conspicuous; it had begun, so to speak, to glimmer, but it did not shine forth in full splendor until Christ came. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “God has already emitted some sparks of his glory, it will increase until it attains a perfect brightness. The Lord in the meantime will cause, not only that the nations may restrain themselves from doing and wrong, but also that they may become a prey to you”. fm26
The reason for the order follows, Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his own eye, or, of his eye; for the pronoun may be applied to any one of the heathen nations as well as to God himself; and the greater part of interpreters prefer taking it as referring to any one of the nations. Whosoever touches you touches the apple of his own eye; we say in French, Ils se donnent en l’oeil; that is, “Whosoever will assail my people will strike out his own eyes; for whatever your enemies may devise against you, shall fall on their own heads”. It will be the same as though one by his own sword should pierce his own heart. When therefore the nations shall consider you to be in their poser, the Lord shall cause that they shall pierce their own eyes, or wound their own breasts, for the import is the same. Whosoever then touches you, touches the apple of his own eye; there is no reason why you should fear, for however powerful your enemies may be, yet their fury shall not be allowed to rage against you; for God shall cause them to kill themselves by their own swords, or to pull out their eyes by their own fingers. This is the meaning, if we understand the passage of the enemies of the Church.
But it may also be suitably applied to God: Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his eye; and to this view I certainly am more inclined; for this idea once occurs in Scripture,
“He will protect us as the apple of his eye.” (<191708>Psalm 17:8.)
As then the Holy Spirit has elsewhere used this similitude, so I am disposed to regard this passage as intimating, that the love of God towards the faithful is so tender that when they are hurt he burns with so much displeasure, as though one attempted to pierce his eyes. For God cannot otherwise set forth how much and how ardently he loves us, and how careful he is of our salvation, than by comparing us to the apple of his eye. There is nothing, as we know, more delicate, or more tender, then this is in the body of man; for were one to bite my finger, or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to would me, I should feel no such pain as by having my eye or the pupil of my eye injured. God then by this solemn message declares, that the Church is to him like the apple of his eye, so that he can by no means bear it to be hurt or touched. It afterwards follows: —

9. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.
9. Quia ecce ego agitans (vel, agito) manum meam super eos; et erunt praeda servis suis; et scietis quod Iehova exercituum miserit me.

Christ continues to relate the commands of the Father: for he speaks in his person, when he says, Behold, I shake my hand over them, that is, enemies; and they shall be a prey to their own servants. He means, that however numerous and strong the enemies would be who would seek to injure the Jews, they would yet be safe; for they would be protected by the hand of God, and not only so, but that whatever their enemies would attempt to do would be in vain, for the Lord would degrade them, and render them a prey to the Jews themselves: for by servants fm27 he doubtless means the Jews, who, for a time, had been oppressed by the tyranny of their enemies.
It is certain that this prophecy was not fulfilled at the time when the Jews thought that they were in a flourishing state, and enjoying prosperity; for their condition was even then very wretched and degrading. For whence had they their kings? Certainly not from the tribe of Judah; and we all know how tyrannically they were governed, and also that the kingdom was filled with many abominable sins and cruelties. They were become parricides almost all; and whosoever will read their history will find, that brethren were oppressed by brethren, and that even parents were cruelly and wickedly treated. In short, not to say of other things, nothing could have been more abominable than the family of Herod. We cannot then apply this prophecy to that time which intervened between the return from the Babylonian exile, and the coming of Christ. It is then only under the kingdom of Christ that God accomplished what is here said, — that enemies became a prey to his spiritual people, that is, when they were subdued and brought under the yoke of Christ, for as we have said elsewhere, the government of the Church is vested in its Head. Hence where Christ shines, there the Church, which is his body, is said to reign; for Christ’s will is, that he should have nothing apart from his members.
We now see the intention of the Prophet: he wished to dispel the fear of the Jews, that they might not hesitate to return to their country; for not only a way was opened for them, but confirmed also and certain was their happiness under God’s protection; as he had not in vain begun a glorious work, but fully purposed to carry it on to the end.
He says, Behold, I shake my hand. The shaking of the hand shows that God has no need of many forces to put to flight his enemies, nor of a large expedition; for as soon as he raises up his hand, he lays them all prostrate. In short, the Prophet reminds us, that God has hands which extend far, for he can by mere shaking conquer all enemies, however distant they may be. And then we see that the facility with which God executes his purpose was mentioned, in order that the Jews might feel assured, that as soon as it would please God to put forth his strength, he would have no difficulty; for by the single motion of his finger he could destroy all the enemies who might rise up against them.
He afterwards adds, And ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me. To consider this as an address to the faithful, may not seem suitable; for faith is connected with knowledge, as we are taught by John,
“We know that we are the children of God,” (<620302>1 John 3:2;)
for the certainty which rests on God’s word exceeds all knowledge. Why then does the Prophet say, And we shall know that Jehovah has sent me? for the faithful ought to have been previously certain respecting the mission of Christ; otherwise an approach to God was closed up; for an access, we know, to his favor is opened by faith. The Jews must have then been assured from the beginning respecting the mission of Christ. But it is to be observed, that there are two kinds of knowledge, — the knowledge of faith, and what they call experimental knowledge. The knowledge of faith is that by which the godly feel assured that God is true — that what he has promised is indubitable; and this knowledge at the same time penetrates beyond the world, and goes far above the heavens, that it may know hidden things; for our salvation is concealed; things seen, says the Apostle, are not hoped for. (<450824>Romans 8:24.) It is then no wonder that the Prophet says, that the faithful shall then know that Christ has been sent by the Father, that is, by actual experience, or in reality: Ye shall then know that Jehovah has sent me. He afterwards adds —

10. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
10. Exulta et laetare filia Sion, quia ecce ego venio, et habitabo in medio tui, dicit Iehova.

He continues the same subject. The meaning is, that God begins nothing which he does not determine to bring to its end. Since then he had already begun to gather his people, that they might dwell in the Holy Land, it was a work in progress, at length to be completed; for the Lord’s will was not to be a half Redeemer. This is the purport of what the Prophet says.
But he now exhorts Sion to rejoice, as though the happiness which he predicts was already enjoyed. This mode of speaking, as we have seen elsewhere, is common among the Prophets. When they intended to animate God’s servants to a greater confidence, they brought them as it were into the midst of what was promised, and dictated a song of thanksgiving. We are not wont to congratulate ourselves before the time. When, therefore, the Prophets bade the Church to sing to God and to give thanks, they thus confirmed the promises made to them; as though the Prophet had said, that as yet indeed the brightness and glory of God was in a great measure laid, but that the faithful were beyond the reach of danger, and that therefore they could boldly join in a song of thanks to God, as though they were already enjoying full redemption; for the Lord will perfect what he begins.
Rejoice then and exult, thou daughter of Sion, — Why? For I come. God had already come; but here he expresses the progress of his favor, by declaring that he would come; as though he had said, “I have already given you obscure tokens of my presence; but you shall find another coming which will be much more effectual to confirm your faith.” Though then God had already appeared to the Jews, yet he says that he would come, that is, when Christ would come forth, in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in whom God’s perfect glory and majesty shines forth. And hence also does it more evidently appear what I have already said, that this address cannot be applied without perversion to the Prophet, nor be suitably applied to the person of the Father. It then follows that Christ speaks here: but he does not speak as a man or an angel; he speaks as God the Redeemer. We hence see that the name Jehovah is appropriated to Christ, and that there is no difference between the Father and the Son as to essence, but that they are only to be distinguished as to their persons. Whenever then Christ announces his own divinity, he takes the name Jehovah; but he also shows, that there is something peculiar and distinct belonging to him as the messenger of the Father. For this reason, and in this respect, he is inferior to the Father; that is, because he is sent as a messenger, and executes what has been entrusted to him. These things do not militate the one against the other, as many unlearned and turbulent men think, who entangle themselves in many vain imaginations, or rather in mere ravings, and say, “How can it be, that there is one eternal God, and yet that Christ, who is distinct from the Father, and is called his angel, is a true God?” So they imagine that the origin of divinity is God the Father, as though the one true God had begotten, and thus produced another God from himself, as by propagation. But these are diabolical figments, by which the unity of the Divine essence is destroyed. Let us then bear in mind what the Prophet teaches here clearly and plainly, — that Christ is Jehovah, the only true God, and yet that he is sent by God as a Mediator.
Behold I come, he says, and I will dwell in the midst of thee. God dwelt then among the Jews, for the building of the temple had been begun, and sacrifices had been already offered; but this dwelling was typical only. It hence follows, that some new kind of presence is here pointed out, when God was to reveal himself to his people, not under ceremonial figures and symbols, but by dwelling, at the fullness of time, substantially among them; for Christ is the temple of the Godhead, and so perfectly unites us to God the Father, that we are one with him. And it ought further to be carefully borne in mind, that the Prophet does here also make a distinction between the ancient types of the law and the reality, which was at length exhibited in Christ; for there is no need now of shadows, when we enjoy the reality, and possess the completion of all those things which God only shadowed forth under the law.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that we continually tremble in the midst of dangers, and often stumble and fall through the infirmity of our flesh, — O grant, that we may learn so to rely on the strength and help which thou promisest to us, that we may not hesitate to pass through all kinds of dangers, and boldly and firmly to fight under thy banner; and may we be thus gathered more and more into the unity of thy Church, until having, finished all our troubles and contests, we shall at length reach that blessed and celestial rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
11. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
11. Et adjungent se gentes multae, (vel, magnae) ad Iehovam in die illa; et erunt illi in populum, et habitabo in medio tui; et scies quod Iehova exercituum miserit me ad te.

THE Prophet describes here the voluntary surrender of the nations, who would so join themselves to the Church of God, as to disown their own name and to count themselves Jews: and this is what the Prophet borrowed from those who had predicted the same thing; but he confirms their testimony, that the Jews might know that the propagation of the Church had not been promised to them in vain by so many witnesses. That what is said here refers to the calling of the nations who would willingly surrender themselves to God, is quite evident; for it is said that they would be a people to God. This could not be, except the nations surrendered their own name, so as to become one body with the Jews. He then repeats what he had said, that God would dwell in the midst of Judea. Of this dwelling something was said yesterday; for as they had already begun to offer sacrifices in the temple, it follows that God was already dwelling among them. We must then necessarily come to another kind of dwelling, even that which God, who had before testified by many proofs that he was nigh the Jews, had at length accomplished through Christ; for Christ is really Emmanuel, and in him God is present with us in the fullness of his power, justice, goodness, and glory.
He at last adds, Thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me to thee. Something has also been said on this sentence: the Prophet means, that it would be evident by what would really take place, that these things had not been in vain foretold, as the prophecy would be openly fulfilled before the eyes of all. Then shalt thou know, not by the assurance of faith, which is grounded on the word, but by actual experience. But he expresses more than before, for he says, “Thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me to thee.” The particle ˚yla, alik, “to thee,” is not superfluous; for he said a little while before, that he was sent to the nations. As he now says, that he would be the guardian of the chosen people, he also declares that his mission was to them; and he gives to God the name of Jehovah of hosts, that the Jews might feel assured that there would be no difficulty sufficient to hinder or delay the word of God, as he possessed supreme power, so that he could easily execute whatever he had decreed. I will not repeat now what I said yesterday of Christ; but we ought nevertheless to remember this, that he who declares that he was sent, is often called Jehovah. It hence appears that one and the same divine eternal essence is in more persons than one. Let us go on -

12. And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
12. Et haereditario accipiet Iehova Iehudah partem suam in terra sancta; et eliget adhuc Ierusalem.

The Prophet confirms the former doctrine, but removes offenses, which might have occurred to the Jews and prevented them from believing this prophecy: for they had been for a time rejected, so that there was no difference between them and other nations. The land of Canaan had been given them as a pledge of their heirship; but they had been thence expelled, and there had been no temple, no public worship, no kingdom. The Jews then might have concluded from all these reasons, that they were rejected by God. Hence the Prophet here promises that they were to be restored again to their former state and to their own place. Jehovah, he says, will take Judah as his hereditary portion; that is, God will really show that he has not forgotten the election by which he had separated the Jews for himself; for he intended them to be to him a peculiar people. They were now mixed with the nations; their dispersion seemed an evidence of repudiation; but it was to be at length manifest that God was mindful of that adoption, by which he once purposed to gather the Jews to himself, that their condition might be different from that of other nations. When therefore he says, that Judah would be to God for an heritage or for an hereditary portion, he brings forward nothing new, but only reminds them that the covenant by which God chose Judah as his people would not be void, for it would be made evident in its time.
And the following clause is to the same purpose, And he will again choose Jerusalem; for it was not then for the first time that Jerusalem became the city of God when restoration took place, but the election, which existed before, was now in a manner renewed conspicuously in the sight of men. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “The course of God’s favor has indeed been interrupted, yet he will again show that you have not been in vain chosen as his people, and that Jerusalem, which was his sanctuary, has not been chosen without purpose.” The renovation of the Church, then, is what the Prophet means by these words.
What we have said elsewhere ought at the same time to be noticed, that the word choose is not to be taken here in its strict sense; for God does not repeatedly choose those whom he regards as his Church. God’s election is one single act, for it is eternal and immutable. But as Jerusalem had been apparently rejected, the word choose imports here that God would make it evident, that the first elections had ever been unchangeable, however hidden it may have been to the eyes of men. He then adds —

13. Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.
13. Sile (vel, sileat) omnis caro a facie Iehovae; quia excitatus est ex habitaculo sanctitatis suae (hoc est, ex loco suo sancto.)

Here is a sealing of the whole prophecy. The Prophet highly extols the power of God, that the Jews might not still doubt or fear as with regard to things uncertain. He says that whatever he had hitherto declared was indubitable; for God would put forth his power to succor his Church and to remove whatever hindrance there might be. We have seen similar expressions elsewhere, that is, in the second chapter of Habakkuk and in the first of Zephaniah; (<350201>Habakkuk 2:1 <360101>Zephaniah 1:1) and these Prophets had nearly the same object in view; for Habakkuk, after having spoken of the restoration of the people, thus concludes, — that God was coming forth to bid silence to all nations, that no one might dare to oppose when it was his will to redeem his Church. So also Zephaniah, after having, described the slaughter of God’s enemies, when God ordered sacrifices to be made to him as it were from the whole world, uses the same mode of expression, as though he had said, that there would be nothing to resist the power of God. It is the same here, Silent, he says, let all flesh be before Jehovah. It is, in short, the shout of triumph, by which Zechariah exults over all the enemies of the Church, and shows that they would rage in vain, as they could effect nothing, however clamorous they might be.
By silence we are to understand, as elsewhere observed, submission. The ungodly are not indeed silent before God, so as willingly to obey his word, or reverently to receive what he may bid or command, or humbly to submit under his powerful hand; for these things are done only by the faithful. Silence, then, is what especially belongs to the elect and the faithful; for they willingly close their mouth to hear God speaking. But the ungodly are also said to be silent, when God restrains their madness: and how much soever they may inwardly murmur and rage, they yet cannot openly resist; so that he completes his work, and they are at length made ashamed of the swelling, words they have vomited forth, when they pass off in smoke. This is the sense in which the Prophet says now, silent be all flesh. He means, in short, by these words, That when God shall go forth to deliver his Church, he will be terrible; so that all who had before furiously assailed his chosen people, shall be constrained to tremble.
With regard to the habitation of holiness, I explain it of the temple rather than of heaven. I indeed allow that heaven is often thus called in Scripture: and it is called the palace or temple of God, for we cannot think as we ought of God’s infinite glory, except we are carried above the world. This is the reason why God says that he dwells in heaven. But as the Church is spoken of here, Zechariah, I doubt not, means the temple. It is indeed certain that there was no temple when God began to rise as one awakened from sleep, to restore his people: but as the faithful are said in Psalm 102 to pity the dust of Sion, because the place continued sacred even in its degradation and ruin; so also in this passage Zechariah says, that God was roused — Whence? from Sion, from that despised place, exposed to the derision of the ungodly: yet there God continued to dwell, that he might build again the temple, where his name was to be invoked until Christ appeared. We now see that the temple or Sion is intended rather than heaven, when all circumstances are duly weighed. Now follows —

1. And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
1. Et ostendit mihi Iehosuah sacerdotem magnum stantem in conspectu angeli Iehovae, et Satan stantem ad dexteram ejus, ut adversaretur illi.
2. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
2. Et dixit Iehova ad Satan, increpet te Iehova, Satan, et increpet (hoc est, iterum increpet) te Iehova, qui elegit Ierusalem: annon hic torris erutus ex igne?

We have said at the beginning that Zechariah was sent for this end — to encourage weak minds: for it was difficult to entertain hope in the midst of so much confusion. Some, but a small portion of the nation, had returned with the tribe of Judah: and then immediately there arose many enemies by whom the building of the city and of the temple was hindered; and when the faithful viewed all their circumstances, they could hardly entertain any hope of a redemption such as had been promised. Hence Zechariah labored altogether for this end — to show that the faithful were to look for more than they had reason to expect from the aspect of things at the time, and that they were to direct their eyes and their thoughts to the power of God, which was not as yet manifested, and which indeed God purposely designed not to exercise, in order to try the patience of the people.
This is the subject which he now pursues, when he says, that Joshua the priest was shown to him, with Satan at his right hand to oppose him. fm28 God was, however, there also. But when Zechariah says, that the priest Joshua was shown to him as here represented, it was not only done in a vision, but the fact was known to all; that is, that Joshua was not adorned with a priestly glory, such as it was before the exile; for the dignity of the priest before that time was far different from what it was after the return of the people; and this was known to all. But the vision was given to the Prophet for two reasons — that the faithful might know that their contest was with Satan, their spiritual enemy, rather than with any particular nations — and also that they might understand that a remedy was at hand, for God stood in defense of the priesthood which he had instituted. God, then, in the first place, purposed to remind the faithful that they had to carry on war, not with flesh and blood, but with the devil himself: this is one thing. And then his design was to recall them to himself, that they might consider that he would be their sure deliverer from all dangers. Since we now perceive the design of this prophecy, we shall proceed to the words of the Prophet.
He says that Joshua was shown to him. This was done no doubt in a prophetic vision: but yet Zechariah saw nothing by the spirit but what was known even to children. But, as I have already said, we must observe the intentions of the vision, which was, that the faithful might understand that their neighbors were troublesome to them, because Satan turned every stone and tried every experiment to make void the favor of God. And this knowledge was very useful to the Jews, as it is to us at this day. We wonder why so many enemies daily rage against us, and why the whole world burn against us with such implacable hatred; and also why so many intrigues arise, and so many assaults are made, which have not been excited through provocation on our part: but the reason why we wonder is this, — because we bear not in mind that we are fighting with the devil, the head and prince of the whole world. For were it a fixed principle in our minds, that all the ungodly are influenced by the devil, there would then be nothing new in the fact, that all unitedly rage against us. How so? Because they are moved by the same spirit, and their father is a murderer, even from the beginning. (<430844>John 8:44.)
We hence see that the faithful were taught what was extremely necessary, — that their troubles arose from many nations, because Satan watched for their ruin. And though this vision was given to the Prophet for the sake of his own age, yet it no doubt belongs also to us; for that typical priesthood was a representation of the priesthood of Christ, and Joshua, who was then returned from exile, bore the character of Christ the Son of God. Let us then know that Christ never performs the work of the priesthood, but that Satan stands at his side, that is, devises all means by which he may remove and withdraw Christ from his office. It hence follows, that they are much deceived, who think that they can live idly under the dominion of Christ: for we all have a warfare, for which each is to arm and equip himself. Therefore at this day, which we see the world seized with so much madness, that it assails us, and would wholly consume us, let not our thoughts be fixed on flesh and blood, for Satan is the chief warrior who assails us, and who employs all the rage of the world to destroy us, if possible, on every side. Satan then ever stands at Christ’s right hand, so as not to allow him in peace to exercise his priestly office.
Now follows another reason for the prophecy, — that God interposes and takes the part of his Church against Satan. Hence he says, Rebuke thee Satan let Jehovah, fm29 rebuke thee let Jehovah, who has chosen Jerusalem. God speaks here; and yet he seems to be the angel of Jehovah: fm30 but this is not inscrutable; for as in the last verse, where Zechariah says that Joshua stood before the Angel of Jehovah, Christ is doubtless meant, who is called an angel and also Jehovah; so also he may be named in this verse. But that no contentious person may say that we refine on the words too much, we may take them simply thus, — that God mentions here his own name in the third person; and this mode of so speaking is not rare in Scripture,
“Jehovah rained from God.” (<011924>Genesis 19:24).
Why did Moses speak thus? Even to show that when God fulminated against Sodom, he did not adopt a common mode of proceeding, but openly showed that it was an unusual and a singular judgment. Thus the expression here is emphatic, Rebuke thee let Jehovah, that is, I myself will rebuke thee. However, were any one to consider well the whole context, he could not but allow that the words may properly be applied to Christ, who is the portion of his Church, and that therefore he was the angel before whom Joshua stood; and he himself shows afterwards that the Church would be safe under his patronage. Let Jehovah then rebuke thee, Satan, let him rebuke thee. The repetition more fully confirms what Zechariah meant to show, even that sufficient protection would be found in God alone for the preservation of the Church, how much soever Satan might employ all his powers for its ruin, and that though God would not immediately give help and restrain Satan, yet a firm hope was to be entertained, for this would be done in time the most seasonable. The import of the whole is, — that though God had hitherto let loose Satan to assail the Church as to the priesthood, yet God would be the faithful guardian of his Church, and would check Satan, that he might not execute what he intended; and further, that many contests must be patiently endured, until the period of the warfare be completed. We now then see what the Prophet had in view in these words.
But the rebuke of God is not to be regarded as being only in words, but must be referred to that power by which God subverts and lays prostrate all the attempts of Satan. At the same time he mentions the end for which this rebuke was given; it was, that the Church might continue safe and secure, Let Jehovah, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee. These words are to be read, not apart, but as joined with the former, as though he had said, “Let God raise up his hand for the salvation of his chosen people, so as to put thee, Satan, to flight with all thy furies.” This is the meaning. Let us therefore know, that God is not simply the enemy of Satan, but also one who has taken us under his protection, and who will preserve us safe to the end. Hence God, as our Redeemer and the eternal guardian of our salvation, is armed against Satan in order to restrain him. The warfare then is troublesome and difficult, but the victory is not doubtful, for God ever stands on our side.
But we are at the same time reminded, that we are not to regard what we have deserved in order to gain help from God; for this wholly depends on his gratuitous adoption. Hence, though we are unworthy that God should fight for us, yet his election is sufficient, as he proclaims war against Satan in our behalf. Let us then learn to rely on the gratuitous adoption of God, if we would boldly exult against Satan and all his assaults. It hence follows, that those men who at this day obscure, and seek, as far as they can, to extinguish the doctrine of election, are enemies to the human race; for they strive their utmost to subvert every assurance of salvation.
He at last adds, Is not this a brand snatched from the fire? fm31 Here God makes known the favor he had manifested towards the high priest, that the faithful might be convinced that Joshua would overcome his enemies, as God would not forsake his own work; for the end ever corresponds with the beginning as to God’s favor; he is never wearied in the middle course of his beneficence. This is the reason why he now objects to Satan and says, “Why! God has wonderfully snatched this priest as a brand from the burning: as then the miraculous power of God appears in the return of the high priest, what dost thou mean, Satan? Thou risest up against God, and thinkest it possible to abolish the priesthood, which it has pleased him in his great favor hitherto to preserve. See whence has the priest come forth. While he was in Chaldea, he seemed to be in the lower regions; yet God delivered him from thence: and now, when he sits in the temple and is performing his office, is it possible for thee to pull down from heaven him whom thou could not detain in hell?” We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet as to this similitude. He then adds —

3. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
3. Et Iehosuah erat induts vestibus sordidis; et stabat in conspectu angeli.
4. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
4. Et respondit et dixit his qui stabant coram ipso, dicendo, Tollite vestes sordidas ab eo (de super eo, ad verbum;) et dixit ad eum, Ecce transire feci (hoc est, abstuli) abs te iniquitatem tuam, et vestiam te mutatoriis.

Zechariah adds here another thing, — that Joshua had on mean garments, but that new garments were given him by the angel’s command. And by this he means, that though the priesthood had been for a time contemptible, it would yet recover whatever dignity it had lost. But he ever leads the minds of the faithful to this point, — to look for what they did not then see, nor could conjecture from the state of things at that time. It is certain that the sacerdotal vestments, after the return from exile, were not such as they were before; for they were not sumptuously woven, nor had attached to them so many precious stones. Though Cyrus had bountifully supplied great abundance of gold and silver for the worship of God, yet the chief priest did not so shine with precious stones and the work of the Phrygians as before the exile. Hence, what was shown to Zechariah was then well known to all. But we ought to notice the latter clause, — that the angel commanded a change of garments. The Prophet then bids the faithful to be of good cheer, though the appearance of the priesthood was vile and mean, because God would not overlook its contemptible state; but the time of restoration had not yet come; when it came, the ancient dignity of the priesthood would again appear.
With regard to the words, the first thing to be observed is the fact, that Joshua stood before the angel, having on sordid or torn garments. fm32 The repetition seems to be without reason; for he had said before that Joshua stood before the angel of God. Why then does he now repeat that he stood before the angel? That the faithful might take courage; because it was God’s evident purpose that the chief priest should remain there in his sordid garments; for we think that God forgets us when he does not immediately succor us, or when things are in a confused state. Hence Zechariah meets his doubt by saying, that Joshua stood before the angel. He further reminded them, that though the whole world should despise the priesthood, it was yet under the eyes of God. Conspicuous were other priests in the eyes of men, and attracted the admiring observation of all, as it is well known; but all heathen priesthoods, we know, were of no account before God. Hence though heathen priesthoods shone before men, they were yet abominations only in the sight of God; but the priesthood of Joshua, however abject and vile it may have been, was yet, as Zechariah testifies, esteemed before God.
We now see that he who is often said to be Jehovah is called an angel: the name therefore of Angel as well as of Jehovah, I doubt not, ought to be applied to the person of Christ, who is truly and really God, and at the same time a Mediator between the Father and the faithful: and hence he authoritatively commanded the angels who were present; for Christ was there, but with his hosts. While therefore the angels were standing by, ready to obey, he is said to have bidden them to strip the high priest of his mean garments.
Afterwards the angel addresses Joshua himself, See, I slave made to pass from thee thine iniquity, and now I will clothe thee with new or other garments. fm33 When the angel said that he had taken away iniquity, he justly reminded them of the filthiness contracted by the priest as well as by the people; for they had denuded themselves of all glory by their iniquities. We hence see that the mouths of the Jews were here closed, that they might not clamor against God, because he suffered them still to continue in their sordid condition, for they deserved to continue in such a state; and the Lord for this reason called their filth, iniquity. He further teaches us, that though the Jews fully deserved by their sins to rot in their struggle and filthiness, yet the Lord would not finally allow their unworthiness to prevent him from affording relief.
The import of the prophecy then is this, — That however much the mean outward condition of the high priest might offend the Jews, they were still to entertain hope; for the remedy was in God’s power, who would at length change the dishonor and reproach of the high priest into very great glory, even when the time of gratuitous remission or of good pleasure arrived.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast made us a royal priesthood in thy Son, that we may daily offer to thee spiritual sacrifices, and be devoted to thee, both in body and soul, — O grant, that we, being endued with thy power, may boldly fight against Satan, and never doubt but that thou wilt finally give us the victory, though we may have to undergo many troubles and difficulties: and may not the contempt of the world frighten or dishearten us, but may we patiently bear all our reproaches, until thou at length stretches forth thine hand to raise us up to that glory, the perfection of which now appears in our head, and shall at last be clearly seen in all the members, in the whole body, even when he shall come to gather us into that celestial kingdom, which he has purchased for us by his own blood. — Amen.
5. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
5. Et dixit, Ponant cidarim puram (aut, diadema purum) super caput ejus: et posuerunt didema super caput ejus, et induerant (id est, postquam induerant) illum vestibus: et angelus Iehovae stabat.

THE Prophet had said that Joshua was clothed in splendid and beautiful garments, who had on before such as were sordid, and that this was done by the command of the angel: he now adds, that he wished that a still greater glory should be bestowed on him, for he saw that something was wanting. He therefore desired that the high priest should be adorned with a crown, so that his dress might in every way correspond with the dignity of his office. But what is here stated, that the Prophet spoke, fm34 is not to be taken as spoken authoritatively, but rather expressed as a wish, as though he had said, that it was indeed a pleasant and delightful spectacle to see the high priest decently and honorably clothed; but that it was also desirable, that a crown or a diadem should be added, as a symbol of the priesthood, and not of royalty. There is indeed no disadvantage in considering royalty also as signified; for the kingly office, we know, is united with the priestly in the person of Christ: but I take the crown here to be the priest’s mitre; for we know that this was the chief ornament whenever the priest came to the altar of incense. But as to the main point, we must bear in mind the design of the Prophet, — that the high priest was adorned with splendid vestments, and yet his dignity appeared only in part; therefore the Prophet desires that a pure crown or mitre should be added: and he says that this took place even in the presence of the angel, thereby intimating that his wish was by God approved.
Now we ought first to contemplate the zeal and godly concern of the Prophet, which he had for the glory and honor of the priesthood; for though he regarded with joy the splendid dress of the high priest, he could not restrain himself from wishing that the highest ornament should be added. And this example is exhibited to us for imitation, so that we ought to desire the increase of those favors of God, by which the priesthood of Christ is signalised, until it arrives at the most perfect state. But we see that many are against such a wish; for at this day there are those who profess some zeal for true religion, but are satisfied with a mere shadow; or at least, it would abundantly satisfy them to see the Church half purified: and the world is full of men who indeed confess that the Church is defiled by many pollutions, but wish only for some small measure of reformation. But the Prophet seems to invite us to do a very different thing: he saw that the high priest was already adorned with new garments; but when he considered that the honor of the priesthood was not fully restored, he wished the mitre to be also added. And by saying that the angels seconded his wish, he encourages us fully to believe, that if we desire from the heart that his glory should be given to Christ, God will hear our prayers: for the Prophet, when he sighed, did not in vain ask the angel to put a mitre on the high priest.
The expression, that the angel of God stood, is not without meaning. He was not an idle spectator; and it is intimated that God had not only once a care for the priesthood, but that the angel was always watching to defend Joshua; for it would not be enough to be once adorned by God, who presides over the Church, except his guardianship were perpetual. We now then understand the import of the words. It follows —

6. And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
6. Et contestatus est Angelus Iehovae Iehosuam dicendo,
7. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
7. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Si in viis meis ambulaveris, et custodiam meam custodieris, tu quoque judicabis domum meam (vel, gubernabis; [zwd] est judicare, sed verbum illud refertur ad quodlibet regimen, ut alibi visum; gubernabis ergo domum meam, hoc est, praeris Templo meo;) atque etiam custodies atria mea: et dabo tibi transitus inter istos qui adstant.

Here the Prophet shows for what purpose he gave Joshua his appropriate dress and splendor; and he teaches us, that it was not done simply as a favor to man, but because God purposed to protect the honor of his own worship. This is the reason why the angel exhorts Joshua; for it behaves us ever to consider for what end God deals so liberally with us and favors us with extraordinary gifts. All things ought to be referred to his glory and worship, otherwise every good thing he bestows on us is profaned. And this is especially to be regarded when we speak of his Church and its government; for we know how ready men are to turn what God gives to his Church to serve the purpose of their own tyranny.
It is God’s will that he should be attended to when he speaks by his servants and those whom he has appointed as teachers. But we see from the beginning of the world how ambitious and proud men under this pretense exercised great tyranny, and thus expelled God from his own government: nay, the vassals of Satan often arrogate to themselves a full and unlimited power over all the faithful, because God would have the priesthood honored, and approves of a right discipline in his Church. As then Satan has in all ages abused the high eulogies by which God commends his Church, this exhortations, now briefly given by the Prophet, ought always to be added; for it is not God’s will to extol men, that he himself might be as a private individual and give up his own place and degree, but that the whole excellency bestowed on the Church is intended for this purpose — that God may be purely worshipped, and that all, not only the people, but also the priest, may submit to his authority. Whatever glory then belongs to the Church, God would have it all to be subservient to his purpose, so that he alone may be the supreme and that rightly. We now then perceive the Prophet’s design.
And to give some weight to what is taught, he says, that the angel bore witness; for the word used is forensic or legal: one is said to bear witness to another, when he uses, so to speak, a solemn protestations. In short, bearing witness differs from a common declaration, as an oath, or an appeal to lawful authority, is interposed, so that the words are sacred. It was then the design of the holy spirit by this expression to render us more attentive, so that we may know that not a common thing is said, but that God interposes an oath, or some such thing, in order to secure more reverence to his order or command.
Protest then did the angel of Jehovah to Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if my charge thou wilt observe, etc. The angel now briefly teaches us, that the priests do not excel, that they may exult at pleasure; but he interposes a condition, that they are to exercise faithfully their office, and to obey the call of God. We then see that those two things are united — the dignity of the priesthood, and the faithfulness which God’s ministers, who have been called to that office, are to exhibit. Hence they who seek to domineer without control, do thereby sufficiently show that they are not the lawful priests of God; for Joshua typified Christ, and yet we see how God bound him by a certain condition, lest relying on his honor and title he should take to himself more than what was lawful or right.
If Joshua, who was a type of Christ, together with his successors, was not to regard himself dignified, but in order to obey God, we hence see how foolish and even abominable is the arrogance of the Pope, who, being content with a naked title, seeks to reduce the whole world to himself, as if God had given up his own right.
But let us at the same time see what he means by ways and by charge. These two words ought, no doubt, to be confined to the office of the priest. God commands us all in common to follow where he leads us; and whatever he prescribes as to the way of leading a godly and righteous life may be called a charge; for the Lord suffers us not to wander and go astray, but anticipates errors and shows what we are to follow. There is then a general charge with regard to all the faithful; but the priestly charge, as I have already stated, is to be confined to that office. We yet know that men are not raised on high by God, that he may resign his own authority. He indeed commits to men their own offices, and they are rightly called the vicars of God, who purely and faithfully teach from his mouth: but the authority of God is not diminished when he makes use of the labors of men and employs them as his ministers. We hence see that the priestly charge is this — to rule the Church according to the pure Word of God.
He therefore adds, Thou also shalt govern my house. This condition then is ever to be observed, when the governors of the Church demand a hearing, even that they keep the charge of God. It is indeed true, that all the ministers of the Word are adorned with honorable titles; but, as I have said, their dignity is degraded if it obscures the glory of God. As then God would have men to be heard, so that nothing may be taken from him, this condition ought ever to be observed, “Thou shalt govern my house, if thou wilt walk in my ways.”
It may however be asked, can priests be rightly deprived instantly of their office when they depart from their duty? To this I answer, that the Church ought, as far as possible, to be reformed; but yet legitimate means ought to be used, so that the Church may reject all the ungodly, who respond not to their duty, nor exhibit due sincerity, nor discharge their office in obedience to God. All then who depart or turn aside from the right course ought rightly to be rejected, but by legitimate authority. But when the majority desire to have pastors, such as cannot but be deemed really wolves, they must be borne with, though unworthy of the honor, and yet so borne with that they be not allowed to oppress the Church with their tyranny, or to take to themselves what belongs to God alone, or to adulterate the worship of God or pure doctrine.
However this may be, none are lawful priests before God, except those who faithfully exercise their office and respond to the calling of God, as we shall hereafter see in the second chapter of Malachi <390201>Malachi 2:1. But I am not disposed to enlarge; it is enough to adduce what an explanation of the passage may require. In short, pastors divinely appointed are so to rule over the Church as not to exercise their own power, but to govern the Church according to what God has prescribed, and in such a manner that God himself may always rule through the instrumentality of men.
What he adds, Thou shalt keep my courts, appears not to be an honor to the priest, for it was an humble service to wait in the courts of the temple. But taking a part for the whole, the Prophet includes the charge of the whole temple: and it was no common honor to have the charge of that sacred habitation of God. It is not then improperly added that Joshua would be the keeper of the temple, if he walked in the ways of the Lord. Nevertheless we see at this day how the masked rulers of the Church, under the Papacy, not only disregard the keeping of the temple, but wholly repudiate it, as it seems to be unworthy of their high dignity. I call the charge of the temple, not that which is the duty of overseers, but whatever belongs to the worship of God: but to feed the flock, to discharge the office of pastors, and to administer the sacraments, is to these a sordid employment. Hence the Pope, with all his adherents, can easily bear to be relieved from the charge of the temple; but yet he seeks to rule in a profane and tyrannical manner, and according to his own pleasure. But we here see that the charge of the temple is especially intrusted to the priest, as it was a special honor. We also see on what condition God allowed the priests to continue in their dignity, even on that of walking in his ways.
He afterwards adds, I will give thee passages (intercourses) among those who stand by, fm35 that is, I will cause all the godly to admit and freely to receive thee. The angels who stood there, no doubt, represented the body of the Church; for they are mingled with the faithful whenever they meet together in the name of Christ, as Paul teaches us in <461110>1 Corinthians 11:10. Angels alone then stood by; but it is the same as though God had said, “Thee will all the faithful acknowledge, so that a free passage will be open to thee among them, provided thou walkest in my ways.” And he puts passages in the plural number, for he speaks of continued homage and regard.
The meaning is, that the priest is ever worthy of regard and honor when he faithfully performs his office and obeys the call of God. We may, on the other hand, conclude that all masked pastors ought justly to be excluded, when they not only are apostates and perfidious against God, but seek also to destroy the Church; yea, when they are also voracious wolves and spiritual tyrants and slaughterers. All those who are such, the angel clearly intimates, are not only unworthy of being received, but ought also to be excluded and exterminated from the Church. We now then perceive what I have stated, that whatever excellency belongs to the pastors of the Church ought not to be separated from the honor due to God; for God does not resign his authority to mortals, nor diminish anything from his own right; but he only constitutes men as his ministers, that he may by them govern his Church alone, and be alone supreme. It hence follows, that they are unworthy of honor who perform not faithfully their office; and when they rob God of what belongs to him, they ought to be deprived of their very name; for it is nothing else but the mask of Satan, by which he seeks to deceive the simple. He afterwards adds —

8. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
8. Audi nunc Jehoshua, sacerdos magne, tu et socii tui qui stant (vel, habitant) in conspectu tuo; quia viri portenti sunt isti; quia ecce prodire facio servum meum Gramen. (Ubi verti, quoniam viri portent sunt, potest ita resolvi oratio, quamvis sint viri portenti; sed de sensu Prophetae statim dicam.)

The angel shows here, that what had been hitherto shown to Zechariah was typical; for the reality had not as yet come to light, but would appear in its time. We have said that God’s design was to lead the godly to the expectation of Christ; for these beginnings of favor were obscure. It behaved them, therefore, to hope for far more than they saw; and this appears evident from the verse before us, in which the angel says, hear now. He makes this preface to gain attention, as though he said, that he was going to speak of something remarkable. Then he adds, thou and thy associates who stand before thee; I will send my servant the Branch.
Let us notice this, which is the main part of the verse, Behold, I send my servant, the Branch. The God of hosts no doubt refers to the priest, who is eminent beyond the common comprehension of men. He is called a Branch, because he was to come forth as a stem, according to what is said in Isaiah, the eleventh chapter, <231101>Isaiah 11:1 and in other places. It is then the same as though he had said, “this priesthood is as yet disregarded, nevertheless my servant, the priest, shall come forth like a branch which arises from the earth, and it will grow.” The word jmx, tsamech means a shoot. He then compares Christ to a shoot, for he seemed, as we say, to rise up from nothing, because his beginning was contemptible. For what excellency had Christ in the estimation of the world when he was born? how did he commence his kingdom? and how was he initiated into his priesthood? Doubtless, whatever honor and glory the Father had given him was regarded we know with contempt. It is then no wonder that he is on this account called a Branch.
Now the reason for the similitude is apparent enough: and though the angel speaks indefinitely, the person of Christ is no doubt intended. How so? We may judge by the event itself. What priest succeeded Joshua who equalled him in honor, or who in the tenth degree approached him? We know that nearly all were profane and ungodly men; we know that the priesthood became venal among them; we know that it was contended for with the most cruel hatred; nay, we know that a priest was slain in the temple itself; ambition was burning so furiously that no success could be gained without shedding innocent blood. After the death of Joshua nothing could have been more base and more disgraceful than the Jewish priesthood. Where then is to be found this servant of God, the Branch? This principle must also be ever borne in mind, that the reformation of the temple was to be made by Christ: we must, therefore, necessarily come to him, that we may find the servant mentioned here. fm36 And why he is called a servant has been stated elsewhere; for he humbled himself that he might be not only the minister of his Father, but also of men. As then Christ condescended to become the servant of men, it is no wonder that he is called the servant of God.
Let us now enquire why the angel bids Joshua and his companions to hear. He indirectly reproves, I doubt not, the common unbelief, for there were very few then who had any notion of a future and spiritual priesthood. Indeed, the people had the promises in their mouths, but nearly all had their thoughts fixed on the earth and the world. This is the reason why the angel directed his words especially to Joshua and his companions: he saw that the ears of others were almost closed; he saw so much indifference in the people, that hardly any one was capable of receiving his doctrine: and thus he intended to obviate a trial which might have weakened the courage of Joshua. For we know how ready we are to faint when the whole world would drive us to apostasy; for when any of us is weak, we wish to be supported by others; and when there is no faith, no religion, no piety among men, every one is ready to quail. In short, we can hardly believe God, and continue firm in his word, except we have many companions, and a large number in our favor; and when unbelief prevails everywhere our faith vacillates. Hence the angel now addresses Joshua and his companions apart; as though he had said, that there was no reason for them to depend on the multitude, but, on the contrary, to look to God, and by relying on his word to wait patiently for what he promised, though all the rest were to reject his favor: Thou then and thy friends who stand before thee.
He adds, for they are men of wonder; or though they are men of wonder; but the meaning is the same. For God means, that though the whole people rejected what he now declares as to the renewal of the priesthood, it would yet be found true and confirmed in its own time. Some render the words, “men of prodigy,” because they were objects of wonder and they think that the companions of Joshua were signalised by this title or encomium, because their faith was victorious and surmounted all hindrances. fm37 But the meaning of the prophet seems to me to be wholly different: and, I doubt not, but that this passage is the same with another in Isaiah, the eighth chapter, <230801>Isaiah 8:1 where he says, that the faithful were men of prodigy, or, that they were for a sign or prodigy, because they were objects of hatred, “what do these seek for themselves?” As then all were astonished as at a spectacle new and unwonted, when any one of the faithful met them, the Prophet says, that the true servants of God were then for a sign and prodigy. So here they are men of prodigy, for we see clearly, that the companions of Joshua were separated from the rest, or the common multitude. Why? not because they were objects of wonder, for that would be frigid, but because they were objects of reproach to all; and they were hardly borne with by the people, who clamored, “what do these seek for themselves? they seek to be wiser than the Church.”
In the same way we find ourselves at this day to be condemned by the Papists. “Oh! these, forsooth, will create a new world, they will create a new law: the rule of our great men will not satisfy these; we have a Church founded for so many ages, antiquity is in our favor. In short these men tear asunder what has been sanctioned from the beginning until now.” But in the time of Joshua and in the time of Isaiah, all who simply believed God were regarded as strange men; for the people had become then so unrestrainedly licentious, that to retain the pure worship of God was viewed as a strange thing on account of its novelty.
We now apprehend the meaning of the words, when the angel bids Joshua and his companions to attend, and when he calls them the men of prodigy, and when at last he promises that a priest should arise like a Branch, for God would make Christ to rise up, though hid, not only under the feet, but under the earth itself, like a shoot which comes forth from the root after the tree has been cut down. It follows —

9. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
9. Quia ecce lapis quem posui coram Iehosua, super lapidem unum septem oculi: ecce ego sculpo sculpturam ejus (lapidis) dicit Iehova exercituum: et aufero iniquitatem terrae hujus die una.

He more fully sets forth what we have observed in the last verse; but he speaks figuratively. He says that there were seven eyes on the stone which was set before Joshua; and that God would in one day take away the iniquity of the land, so that nothing would prevent it from recovering its ancient glory. This is the import of the whole; but interpreters vary, especially as to the eyes.
Almost all Christians agree as to the stone; for they think Christ to be meant; and we know that there are many similar passages, where Christ is called a stone, because the Church is on him founded; “Behold, I lay in Zion a precious stone,” says Isaiah in the <232801>Isaiah 28:1; and in <19B801>Psalm 118:1 and in other places there are similar words. I yet think that the Prophet alludes to the temple, which was then begun to be built; but at the same time I take this as admitted, that Christ is called metaphorically a stone, as before he was called a Branch. But we must bear in mind that the external figure of the visible temple is applied to Christ himself. Behold, says God, the stone which I have set before Joshua has seven eyes; and further, I will engrave it with sculptures, that it may appear wonderful before the whole world. We now perceive what the subject is, and the mode of speaking here adopted.
As to the subject, the angel says, that the temple which Joshua had begun to build, was a celestial building; for God here declares himself to be its founder and builder, — The stone, he says, which I have set; and he says this, that Joshua might know that he labored not in vain in building the temple. For had it been the work of men, it might have fallen, and might have been pulled down a hundred times by the hand of enemies; but God declares that the temple was founded by his own hand. He, at the same time, as I have said, raises up the thoughts of the godly to Christ, which is the substance and reality of the temple. Hence he says, I set a stone before Joshua; that is, “Though Joshua builds, and workmen diligently labor with him, yet I am the chief framer and architect of the temple.”
He then says, on this stone shall be seven eyes. Some apply this to the seven graces of the Spirit: but the definition which they make, who have said, that the grace of the Spirit is sevenfold, is puerile; they know not about what they prattle and vainly talk; for Scripture speaks of many more. They also falsely adduce a passage from the <231101>Isaiah 11:1 for they mistake there as to the number: the Latin version has led them astray. Others think that the seven eyes have a reference to the whole world; as though the angel had said, that all will direct their eyes to this stone, according to what is said by Christ, that he was raised up on high, that he might draw all men to himself: then seven eyes, that is the eyes of all men, shall be turned to this stone. fm38 Some again apply this to the fullness of grace which has been given to Christ. But I think that the simpler view is, that his glory is set forth, according to what immediately follows, — I will engrave its engravings. For it is a vain refinement to say, that God engraved engravings when the side of Christ was pierced, when his hands and his feet were perforated: this is to trifle, and not seriously to explain Scripture. But the Prophet by engraving, means the valuable and extraordinary character of this stone; as though he had said, “It will be a stone remarkable for every excellency; for God will adorn this stone with wonderful engravings; and then it will be a stone having eyes, that is, it will not only turn to itself the eyes of others, but it will illuminate them, and exhibit as it were such brightness as will, by its own reflection, lead men to behold it.” fm39 We now understand the full meaning of the Prophet. What remains I cannot finish now.
Grant, Almighty God, that as by nature we do not willingly submit to the reproach and contempt of the world, — O grant, that with our hearts lifted up to heaven, we may become indifferent to all reproaches, and that our faith may not succumb nor vacillate, though profane men may ridicule us while serving thee under the cross: but may we patiently wait, until Christ shall at length appear in the splendor of his priesthood and kingdom; and may we, in the meantime, contemplate the excellency with which thou hast adorned thy Church, and be thus encouraged to connect ourselves with those few and despised men, who faithfully and sincerely follow thy word, and disregard the arrogance of the whole world, and never doubt, but that if we remain grounded in the pure doctrine of the gospel, thou wilt raise us up to heaven, yea, and above all heavens, where we shall enjoy that blessedness which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
WE have to consider the last words of the ninth verse, in which God promises to remove the iniquity of the land in one day. Some refinedly take the one day for the one sacrifice, by which Christ once for all expiated for ever for the sins of the world; but the Prophet in my view speaks in a simpler manner; for he mentions one day for suddenly or quickly. I indeed allow that expiation was to be sought through the one sacrifice of Christ; but the Prophet intimates, that God would be so propitious to the Jews, as to deliver them from all the wrongs and molestations of their enemies. He then assigns a reason why he purposed to deal so bountifully with his people, even because he would not impute their sins. And we know this to be the fountain of all the blessings which flow from God to us, that is, when he forgives us and blots out our sins.
We now then apprehend the Prophet’s meaning: I will take away the iniquity of the land in one day, that is, “Though hitherto I have in various ways punished this people, I shall of a sudden be pacified towards them, so that no iniquity shall come to an account before me, or prevent me from favoring this people.” It now follows in the Prophet -

10. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree.
10. In illo die, dicit Iehova exercituum, vocabitis quisque proximum suum sub vite et sub ficu.

We see from this verse that a particular time is signified by one day; for the Prophet wished to inspire the Jews with confidence, lest they should think that their misery would continue, because God had hitherto treated them with rigor and severity. Here then is shown to them a sudden change. He therefore adds, In that day, ye shall call every one his neighbor under his vine and under his fig-tree; that is, “Ye shall dwell secure, beyond the reach of fear or of danger; for no one will be incensed against you.” This kind of expression signifies a safe and quiet state, that is, when it is said; that neighbors meet together under the vine and under the fig-tree. For they who fear, either remain inclosed in cities, or seek, when in the country, some fortified place and difficult of access, or watch their own doors that they may not be exposed to injuries; but they who joyfully meet together under the vine or under the fig-tree, show that they are free from every anxiety and fear.
The sum of the whole then is, — that when God shall openly make himself the guardian of his Church, the faithful shall be relieved from every fear, and shall cheerfully enjoy their freedom, so that they shall venture to have their repast under the vine and under the fig-tree, that is, in the open air and on the public road, as there will be none to terrify them. But as this promise is to be extended to the whole kingdom of Christ, what is said ought to be applied to that spiritual peace which we enjoy, when we are fully persuaded that God is reconciled to us; for then also us become reconciled among ourselves, so that we no longer seek to injure one another, according to what we have observed in Micah, (<330404>Micah 4:4,) and according to what Isaiah says in the second chapter <230201>Isaiah 2:1. Let us now proceed-

1. And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
1. Et reversus et angelus, qui loquebatur mecum, et excitavit me, quasi virum qui excitatur (vel, evigilat) a somno suo.
2. And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
2. Et dixit ad me, Quid tu vides? et dixit, Video, et ecce candelabrum ex auro totum (hoc est, ex solido auro, ) et pelvis super caput ejus; et septem lucernae super ipsum; septem et septem infusoria lucernis, quae sunt super caput ejus;
3. And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
3. Et duae oleae super ipsum, una a dextera pelvis, et una ad sinistram ejus.
4. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
4. Et respondit et dixi angelo, qui loquebatur mecum, dicendo, Quid ista, Domine mi?
5. Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
5. Et respondit angelus, qui loquebatur mecum, et dixit mihi, Annon cognoscis quid sint haec? Et dixi, Non, Domine mi.
6. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
6. Et respondit et dixit mihi dicendo, Hic sermo Iehovae ad Zerubbabel, dicendo, Non in exercitu, et non in fortitudine, sed in Spiritu meo, dicit Iehova exercituum.

Another vision is narrated here, — that a candlestick was shown to the Prophet, on which there were seven lights. He says that the candlestick was formed all of gold: and he says that to the seven lamps there were as many cruses, (infusoria — pourers,) or, as some think, there were seven cruses to each lamp: but the former view is what I mostly approve, that is, that every lamp had its own cruse. He further says, that there were two olive-trees, one on the right, the other on the left hand, so that there was no deficiency of oil, as the olive-trees were full of fruit. Since then there was a great abundance of berries, the oil would not fail; and the lamps were continually burning. This is the vision, and the explanation is immediately added, for God declares that his Spirit was sufficient to preserve the Church without any earthly helps, that is, that his grace would always shine bright, and could never be extinguished.
There is, moreover, no doubt but that God set forth to Zechariah a figure and an image suitable to the capacities of the people. The candlestick in the temple, we know, was made of gold; we know also, that seven lamps were placed in the candlestick, for it had six branches; and then there was the trunk of the candlestick. As then the seven lamps shone always in the temple on the golden candlestick, it was the Lord’s design here to show that this ceremonial symbol was not superfluous or insignificant; for his purpose was really to fulfill what he exhibited by the candlestick: and such analogy is to be seen in many other instances. For it was not the Lord’s purpose simply to promise what was necessary to be known; but he also designed to add at the same time a confirmation by ceremonial types, that the Jews might know that their labor was not in vain when they lighted the lamps in the temple; for it was not a vain or a deceptive spectacle, but a real symbol of his favor, which was at length to be exhibited towards them. But we may more fully learn the design of the whole, by considering the words, and each part in order.
He says that the Angel returned; by which we understand that God, without any request or entreaty on the part of the Prophet, confirmed by a new prophecy what we have already observed; for the Prophet confesses that he was as it were overcome with astonishment, so that it was necessary to awake him as it were from sleep. The Prophet was not therefore able to ask any thing of God when under the influence of amazement; but God of his own free will came to his aid, and anticipated his request. We hence see that the faithful were not in one way only taught to entertain confidence as to the restoration of the Church; but as there was need of no common confirmation, many visions were given; and it must at the same time be added, that though no one interposed, yet God was of his own self solicitous about his Church, and omitted nothing that was necessary or useful to support the faith of his people. And farther, as the Prophet says that he was awakened by the Angel, let us learn, that except God awakens us by his Spirit, torpor will so prevail over us, that we cannot raise our minds above. Since God then sees that we are so much tied down to the earth, he rouses us as it were from our lethargy. For if the Prophet had need of such help, how much more have we, who are far below him in faith? Nay, if he was earthly, are we not altogether earth and ashes? It must yet be observed, that the Prophet was not so overwhelmed with drowsiness as with astonishment; so that he was hardly himself, as it is the case with men in an ecstasy.
The Prophet was also reminded to be attentive to the vision — What seest thou? Then there was presented to him a sight which we have described; but the Prophet by seeing could have seen nothing, had he not been instructed by the Angel. We must also observe, that this tardiness of the Prophet is useful to us; for we hence more surely conclude, that nothing was represented without a design; but that the whole was introduced for his benefit, though he overlooked, as with closed eyes, what God showed to him by the Angel. We then conclude that there was nothing done by chance, but that the Prophet was really under a divine guidance, so that he might learn what he was afterwards faithfully to deliver to others.
The vision is then narrated — that a candlestick of God was shown to him. The substance of the candlestick was intended to set forth a mystery. It is indeed true that gold is corruptible; but as we cannot otherwise understand what exceeds the things of the world, the Lord, under the figure of gold, and silver, and precious stones, sets forth those things which are celestial, and which surpass in value the earth and the world. It was for this purpose that God commanded a candlestick to be made of gold for him, not that he needed earthly wealth or riches, or was pleased with them as men are, whose eyes are captivated by the sight of gold and silver. We indeed know that all these things are counted as nothing before God; but regard was had in these symbols to this — that they might know that something sublime and exalted was to be understood whenever they looked on the golden candlestick. Hence by the gold the Prophet must have learnt, that what was here set forth was not worthless or mean, but unusual and of great importance.
He afterwards says that there was a vessel, or some render it a pot; but it was a round vessel, and it was on the top of the candlestick; for the lamps burned on the very summit of the candlestick. Now there was a pot or bowl; and here there was a little difference between the candlestick of the temple and that of which the Prophet speaks now; for in the candlestick of the temple there were many pots or bowls, but here the Prophet says that there was but one; and also that there were seven pourers or postings; for by this term we may understand the very act of pouring, as well as the instruments themselves. But it is better to refer this to the pourers, which distilled the oil continually, that the wick might not become dry, but gather always new strength. He says that there were seven pourers to the lamps on the top; fm40 and also that there were two olive-trees, which supplied new abundance, so that the oil was always flowing.
We must now then enquire the meaning of the vision. Many understand by the candlestick the Church; and this may be allowed. At the same time I think that God here simply testified to the Jews, that in having commanded them to set up a candlestick, he did not appoint an empty, or a deceptive, but a real symbol. God no doubt represented by the lamps the graces, or the various gifts of his Spirit; yet the idea of a sevenfold grace is a mere fancy; for God did not intend to confine to that number the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the variety of which is manifold, even almost infinite. Hence the number seven designates perfection, according to the common usage of Scripture. God then intended by placing the candlestick in the midst of the temple, to show that the grace of his Spirit always shines in his Church, not of one kind only, but so that there was nothing wanting as to its perfection. Some think that teachers are represented by the lamps; but as I have already said, it is better to take a simple view of the meaning than refinedly to philosophise on the subject. There is indeed no doubt but that God pours forth his graces to illuminate his Church by his ministers; this we find by experience; but what I have stated is sufficient that God never forsakes his Church, but illuminates it with the gifts of his Spirit; while yet the variety of these gifts is set forth by the seven lamps. This is one thing.
It afterwards follows, that the Prophet inquired of the Angel, What does this mean? We hence learn again, that the Prophet was instructed by degrees, in order that the vision might be more regarded by us; for if the Prophet had immediately obtained the knowledge of what was meant, the narrative might be read by us with no attention; we might at least be less attentive, and some might probably think that it was an uncertain vision. But as the Prophet himself attentively considered what was divinely revealed to him, and yet failed to understand what God meant, we are hereby reminded that we ought not to be indifferent as to what is here related; for without a serious and diligent application of the mind, we shall not understand this prophecy, as we are not certainly more clear-sighted than the Prophet, who had need of a guide and teacher. There is also set before us an example to be imitated, so that we may not despair when the prophecies seem obscure to us; for when the Prophet asked, the Angel immediately helped his ignorance. There is therefore no doubt but that the Lord will supply us also with understanding, when we confess that his mysteries are hid from us, and when conscious of our want of knowledge, we flee to him, and implore him not to speak in vain to us, but to grant to us the knowledge of his truth. The angel’s question to the Prophet, whether he understood or not, is not to be taken as a reproof of his dullness, but as a warning, by which he meant to rouse the minds of all to consider the mystery. He then asked, Art thou ignorant of what this means, in order to elicit from the Prophet a confession of his ignorance. Now if the Prophet, when elevated by God’s Spirit above the world, could not immediately know the purpose of the vision, what can we do who creep on the earth, except the Lord supplies us with understanding? In short, Zechariah again recommends to us the excellency of this prophecy, that we may more attentively consider what God here declares.
He calls the angel his Lord, according to the custom of the Jews; for they were wont thus to address those who were eminent in power, or in anything superior. He did not call him Lord with the intention of transferring to him the glory of God; but he thus addressed him only for the sake of honor. And here again we are reminded, that if we desire to become proficient in the mysteries of God, we must not arrogate any thing to ourselves; for here the Prophet honestly confesses his own want of knowledge. And let us not at this day be ashamed to lie down at God’s feet, that he may teach us as little children; for whosoever desires to be God’s disciple must necessarily be conscious of his own folly, that is, he must come free from a conceit of his own acumen and wisdom, and be willing to be taught by God.
Now follows the explanation the angel gives this answer — This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, etc. Here the angel bears witness to what I have shortly referred to that the power of God alone is sufficient to preserve the Church, and there is no need of other helps. For he sets the Spirit of God in opposition to all earthly aids; and thus he proves that God borrows no help for the preservation of his Church, because he abounds in all blessings to enrich it. Farther, by the word spirit we know is meant his power, as though he had said, “God designs to ascribe to himself alone the safety of his Church; and though the Church may need many things, there is no reason why it should turn its eyes here and there, or seek this or that help from men; for all abundance of blessings may be supplied by God alone.” And host and might, fm41 being a part for the whole, are to be taken for all helps which are exclusive of God’s grace. It is indeed certain that God acts not always immediately or by himself, for he employs various means, and makes use in his service of the ministrations of men; but his design is only to teach us that we are very foolish, when we look around us here and there, or vacillate, or when, in a word, various hopes, and various fears, and various anxieties affect us; for we ought to be so dependent on God alone, as to be fully persuaded that his grace is sufficient for us, though it may not appear; nay, we ought fully to confide in God alone, though poverty and want may surround us on every side. This is the purport of the whole.
But God intended also to show that his Church is built up and preserved, not by human and common means, but by means extraordinary and beyond all our hopes and all our thoughts. It is indeed true, as I have just said, that God does not reject the labors of men in building up and in defending his Church; but yet he seems as though he were not in earnest when he acts by men; for by his own wonderful power he surpasses what can be conceived by human thought. To be reminded of this was then exceedingly necessary, when the Church of God was despised, and when the unbelieving haughtily ridiculed the miserable Jews, whom they saw to be few in number and destitute of all earthly aids. As then there was nothing splendid or worthy of admiration among the Jews, it was needful that what we find here should have been declared to them — even that his own power was enough for God, when no aid came from any other quarter. The same also was the design of what we have noticed respecting the seven pourers and the olive-trees; for if God had need of earthly helps, servants must have been at hand to pour forth the oil; but there were seven pourers to supply the oil continually. Wherefrom? even from the olive-trees. As then the trees were fruitful, and God drew from them the oil by his hidden power, that the lamps might never be dry, we hence clearly learn, that what was exhibited is that which the angel now declares, namely, that the Church was, without a host and without might, furnished with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that in these there was a sufficient defense for its preservation, in order that it might retain its perfect state and continue in vigor and safety.
When therefore we now see things in a despairing condition, let this vision come to our minds — that God is sufficiently able by his own power to help us, when there is no aid from any other; for his Spirit will be to us for lamps, for pourers, and for olive-trees, so that experience will at length show that we have been preserved in a wonderful manner by his hand alone.
We now then understand the design of the Prophet, and the reason why this vision was shown to him — that the faithful might be fully induced to entertain a firm hope as to that perfect condition of the Church which had been promised; for no judgment was to be formed of it according to earthly means or helps, inasmuch as God had his own power and had no need of deriving any assistance from others. And Zechariah says also, that this word was to Zerubbabel, even that he might take courage and proceed with more alacrity in the work of building the temple and the city. For Zerubbabel, we know, was the leader of the people, and the Jews returned to their country under his guidance; and in the work of building the city his opinion was regarded by all, as peculiar honor belonged to him on account of his royal descent. At the same time God addressed in his person the whole people: it was the same as though the angel had said, “This word is to the Church.” The head is here mentioned for the whole body, a part being specified for the whole.
Now as Zerubbabel was only a type of Christ, we must understand that this word is addressed to Christ and to all his members.
Thus we must remember that all our confidence ought to be placed on the favor of God alone; for were it to depend on human aids, there would be nothing certain or sure. For God, as I have said, withdraws from us whatever may add courage according to the judgment of the flesh, in order that he may invite or rather draw us to himself. Whenever, then, earthly aids fail us, let us learn to recumb on God alone, for it is not by a host or by might that God raises up his Church, and preserves it in its proper state; but this he does by his Spirit, that is, by his own intrinsic and wonderful power, which he does not blend with human aids; and his object is to draw us away from the world, and to hold us wholly dependent on himself. This is the reason why he says that the word was addressed to Zerubbabel. The rest I shall consider tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou shinest on us by thy word, and showest to us the way of salvation, we may with open eyes look on that light; and as we are blind also at mid-day, open thou our eyes, and may the inward light of thy Spirit lead us to the light of thy word, that we may not doubt but that thou alone art sufficient to supply us with all those things which are necessary for the enjoyment of celestial life, that by thus distilling on us frequently and continually thou mayest refresh us, so that the light of faith, which has been once kindled in our hearts by thy grace, may never be extinguished, until at length we shall attain to that fullness which has been laid up for us in heaven: and may we thus now in part be satisfied with the measure of knowledge which thou hast given us, until we shall at length see thee face to face, that being thus transformed to thine image, we may enjoy the fullness of that glory into which Christ our Lord has been received. — Amen.
7. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
7.Quis tu mons magne coram Zerubbabel? in planitiem; et educat lapidem capitis ejus, clamores, gratia, gratia ei.

HERE the angel pursues the same subject which we have been already explaining — that though the beginning was small and seemed hardly of any consequence and importance, yet God would act in a wonderful manner as to the building of the temple. But as this was not only arduous and difficult, but also in various ways impeded, the angel now says, that there would be no hindrance which God would not surmount or constrain to give way. He compares to a mountain either the Persian monarchy or all the hosts of enemies, which had then suddenly arisen in various parts, so that the Jews thought that their return was without advantage, and that they were deceived, as the event did not answer to their wishes and hopes.
We now then perceive the design of the Holy Spirit: as Satan attempted by various artifices to prevent the building of the temple, the angel declares here that no obstacle would be so great as to hinder the progress of the work, for God could suddenly reduce to a plain the highest mountains. What art thou, great mountain? The expression has more force than if the angel had simply said, that all the attempts of enemies would avail nothing; for he triumphs over the pride and presumption of those who then thought that they were superior to the Jews: “Ye are,” he says, “like a great mountain; your bulk is indeed terrible, and sufficient at the first view not only to weaken, but also to break down the spirits; but ye are nothing in all your altitude.”
But the text may be read in two ways, “What art thou, great mountain? A plain before Zerubbabel;” or, “What art thou, great mountain before Zerubbabel? A plain.” The latter rendering is the best, and it is also what has been universally received. And he says that this mountain was before Zerubbabel, that is, in his presence, for it stood in opposition to him.
Now this doctrine may be fitly applied to our age: for we see how Satan raises up great forces, we see how the whole world conspires against the Church, to prevent the increase or the progress of the kingdom of Christ. When we consider how great are the difficulties which meet us, we are ready to faint and to become wholly dejected. Let us then remember that it is no new thing for enemies to surpass great mountains in elevation; but that the Lord can at length reduce them to a plain. This, then, our shield can cast down and lay prostrate whatever greatness the devil may set up to terrify us: for as the Lord then reduced a great mountains to a plain, when Zerubbabel was able to do nothing, so at this day, however boldly may multiplied adversaries resist Christ in the work of building a spiritual temple to God the Father, yet all their efforts will be in vain.
He afterwards adds, He will bring forth the stone of its top. The relative is of the feminine gender, and must therefore be understood of the building. Zerubbabel shall then bring forth the stone, which was to be on the top of the temple. By the stone of the top, I understand the highest, which was to be placed on the very summit. The foundations of the temple had been already laid; the building was mean and almost contemptible: it could not however be advanced, since many enemies united to disturb the work, or at least to delay it. Nevertheless the angel promises what he afterwards explains more fully — that the temple would come to its completion, for Zerubbabel was to bring forth and raise on high the stone of the top, which was to be on the very summit of the temple. fm42 And then he subjoins, shoutings, Grace, grace, to it; that is, God will grant a happy success to this stone or to the temple. The relative here again is feminine; it cannot then be applied to Zerubbabel, but to the temple or to the stone: it is however more probable that the angel speaks of the temple. And he says that there would be shoutings; for it was necessary to encourage the confidence of the faithful and to excite them to prayer, that they might seek, by constant entreaties, a happy and prosperous issue to the building of the temple. The angel, then, bids all the godly with one voice to pray for the temple; but as all prosperous events depend on the good pleasure of God, he uses the word ˆj, chen, grace, which he repeats, that he might more fully encourage the faithful to perseverance, and also that he might kindle their desire and zeal.
We now then see what this verse on the whole contains: first, the angel shows that however impetuously the ungodly might rage against the temple, yet their attempts would be frustrated, and that though they thought themselves to be like great mountains, it was yet in the power and will of God to reduce them to a plain, that is, suddenly to lay them prostrate. This is one thing. Then secondly, he adds, that a happy success would attend the building of the temple; for Zerubbabel would bring forth the top-stone, the highest. And lastly, he subjoins, that the faithful ought unanimously to pray, and so to persevere with the greatest ardor and zeal, that God might bless the temple, and cause the building of it to be completed. It now follows —

8. Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
8. Et factus est sermo Iehovae ad me dicendo,
9. The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
9. Manus Zerubbabel fundarunt domum hanc, et manus ejus perficient eam; et congnosces quia Iehova exercituum miserit me ad vos.

He confirms in this passage what I lately stated — That there was no reason for the faithful to entertain doubts or to feel anxious, because they saw that the beginning of the building was mean and despised by the world; for the Lord would at length show that it was built by his sanction and command, and that it would succeed far better than all of them had thought.
But he says that the word of Jehovah came to him; fm43 and yet at the end of the next verse he shows that this address came from the mouth of the angel. But it is a well-known and a common mode of speaking, that God himself is said to speak, when he employs either angels or men as his agents; for the person of the messenger lessens in no degree the reverence due to the word: the majesty, then, of God ought to remain inviolable in his word, whether brought to us by men or by angels. Now the Prophet felt assured that nothing was adduced by the angel, but what he conveyed as the minister of God.
The sum of the whole is, that the temple, though some interruptions happened, was yet so begun that its completion was at length to be expected; as God had made use of the labors of Zerubbabel, so he would not forsake the work of his hands. Since, then, God was the chief founder of the building, it could not be but that the temple would at length be completed.
This is what the angel had in view in these words, The hands of Zerubbabel have founded this house. Of the foundation there was indeed no doubt; but many believed that the building would ever remain unfinished, for Satan had already by means of the most powerful enemies impeded its progress. As then despair had laid hold on the minds of almost all, the angel declares that Zerubbabel would gain his object in finishing the temple which he had begun.
He afterwards adds, Thou shalt know that God has sent me to you. Of this knowledge we have spoken elsewhere. The meaning is, that the event would be a sure and suitable proof, that nothing had been rashly undertaken by them, but that the temple was built by God’s command, for his power would be evident in its completion. And he addresses the Prophet, who though he was fully persuaded of the event and of the fulfillment of this prophecy, yet learnt by what took place that the angel who gave the promise was sent from above. We have said elsewhere that there are two kinds of knowledge; one is of faith, which we derive from the word, though the thing itself does not appear; the other is of experience, when God adds accomplishment to the promise, and proves that he had not spoken in vain and this is the knowledge which the angel means when he says, Thou shalt know that I have been sent from above to you.
Now if this be applied to Christ, it may, as I have said, be justly done; for it is certain that angels were then sent in such a manner that Christ was the chief. Since, then, nothing was undertaken as to the building of the temple without Christ being the leader, he rightly says here that he was sent by the Father. It afterwards follows —

10. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
10. Quia quis contempsit diem parvitatum (parvorum; sed hic acciptitur pro parvitate?) gaudabunt et videbunt (ad verbum) lapidem stanneum in manu Zerubbabel (sed ita resolvi debet oratio, certe gaudabunt ubi viderint lapidem in manu Zerubbabel:) septem hi, oculi Iehovae sunt, circumeuntes (vel, qui discurrunt) per totam terram.

Here the angel reproves the sloth and fear of the people, for the greater part were very faint-hearted; and he also blames the Jews, because they formed a judgment of God’s work at the first view, Who is he, he says, that has despised the day of paucities? He does not ask who it was, as though he spoke only of one, or as though they were few in number or insignificant but he addresses the whole people, who were chargeable with entertaining this wrong feeling; for all were cast down in their minds, because they thought that the work begun would be a sport to the ungodly, and would come to nothing, according to what we read in <160312>Nehemiah 3:12, that the old men wept, so that nearly all threw down their tools, and left off the building of the temple. We hence see that not a few despised the small beginnings, and that the minds of all the people were dejected, for they thought that they labored in vain while building the temple, which made no approach to the glory and splendor of the former temple: “What are we doing here? we seek to build a temple for God; but what is it? does it correspond to the temple of Solomon? No, not in the tenth degree; yet God has promised that this temple would be most glorious.” While then they were considering these things, they thought either that the time was not come, or that they toiled in vain, because God would not dwell in a tent so mean. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Who is he that has despised the day of paucities? fm44
God then sets himself in opposition to an ungrateful and ill- disposed people, and shows that they all acted very foolishly, because they cast and fixed their eyes only on the beginning of things, as though God would not surpass by his power what human minds could conceive. As then God purposed in a wonderful manner to build the temple, the angel reproves here the clamors of the people.
He then adds, They shall rejoice when they shall see the workman’s plummet in the hard of Zerubbabel. fm45 Though he had adopted a severe and sharp reproof, he yet mitigates here its severity, and promises to the Jews that however unworthy they were of such kindness from God, they would yet see what they had by no means expected, even Zerubbabel furnished with everything necessary for the completion of the temple. Hence they shall see Zerubbabel with his tin-stone; fm46 that is, with his plummet. As builders in our day use a plumb-line, so he calls that in the hand of Zerubbabel a tin-stone, which he had when prepared to complete the temple.
This doctrine may be also applied to us: for God, to exhibit the more his power, begins with small things in building his spiritual temple; nothing grand is seen, which attracts the eyes and thoughts of men, but everything is almost contemptible. God indeed could put forth immediately his power, and thus rouse the attention of all men and fill them with wonder; he could indeed do so; but as I have already said, his purpose is to increase, by doing wonders, the brightness of his power; which he does, when from a small beginning he brings forth what no one would have thought; and besides, his purpose is to prove the faith of his people; for it behaves us ever to hope beyond hope. Now when the beginning promises something great and sublime, there is no proof and no trial of faith: but when we hope for what does not appear, we give due honor to God, for we depend only on his power and not on the proximate means. Thus we see that Christ is compared to a shoot, which arises from the stem of Jesse. (<231101>Isaiah 11:1.) God might have arranged that Christ should have been born when the house of David was in its splendor, and when the kingdom was in a flourishing state: yet his will was that he should come forth from the stem of Jesse, when the royal name was almost cut off. Again, he might have brought forth Christ as a full-grown tree; but he was born as an insignificant shoot. So also he is compared by Daniel to a rough and unpolished stone cut off from a mountain. (<270245>Daniel 2:45.) The same thing has also been accomplished in our age, and continues still at this day to be accomplished. If we consider what is and has been the beginning of the growing gospel, we shall find nothing illustrious according to the perceptions of the flesh; and on this account the adversaries confidently despise us; they regard us as the off-scourings of men, and hope to be able to cast us down and scatter us by a single breath.
There are many at this day who despise the day of paucity, who grow faint in their minds, or even deride our efforts, as though our labor were ridiculous, when they see us sedulously engaged in promoting the truth of the gospel; and we ourselves are also touched with this feeling: there is no one who becomes not sometimes frigid, when he sees the beginning of the Church so mean before the world, and so destitute of any dignity. We hence learn how useful it is for us at this day to be reminded, that we shall at length see what we can by no means conjecture or hope for according to present appearances; for though the Lord begins with little things, and as it were in weakness, yet the plummet will at length be seen in the hand of the Architect for the purpose of completing the work. There is at this day no Zerubbabel in the world, to whom the office of building the temple has been committed; but we know that Christ is the chief builder, and that ministers are workmen who labor under him. However then may Satan blind the unbelieving with pride and haughtiness, so that they disdain and ridicule the building in which we labor; yet the Lord himself will show that he is the chief builder, and will give to Christ the power to complete the work.
He afterwards adds, These seven are the eyes of Jehovah, going round through the whole earth. The angel calls the attention of Zechariah to what we have before observed; for the discourse was respecting the plummet, and Zechariah said, that there were shown to him seven eyes in that stone. The angel explains what those seven eyes meant, even that the Lord by his providence would conduct the work to its completion. But we have said that seven eyes are attributed to God, that we may be assured that nothing is hid from him; for no one among men or angels possesses so great a clear-sightedness but that he is ignorant of some things. Many of Gods mysteries, we allow, are hid from angels; but when they are sent forth, they receive as much revelation as their office requires. But the angel shows here, that we ought by no means to fear that anything will happen which God has not foreseen; for the seven eyes, he says, go around through the whole earth: not that God has need of seven eyes; but we know what the number seven means in Scripture; it signifies perfection. fm47
The meaning then is — that God would sufficiently provide that nothing should happen that might disturb him, or turn him aside, or delay him in the execution of his work. How so? because there were seven eyes; that is, he by his providence would surmount all difficulties, and his eyes went round through the whole earth, so that the devil could devise nothing behind or before, on the right hand or on the left, above or below, which he could not easily frustrate. We now then perceive the object of the Prophet.
With regard to the words, some render hla, ale, in the neuter gender, “These are seven, they are the eyes of God.” But as to the sense, there is no ambiguity: for the angel would have the faithful to recumb on God’s providence, in order that they might be secure and fear no danger; as the Lord would remove whatever was contrary to his purpose. It now follows —

11. Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
11. Et respondi et dixi ad eum, Quid duae oleae istae ad dextram candelabri et ad sinstram ejus?
12. And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
12. Et respondi secundo et dixi ad eum, Quid duo alvei (vel, cursus, vertunt alii, spicas) olearum, quae sunt inter duas fistulas auri, fundentes a se aurum?
13. And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
13. Et dixit mihi dicendo, Annon cognoscis quid haec sunt? Et dixi, Non, Domine mi.
14. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
14. Et dixit, Hi sunt duo filii olei qui astant apud Dominatorem cunctae terrae.

The same vision is again related, at least one similar to that which we have just explained; only there is given a fuller explanation, for the Prophet says that he asked the angel what was meant by the two olive-trees which stood, one on the right, the other on the left side of the candlestick, and also by the two pipes of the olive-trees. Some render µylbç, shebelim,ears of corn, thinking that the branches of the olive-trees are compared to ears of corn, because they were full and loaded with berries; but the metaphor seems to me immaterial. The word in Hebrew is indeed ambiguous; but it often means a pipe, or a running or flowing; and this sense best suits this passage; and I wonder that this meaning has been overlooked by all interpreters; for no doubt necessity constrained them to retake themselves to this metaphor, however unnatural it was. But we know that this spectacle was presented to Zechariah in order to show that the olive-tree continually supplied abundance of oil, lest the wick should become dry, and lest the lamps should thus fail. Since then on every side there were pourers or pipes, and three tubes received the oil from one olive-tree, and four received it from the other, so that great abundance thus flowed from the two olive-trees, and since there were also seven pipes, we see how suitable it was that they should be between the olive-trees on the right and on the left, and also that their tubes for the oil should be between the pourers and the two pipes. As then the oil ran through the pourers and passed through the two pipes, he asks the angel what these flowing meant? The answer was, These are the two sons of oil, who stand before the Lord of all the earth; that is, they are the two fountains which supply oil from God himself, lest the lamps should fail through the want of it. fm48 This is the import of the whole.
I have said that there is some difference in the visions though the angel relates hardly anything new, except respecting the flowing and the tubes; but as a new explanation is given, Zechariah no doubt more fully considered what he had slightly looked on before. The more attentive then to the vision the Prophet became, the more confirmed he was; for God showed to him now what he had not sufficiently observed before, namely, that there were pipes or tubes through which the oil flowed into each of the pourers, and further, that these flowing or a continual running of the oil, was like that of a river, which runs through its own channel. But God intended to instruct his Prophet by degrees, that we may learn at this day to apply our thoughts to the understanding of his doctrine; for the instruction to be derived from it is not of an ordinary kind, as I have already reminded you. Indeed the state of things in our time is nearly the same with that of his time: for Christ now renews by the power of his Spirit that spiritual temple which had been pulled down and wholly demolished; for what has been the dignity of the Church for many ages? Doubtless, it has been for a long time in a dilapidated state; and now when God begins to give some hope of a new building, Satan collects together many forces from all parts to prevent the progress of the work. We are also tender and soft, and even faint-hearted, so that hardly one in a hundred labors so courageously as he ought.
We hence then learn how necessary for us is this doctrine: it was not, therefore, to no purpose that the Prophet did not apprehend at once and in an instant what was presented to him in the vision, but made progress by degrees.
We have also mentioned before, that the desire of improvement observed in Zechariah ought to be noticed. For though we attain not immediately what God teaches, yet the obscurity of a passage ought not to damp our ardor; but we ought rather to imitate the Prophet, who, in things difficult and unknown to him, asked explanations from the angel. Angels are not indeed sent now to us from heaven to answer our questions; but yet no one shall be without benefit who will humbly and with a sincere desire ask of God; for God will either by his ministers so elucidate what seems obscure to us and full of darkness, that we shall know that there is nothing but what is clear in his word; or he will by the Spirit of knowledge and judgment supply what is deficient in the ministrations of men.
And this is also the reason why the angel replies, Dost thou not know what these mean? For he does not upbraid Zechariah with ignorance, but rather reminds all the faithful, that they ought to quicken themselves, and to exert all their ardor to learn, lest sloth should close up the way against them. This reply, then, of the angel no doubt belongs to us all, “Dost thou not know what these mean?” We ought to remember that the things we esteem as common far exceed our thoughts. It indeed often happens that one runs over many parts of Scripture, and thinks that he reads nothing but what is clear and well known, while yet experience teaches us that we are inflated with too much self-confidence; for we look down, as it were from on high, on that doctrine which ought, on the contrary, to be reverently adored by us. Then let every one of us, being warned by this sentence of the angel, acknowledge that he as yet cleaves to first principles, or, at least, does not comprehend all those things which are necessary to be known; and that therefore progress is to be made to the very end of life: for this is our wisdom, to be learners to the end.
I come now to the answers of the angel, These are the two sons of oil. Some understand by the two sons of oil a king and a priest; but this is by no means suitable. There is no doubt but that he calls the perpetual flowing the two sons of oil; as though he had said, that it could not possibly be that the grace of God should ever fail to preserve the Church, as God possesses all abundance, and bids his grace so to flow, as that its abundance should never be diminished.
He therefore says, that they stand with the Lord of the whole earth: for l[, ol, sometimes means with, and sometimes concerning; but I prefer taking its simple meaning; therefore, stand do the sons of oil with the Lord. Some render, “nigh the Lord,” but improperly; for they pervert the Prophet’s meaning, inasmuch as the angel means that these two sons of oil stood with God, as though he had said, that there is such fullness of grace in God, that it could never be exhausted. Though then the oil flowed, it would yet be sufficient to replenish the seven lamps, that is, fully; so that God would raise up his Church, preserve it safe, and lead it to the highest perfection. Hence God is not so poor but that he can continually supply as much grace as will be sufficient for the preservation of his Church. How so? because there are two sons of oil, that is, two continual flowing from him, so that the faithful shall really find, that when they are enriched by the gifts of God, they are in no danger of being in want. This is the meaning.
Grant, Almighty God, that since Satan at this day sets against us many terrors to cast us down, and we are very weak, — O grant, that with our eyes lifted above we may meditate on that invincible power which thou possesses, and by which thou canst overcome all the hindrances of this world: and then, when nothing in this world but what is contemptible appears to us as capable to confirm and support our faith, may we, by the eye of faith, behold thine hidden power, and never doubt but that thou wilt at length perform what the world at this day thinks to be impossible and therefore ridicules; and may we so constantly persevere in this confidence, that every one of us may devote to thee his labor to the end, and never faint in the work of promoting the spiritual building, until at length we ourselves shall be gathered, and others shall be gathered through our labors, to offer to thee not only spiritual sacrifices, such as thou receives now from us, but also to offer to thee, together with the angels, eternal sacrifice of praise and triumphant thanksgiving, on seeing perfected what at this day is only weakly begun. — Amen.

1. Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
1. Et reversus sum et extuli oculos meos, et aspexi, et ecce volumen volans.
2. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.
2. Et dixit mihi, Quid tu vides? Et dixit, ego video volumen volans; longitudo ejus viginti in cubito (hoc est, ad viginti cubitos, ) et latitudo ejus decem in cubito (hoc est, ad decem cubitos.)
3. Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.
3. Et dixit mihi, Haec est maledictio, quiae egreditur super faciem universae terrae; quia quisquis furatur, ex hac sicut illa punietur; et quisquis pejerat, ex hac sicut illa punietur.
4. I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.
4. Emittam (vel, producam) eam, dicit Iehova exercituum; et veniet ad domum furantis, et ad domum jurantis in nomine meo fallaciter; et residebit in medio domus ejus, et consumet eam et ligna et lapides ejus.

THE angel shows in this chapter, that whatever evils the Jews had suffered, proceeded from the righteous judgment Of God; and then he adds a consolation — that the Lord would at length alleviate or put an end to their evils, when he had removed afar off their iniquity. Interpreters have touched neither heaven nor earth in their explanation of this prophecy, for they have not regarded the design of the Holy Spirit. Some think that by the volume are to be understood false and perverted glosses, by which the purity of doctrine had been vitiated; but this view can by no means be received. There is no doubt but that God intended to show to Zechariah, that the Jews were justly punished, because the whole land was full of thefts and perjuries. As then religion had been despised, as well as equity and justice, he shows that it was no wonder that a curse had prevailed through the whole land, the Jews leaving by their impiety and other sins extremely provoked the wrath of God. This is the import of the first part. And, then, as this vision was terrible, there is added some alleviation by representing iniquity in a measure, and the mouth of the measure closed, and afterwards carried to the land of Shinar, that is, into Chaldea, that it might not remain in Judea. Thus in the former part the Prophet’s design was to humble the Jews, and to encourage them to repent, so that they might own God to have been justly angry; and then he gives them reason to entertain hope, and fully to expect an end to their evils, for the Lord would remove to a distance and transfer their iniquity to Chaldea, so that Judea might be pure and free from every wickedness, both from thefts and acts of injustice, by which it had been previously polluted. But every sentence must be in order explained, that the meaning of the Prophet may be more clearly seen.
He says, that he had returned; fm49 and by this word this vision is separated front the preceding visions, and those also of which we have hitherto spoken, were not at the same time exhibited to the Prophet, but he saw them at different times. We may hence learn that some time intervened before the Lord presented to him the vision narrated in this chapter. He adds, that he raised up his eyes and looked; and this is said that we may know that what he narrates was shown to him by the prophetic Spirit. Zechariah very often raised up his eyes though God did not immediately appear to him; but it behaved God’s servants, whenever they girded themselves for the purpose of teaching, to withdraw themselves as it were from the society of men, and to rise up above the world. The raising up of the eyes then, mentioned by Zechariah, signified something special, as though he had said, that he was prepared, for the Lord had inwardly roused him. The Prophets also, no doubt, were in this manner by degrees prepared, when the Lord made himself known to them. There was then the raising up of the eyes as a preparation to receive the celestial oracle.
He afterwards adds, that he was asked by the angel what he saw. He might indeed have said, that a roll flying in the air appeared to him, but he did not as yet understand what it meant; hence the angel performed the office of an interpreter. But he says, that the roll was twenty cubits long, and ten broad. The Rabbis think that the figure of the court of the temple is here represented, for the length of the court was twenty cubits and its breadth was ten; and hence they suppose, that the roll had come forth from the temple, that there might be fuller reason to believe that God had sent forth the roll. And this allusion, though not sufficiently grounded, is yet more probable than the allegory of the puerile Jerome, who thinks that this ought to be applied to Christ, because he began to preach the gospel in his thirtieth year. Thus he meant to apply this number to the age of Christ, when he commenced his office as a teacher. But this is extreme trifling. I do not feel anxious to know why the length or the breadth is mentioned; for it seems not to be much connected with the main subject. But if it be proper to follow a probable conjecture, what I have already referred to is more admissible — that the length and breadth of the roll are stated, that the Jews might fully understand that nothing was set before them but what God himself sanctioned, as they clearly perceived a figure of the court of the temple.
The angel then says, that it was the curse which went forth fm50 over the face of the whole land. We must remember what I have just said, that God’s judgment is here set forth before the Jews, that they might know how justly both their fathers and themselves have been with so much severity chastised by God, inasmuch as they had procured for themselves such punishments by their sins. From the saying of the angel, that the roll went through the whole land, we learn, that not only a few were guilty, or that some corner of the land only had been polluted, but that the wrath of God raged everywhere, as no part of the land was pure or free from wickedness. As then Judea was full of pollutions, it was no wonder that the Lord poured forth his wrath and overwhelmed, as it were with a deluge, the whole land.
It afterwards follows, for every thief, or every one that steals, shall on this as on that side, be punished, or receive his own reward; and every one who swears, shall on this as on that side be punished. As to the words, interpreters differ with regard to the particles, hwmk hzm, mese camue; some take the meaning to be, “by this roll, as it is written;” others, “on this side of the roll, as on the other;” for they think that the roll was written on both sides, and that God denounced punishment on thieves as well as on perjurers. But I rather apply the words to the land, and doubt not but that this is the real meaning of the Prophet. As then there is no respect of persons with God, the Prophet, after having spoken of the whole land, says, that no one who had sinned could anywhere escape unpunished, for God would from one part to the other summon all to judgment without any exception. fm51
Now the Prophet says, that all perjurers, as well as thieves, shall be punished; and there is nothing strange in this, for God, who has forbidden to steal, has also forbidden to forswear. He is therefore the punisher of all transgressions. Those who think that this roll was disapproved, as though it contained false and degenerate doctrine, bring this reason to prove its injustice, that the thief is as grievously punished as the perjurer: but this is extremely frivolous. For, as I have said already, God shows here that he will be the defender of his law in whatever respect men may have transgressed it. We must therefore remember that saying of James,
“he who forbids to commit adultery, forbids also to steal: whosoever then offends in one thing is a transgressor of the whole law:” (<590211>James 2:11)
for we ought not simply to regard what God either commands or forbids, but we ought ever to fix our eyes on his majesty, as there is nothing so minute in the law which all ought not reverently to receive; for the laws themselves are not only to be regarded, but especially the lawgiver. As then the majesty of God is dishonored, when any one steals, and when any one transgresses in the least point, he clearly shows that the word of God is not much regarded by him. It is hence right that thieves and perjurers should be alike punished: yet the Scripture while it thus speaks, does not teach that sins are equal in enormity, as the Stoics in former times foolishly and falsely taught. But the equality of punishment is not what is here referred to; the angel means only, that neither thieves nor perjurers shall go unpunished, as they have transgressed the law of God.
We must also observe, that the mode of speaking adopted here is that of stating a part for the whole; for under the word theft is comprehended whatever is opposed to the duties of love; so that it is to be referred to the second table at the law. And the Prophet calls all those perjurers who profane the worship of God; and so perjury includes whatever is contrary to the first table of the law, and tends to pollute the service due to God. The meaning is, — that God, as I have said, will be the punisher of all kinds of wickedness, for he has not in vain given his law. Much deceived then are those who flatter themselves, as though by evasions they can elude the judgment of God, for both thieves and perjurers shall be brought before God’s tribunal, so that no one can escape, that is, no wickedness shall remain unpunished; for not in vain has he once declared by his own mouth, that cursed are all who fulfill not whatever has been written. (<052726>Deuteronomy 27:26.)
And the same thing the Prophet more clearly expresses in the following verse, where God himself declares what he would do, that he would cause the curse to go forth over the whole land; as though he had said, “I will really show, that I have not given the law that it may be despised; for what the law teaches shall be so efficacious, that every one who violates it shall find that he has to do, not with a mortal man, nor with sounds of words, but with the heavenly judge; I will bring forth the curse over the whole land.”
I have said, that the Prophet was instructed in the import of this vision, that all the Jews might know that it was nothing strange that they had been so severely chastised, inasmuch as they had polluted the whole land by their sins, so that no part of the law was observed by them; for on the one hand they had corrupted the worship of God and departed from true religion; and on the other, they distressed one another by many wrongs, and oppressed them by frauds. As then no equity prevailed among the people, nor any true religion, God shows that he would punish them all, as none were guiltless.
He afterwards adds, It shall come into the house of the thief, and into the house of him who swears in my name falsely; and there will it reside, and it shall consume the hoarse, both the wood and the stones. Here the Prophet further stimulates the Jews to repentance, by showing that the curse would so fly as to enter into all their houses; as though he had said, “In vain shall they, who deserve punishment, fortify or shut up themselves; for this curse, which I send forth, shall come to each individual, and with him it shall remain.” We know that hypocrites so flatter themselves, as though they could escape for the moment while God is angry and displeased; but the Prophet shows here that vain is such a hope, for the curse would overtake all the ungodly, and wholly overthrow them; yea, it would consume their houses, both the wood and the stones. In short, he intimates, that punishment ends not until men are reconciled to God. And by these words he reminds us how terrible it is to fall into the hands of God, for he will punish the ungodly and the wicked until he reduces them to nothing. We now then comprehend the design of the Prophet and the meaning of the words. It now follows —

5. Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth.
5. Et egressus est angelus, qui loquebatur mecum, et dixit mihi, Tolle nunc oculos tuos, et aspice quidnam sit illud quod egreditur.
6. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.
6. Et dixi, Quid hoc? et dixit, Hoc modius egrediens (id est, hoc quod egreditur est modius, ad verbum.) Et dixit, Hic oculus eorum in tota terra.
7. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.
7. Et ecce massa plana plumbi ferebatur (vertunt alii, talentum; et [rbk] significat talentum, et significat planitiam etiam Hebrais; ideo non dubito, quin Propheta intelligat lamaniam plumbi, vel massam planam et contusan malleo, ita ut faceret totum operculum, une planque, ut icinus lingua nostra;) et hoc mulier una habitans in medio modii.
8. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.
8. Et dixit, Haec est impietas, et projecit eam in medium modii, et projecit lapidem plumbi (vel, pondus; id est, massam illam extentam instar operculi; projecit ergo) super os ejus (id est, super os modii.)

Here I stop; I intended to add all the verses, but I can hardly finish the whole today. It will be enough for us to understand that this is the second part of the vision, in which the Prophet, in order to relieve or in some measure to mitigate the sorrow of the Jews, shows, that God would not treat them with extreme rigor, so as to punish them as they deserved, but would chastise them with paternal moderation. Hence he says, that a measure appeared to him and a woman in the measure. The woman was wickedness; fm52 there was also a covering of lead, a wide or an extended piece. The plate of lead was borne upwards when the woman was seen in the measure. He then says, that the measure was closed up, and that there impiety was kept hid as a captive in prison. He afterwards adds, that it was driven away into the land of Shinar, very far from Judea, and that wickedness was thus turned over to the enemies of the chosen people.
We see that God, as I have already noticed, gives here a token of favor; for he says that wickedness was shut up in a measure. Though then he had spoken hitherto severely, that he might shake the Jews with dread, it was yet his purpose soon to add some alleviation: for it was enough that they were proved guilty of their sins, that they might humble themselves and suppliantly flee to God’s mercy, and also that repentance might really touch them, lest they should murmur, as we know they had done, but submit themselves to God and confess that they had suffered justly. Since then the angel had already shown that the curse had deservedly gone over the face of the whole land, because no corner was free from wickedness, the angel now adds, that he came to show a new vision, Raise, he says, now thine eyes, and see what this is which goes forth. The Prophet was no doubt cast down with fear, so that he hardly dared to look any longer. As then the curse was flying and passing freely here and there, the Prophet was struck with horror, and not without reason, since he beheld the wrath of God spreading everywhere indiscriminately. This is the reason why the angel now animates him and bids him to see what was going forth. And he tells what was exhibited to him, for he saw a measure; which in Hebrew is hpya, aiphe: fm53 and some render it measure or bushel; others, firkin or cask; but in this there is no difference. When the Prophet saw this measure, he asked the angel what it was: for the vision would have been useless, had he not been informed what the measure and the woman sitting in it signified, and also the lead covering. He therefore asked what they were.
Then the angel answered, This is the measure that goes forth, and this is their eye in all the earth. By saying that the measure is their eye, he no doubt means that the ungodly could not thus be carried away at their own pleasure, but that God restrained them whenever it seemed good to him; for they could not escape his sight. For by their eyes he understands passively the power of seeing in God, by which he notices all the sins of the ungodly, that he may check them when he pleases, when they hurry on without restraint. fm54
But that the meaning of the Prophet may be made more clear, let us first see what wickedness means, — whether it is to be taken for those sins which provoked God’s wrath against the Jews, — or whether for those wrongs which heathen enemies had done. The last is the view I prefer, though if we take it for the wickedness which had previously reigned in Judea, the meaning would not be unsuitable. For as wickedness is hateful to God, his vengeance against the Jews could not have ceased except by cleansing them from their sins, and by renewing them by his Spirit. For they had carried on war with him in such a way, that there was no means of pacifying him but by departing from their sins. And whenever God reconciles himself to melt, he at the same time renews them by his Spirit; he not only blots out their sins, as to the guilt, but also regenerates those who were before devoted to sin and the devil, so that he may treat them kindly and paternally.
With regard then to the subject in hand, both views may be suitably adopted. We may consider the meaning to be, — that God would take away iniquity from Judea by cleansing his Church from all defilements, since the Jews could not partake of his blessing except iniquity were driven afar off and banished. As God then designed to be propitious to his people, he justly says, that he would cause wickedness to disappear from the midst of them. Yet the other view, as I have said, is more agreeable to the context, — that wickedness would not be allowed freely to prevail as before; for we know that loose reins had been given to the cruelty of their enemies, inasmuch as the Jews had been exposed to the wrongs of all. As then they had been so immoderately oppressed, God promises that all unjust violence should be driven afar off and made to depart into the land of Shinar, that is, that the Lord would in turn chastise the Babylonians and reward them as they had deserved. The import of the whole is, that God, who had chosen the seed of Abraham, would be propitious to the Jews, so as to put an slid at length to their calamities.
Now the Prophet says that wickedness, when first seen, was in mid air, and in a measure; but at the same time he calls the measure the eye of the ungodly, for though wickedness extends itself to all parts, yet God confines it within a hidden measure; and this he designates by eyes, whereby he seems to allude to a former prophecy, which we have explained. For he had said that there were seven eyes in the stone of the high priest, because God would carry on by his providence the building of the temple. So also he says, that God’s eyes are upon all the ungodly, according to what is said in the book of Psalms —
“The eyes of the Lord are over the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.” (<193417>Psalm 34:17.)
And this mode of speaking often occurs in Scripture. The meaning then is, that though wickedness spreads and extends through the whole earth, it is yet in a measure; but this measure is not always closed up. However this may be, still God knows how to regulate all things, so that impiety shall not exceed its limits. And this is most true, whatever view may be taken; for when enemies harass the church, though they may be carried along in the air, that is, though God may not immediately restrain their wrongs, they yet sit in a measure, and are ruled by the eyes of God, so that they cannot move a finger, except so far as they are permitted. Let us in a word know, that in a state of things wholly disordered, God watches, and his eyes are vigilant, in order to put an end to injuries. The same also may be said when God gives up to a reprobate mind those who deserve such a punishment; for though he cast them away, and Satan takes possession of them, yet this remains true — that they sit in a measure. They are not indeed shut in; but we ought not, as I have said, to suppose that God is indifferent in heaven, or that sins prevail in the world, as though he did not see them; for his connivance is not blindness. The eyes of God then mark and observe whatever sins are done in the world.
Now the angel adds, that a thin piece of lead was cast over the mouth of the measure, and that wickedness was cast into the measure. The expression, that wickedness was thrown into the measure, may be explained in two ways — either that God would not permit so much liberty to the devil to lead the Jews to sin as before; for how comes it that men abandon themselves to every evil, except that God forsakes them, and at the same time delivers them up to Satan, that he may exercise his tyranny over them? or, that a bridle would be used to restrain foreign enemies, that they might not in their wantonness oppress the miserable people, and exercise extreme violence. God, then, intending to deliver them from their sins, or to check wrongs, shuts up wickedness, as it were, in a measure; and then he adds a cover; and it is said to have been a thin piece, or a weight of lead, because it was heavy; as though the Prophet had said, that whenever it pleased God iniquity would be taken captive, so that it could not go forth from its confinement or its prison. It afterwards follows —

9. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.
9. Et extuli oculos meos et aspexi, et ecce duae mulieres egressae, et Spiritus erat in alis ipsarum, et ipsis alae erant quasi alae milvi (alii vertunt, ciconiam; et mihi magis placet, quanquam parum est momenti;) et extulerunt modium inter terram et inter coelum.
10. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?
10. Et dixi angelo qui loquebatur mecum, Quonam istae deferunt modium?
11. And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.
11. Et dixit mihi, Ad aedificandum ei domum in terra Sinear; et statuetur et stabilietur illic super basim suam. (Ego potero absolvere paucis verbis hoc vaticinum.)

The Prophet says here that such would be the change of things, that God would in turn afflict the Chaldeans, who had so cruelly treated the chosen people. And this is the reason why I think that iniquity is to be taken for the violent injustice and plunder which heathen enemies had exercised towards the Jews. For when he says that a house would be for iniquity in the land of Shinar, it is as though he had said, “as Judea has been for a long time plundered by enemies, and has been exposed to their outrages, so the Chaldeans in their turn shall be punished, not once, nor for a short time, but perpetually; for God will fix a habitation for wickedness in their land.” We hence see the design of the vision, that is, that when God had mercy on his Church its enemies would have to render an account, and that they would not escape God’s hand, though he had employed them to chastise his people.
He says then, that wickedness was taken away, that a house might be made for it, that is, that it might have a fixed and permanent dwelling in the land of Shinar, which means among the Chaldeans, who had been inveterate enemies to the Jews; and as Babylon was the metropolis of that empire, he includes under it all the ungodly who opposed or persecuted the children of God. Why God represents the measure as carried away by women rather than by men does not appear to me, except it was that the Jews might know that there was no need of any warlike preparations, but that their strongest enemies could be laid prostrate by weak and feeble instruments; and thus under the form of weakness his own power would be made evident. The Prophet saw women with wings, because sudden would be the change, so that in one day, as we shall presently see, wickedness was taken away. By the wings of a stork either celerity or strength is indicated. This is the sum of the whole. fm55
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou threatens us with severe punishment to restrain us from sin, we may regard thy judgment, and not abuse thy long-suffering in sparing us for a time; and also that, whenever thou chastises us, we may seriously consider that we deserve thy displeasure, as we have in various ways provoked thy wrath: and may we not at the same time despair or be broken down, but learn so to recomb on thy mercy as not to doubt but that there will be a seasonable end to our evils, and that thou wilt not only mitigate the rigor of punishment as far as necessary for our comfort, but wilt also punish our enemies, so that we may know that nothing is better for us, or more desirable, than to be chastised by thy hand, not that thou mayest destroy us, but recall us to the way of salvation, until we be at length made capable of receiving that favor which has been laid up for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.

1. And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass.
1. Et conversus sum, et levavi oculos meos, et aspexi; et ecce quatuor quadrigae egressae e mdio duorum montium; et montes illi, montes aenei.
2. In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses;
2. In quadriga prima equi rufi, et in quadriga secunda equi nigri,
3. And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses.
3. Et in quiadriga tertia equi albi, et in quadriga quarta equi grandinei. (vel, varii; [µyxwma], robusti, sed potius subscribo eorum sententiae qui vertunt subrufos.)

HERE we have another vision; and the Prophet distinguishes it from the former visions by saying, that he turned, as though he had said, that there had been some intervening time. They were not then continued visions, but he turned himself elsewhere, and then he raised up his eyes, and the Lord revealed to him what he now relates. But as the vision is obscure, interpreters have given it different meanings. They who think that the four Gospels are designated by the four chariots, give a very frigid view. I have elsewhere reminded you, that we are to avoid these futile refinements which of themselves vanish away. Allegories, I know, delight many; but we ought reverently and soberly to interpret the prophetic writings, and not to fly in the clouds, but ever to fix our foot on solid ground. Others think that those changes are meant which we know happened in Chaldea and Assyria. As Nineveh was overthrown that Babylon might be the seat of the empire, they suppose that this is meant by the first chariot, the horses of which were red. Then they think that the Persian empire is intended by the second chariot, as the Jews had at the beginning suffered many grievous evils. Afterwards by the white horses are signified, as they suppose, the Macedonian power, as Alexander treated the Jews with humanity and kindness. By the fourth chariot they understand the Roman Empire, and think that the horses are of different colors, because some of the Caesars raged cruelly against the Jews and the Church of God, and some of them showed more lenity. fm56 But I know not whether these things are well founded.
We see that the fourth chariot went to the south, and wandered through various regions, and almost through the whole world. As then this cannot be applied to Chaldea, the simpler view seems to be — that the four chariots signify the various changes which happened not only in Chaldea and among the Babylonians, but also in Judea and among other nations: and this may be easily gathered from the context. But as all these things cannot be stated at the same time, we shall treat them in the order in which the Prophet relates them. I shall now repeat what I have elsewhere said respecting the words, that he raised up his eyes, as intimating the divine authority of what is predicted. The words indeed signify that he did not bring forward what he had vainly imagined, nor adduce tales which he had himself fabricated, but he was attentive to what was revealed to him; and also that he was somewhat separated from common life in order to be an interpreter between God and men. Hence authority is here ascribed to the prophecy, as Zechariah did not come forth to speak of uncertain things, but as one sent by heaven, for he delivered nothing but what he had received from above.
He now says, that four chariots appeared to him, which came forth from mountains, and that the two mountains where the chariots were seen were mountains of brass. The Prophet no doubt understood by these mountains the providence of God, or his hidden counsel, by which all things have been decreed before the creation of the world; and hence he says, that they were mountains of brass, as they could not be broken. The poets say, that fate is unavoidable (ineluctable); but as this sentiment is profane, it is enough for us to understand it of God’s eternal providence, which is immutable. And here is most fitly described to us the counsel of God; for before things break forth into action they are inclosed as it were between the narrow passes of mountains, inasmuch as what God has decreed is not apparent, but lies hid as it were in deep mountains. Hence we then begin to acknowledge the counsel of God when experience teaches us, that what was previously hid from us has been in this or in that manner decreed. But it was not in vain that Zechariah adds, that they were mountains of brass; it was to teach us that God’s counsel is not changeable as foolish men imagine, who think that God is doubtful as to the issue, and is, as it were, kept in suspense: for according to their notions, events depend on the free-will of men. They entertain the idea that God foreknows what is to come conditionally: as this or that will not be, except it shall please men. And though they confess not that God is changeable, yet we gather from their dotages that there is in God nothing sure and certain. The Prophet therefore says here, that they were mountains of brass, because God has fixed before all ages what he has purposed to be done, and thus fixed it by an immutable decree, which cannot be broken by Satan, nor by the whole world.
We hence see how suitable is this representation when the Prophet says, that chariots went forth from mountains.
With regard to the chariots, we have seen elsewhere that angels are compared to horsemen; for these ride swiftly as it were through the whole world to execute what God commands them: so also whatever changes take place, they are called the chariots of God; for either angels are ready at hand to do anything in obedience to God, or the very events themselves are God’s chariots, that is, they are as it were swift heralds, who announce to us what was before unknown. Let us then know that all fortuitous events, as they are called by the unbelieving, are God’s chariots, are his messengers, who declare and proclaim what was before concealed from us. And there is not in this similitude or metaphor anything strained.
As to the color of the horses, interpreters, as I have already intimated, have toiled with great anxiety; and though I venture not to assert anything as certain, yet the probable conjecture is, that by the black and white horses are designated the Babylonians rather than the Persians, but for a purpose different from what interpreters have thought. For the reference must be to the Jews, when it is said, that black horses and then white horses went forth towards Babylon; for the Holy Spirit intimates, that liberty was given to the Chaldeans to harass the Jews and to fill all places with darkness. The blackness then of which the Prophet speaks signifies the calamities brought on the Jews. The whole of that time was dark, full of grief and sorrow, during which the Chaldeans possessed the oriental empire, and Babylon was the supreme seat of government or of the monarchy. A very different time afterwards succeeded, when the Babylonians were conquered and the Persian enjoyed the oriental empire. The color then was white, for the favor of God shone anew on the Jews, and liberty was immediately given then to return to their own country. We hence see that the Prophet rightly subjoins, that the color of the horses was white; for such was the favor shown to the Jews by the Persian, that the sun of joy arose on them, which exhilarated their hearts. But the Prophet makes no mention of the first chariot as going forth, and for this reason, as interpreters think, because the empire of Babylon was shell overthrown. But they are mistaken in this, as I have already hinted, because they refer not the colors to the state of God’s Church. Hence the Prophet, I doubt not, designedly omits the mention of the going forth of the first chariot, because the Jews had experienced the riding of God’s judgment in their own land, for they had been severely afflicted. As God then is wont to execute his judgment first on his own household, and as it is written, “judgment begins at his own house,” (<600417>1 Peter 4:17,) so he purposed to observe the same order in this case, that is, to chastise the sins of the chosen people before he passed over to the Chaldeans and other nations.
As to the last chariot, the Prophet says, that it went forth toward the south, and then it went elsewhere, and even through the whole world, for God had so permitted.
Now as to the meaning of this Prophecy nothing will remain obscure, if we hold these elements of truth — that all events are designated by the chariots, or all the revolutions which take place in the world — and that the blind power of fortune does not rule, as fools imagine, but that God thus openly makes known to us his own counsel. And why the horses are said to have been, some red, some black, some white, and some somewhat red, fm57 the plain answer is this — because God had sent forth his chariots over Judea, which was full of blood: by this then is meant the red color. But he shows also, that their enemies would have their time, and this had been in part fulfilled; for God had ridden over them with his chariots, having driven his wheels over their land when Nineveh was overthrown. And though the Spirit had not simply a reference to the Assyrians or the Chaldeans, as though he meant by the black color to designate the wars carried on among then, but rather the calamities brought by them on the Jews, yet I consider the black color to mean in general the terrible disturbances which took place through the whole of the least; and the Jews could not expect anything agreeable from that quarter, for shortly after a heavier weight fell on their heads. But in the third place the Prophet adds, that there were white horses, that is, when the time was accomplished in which God intended to deliver his Church.
But he says, that the chariots not only went forth to the East, or to Babylon; but he says, that they also ran through the south, and then visited the whole world. That we may more fully understand this, we must regard the design of the Prophet. He meant here, no doubt, to bring some comfort to the Jews, that they might not succumb under their evils, however sharply God might chastise them. And Zechariah sets before them here two things — first, that no part of the earth, or no country, would be exempt from God’s judgments, for his chariots would pass through all lands; and secondly, that though the chariots of God, terrible in their appearance on account of the black and red color, had visited Judea as well as the north, yet the time had already come in which God, having been pacified, would change the state of things; and therefore, in the third place, he sets before them another color; for God’s chariot had been sent forth through Judea, and then God’s vengeance had visited Nineveh, and afterwards Babylon: only this had rested, because it had been already in part fulfilled, for God had removed the darkness and brought sunshine to the Jews, and that from Chaldea, inasmuch as the Persian, who then possessed the empire, had begun to treat the Jews with kindness. It now follows —

4. Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord?
4. Et respondi et dixi ad Angelum, qui loquebatur mecum, Quid haec sunt, Domine mi?
5. And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.
5. Et respondi Angelus et dixit mihi, Hi quatuor spiritus sunt coelorum, egredientes e statione apud dominatorem cunctae terrae, (alii vertunt, Hi, vel, hae quadrigae, ad quatuor ventos coelorum egrediuntur e loco ubi stant apud dominatorem, etc.)

The Prophet asks the angel again; and by his example we are taught to shake off every indifference, and to render ourselves both teachable and attentive to God if we desire to make progress in the knowledge of these predictions; for if Zechariah, who had separated himself from the world and raised up his eyes and his mind to heaven, stood in need of the teaching and guidance of the angel to instruct him, how much folly and arrogance is it in us to trust in ourselves and to despise the gift of interpretation. But as angels are not sent to us from heaven to explain to us the prophecies, let us avail ourselves of those helps which we know is offered to us by God. There is here prescribed to us both docility, and reverence, and attention. Let us also remember, that as soon as men submit themselves to God, the gift of revelation is prepared for them; for it is not in vain that God is often called the teacher of babes. Whosoever then shall be disposed to learn with real meekness and humility, shall not be disappointed of his desire; for we see here that the angel performed his part in teaching Zechariah.
I come now to the words, The angel answered, These are four spirits, etc. Some give another rendering, These chariots go forth to the four winds, or parts of heaven; but this is forced, and the words simply mean, “these are four spirits.” The word spirit, I have no doubt, has led interpreters astray, for they have thought it frigid to call different events winds or quarters of the world. But I take this word in a different sense, that is, as designating the impulses of God. I do not then understand them to be four winds, but the secret emotions produced by God. Though God’s Spirit is one, yet all actions proceed from him, and whatever is done in the world can with no impropriety be attributed to his Spirit. It is yet certain, that the Prophet alludes to the four quarters of the world, as though he had said, that nothing happens in the world which has not been decreed in heaven; for God’s providence includes under it the whole world. Though then the universe is designated here, yet by the Spirit the Prophet means those secret movements which proceed from the eternal counsel and providence of God. And it is a very apt metaphor; for the word Spirit is set in opposition to fortune. We have already said, that profane men imagine that fortune possesses a blind power, but the Prophet says, that all revolutions seen in the world proceed from the Spirit of God, and that they are as it were his spirits or ambassadors. fm25a
We now then perceive the real meaning of the Prophet when the angel says, that these were the four spirits of heaven. And the word heaven is by no means added in vain, for the Prophet seems here to exclude all other causes, so that sovereignty might remain with God only. For though God works often by instruments, or intermediate causes, as they say, yet his own hidden decree ought to be placed first. This is the reason why he says that they were the spirits of heaven; he says it, that we may not think that God is dependent on the will of men, or is blended with the intervening causes, but that he himself has fixed whatever he has in his good pleasure determined. We hence see, that they who render the words, “into the four parts of heaven,” have not sufficiently considered the intention of the Prophet.
He then says, that they went forth from their station before the Lord of the whole earth. Now the Prophet calls that space between the two mountains of brass their station before God. Let us hence know that God does not adopt suddenly new counsels, and that he is not like us who, in emergencies or on occasions unlooked for, attempt this and then that; but that his course is very different, and that things in heaven do not revolve up and down, for the chariots here had a fixed and undisturbed station. For though they were chariots capable of moving quickly, they yet remained still and, as it were, fixed, until God permitted their going forth. We hence learn that when God seems to us to rest, he does not sit idly in heaven, as ungodly men foolishly talk, but that he there determines whatever he intends at a suitable time to do. And then when he says, that the chariots stood before God, we may hence conclude, that what seems to be contingently to us is fixed in God’s counsel, so that there is a necessity at the same time. How comes it, that the greater part of mankind think that all things are contingent, except that they continue looking at nature only? The will of man is changeable; then changeable is everything that proceeds from the will of man. The tree also either becomes scorched through heat, or dies through cold, or brings forth fruit. They hence conclude that everything is contingent, for there appears to be a changeable variety. When men thus judge of things by nature alone, it is no wonder that they think that contingency reigns in the world. But the Prophet distinguishes here between the things of nature and the counsel of God; for he says, that the chariots stood, and went forth when God commanded them. Was there no motion in the wheels? nay, the chariots were from the first ready to move, how was it then that they rested? even because they were detained by the secret purpose of God. Now when he sends them forth they show that celerity which was naturally in them. We hence clearly learn, that those things happen by nature which seem capable of being done in two ways, and that yet the counsel of God is always fulfilled, so that immutable necessity presides, which is at the same time hid from us. The Prophet adds, that the first chariot had red horses. I have now explained the whole of this: what is subjoined remains —

6. The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grisled go forth toward the south country.
6. In qua sunt equi nigri, exeunt ad terram Aquilonis, et albi exeunt post eos, et variegati, (aspersi vario colore, ) exunt ad terram Australem.
7. And the bay went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth: and he said, Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth. So they walked to and fro through the earth.
7. Et subrufi (dicam iterum de voce) exierunt, et postularunt ut perambularent in terra: et dixit, Ite, perambulate in terra; et pereambularunt in terra.

Zechariah explains here each part of the prophecy; but he shows at the same time that two of the chariots hastened towards Chaldea, that it might not be grievous to the Jews that they in the first place had to experience God’s judgment. He then shows that God sent his messengers to all parts; but that there had been, or were to be, remarkable and extraordinary changes, especially among the Babylonians. It hence appeared evident, that God had a care for his own people, who had been driven there into exile. And I leave already stated the reason why he speaks here of red horses; for they are mistaken who think that the first chariot was sent into Chaldea; for I consider that this refers to the Jews, with whom God’s judgment commenced. He then says, that two chariots went towards Babylon, the first was drawn by black horses, and the other by white, because of the kindness shown by the Persian, by whom a new light of joy was brought to the Jews.
With regard to the land of the south, the Prophet no doubt alludes to the Egyptians. But he afterwards adds, that the last chariot was conveyed elsewhere, even through the whole world. Some render µyxwma, amustim, strong; and this is the proper meaning of the word, for xma, amets, properly means to fortify, to strengthen; but as color is intended here, it seems probable to me that it means somewhat red, as some of the Rabbis teach us; for the Prophet mentioned another word before, µydrb, beredim, grilled. Hence some interpreters join together the two, and say that the horses were grisled, or spotted like hail, and then that they were µyxwma, amutsim, somewhat red. Jerome seems to me to have sufficiently refuted this opinion, because the other horses were µymda, ademim, red, but these were of different colors. And further, it can hardly be suitable to say, that these alone were strong horses who drew this chariot; for we know that God so wonderfully exercised his power against the Chaldeans that two chariots went forth to them, and they would not have been drawn by weak and feeble horses. I hence think that their color is here designated, and the Prophet calls them once grilled, and then somewhat red.
But he says, that being not satisfied with the land of the south, they asked of God permission to go to and fro through the whole world. And though neither the devil nor the wicked regard God’s bidding, but are led, without knowing and against their will, wherever God drives them; yet the Prophet says, that they asked; for they could not overstep the limits prescribed to them. Though Satan asked, as to Job, to be allowed to do this and that, we are not yet too curiously to inquire whether Satan asks leave of God whenever he intends to attempt anything; for there is no doubt but that he is carried away by his violent rage to try in every way to overturn the government of God. But this only ought to satisfy us — that neither Satan nor the wicked can advance one inch, except as God permits them. The meaning then is, that after the last chariot went forth first to the land of the south, a permission was given to it to go through the whole world. He now adds —

8. Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
8. Et vocavit me et locutus est mecum, dicendo, Vide, qui egrediuntur ad terram Aquilonis quiescere fecerunt spiritum meum in terra Aquilonis.

From this verse we learn that the chief object of the vision was — that the Jews might know that the dreadful tumults in Chaldea, which had in part happened, and were yet to take place, were not excited without a design, but that all things were regulated by God’s hidden counsel, and also that God had so disturbed and embarrassed the state of that empire, that the end of it might be looked for. There is therefore no reason for any one too anxiously to labor to understand the import of every part of the prophecy, since its general meaning is evident. But why does the angel expressly speak of the land of the south rather than of the land of the north, or of the whole world? Even because the eyes of all were fixed on that quarter; for Chaldea, we know, had been as it were the grave of the Church, whence the remnant had emerged, that there might be some people by whom God might be worshipped. The angel then invites the Jews here to consider the providence of God, so that they might know that whatever changes had taken place in that country, had proceeded from the hidden counsel of God.
The words, they have quieted my spirit, are understood by interpreters in two ways. Some think that God’s favor towards his people is here designated, as though he had said, that he was already pacified; but others, by the word spirit, understand the vengeance of God, because he had sufficiently poured forth his wrath on the Chaldeans; and both meanings are well adapted to the context. For it was no common solace to the Jews, that God had poured forth his wrath on the Babylonians until it was satiated, as when one ceases not to be angry until he has fulfilled his desire, and this mode of speaking often occurs in Scripture. I am therefore disposed to embrace the second explanation — that God began to be quieted after the second chariot had gone forth; for he was then reconciled to his chosen people, and their deliverance immediately followed. That the Jews might know that God would be propitious to them, he bids them to continue quiet and undisturbed in their minds, until these chariots had run their course through the whole of Chaldea; for what the angel now says would be fulfilled, even that the Spirit of God would be quieted, who seemed before to be disturbed, when he involved all things in darkness, even in Judea itself. fm58
Grant, Almighty God, that since we are here exposed to so many evils, which often suddenly arise like violent tempests, — O grant, that with hearts raised up to heaven, we may acquiesce in thy hidden providence, and be so tossed here and there according to the judgment of our flesh, as yet to remain fixed in this truth, which thou wouldest have us to believe — that all things are governed by thee, and that nothing takes place except through thy will, so that in the greatest confusions we may always clearly see thine hand, and that thy counsel is altogether right, and perfectly and singularly wise and just; and may we ever call upon thee, and flee to this port — that we are tossed here and there, that thou mayest ever sustain us by thine hand, until we shall at length be received into that blessed rest which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
9. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
9. Et fuit sermo Iehovae ad me, dicendo,
10. Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;
10. Sume ex transmigratione, nempe ab Heldai, et a Tobia, et a Jedaia; et vade tu die illo, inquam, ad domum Josiae filii Zephaniae, qui venerunt e Babylone;
11. Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
11. Et sume argentum et aurum, et fac coronas, et ponc super caput Iehosuae filii Iozedec, sacerdotis magni.

This vision was given to Zechariah that he might inspire weak minds with better hope; for the Jews found that they were hardly pressed on every side by their neighbors, inasmuch as enemies rose up against them before and behind, so that there was no end to their troubles. Hence they who had returned from exile thought themselves wretched in such a state of things. They might indeed have lived in quietness among the Babylonians, and they had become accustomed to that kind of life, so that exile was not so very grievous to them. Thus then the favor of God was turned unto loathing, and was almost hated by them; for they thought it better to be deprived of their country, than to be daily exposed to new assaults. And further, the possession of the land was not of itself desirable, except with reference to the hope given them; that is, because God had promised by his Prophets that the kingdom of David would again be made glorious, and also that the grandeur and glory of the temple would be greater than ever before. When the Jews found themselves continually harassed by their enemies, they thought that all that had been promised was in vain. There is therefore no doubt but that many complaints and many clamors were everywhere raised. Hence that they might cease thus to murmur against God, this vision was given to the Prophet, in which he is bid to take silver and gold from four men, and to make two crowns to be set on the head of Joshua the high priest. The design was to make the Jews to feel assured, that the state of the people would be as safe as it was formerly, when the kingly office and the priesthood flourished: for these were the chief ornaments, or the two eyes, as it were, of the body — the priest, a mediator between God and men — and the king, sustaining the person of God in governing the people.
We hence see that by the two crowns is set forth the restoration of the Church: but we must also observe that the two crowns are placed on the head of Joshua, which was new and unusual. A mitre, we know, was given to the priests; and we know also that kings were adorned with a diadem; but no one individual was to wear a royal diadem and a sacerdotal mitre. Here then we find a union of royalty and priesthood in the same person, which had never before been the case; for God had in his law made a distinction between the two offices. We hence see that something unknown before is set forth by this prophecy, even this, that the same person would be both a king and a priest. For what Jerome says, among other things, that there might have been many crowns, is weak and frivolous; and further, he contradicts the words of the Prophet; for shortly after he subjoins, that there would be a counsel of peace between the two; that is, between royalty and priesthood. As to what the same author thinks, that there was one crown given to the high priest, it is also false; besides, he subverts as far as he can the whole doctrine of the Prophet. But I leave these trifles; for there is no ambiguity in Zechariah’s words when he says, that God commanded him to take silver and gold, that he might make two crowns to set on the head of the high priest. We now perceive the design of the Prophet as to the object of the prophecy, and also the meaning of the words.
Let us now inquire, why the Prophet was bid to take gold from four men; for he says, Take from the transmigration. The word hlwgh, egule, is to be taken in a collective sense, as in many other places. Take then from the exiles, who have now returned from Babylon to their own country. But he afterwards mentions four men; and there is some abruptness in the passage, but nothing that obscures the meaning of the Prophet; for he says, Take frown Heldai, and from Tobiah, and from Jedaiah; and then he adds, go in that day, enter the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. The Prophet no doubt had been commanded to go to these four, and to enter the house of one of them; and this is evident from the end of the tenth verse, where he says, who have come from Babylon. fm59 He had spoken only of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; and then he adds, that they had come from Babylon. I come now to the answer. Some interpreters think that these four men supplied the gold and the silver, because they were chief men among the people, and excelled others in piety. Hence they think that these four men were chosen, as a mark of distinction, to supply the gold and the silver to make the crowns: but I conjecture from the end of the chapter that their weakness is here pointed out, even because they were weak in faith and did not believe the promises of God, and thus disheartened others by their example. It is indeed certain that they were men in high authority, and excelled all others, so that the eyes of all were fixed on them; this is certain. But yet their want of faith is what is here reproved, because they did not attend sufficiently to God’s promises, and thought themselves disappointed of their hope; for they had left Babylon, where they enjoyed great abundance, and returned to the holy land, and found it uncultivated and desolate. There was indeed required great patience, when they had to plow among thorns and brambles; for that land, as I have already said, had not been regularly cultivated. Those indeed who had been sent from the East, dwelt here and there in it; but lions and wild beasts had come into it, so that the desolation of the land rendered much work necessary, when the Jews returned. I hence doubt not but that the Holy Spirit does here reprove these four men, who ought to have been leaders and standard-bearers to others; on the contrary, they broke down the confidence of the common people. And this, I say, may be learnt from the end of the chapter, where God commands the two crowns to be placed in the temple, to be a memorial to them, that they might see there the condemnation of their unbelief, as we shall show in its place.
The Prophet is bid to set the two crowns on the head of the high priest. This, as I have said, was intended as a symbol to denote the union of the two dignities in the person of Christ. It was necessary until the coming of Christ to select the high priest from the posterity of Aaron; and it was also required that the kings should be from the seed of David; so that we observe a distinction between the royal office and the priesthood, not only as to the persons, but also as to the families. It would have indeed been a strange thing to see a king from the tribe of Levi; and it would have been contrary to God’s appointed order to see a priest from the tribe of Judah and from the family of David. Since then the king was adorned with his own diadem, and since the high priest had his own proper mitre, what could this mean, but that the same man was to wear two crowns? Doubtless we observe that there is here some change in the past order of things, and that there is something unusual set forth. But there is nothing new in this, — that the Redeemer, who had been promised, should be eminent as a king and a priest; for this had been predicted in the hundred and tenth Psalm, “Jehovah said to my Lord, sit on my right hand,” — this is what belongs to the right of a king; it afterwards follows, “Thou art a priest for ever, according to the order of Melchizedec.” Though kings must then have been chosen from the family of David and the tribe of Judah, and though priests must have then been taken from the Levitical tribe, yet the Spirit foretold, that a king would come who was to be a priest, as had been the case with Melchisedec. This very thing is what the Prophet now confirms.
Zechariah being ordered to set the crowns on the head of Joshua, we are not so to regard this, as though Joshua had immediately undertaken the two offices of a king and a priest; for he was satisfied with his own: but the Prophet shows in the type what was to be looked for at the coming of the Messiah; for the time had not yet come, when Christ should receive the royal diadem, as it is said in Ezekiel, —
“Take away the diadem;. set it aside, set it aside, set it aside, until he shall come, whose it is.” (<262126>Ezekiel 21:26,27.)
We here see that the Prophet points out a length of time, during which the royal diadem was to be trodden as it were under foot. Though the royal crown had not yet laid in the dust sufficiently long, yet the Prophet did nothing presumptuously; for the Jews could not have conceived in their mind what is here promised, had not the typical priest come forth, wearing the two crowns. Nor could this have been so suitable to the person of Zerubbabel; for though he was of the family of David, and was a type of Christ, he had not yet the name of a king, nor had he any regal power: he could not therefore have been so suitable a person. It is then no wonder that God brought forth the high priest Joshua, who was a type and representative of Christ; and he brought him forth with a double crown, because he who was to come would unite, according to what follows, the priesthood with the kingly office.

ZECHARIAH 6:12, 13
12. And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:
12. Et dic ad eum, dicendo (loquere ad eum, dicendo; repetitur bis idem verbum;) sic dicit Iehova exercituum, dicendo, Ecce vir, Germen nomen ejus; et e loco suo germinabit, et aedificabit templum Iehovae;
13. Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.
13. Et ipse aedificabit templum Iehovae, et ipse gestabit decus (vel, gloriam) et sedebit, et dominabitur super solium suum; et erit sacerdos super solium suum, et consilium pacis erit inter hos duos (vel, inter utrumque.)

The vision is now explained; for if the chief priest, without this explanation, had been adorned with two crowns, there must have been much talk among the people, “What means this?” God here shows that what he has commanded to be done to Joshua does not belong to him, but has a reference to another, Thou shalt say to him, Behold the Man, Branch is his name. It is the same as though the Prophet had expressly testified that Joshua was not crowned, because he was worthy of such an honor, or because he could look for royal dignity; but that he was to bear this honor for a time, in order that the Jews might understand that one was to arise who would be both a king and a priest. Hence he says, that there would be a man, whose name was to be Branch.
As to this name, it has been explained elsewhere. I omit those refinements with which some are delighted; but as I have shown in another place, the simple and true reason why Christ is so called, is, because he was not like a tall tree, with deep and strong roots, but like a small plant. He is indeed called in another place, “a shoot from the root of Jesse.” (<231101>Isaiah 11:1.) But the meaning is the same; for that root of Jesse was obscure and of no repute. Besides, this kind of shoot has nothing in it that is illustrious. We hence see that Christ is called Branch, because his beginning was contemptible, so that he was of hardly any repute among heathens; nay even among his own nation. But God intimates at the same time, that this little plant would be set, as it were, by his own hand, and thus would gather strength. Though then the beginning of Christ was humble, yet God declares, that he would give vigor for continued growth, until he should attain to a great height. In this sense it is that Christ is called Branch: and we clearly conclude, that the minds of the people were transferred to Christ who was to come, that they might not fix their attention on Joshua, who was then but a typical priest. Say to Joshua, Behold the man, whose name is Branch. Where is that man? He does not speak of Joshua; he does not say, “Thou art the man;” but he says, Behold the man, whose name is Branch, that is, who comes elsewhere. We then hence learn, that these crowns were those of Christ, but given to Joshua, that the Jews might see in the type, what was as yet hid under hope.
He afterwards adds, He shall arise from himself, or grow up from his own place, literally, from under himself. Here also some have too refinedly philosophised, — that Christ arose from himself by his own power, because he is the eternal God. I think, on the contrary, that all human means are only excluded, as though the Prophet had said, that though Christ was like a little plant, he would yet grow up as though he had roots deeply fixed in the earth. There is indeed no doubt, but that Christ grew up by his own celestial power, and this is what the words of the Prophet include; but what he meant was this, — that Christ had nothing in his beginning calculated to draw the admiration of men. Though then Christ was only a shoot, yet God had sufficient power, that he should grow from his own place, fm60 that though human means were absent, it would yet be enough, that God should bless this branch, so as to cause it to grow to its proper height.
He then says, And he shall build the temple of Jehovah. This is a remarkable passage: it hence appears that the temple which the Jews had then begun to build, and which was afterwards built by Herod, was not the true temple of which Haggai had prophesied, when he said,
“The glory of the second house shall be greater
than that of the first.” (<370209>Haggai 2:9.)
For though the temple of Herod was splendid, yet we see what the Spirit declares in this place, — that to build the temple would be Christ’s own work. Hence no one, had he heaped together all the gold and the silver of the world, could have built the true temple of which Haggai prophesied, and of which Ezekiel has so largely spoken near the end of his book. Christ alone then has been chosen by the Father to build this temple. Christ indeed himself was a temple as to his body, for the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him, (<510206>Colossians 2:6;) but he built a temple to God the Father, when he raised up everywhere pure worship, having demolished superstitions, and when he consecrated us to be a royal priesthood.
We now then see what was shown to the Prophet, — that though the Jews were then exposed to many evils, to reproaches and wrongs, yet Christ would come to restore all things to a perfect order, that he would be not only a king but also a priest; and further, that his beginning would be obscure and despised by the world, and yet that he would attain without any earthly helps his own elevation; and, lastly, that his own proper office would be to build a temple to God.
He repeats the last thing which he had said, Even he shall build the temple of Jehovah. The Prophet seems here to reiterate to no purpose the same words without any additions of light: but it seems evident to me, that he meant in this way to confirm and sanction what seemed difficult to be believed. As the temple, then, begun at that time to be built, had but little splendor and glory connected with it, and could hardly be expected to become a better or more adorned building, the Prophet reiterates this promise, He, he shall build the temple of Jehovah; by which he means, “Let not your eyes remain fixed on this temple, for to look at it weakens your faith and almost disheartens you; but hope for another temple which ye see not now, for a priest and a king shall at length come to build a better and a more excellent temple.”
He afterwards subjoins, Bear shall he the glory, and shall sit and rule on his throne. He fully confirms what we have already referred to — that this man, who was to grow by God’s hidden power, would be made both a king and a priest, but by no earthly instrumentality. In the words, bear shall he the glory, there is no doubt an implied contrast between Joshua and Christ, the true priest. For Joshua, though he discharged in his time the office of a priest, was yet despised; but the Prophet bids his people to hope for more than what could have been conceived from the view of things at that time; for an illustrious priest was to come, full of royal dignity. And hence he adds, sit shall he and rule on his throne. This did not properly belong to the priesthood; but the Prophet affirms, that the man who was to come from above, would be a king, though he exercised the priestly office. He was then to be a priest, and yet to be on his throne and to rule as a king; and ruling is what belongs to a king and not to a priest.
At length he concludes by saying, The counsel of peace shall be between the two. I do not think that the discords which had been between kings and priests are here indirectly reproved. I indeed allow that such discords had often been seen among that ancient people; but the Prophet had regard to something far different, even this — that the priesthood would be united with the kingly office. He therefore did not refer to different persons who were to be at peace together; but, on the contrary, spoke of things or of the two offices; there shall then be the counsel of peace between the two, that is, between the kingly office and the priesthood. fm61 We hence learn that which I have already stated — that what is here promised had not been found under the law, and could not have been expected under it; and that the fulfillment of this prophecy is the renovation which took place at the coming of Christ. It follows —

14. And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the LORD.
14. Et coronae erunt ipsi Chelem (pro Chadai, probabilis conjectura est fuisse hunc binomium, sicut etiam Iosia filius Zephaniae vocatur etiam Chen; erunt ergo tam ipsi Chelem quam) Tobiae et Iodaiae filio Zephaniae in memoriale in Templo Iehovae.

They who think that the crowns were deposited with these four men, pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for they were, on the contrary, placed in God’s temple to be a memorial to them. It hence appears; that, as I have already said, they were not required to supply the gold, because they excelled all others in piety and holiness, but because it was necessary to condemn their want of faith, inasmuch as they thought that their hope was disappointed, as God did not immediately fulfill what he had promised. Let then these crowns, saith the Spirit, be a memorial to them, that is, that whenever they look on these crowns they may check themselves and know that their expectations are very unreasonable, and that they themselves are too hasty when they wish all prophecies to be accomplished in one day; and also that the whole people may know that they had complained without reason, as these suspended crowns shall be a memorial and a testimony. We now then see more clearly why the Prophet had been ordered to take gold and silver from these four men: it was, that he might make crowns, which were afterwards to be deposited in God’s temple. At length he adds —

15. And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.
15. Et longinqui venient, et aedificabunt in templo Iehovae; et scietis quod Iehova ed Iehova exercituum miserit me ad vos: et erit si audiendo audieritis vocem Iehovae Dei vestri.

The Prophet also states, that men would come from remote lands to contribute labor or wealth towards the building of the temple; for the word building may refer to either of these two things. Come then shall those from far. Before this time gifts had been presented by Gentile nations, but the temple was not built but by Solomon and his people. God then promises here something more, and that is, that helpers would assist in building the temple, who had been till then wholly aliens. It is indeed certain, that in the age of Zechariah contributions had been made by Cyrus; but the Prophet refers to nothing of this kind: he promises something more. It hence follows that this prophecy must necessarily be referred to the promulgation of the gospel; for then it was that strangers began to contribute their labor and their wealth towards building a temple to God. Though then Cyrus gave a large sum of money towards the erection of the temple, yet the allusion here is not to his liberality. And after Cyrus no stranger had been so liberal: for Herod, who raised up a great and a very splendid building, was not from far; nay, he wished to be thought one of the people. We then see that this prophecy cannot be otherwise referred than to the building of the spiritual temple, when Gentiles, formerly remote from God’s people, joined them as friends, and brought their labor to the work of building the temple, not with stones or wood, or with other corruptible materials, but with the doctrine and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
He then adds, ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me to you. Of this kind of knowledge we have spoken elsewhere. It indeed behaved the Jews from the first to feel assured respecting the truth of this prophecy; but when the effect or experience itself was added, they then began to know more clearly. It is then the same as thought the Prophet had said, “God, who speaks by my mouth, will not disappoint you, as he will at length accomplish what I now declare; and experience itself will be a witness that I have been a true and faithful Prophet.” And he calls Him the God of hosts, that the Jews, hearing that what he had said proceeded from Him whose power is infinite, might be confirmed in their faith. There was then no reason for them to doubt as to the accomplishment, for there is nothing that can resist God, when it pleases him to unfold his power.
It follows, If by hearing ye will hear the voice of Jehovah your God. Zechariah promises to the Jews here conditionally — if they became obedient to God, and continued in obedience to his word and in his doctrine; for unbelief deprives men of all participation in God’s favor. It is indeed true that had all become unbelieving, Christ would have come; for God as he is true would not change his purpose were the whole world to become false. Since then the faithfulness of God depends not on men, we ought not so to take what the Prophet says here, If ye will hear the voice of Jehovah, as though they could, by being unfaithful to God, have rendered void the accomplishment of this prophecy. Their defection, then, yea, that of the whole nation, could not have prevented Christ from coming forth in his own appointed time. But the Prophet had another thing in view, even this — that the Jews would become partakers of this blessing, or would enjoy, so to speak, this favor, if they embraced God’s promise, and obediently submitted to his law. For though Christ has already come as the Redeemer of the world, yet we know that this benefit is not come to all, and why? Because many through unbelief close the door against God and his grace through Christ. Hence the faithful alone really know that God has spoken, and really partake of his favor, and for this reason, because they hear his voice; that is, they first by faith receive what God offers, and then they fall not away from his truth, but continue in the obedience of faith to the end.
What the Prophet then had in view, was to show to the Jews that those things were spoken in vain, as to them, if they did not attend to God. And he shows the way in which they were to be attentive, even by hearing the voice of God, that is, by renouncing their own thoughts, and by not esteeming God untrue, though he promised what seemed incredible. If then they denied themselves, banished their own imaginations, wholly attended to God’s word, and believed what he had said as a Prophet, he assures them that they would really find that which he taught them to be true to their own salvation, even this — that Christ would come to be a king and a priest, to secure perfect happiness to his people.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thy Son has been made known to us, through whom is brought to us the perfection of all blessings and of true and real glory, — O grant, that we may continue settled in him, and never turn here and there, nor fluctuate in any way, but be so satisfied with his kingship and priesthood, as to deliver up ourselves wholly to his care and protection, and never doubt but that we are so sanctified by his grace as to be now acceptable to thee, and that relying on him as our Mediator, we may offer ourselves as a sacrifice to thee with full confidence of heart, and thus strive to glorify thee through the whole course of our life, that we may at length be made partakers of that celestial glory which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten Son. — Amen.

1. And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;
1. Et factus est (datus est, ) anno quarto Darii regis, sermo Iehovae ad Zachariam, quarta die mensis noni Chisleu;
2. When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,
2. Nam miserat in domum Dei (hoc est, Templum) Sareezer et Regem-melech et viros ejus ad deprecandam faciem Iehovae (aut, Miserat in domum Dei Sareezer et Regem-melech, in nominativo casu, et viri ejus ad deprecandam faciem Iehovae:)
3. And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
3. Ad dicendum sacerdotibus qui erant in domo Iehovae exercituum, et Prophetis, dicendo, An flebo mense, quinto? Separabo me? quemadmodum feci his annis? (est turbata series verborum, quemadmodum solitus sum facere his annis?)

THERE is no vision here, but the answer which Zechariah was commanded to give to the messengers of the captives: for he says that some had been sent from Chaldea to offer sacrifices to God, and at the same time to inquire whether the fast, which they had appointed when the city was taken and destroyed, was to be observed. But there is some ambiguity in the words of the Prophet, for it is doubtful whether the two whom he names, even Sherezer and Regem-melech, together with the others, had sent the messengers of whom mention is made, or they themselves came and brought the message from the captives. But this is a matter of no great moment. As to the question itself, I am disposed to adopt their view, who think that these two came with their associates to Jerusalem, and in the name of them all inquired respecting the fast, as we shall hereafter see. fm62 The Jews think that these were Persian princes; but this opinion is frivolous. They are thus accustomed to draw whatever occurs to the glory of their own nation without any discretion or judgment, as though it had been an object much desired by the Jews, that two Persian should go up to the temple. But there is no need here of a long discussion; for if we regard the Prophet’s design, we may easily conclude that these were Jews who had been sent by the exiles, both to offer gifts and to inquire about the fast, as the Prophet tells us. The sum of the whole then is, that Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their companions, came to the temple, and that they also asked counsel of the priests and Prophets, whether the fast of the fifth month was still to be observed.
It must first be observed, that though all had not so much courage as to return to their own country as soon as leave was given them, they were not yet gross despisers of God, and wholly destitute of all religion. It was indeed no light fault to remain torpid among the Babylonians when a free return was allowed them; for it was an invaluable kindness on the part of God to stretch forth his hand to the wretched exiles, who had wholly despaired of a return. Since then God was prepared to bring them home, such a favor could not have been neglected without great ingratitude. But it was yet the Lord’s will that some sparks of grace should continue in the hearts of some, though their zeal was not so fervid as it ought to have been. The same sloth we see in the present day to be in many, who continue in the filth of Popery; and yet they groan there, and the Lord preserves them, so that they do not shake off every concern for religion, nor do they wholly fall away. All then are not to be condemned as unfaithful, who are slothful and want vigor; but they are to be stimulated. For they who indulge their torpor act very foolishly; but at the same time they ought to be pitied, when there is not in them that desirable alacrity in devoting themselves to God, which they ought to have. Such an instance then we see in the captives, who ought to have immediately prepared themselves for the journey, when a permission was given them by the edicts of Cyrus and Darius. They however remained in exile, but did not wholly renounce the worship of God; for they sent sacred offerings, by which they professed their faith; and they also inquired what they were to do, and showed deference to the priests and Prophets then at Jerusalem. It hence appears, that they were not satisfied with themselves, though they did not immediately amend what was wrong. There are many now, who, in order to exculpate themselves, or rather to wipe away (as they think) all disgrace, despise God’s word, and treat us with derision; nay, they devise crimes with which they charge us, with the view of vilifying the word of the Lord in the estimation of the simple. But the Prophet shows that the captives of whom he speaks, though not so courageous as they ought to have been were yet true servants of God; for they sent sacrifices to the temple, and also wished to hear and to learn what they were to do.
He says first, that messengers were sent to entreat the face of Jehovah. Here by the word entreating or praying, the Prophet means also sacrifices. For it is certain that the Jews prayed in exile, as there could have been no religion in them had they not exercised themselves in prayer. But the mention made here is of that stated prayer, connected with sacrifices, by which they professed themselves to be God’s people. We may hence also learn, that sacrifices of themselves are of no great importance, since prayer, or calling on God, has ever the first place. Sacrifices then, and other offerings, were, as we may say, additions; (accessoria — accessions;) for this command ought ever to be regarded by the faithful,
“offer to me the sacrifice of praise.” (<195014>Psalm 50:14.)
He says, in the second place, that messengers were sent, that they might learn from the priests and the Prophets what was to them doubtful. We hence conclude, that it was no gross dissimulation, such as is found in hypocrites who pretend to pray to God, but that there was a real desire to obey. And, doubtless, when God’s word and celestial truth are despised, there is then neither any real prayer, nor any other religious exercise; for unbelief pollutes and contaminates whatever is otherwise in its nature sacred. Whosoever then desires rightly to pray to God, let him add faith, that is, let him come to God in a teachable frame of mind, and seek to be ruled by his word. For the Prophet in telling us what was done, no doubt keeps to the method or the order observed by the captives. It was then worthy of praise that they not only were anxious to seek God’s favor by prayers and sacrifices, but that they also sought to know what was pleasing to Cod. Nor was it a matter of wonder that they sent to Jerusalem on this account, for they knew that that place had been chosen by God as the place from which they were to seek the right knowledge of religion. Since then Jerusalem was the sanctuary of God, the captives sent there their messengers, particularly as they knew that the priests were the ambassadors of God, and that the interpretation of the law was to be sought from their mouth. They indeed knew that the time was not yet come when the doctrine of salvation was to be disseminated through the whole world.
But the Prophet says, that the captives not only inquired of the priests, but also of the Prophets. It hence appears, that it was a thing commonly known, that God had raised up Prophets, which he had ceased to do for a long time. For it was not without reason that Isaiah said, that God would yet speak by his Prophets, when he would again comfort his people. (<234001>Isaiah 40:1.) There had been then a mournful silence for seventy years, when no Prophets were sent forth, according to what is said in the book of Psalms,
“our signs we see not, nor is there a Prophet among us.”
(<197409>Psalm 74:9.)
God indeed had been accustomed to lead the people as by an erected banner when they dwelt in the holy land, and Prophets continually succeeded one another in regular order, according to what the Lord had promised by Moses,
“A Prophet will I raise up in the midst of thee,” etc.
(<051815>Deuteronomy 18:15.)
From the time then in which they had been driven into exile, while looking there on one another, they could hear no voice to encourage them with hope, until new Prophets were again raised up beyond what they expected. And it was God’s will that the Prophets should have their abode and habitation at Jerusalem, in order that he might gather the dispersed Israel; for had there been Prophets in Chaldea, many might hence lay hold of a pretext for their slothfulness: “Does not God dwell in the midst of us? what need is there of undertaking a difficult and toilsome journey? we shall indeed find nothing better at Jerusalem than in this exile; for God shows that he is present with us by his Prophets.” It would have therefore been a great evil to the Jews to have Prophets in their exile. But when the captives heard that the gift of prophecy appeared again in the temple, they might have called to mind what their fathers had heard from the mouth of Isaiah, and also from the mouth of Micah, “from Zion shall go forth a law, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” (<230203>Isaiah 2:3 <330403>Micah 4:3.) We now perceive why Zechariah joined Prophets to priests.
But we must bear in mind what we have stated elsewhere that the prophetic was, as it were, an extraordinary office, when God took others as the ministers of his word besides the priests. For their work was sacerdotal; but God meant to condemn the priests by transferring the work of teaching to others, that is, when Prophets were taken from the common people, or from other families, and not from the Levitical tribe. It is not indeed true that all the priests were Prophets; but the office itself would not have been transferred to any other tribe, had not God thus punished the ingratitude of those who bestowed more labor on their own private concerns than on teaching the people. However this case may have been, it was an illustrious testimony of God’s favor, that Prophets at that time had again been raised up. And this fact has been added — that they dwelt nowhere else but at Jerusalem, in order to encourage the dispersed to return, and to show to them that the place had not in vain been previously chosen by God. This is the reason why the Prophet expressly says, that the Prophets, as well as the priests, were in the house or in the temple of the Lord of hosts.
The time is also mentioned, the fourth year of Darius, and the ninth month and the fourth day. fm63 The beginning of the year, we know, was in March; hence the month Chisleu was November, or a part of October and November, for they were wont to commence their months at the new moons. Of king Darius we have spoken elsewhere. He was not, indeed, the first Darius, the father-in-law of Cyrus, who transferred the monarchy to the Persian, but Darius the son of Hystaspes. Passed away then had the seventy years, for this, as it has been stated before, was the fourth king.
Let us now consider the question which the captives proposed to the priests. They asked whether they were to weep in the fifth month, and whether they were to separate themselves as they had done for seventy years and more; for some years, as we have seen, had elapsed beyond that number. We hence learn that a regular fast was observed from the time in which the temple was burned and the city destroyed. He speaks here only of the fifth month, but shortly after mention is made of the seventh month. It is evident from sacred history that the city was demolished and the temple pulled down in the fifth month. It is therefore probable that there was a day of mourning observed by the people in memory of that sad event. In the seventh month, though not in the same year, Gedaliah was slain, and the remainder of the people were driven into exile. As the land became then desolate, it is also probable that another fast was appointed, that they might yearly humble themselves before God, and suppliantly seek his pardon. Since then there was a reason for both fasts, it is evident that they could not have been condemned by the priests: nor is there a doubt, but that it was by the public consent of all, that they every year kept these days of weeping. We also see the end which God has in view in prescribing a fast, — that men in coming to him may feel true penitence, and remind themselves by their external appearance of their own guilt. As then the Jews observed this rule in their fasts, we must conclude that they pleased God; for these were religious exercises, by which they might have been led to repentance.
Now they inquired, whether they were to continue their weeping; for the temple had now been begun to be built as well as the city. Since the reason for their mourning had been, that the temple no longer stood where they might offer their sacrifices, and that the holy city had been demolished, it was then doubtless right to give thanks to God, and to feel joy, when an end came to their calamities. However, the captives ventured not to change anything without the authority and consent of the priests, so that they might all agree together. And thus they also testified that they were true members of the Church, as they had no desire to have anything different from others.
The word fast is not mentioned; but they asked, “Shall we weep?” Hence also it appears, that they were not so gross in their ideas as to think that the chief part of religion is fasting, as hypocrites do, who imagine that they honor God by abstaining from food, and thus mock God, who is a Spirit, with mere trifles, when it is his express will to be spiritually worshipped. We then plainly see, that the Jews were not imbued with this gross and foolish thought, when they established this annual fast; for they put weeping in the place of fasting. And why was this weeping, except that they went into God’s presence conscious of their guilt and in a suppliant manner, and testified by external signs that they acknowledged their sins, so that they might obtain mercy and forgiveness?
They mentioned also consecration. The word rzn, nezar, which means to separate, is variously explained: but here many interpreters confine it to abstinence from food, as though they had said, “Shall we separate ourselves from food?” fm64 This seems forced to me: I therefore prefer to apply it to sanctification; for we know that when a day was prescribed for fasting or for offering sacrifices, there was sanctification added. For though it became the Jews through their whole life to abstain from all defilements, yet we know that when a fast or any particular sacrifice was appointed, they were more diligent and solicitous to cast aside every pollution. We now then understand what the Jews had in view, and what they meant by these words. It now follows —

4. Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
4. Et datus sermo Iehovae exercituum mihi fuit, dicendo,
5. Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
5. Dic ad totum populum terrae et ad sacerdotes, dicendo, Quum jejunastis et planxistis in quinto et septimo (mense, subaudiendum est) et his septuaginta annis, an jejunando jejunastis mihi, mihi?
6. And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
6. Et quum comedistis, et quum bibistis, annon vos comedistis et vos bibistis?
7. Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?
7. Annon ad sermones quos clamavit Iehova in manu prophetarum priorum, quum esset Ierusalem quieta et opulenta (vel, quieta et tranquilla; diximus enim alibi de hac voce [tbçy] et urbes ejus per circuitus ejus, et meridies, et campestris regio quieta?
8. And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
8. Et factus est sermo Iehovae ad Zachariam, dicendo,
9. Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
9. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, dicendo, judiciam veritatis (hoc est, verum; non fallax, sincerum et integrum) judicate, et beneficentiam et misericordias facite quisque cum fratre suo.

Here the Prophet tells us that he was sent to the people and to the priests, not so much to teach the messengers who came from distant lands, as to correct the vices of his own nation; for the Jews had then begun, according to their usual manner, to dissemble with God, and had glided, as it has elsewhere appeared, into many evil practices. And it appears evident, that God did not commit to Zechariah what the messengers might bring back to Chaldea; but that an occasion was taken to remind the Jews, that they were to look to themselves. It may have been the case, that the priests themselves and all the rest had begun to raise a controversy, “How is this? our brethren inquire, whether the fast is to be still observed:” and the opinions might have been various. But as this is doubtful, I leave it as such. We however see that the Prophet does not speak here respecting the captives, nor does he address to their messengers anything which they might convey to Chaldea, but turns his discourse to the priests and to the people. The sum of the whole is, that while the captives gave no mean testimony of their religion, God reproved the Jews, who had returned to their own country, for ingratitude, as they had already begun to pollute themselves.
He therefore brings this charge against them, Have ye fasted to me? have ye eaten to me? as though he had said, “God regards not fastings, except they proceed from a sincere feeling and tend to a right and lawful end.” It was then the object of the Prophet to awaken the Jews, that they might not imagine that God was pacified by fasting or by any other frigid ceremonies, but that they might know that something more was required. And we see how prone mankind are to rely on external rites, and to think that they have rightly performed their duty to God when they have fasted. As then human nature labors under this disease, the Prophet is here sent to dissipate this delusion; which he does by declaring that fasting does not please God, or is acceptable to him, as though it were something meritorious, or as though there was in it any holiness.
He says first, that the word of Jehovah was given to him, that he might go to the people of the land and to the priests. We see the truth of what I have already said, that the answer was not directed to the captives, but to the very inhabitants of the land and to the citizens of Jerusalem, and for this reason, — because they thought that when the question respecting fasting was moved, the first and chief part of all religion was the subject of inquiry. Hence God, that he might strip them of this superstition, says, When ye fasted in the fifth month and in the seventh month, and during the seventy years, did ye fast to me — to me? for he has put an affix to the verb, yntmx, tsametni, and afterwards added yna, ani: as though he had said, “Was it to me that ye fasted? Shall I approve of such fasting?” There is an emphasis in the repetition, as though he had said, that there was no reason for the Jews to boast that they faithfully served God, and fully performed their duty, because they fasted twice in the year, for they had to do with that God who rejected such trifling things.
We hence learn that nothing is more preposterous than for men to judge of God’s worship according to their own notions, and to trust in themselves. It is indeed easy for us to deceive ourselves; for as we are earthly, so we may think that whatever glitters before our eyes is most acceptable to God. But the Prophet here reminds us, by one sentence, how frivolous are such self-pleasing thoughts; for God meets us with this question, “Have ye fasted to me? Are ye to be judges, and is it right for you at your pleasure to invent various modes of worship? But I remain always like myself, and not transform me according to what pleases you; for I repudiate everything of this kind.”
By saying, that to themselves they did eat and drink, he intimates that to eat and to drink, or to abstain from eating and drinking, are things wholly unconnected with the worship of God. Another sense may indeed be elicited, — that the Jews did eat as heathens did: and there will be in this case an indirect reproof, — that they sought to pacify God only twice in the year, and that during the rest of the time they were heedless and indulged themselves in excesses. We ought indeed to bear in mind what Paul says, that
“whether we eat or drink, all things ought to be done
to the praise of God.” (<461031>1 Corinthians 10:31.)
The law also expressly commanded the Jews to “feast before the Lord,” that is, not to taste food without thanksgiving, as though God were present. When, therefore, the Jews fasted themselves without any regard to God, it is no wonder that their fastings where rejected; for their course was not consistent. For though the godly do not always fast, yet while they partake most freely of meat and drink, they turn not away their thoughts from God, but on the contrary rejoice before him. They therefore eat and drink to God, as well as abstain on God’s account. But the Prophet shows here that the Jews did eat to themselves, and that hence their fasting was not regarded before God. This latter sense is not unsuitable: but as to the subject itself, it is enough for us to know, that the Prophet, as he had to deal with hypocrites, ridicules their superstition in their fastings, inasmuch as they thought that these were expiations by which their sins were blotted out, and that if they abstained for a day or two from meat and drink, God was thereby pacified.
And the Prophet’s object is more evident from the next verse, when he says, Are not these the words which Jehovah proclaimed by the former Prophets? He confirms here his doctrine by many testimonies, that is, that God had already through successive ages exhorted the Jews to true repentance, and condemned their dissimulation, that they might not think that true religion was made up of fasting and of similar things. And this the Prophet did, not only to gain or secure to himself more credit, but also to render double the wickedness of the Jews; as though he had said, that they were apparently very anxious not to offend God, but that it was merely a false pretense; for had they from the heart wished to please God, they might have long ago learnt that fastings were of themselves of no moment, but that a beginning ought to be made with true religion and spiritual worship.
I have already mentioned, that possibly, when the question was raised by the captives, much disputing, as it is commonly the case, prevailed among the people. But as the Jews ever reverted to their old ways, being blindly attached to their frigid ceremonies, and thinking in this manner to propitiate God, the Prophet, for this reason, derides their preposterous labor and toil. “See,” he says, “the only question now is, whether there should be fasting, as though this were the principal thing before God; in the meantime godliness is neglected, and neglected is real calling on God, and the whole of spiritual worship is also esteemed by you as nothing, and no integrity of life prevails: for ye bite one another, plunder one another, wrong one another, and are guilty of lying: ye heedlessly close your eyes to such vices as these; and at the same time when fasting is neglected, ye think that the whole of religion falls to the ground. These are your old ways, and such were commonly the thoughts and doings of your fathers; and it appears evident that ye trifle with God, and that ye are full of deceits, and that there is not in you a particle of true religion. For God formerly spoke loudly in your ears, and his words were not obscure when he exhorted you by his Prophets; he showed to you what true repentance was, but effected nothing. Is it not then quite evident that ye are now acting deceitfully, when ye so carefully enquire about fasting?” We now perceive what force there is in this sentence, Are not these the words which Jehovah formerly proclaimed? For it was not enough to remind the Jews of true repentance; but this reproof was needful, in order more sharply to stimulate them; and it was wholly necessary to discover their hypocrisy, that they might not be too much pleased with external performances.
That they might not then object, that what they asked respecting God’s counsel was done with a good intention, the Prophet answers them, “Where are the words by which God had testified as to what can please him?” And for the same purpose he uses the word, arq, kora, proclaimed: for he does not say, that God merely declared words by his Prophets, but that he uttered them loudly, and as it were with a full mouth. “See,” he says, “ye enquire as though ye were in doubt, and that the knot could hardly be untied, and as though it were a matter of great moment. God has indeed not only spoken, but has also cried aloud in the ears of your fathers; in the meantime ye tread under foot his teaching, or pass it by with closed eyes.” What does this mean? to enquire so anxiously about fasting, and at the same time to despise what is far more important? In a similar manner does Christ also condemn hypocrites, because they hesitated not to swallow a camel, while they were wont to strain at a gnat, (<402324>Matthew 23:24;) for in trifling things they dared not to attempt anything; but as to gross wickedness, they leaped over it as it were with the audacity of wild beasts. The object then of the Prophet’s words was to show that the Jews did not seriously and in earnest enquire respecting God’s will, but pretended to be very attentive to religion, while they openly, and with gross and headless audacity, rejected the true doctrine, which was by no means ambiguous, as God had by his many Prophets clearly taught them and their fathers what he required from them.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so inclined to dissimulation, we may learn strictly to examine ourselves, and to descend into our own consciences, so that none of us may sleep in self-delusion, but be so displeased with our hidden vices, as in the meantime to aspire after, and with every care and labor, to attain true religion, and so strive to devote ourselves wholly to thee, that we may groan under the burden of our sins, and so suppliantly flee to thy mercy, as at the same time to be touched with true penitence, until having at length put off the corruptions of our flesh, we shall be received into that purity which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, fm65 saying, The judgment of truth judge, and kindness and mercies show, every one to his brother. We have seen what the Prophet said of fasting, when messengers were sent by the exiles to enquire on the subject. It was a suitable opportunity for handling the question. For, as we then said, the people were so devoted to their ceremonies, as to think that the whole of religion consisted in fasting and in similar exercises. And as we are by nature prone to this evil, we ought carefully to consider what the Prophet has taught us — that fasting is not simply, or by itself, approved by God, but on account of the end designed by it. Having already shown to the Jews their error, in thinking that God could be pacified by ceremonies, he now reminds them of what God mainly requires in his law — that men should observe what is just and right towards one another. It is indeed true that the first part of the law refers to the service due to God; but it is a way which God has commonly adopted, to test the life of men by the duties of the second Table, and to show what this part of the law especially requires God then in this passage, as in many others, does not commend righteousness towards men so as to depreciate godliness; for as this far excels everything in the whole world, so we know that in rightly forming the life, the beginning ought ever to be made by serving God aright. But as the Prophet had to do with hypocrites, he shows that they only trifled with God, while they made much of external things, and at the same tinge neglected uprightness, and the duties of love
We now then understand the Prophet’s object. He had said in the last lecture that he brought forward nothing new, but only reminded them of what had been taught by other Prophets; and here he pursues the same subject — that God made more account of uprightness and kindness than of those legal shadows, which in themselves were of no moment.
The judgment of truth, he says, judge. This could not have been extended indiscriminately to the whole people; but by these words the Prophet indirectly reproved the judges, because they committed plunder, either through favor or hatred, so that they decided cases not in a just and equitable manner. We then learn from the Prophet’s words, that judgments were then given corruptly, so that the judge either decided in favor of a friend, or was bought by a price or a reward. As then there was no truth in the judgments given, but false pretences and colourings, the Prophet here exhorts them to execute the judgment of truth, that is, true judgment, when no respect of persons is shown, and when neither hatred nor favor prevails, but equity alone is regarded.
He then addresses the whole people in common, and says, Show, or exercise, kindness and mercies fm66 every one towards his brother. He not only bids them to abstain from doing any wrong, but exhorts them to show kindness; for it would not be enough to do no harm to any one, except each of us were also solicitous to assist our neighbors; inasmuch as it is the dictate of benevolence to help the miserable when necessity so requires. But we must recollect that a part is given twice for the whole in what the Prophet says: in the first place, he refers only to the second Table of the law, while he includes in general the rule by which our life is to be formed; and in the second place, he enumerates not every thing contained in the second Table, but mentions only some things as instances. It is however certain, that his design was to show that men are greatly deceived when they seek to discharge their duties towards God by means of external rites and ceremonies; and farther, that it is a true and substantial evidence of piety, when and one observes what is just and equitable towards his neighbor. He afterwards adds —

10. And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
10. Et viduam et pupillum, peregrinum et pauperem ne deripiatis, et vir malum fratris ne cogitatis in corde vestro, (hoc est, ne singuli vestrum cogitent in corde suo, vel, machinentur, malum fratribus suis.)

He mentions here some other duties, but for the same purpose of showing, that the fear of God is not proved by ceremonies, but by acting justly towards our brethren, and not by abstaining only from doing wrong, but by being ready to help the miserable. As widows, and orphans, and strangers are exposed as it were to plunder, Moses often in the law recommends them to favor, and shows that God cares for them, and will be their defender, when by one injured. So also the Prophet speaks here expressly of widows, and orphans, and strangers, that the Jews might understand, not only that they were to take heed, lest any one, being wronged, should complain, or lest any one should retaliate an injury, but that they were to observe integrity before God; for the ungodly are often terrified by fear, and refrain from doing mischief, because they know that there will be an avenger. Hence it comes that the rich and the opulent are safe from all injuries, because they are surrounded and fortified by strong defences; but the widows and the orphans are not thus able to repel wrongs. This is the reason why the Prophet prefers here to mention widows, and orphans, and strangers, rather than to speak indiscriminately of all the people. For the import of the whole is, as I have reminded you, that the fear of God is not really proved, except when a person cleaves to what is just and right, and is not restrained by fear or shame, but discharges his duty as it were in the presence of God and of his angels, so that he shows favor to the poor and miserable, who are without any to help them. But as I have elsewhere explained this subject more at large, it is enough now briefly to touch on it. fm67 Let us proceed —

11. But they refused to hear, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
11. Et renuerent attendere, et posuerunt humerum declinationis, et aures suas aggravarunt ne audirent.
12. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant-stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts has sent in his Spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.
12. Et cor suum posuerunt adamantem, ne audirent verba quae miserat Iehova exercituum in Spiritu suo, in manu prophetarum superiorum; et fuit ira magna a Iehova exercituum.

The Prophet here by referring to the fathers more sharply reproves the Jews of his age; for he saw that they differed but little from their fathers. The sum of what he says is, that the Jews in all ages dealt unfaithfully and perversely with God; for how much soever they boasted of their care and zeal for religion they yet sought to satisfy God only by vain trifles. This then was the Prophet’s object. For it is certain that there ever had been some pretense to religion in that nation but it was mere dissimulation for they were in the mean time intent on their ceremonies and when God seriously remonstrated with them their obstinacy and perverseness before concealed instantly appeared.
He therefore says that they refused to hear. He does not now accuse the dead except for this purpose to teach the people of his acre. He saw that they were solicitous about fasting at appointed seasons, while at the same time they regarded almost as nothing the main requirements of the law, even mercy, and justice, and uprightness. These are indeed the three things, which Christ mentions. (<402323>Matthew 23:23.) He then intimates that this doctrine was not new, and that their fathers had been sufficiently warned and instructed, but that they wilfully, and as it were designedly rebelled against God. In short, he pulls off their mask of ignorance; for as men for the most part seek to extenuate their sins by the plea, that they had not been clearly or seasonably taught, the Prophet declares that there was not any excuse of this kind, because they had been refractory and untameable, they had refused to hear.
To set forth more fully this perverseness, he afterwards says, that the shoulder of withdrawing had been presented by them. The Hebrews say that men serve with the shoulder, when they are submissive, and tractable, and willingly undergo the burden laid on them, according to what we have seen in <360301>Zephaniah 3:1. The Prophet now, on the contrary, says that the Jews had a refractory shoulder, as they refused to bear the yoke, but shook off every fear of God. The reason for the metaphor is this — that as burdens are carried on the shoulder, so the Lord lays the law on our shoulders, that the flesh may not lasciviate at pleasure, but be kept under restraint. He hence says, that they had presented a rebellious shoulder. The word trrs, sarret, is properly rendered declining; but some render it perverse, and others contumacious: since the meaning is the same, I contend not about the word. It is enough to know that the contumacy of the Jews is what is here condemned; for they had been wholly unteachable, and had refused to submit to God and to his word. fm68
He afterwards mentions their ears, They made heavy their ears, lest they should hear. In short, the Prophet sought by all means to prove the Jews guilty, that they might not adduce anything to extenuate their sin: for they had in every way, with the most determined wickedness, refused to obey God, when his teaching was sufficiently clear and intelligible.
He then comes to the heart, They made, he says, their heart adamant, or the very hardest stone. Some render it steel, and others flint. It means sometimes a thorn; but in this place, as in <260309>Ezekiel 3:9, and in <241701>Jeremiah 17:1, it is to be taken for adamant, or the hardest stone. fm69 We now see that the Prophet’s object was to show that the Jews had no excuse, as if they had fallen away through error or ignorance, but had ever wilfully and perversely rejected sound doctrine. The Prophet then teaches us that hypocrisy had been the sole hindrance to prevent them from understanding and following what was right.
But it may be useful to notice the manner of speaking which the Prophet adopts in condemning the perverseness of the Jews, when he says, that they had refused attention to God. For we ought here to observe the connection between the fear of God and obedience, and on the other hand, between the contempt of the law and wilful rebellion. If then we would not be condemned for contumacy before God, attention must in the first place be given to his word, and afterwards the shoulders must be put under, so that we may bear submissively the yoke laid on us; and thirdly, we must listen with the ears, so that the word of God, preached to us, may not be lost, but strike in us deep roots; and lastly, our hearts must be turned to obedience, and all hardness corrected or softened. Then Zechariah adds, that the Jews had a stonily or an iron heart, so that they repudiated the law of God and all his Prophets. He gives the first place to the law, for they ought to have sought from it the whole doctrine of religion; and the Prophets, as it has been often stated, were only interpreters of the law.
He afterwards mentions the words which had been sent by Jehovah through his Spirit and through his Prophets. fm70 By saying that God spoke by his Prophets, he meets an objection by which hypocrites are wont to cover themselves, when they reject the truth. For they object and say, that they would be willingly submissive to God, but that they cannot bear the authority of men, as though God’s word changed its nature by coming through the mouth of man. But as hypocrites and profane men are wont to lessen the authority of the word, the Prophet here shows, having this pretext in view, that God designed to be heard, though he employed ministers. Hence by this kind of concession it is implied, that Prophets are middle persons, and yet that God so speaks by their mouth, that contempt is offered to him when no due honor is shown to the truth. And further, lest the baseness of men should withhold regard from the word, he mentions also the Spirit, as though he had said, that God had spoken not only by his servants, even mortal men, but also by his Spirit. There is then no reason for hypocrites deceitfully to excuse themselves, by saying, that they rebel not against God, when they depreciate his Prophets; for the power and majesty of the Holy Spirit appear and shine forth in the doctrine itself, so that the condition of men takes nothing away from its authority. This part was also added in order to condemn the Jews, because they had from the very beginning been seasonably warned, and it was only their own fault that they did not repent. For if the Lord had allowed them for a long time to go astray, there would have been some pretense for their evasions: but since God had tried to recall them to the right way, and Prophets, one after another, had been continually sent to them, their unfaithfulness, yea their iron perverseness, in obstinately refusing to obey God, was more fully discovered. This is the reason why Zechariah mentions here the former Prophets.
He then adds, that there was great wrath from Jehovah of hosts; by which sentence he reminded them, that it was no matter of dispute, as in case of a doubtful thing, whether their fathers had been wicked and disobedient to God; for he had sufficiently proved be punishments that he abominated their conduct; for this principle is to be held true that God does not deal unjustly with men when he chastises them, but that the demerit of crimes is to be estimated by the punishment which he inflicts. As then God had so severely chastised the ancient people, the natural conclusion is, that their wickedness had become intolerable. We now then see why the Prophet said that there had been great wrath from God; the reason was, that the Jews might not think that he had been lightly offended, as he had not been satisfied with a moderate punishment; for since his wrath had been so great, and since he had in so dreadful a manner punished the sins of the people, it follows, that their wickedness had been more grievous than what men considered it to have been.
There is also here an implied comparison; for the unfaithfulness of those who then lived was the worse, for this reason — because they took no warning from the calamities of their fathers, so as to deal with more sincerity with God. They knew that their fathers had been carefully and in various ways admonished; they knew that exile followed, which was an evidence of the dreadful vengeance of God. As then they were like their fathers, and had not put off their perverse disposition, they proved themselves guilty of greater and more refractory baseness, for they ought to have been influenced at least by fear, when they saw that God’s judgment had been so dreadful against obstinate men. It afterwards follows —

13. Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts.
13. Et fuit, sicuti clamavit et non audierunt, sic clamabunt et non audiam, dicit Iehova exercituum.

The Prophet sets forth more fully the dreadfulness of this punishment — that they in vain groaned and complained, for God was deaf to their complaints and cryings. When God in some measure fulminates and becomes soon reconciled, he does not seem to be greatly incensed, but when the miserable whom he afflicts by his hand, avail nothing by their entreaties and prayers, it then appears evident that God is in no common degree offended. This then is what the Prophet meant by saying, that they were not heard by God when they cried.
But we must notice what is said of their perverseness; for he says, that God had called, and that he was not heard by them. Now it cannot be deemed an unjust reward, that God should punish the contempt of his word; for how great is the honor by which he favors miserable wretches, when he invites them to himself, and most expressly invites them? When, therefore, the calling of God is thus rejected and despised, do not they who are so refractory deserve what the Prophet declares here — that they would have to cry in vain, as God would be deaf to their groanings?
As to the words, the change of person may embarrass the unlettered, but it is a mode of speaking common to the Prophets, for they assume the person of God in order to gain more authority to their doctrine; and they spoke sometimes in the third and sometimes in the first person: when in the first God himself speaks, and when in the third it is in the character of ministers, who declare and deliver, as it were from hand to hand, what had been committed to them by God. Hence the Prophet in the first clause speaks as God’s minister; he afterwards assumes his person, as though he were God himself. But this, as it has been said, was done with regard to the word delivered. It was, that as he called and they heard not, etc. Who called? It is not right to apply this, as some do, to the Prophet; he, therefore, charges here the Jews, no doubt, with the sin of turning a deaf ear to God’s word. So, he says, they shall call, and I will not hear. It might have been said, “so they shall call, and the Lord will not hear.” There is in the meaning, as we see, nothing obscure or ambiguous. fm71
The import of the whole then is, that God had not threatened in vain by his ancient Prophets; but that as he had denounced vengeance by the mouth of Isaiah, so it had been executed on the Jews, for they had without effect cried, and found God a severe judge, whose voice they had previously despised. We indeed know, that it is a truth often repeated, that the ungodly are not heard by God; nay, that their prayers are abominable; for they profane God’s name by an impure heart and mouth whenever they flee to him, as they approach him without faith and repentance. We then learn from these words, that those who perversely despise God’s word deservedly rot in their own calamities; for it is by no means right or reasonable that the Lord should be ready to hear the crying of those who turn a deaf ear to his voice. It follows —

14. But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.
14. Et affligar cum illis (vertunt quidam) super omnes gentes, (alii melius, dispellam illos ad omnes gentes, ) quas non noverunt; (alii vertunt, quae non noverunt eos;) et terra desolata erit post eos, ne sit transiens, nec revertens; et posuerunt terram desiderabilem in vastitatem.

Here the Prophet concludes what he had been speaking of God’s vengeance, by which he had fully proved, that the sins of that nation had arrived to such a pitch, that there was no room for pardon. Hence he says, that they had been dispersed; for so I prefer to render the word, and the context seems to require this. Interpreters vary as to its meaning; and, indeed, the Hebrews themselves say, that this is a difficult passage, for, according to the rules of grammar, the word can hardly be made suitable to the context. But let us first see what the Prophet treats of; and secondly, what meaning, as the word signifies various things, is the most suitable.
The Prophet no doubt refers here to God’s vengeance, as evidenced by the dispersion of the Jews among many nations, not only when they were driven into exile, but also when scattered in various parts of the world. The verb, taken transitively, is by no means doubtful in its meaning, for r[s, sor, means to move one from a place, or to expel, and that by force, inasmuch as it is derived from whirlwind. As it may therefore be here a transitive verb, I see no reason why we should seek other meanings at variance with the design and object of the Prophet. He then says, that the Jews had been dispersed — how? among all nations, that is, through all parts of the world; and then among unknown nations. Now we know, that the farther the exile, the more severe it is, for neighbors for the most part are the most humane; and when one is removed far to a barbarous nation, he would rather a hundred times to die on his journey than to live at a great distance from his country, and among a people of new and strange habits. The meaning is, that the Jews had been severely visited by God, not only because they had departed from his true worship and holy fear, but because they had been perverse, had rejected all sound doctrine, and had been deaf and indifferent to all admonitions. It was then for this reason that they had been dispersed among all nations.
He afterwards adds, that the land after them became desolate that no one passed through it. This circumstance also, that God devoted the land to desolation, proved more fully his wrath: for when God imprints marks of his vengeance on the land, and on other harmless things, necessary for man’s support, it becomes evident that he is not lightly displeased with men. He then intimates, that God was not satisfied with the exile and dispersion of that people, but that he intended that there should be also visible marks of their wickedness in the sterility and desolation of the land itself: and that land, we know, was very fruitful, both by nature and by God’s blessing; for he had promised to give to the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey. When this fruitfulness was turned to sterility, such a change ought to have roused the minds of all to consider the dreadful judgment of God. We now then see why the Prophet says, that the land after them, that is, after their departure, became desolate; for they had polluted the land so far as to constrain it, though innocent, to bear the judgment of God.
And he says further, that the desirable land became a waste, even through their fault. God was indeed the author of that waste, but Zechariah imputes this calamity to the people, because they had provoked God’s wrath, and procured this evil for themselves; yea, they had involved the land itself as it were in the same guilt, for it was cursed by God, though they had been driven hence to another country. Desirable land was a name often given to Judea, not only on account of its fruitfulness, and the abundance of its produce, but because God had chosen it for himself: for though that land excelled other lands in many respects, it is yet certain that its chief excellency consisted in this, — that God honored it with peculiar favor.
Zechariah then condemns the Jews, not only because they had by their own fault extinguished the favor as to the produce of the land, but because they had corrupted the land itself, which had been so singularly favored as to have become the habitation of God. And hence we more fully learn how great was the enormity of their sins, which caused God to devote to desolation a land chosen by himself; for, as we have said, it was no common honor for that land, in which God designed to be worshipped by his chosen and holy people, to have been destined by him to be made like Paradise. But when such an honor was turned to shame and perpetual reproach, it was clearly a remarkable sign of God’s wrath: and hence also becomes evident the impiety of that people who, as it had been said, turned aside God’s favor from the land, that not only it did not bring forth its usual produce, but that it also became, as it were, a disgraceful spectacle, and filled all with horror on seeing it so desolate, where was previously seen the temple and the worship of God.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast adopted us for this end, that we may show brotherly kindness one towards another, and labor for our mutual benefit, — O grant, that we may prove by the whole tenor of our life, that we have not been called in vain by thee, but that we may so live in harmony with each other, that integrity and innocence may prevail among us; and may we so strive to benefit one another, that thy name may be thus glorified by us; until having at length finished our course, we reach the goal which thou hast set before us, that having at last gone through all the evils of this life, we may come to that blessed rest which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen

1. Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
1. Et fuit sermo Jehovae exercituum, dicendo,
2. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.
2. Sic dicit Iehova exercitumm, Zelatus sum pro Sion zelo magno (vel, aemulatione magna, ) et indignatione magna aemulatus sum pro ea (vel, zelatus sum.)

SOME think that at the beginning of this chapter the people are reproved for their unfaithfulness, because they conducted themselves towards God in a way they ought not to have done, as they had violated that sacred marriage which God had been pleased to contract with them; for it is a common mode of speaking for God to compare himself to jealous husbands, when he sees his Church dealing with him unfaithfully. But this meaning is inadmissible: for the verb anq, kona, connected as it is here, is to be taken in a good sense, as signifying concern or affection, inasmuch as l, lamed, means, “on account of,” or “for;” and we have in the first chapter a similar sentence; <380101>Zechariah 1:1 and it is evident that in many other places the meaning is no other, but that God burned with wrath against all the enemies of his Church, as he regarded his Church with singular love. Emulation then here does not mean jealousy, but is to be taken in a different sense, as signifying that concern which God had for the protection of his Church. The whole then of this chapter proves that God would be the defender of his people, and that such was his care for the safety of all the godly, that he resolved to oppose the whole world, if necessary, for their protection. This is the sum of the whole.
He then says, that the word of Jehovah came to him; fm72 we hence learn, that this was a distinct prophecy. He adds, I have been zealous for Sion (for as we have said, the letter l, lamed, is to be thus taken) with great zeal. fm73 This was indeed an incredible change, for God had for a time restrained himself, while the ungodly at their pleasure harassed the Church, so that they thought that they could do so with impunity. As God then had for some time remained at rest, what the Prophet says here could not have been easily believed, that is, that God would, through a sudden jealousy, undertake the cause of the Church. Hence the indignation, immediately subjoined, must be regarded with reference to enemies, as though he had said, that all the ungodly would now perceive what they had by no means expected, — that God was the protector of Jerusalem. It now follows —

3. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain.
3. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Reversus sum ad Sion, et habitabo in medio Ierusalem; et vocabitur Ierusaelm urbs vertiatis; et mons Iehovae exercituum, mons sanctitatis.

The Prophet now more clearly explains what he intended; but it was necessary to preserve this order — that enemies were to be by force ejected from their possession, and the Church delivered, before God could dwell in the midst of it; for how could God have proved that Jerusalem was under his guardianship and protection without having first subdued its enemies? It was not then without reason that the Prophet commenced with this promise — that God was prepared for war, and was burning with wrath, that he might deliver his Church from the hands of enemies. Then follows the fruit of the victory; for it would not have been enough for God to avenge the wrongs done to his chosen people, without gathering the dispersed and restoring the Church to its ancient condition. For it often happens that those who have been cruelly treated find an avenger; but no comfort, or very little comfort, comes to them, as they are made nothing better; but the Lord here refers to these two things — that he would take up arms to defend his chosen people, and also that he would become, as the case was, the defender and protector of the holy city.
The repetition of the sentence, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, almost in every verse, was no doubt intended for the purpose of strengthening their faith; for it was, as I have already said a thing incredible. It was then necessary to bring forward often the name of God, that the faithful might more readily give assent to the prophecy which they knew proceeded from God, even the God of hosts, whose power is infinite, and to whom nothing is difficult, as we shall find it presently stated.
And he says that he had returned; not that the accomplishment of this prophecy was then visible, but the decree is put for the reality. God had been, as it were, for a long time silent, while his people were exposed as a sport to their enemies; and he seemed then to be far away from Jerusalem, for the place was desolate and waste, yea, it was a scene of dreadful vengeance. God, then, during the whole of that time, seemed to have forsaken the place, according to the testimony of Ezekiel, who says, that God had removed from the temple, and that it was an empty place, and as it were profane. On this account he says now that he had returned; for he intended openly to show that it had not in vain been made the seat of his glory, when he had commanded his name to be there invoked. It is indeed true that mount Sion had never been forsaken by God; but no other opinion could have been formed, when there were there no altar, no sacrifices, and no people to worship God; for this is said with reference to divine worship; and the holiness of the mount was also nothing, except as far as God had consecrated it to himself. Hence these two things were connected — the holiness of the mount and the presence of God. It therefore follows that God, according to the judgment of men, was absent, when no religion appeared there, and the Jews offered there no sacrifices.
He further says, that he had returned, that he might dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. fm74 It was necessary to add this, that the Jews might be convinced that his return was not in vain; for many said that they foolishly made too much haste, and that though the commencement had been favorable, yet many troubles would come upon them in future, and that their building would be only for a short time, and that though they spent much toil and labor in rebuilding the city, it would yet be only for a season, as their enemies would shortly come and destroy their new edifices. Since then reports of this kind were spreading, it was necessary to support the minds of the godly, that they might be fully persuaded that God had returned to his people, and had become the restorer of his exiles for this end — that he might as before dwell at Jerusalem.
We now apprehend the Prophet’s object; it was as though he had said, that the people had not returned in vain to their country, but that they had been delivered by the authority of God, and that his dwelling at Jerusalem would be fixed and perpetual, as it had before been his habitation. We indeed know that the stability of the Church is not otherwise secured than by the presence of God, as it is said in Psalm 46:, “God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;” for the Church would not be less exposed to sudden and frequent destruction than other things, were it not that God, her support, dwells in her. And this is what our Prophet means here when he says, that God would dwell there.
He adds, And called shall be Jerusalem the city of truth, and the mount of Jehovah the mount of holiness. fm75 By the first clause the Prophet reminds us why God had for a time forsaken Jerusalem, even because it was a city given to falsehoods, wicked devices, deceits, and perverse counsels. As then the Jews had wholly degenerated from true religion, the Prophet intimates that the city became destitute of its guardian and protector, even of God himself. And for the same purpose are added the words, the mount of Jehovah shall be called the mount of holiness. For however proudly the Jews boasted that they worshipped God, they yet had profaned both the temple and the altar by their sins, as we have seen it proved by the Prophet Haggai. (<370215>Haggai 2:15.) Here then Zechariah indirectly reproves the Jews for having corrupted all purity by their frauds, and also for having, by the defilements of their sins, polluted Sion and the temple of God. At the same time he teaches us that God dwells in his Church where he sanctifies it.
Hence God is never idle while he dwells in his people; for he cleanses away every kind of impurity, every kind of deceit, that where he dwells may ever be a holy place. Therefore the Prophet not only promises here an external blessing to the Jews, but also shows that God performs what is far more excellent — that he cleanses the place where he intends to dwell, and the habitation which he chooses, and casts out every kind of filth. And since God promises to do this, we hence see that it is his own peculiar work and gift to cleanse all our impurities, and also to dissipate everything false and deceitful. The import of the whole is, that when God reconciles his people to himself, he not only brings an outward blessing of an earthly kind, but also something better and far more excellent, even the renewal of the heart and mind, and that when all things are polluted and filthy, he restores true and perfect cleanness and integrity.
We must further bear also in mind what I have already stated — that their sins are here intimated to the Jews, that they might be touched with shame, and seek repentance; for we have seen that they were very slow and tardy in this respect. It was then necessary to stimulate them that they might repent. For what the Prophet says clearly intimates that mount Sion had been profaned, though God had consecrated it to himself; for God’s worship had been there vitiated, and there was there no integrity; and that the faithful city, such at least as it ought to have been, had become full of falsehood and treachery; for truth is not to be confined to that fidelity which men ought to observe one towards another, but is to be extended to that sincerity which the faithful ought to possess as to the pure and sincere worship of God. This is the sum of the whole. It now follows —

4. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.
4. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Adhuc habitabunt vetuli et vetulae (vel, senes et anus, sed est idem nomen) in plateis Ierosolymae, et viro baculus ejus in manu sua prae multitudine dierum.

He confirms what we have already stated, that the Jews would be safe under the hand and protection of God, as he would dwell among them. The cause of a safe and quiet state he made to be the presence of God. For when we have peace with the whole world, we may yet disturb one another, except the God of peace restrains us; inasmuch as mutual and intestine discord may harass us, though we may be spared by external enemies. It is then necessary in the first place, that the God of peace and salvation should dwell in the midst of us. But when we have the presence of God, then comes full security. Suitably then does the Prophet now say, that yet dwell would old men and old women the midst of Jerusalem: for since the time the Jews had returned, they had been harassed, we know, by continual wars; and it could hardly be expected that they could live long in a state of incessant troubles, while new fears were daily disturbing them. Since then they were thus in incessant and endless dangers, the Prophet gives them relief, and promises that there would be to them yet a quiet habitation, so that both men and women would live to extreme old age. Hence he says, There shall yet dwell, etc.
Then he adds, a staff shall be to man for his age, or on account of multitude of days. This seems indeed to have been said with no great propriety; for it would have been much better had vigor been given them, so that men failed not through old age. Hence the weakness mentioned here seems to have been a sign of God’s curse rather than of his favor; and on this account the Lord promises by Isaiah, that old men would be vigorous and strong, (<236520>Isaiah 65:20;) so that they felt not the disadvantage of age. But the design of Zechariah, as we have already reminded you, was here different; for many by their daily complaints depressed the minds of the godly, declaring that they were deceived, and saying that Jerusalem would not long stand, as they were surrounded by so many enemies. Hence Zechariah shows, that the Jews would be in no danger of falling by the hand of enemies, as they would live securely without any external disturbances; for we know that many old men, half alive through age and supporting themselves by a staff, cannot be anywhere seen, except in a state of peace and quietness, undisturbed by enemies. fm76
We now then perceive the design of the Prophet, which was to show, that Jerusalem would be tranquil and in peace, and that this would be the fruit of God’s presence; for its citizens would die through years, and not through the violence of eternal enemies. To the same purpose is what follows —

5. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
5. Et plateae urbis plenae erunt pueris et puellis, ludentibus in plateis ejus.

He repeats and confirms the same thing by another representation — that boys and girls would play in the streets and on the public roads, which could not be during the troublous time of war; for when arms clatter, the sound of trumpets is heard, and assaults of enemies are dreaded, every one keeps his children at home, and in public there is sad confusion, and few are found abroad; in short there is no cheerfulness even in children when fear is hanging over them. We hence see, that what is here promised is a state of quietness to Jerusalem; for God would keep off the onsets of enemies — not that Jerusalem was ever exempt from all evils, but that God’s defense was so effectual as to render them safe amidst many and various dangers.
It is not needful here anxiously to raise the questions — Whether it is lawful to play during times of peace? for the Prophet here took his language from the common habits of men, and even from the very nature of things; for we know that men give way to cheerfulness when no fear lays hold on their minds, and that play and sport are allowed to children. The Prophet meant only this, that though the Jews might then have something to do with various enemies, they would yet be in a state of peace and safety. He afterwards adds —

6. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.
6. Sic dicit Iehovae exercituum, Si mirabile est hoc in oculis reliquiarum populi hujus in diebus illis, etiam in oculis meis mirabile erit? dicit Iehova exercituum.

He sharply reproves here the lack of faith in the people; for as men are wont to measure whatever is promised by their own understanding, the door of entrance for these prophecies was nearly closed up when they saw that the fury of their enemies could by no means be pacified. They had indeed tried in various ways to check them, or at least to conciliate them; and we know that many edicts had been proclaimed in favor of the Jews by the kings of Persia; but such was the common hatred to them, that new enemies arose continually. On this account it is that the Prophet now blames their want of faith; and he points out, as by the finger, the source of their unbelief when he says, that they had no faith in God who spoke to them, because he promised more then what they could conceive to be possible. And this deserves notice, for if we wish to pull up unbelief by the roots from our hearts, we must begin at this point — to raise up our thoughts above the world; yea, to bid adieu to our own judgment, and simply to embrace what God promises; for his power ought to carry us up to such a height that we may entertain no doubt but that what seems to us impossible will surely be accomplished. What the Prophet calls “wonderful” is the same as impossible; for men often wonder at God’s worlds without believing them, and even under the false pretense of wonder deny his power. Hence when God promises anything, doubts immediately creep in — “Can this be done?” If a reason does not appear, as the thing surpasses our comprehension, we instantly conclude that it cannot be. We thus see how men pretending to wonder at God’s power entirely obliterate it.
When therefore the Prophet now says, If this be wonderful in your eyes, shall it be so in mine? it is the same as though he had said, “If you reject what I promise to you, because it is not in accordance with your judgment, is it right that my power should be confined to what you can comprehend?” We hence see that nothing is more preposterous than to seek to measure God’s power by our own understanding. But he seems to say at the same time, that it is useful for us to raise upwards our minds, and to be so filled with wonder, while contemplating God’s infinite power, that nothing afterwards may appear wonderful to us. We now perceive how it behaves us to wonder at God’s works, and yet not to regard anything wonderful in them. There is no work of God so minute, but that it contains something wonderful, when it is considered as it ought to be; but yet when raised up by faith we apprehend the infinite power of God, which seems incredible to the understanding of the flesh, we look down as it were on the things below; for our faith ascends far above this world.
We now see the true source of unbelief and also of faith. The source of unbelief is this — when men confine God’s power to their own understanding; and the source of faith is — when they ascribe to God the praise due to his infinite power, when they regard not what is easy, but being satisfied with his word alone they are fully persuaded that God is true, and that what he promises is certain, because he is able to fulfill it. So Paul teaches us, who says, that Abraham’s faith was founded on this assurance — that he doubted not but that he who had spoken was able really to accomplish his word. (<450420>Romans 4:20.) Hence, that the promises of God may penetrate into our hearts and there strike deep roots, we must bid adieu to our own judgment; for while we are wise in ourselves and rely on earthly means, the power of God vanishes as it were from our sight, and his truth also at the same time disappears. In a word, we must regard, not what is probable, not what nature brings, not what is usual, but what God can do, what his infinite power can effect. We ought then to emerge from the confined compass of our flesh, and by faith, as we have said, ascend above the world.
And he says, In the eyes of the remnant of this people, etc. By this sentence he seems to touch the Jews to the quick, who had already in a measure experienced the power of God in their restoration; for thirty years before their freedom had been given them by Cyrus and Darius, they regarded as a fable what God had promised them; they said that they were in a grave from which no exit could have been expected: they had experienced how great and incredible was God’s power; and yet as people astonished, they despaired of their future safety. This ingratitude then is what Zechariah now indirectly reproves by calling them the remnant of his people. They were a small number, they had not raised their banner to go forth against the will of their enemies; but a way had been suddenly opened to them beyond all expectation. Since then they had been taught by experience to know that God was able to do more than they could have imagined, the Prophet here justly condemns them for having formed so unworthy an idea of that power of God which had been found by experience to have been more than sufficient. He afterwards adds —

7. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;
7. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Ecce ergo servans populum meum e terra orientis et e terra occasus solis;
8. And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
8. Et reducam eos, et habitabunt in medio Ierosolymae; et erunt mihi in populum, et ego ero illis in Deum, in veritate et justitia.

He pursues the same subject, and introduces a preface, very necessary in so confused a state of things; for it was very difficult to raise up desponding minds and to inspire them with confidence, when pressed down with fear and trembling. This is the reason why Zechariah repeats so often, that he declared nothing but God’s commands only.
Behold, he says, I will save, or deliver my people. As dispersion took away hope, the Prophet restores it, and says, that it would not be difficult to gather the people from all parts of the world, when God stretched forth his hand; and emphatical is the expression, I will deliver my people. God then does here exalt himself, that we may learn to exalt his power, and not to judge of it according to our own comprehension. I will deliver my people, he says, from the rising as well as from the setting of the sun. This sentence then is connected with the preceding, in which the Prophet briefly shows that the Jews erred and acted perversely, when they ascribed no more to God than what the judgment of their own flesh dictated, or what seemed probable according to the course of nature. As then he had taught them that great wrong is done to God except he is separated from men, and shines eminent above the whole world, he now adds, that God, with whom nothing is wonderful or difficult, had resolved to gather his people, and from their dispersion to restore them again to Jerusalem. The Prophet then says here nothing new, but rightly applies what he had just said of God’s infinite and incomprehensible power, which men absurdly attempt to inclose in their own brains, and to attach to earthly instrumentalities.
He then adds, I will restore them, and they shall dwell, he says, in the midst of Jerusalem. He again confirms what I have already stated, — that their return would not be in vain, though many said, that the Jews had done foolishly in having returned so quickly into their own country; and they condemned their determination, as though they had been suddenly carried away by extreme ardor. Hence the Prophet, in order to show that God had dealt faithfully with his people, promises them here a safe and a perpetual habitation at Jerusalem. They shall dwell, he says; that is, “As you now see that you have been gathered, so expect that God will be your protector, so as to render you safe, and to make Jerusalem to be again inhabited, as it had been formerly.”
He afterwards adds, They shall be to me for a people, and I shall be to them for a God. By these words the Prophet confirms what he has hitherto taught, when he now speaks of the renewal of the covenant; for the whole hope of the people depended on this one thing, — that God remembered the covenant which he had made with them. This covenant had indeed been broken, according to the usual language of Scripture; for the people, when removed into exile, thought that they were cast away and forsaken by God. As then the memory of this covenant had been buried as to the effect, or as they say, apparently, the Prophet, in order to confirm what he has already said, expressly declares, that they would be God’s people, and that he would be their God. We now then understand why he adds, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people”.
In the last place he says, in truths and righteousness; that is, “settled and permanent shall be this felicity”: for when God shows that he cares for his people, then follow outward blessings, which are evidences of his favor. The Prophet adds, that this shall be in truth and righteousness; for God will not be propitious and kind to his people only for a short time, but will continue his favor to them to the end. As then God intended to establish the safety of the city, he testifies that he would be its God in righteousness, even in sincerity, in good faith, and without dissimulation, and also without any danger of changing. fm77 And how this was to be fulfilled we shall hereafter see.
Grant, Almighty God, that though we daily depart from thee by our sins, we may not yet be wholly removed from the foundation on which our salvation depends; but do thou so sustain us, or even raise us up when fallen, that we may ever continue in our degree, and also return to thee in true repentance, and whatever may happen to us, may we learn ever to look to thee, that we may never despair of thy goodness, which thou hast promised to be firm and perpetual, and that especially while relying on thy only-begotten Son our Mediator, we may be able to call on thee as our Father, until we shall at length come to that eternal inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. — Amen.
9. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.
9. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Roborentur manus vestrae, qui auditis in diebus his verba haec ex ore Prophetarum, qui (fuerunt) in die quo fundata est domus Iehovae exercituum, et templum extrueretur.
10. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbor.
10. Quia ante dies istos merces hominis non fuit, et merces jumenti nulla, et egredienti et venienti nulla pax ab angusta (vel, prae afflictione, ) et emisi cunctos homines, quemque in socium suum.
11. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.
11. At nunc non secundum dies superiores ego (agam) cum reliquiis populi hujus (agam non est in contextu, sed supplendum est, ) dicit Iehova exercituum.

THE Prophet having taught us that God was reconciled to his people, does now seasonably exhort the Jews to prepare themselves for work and strenuously to exert themselves in erecting the temple, and also in building the city: for as we have stated, many were then become slothful, as they thought that they were soon to be destroyed by their enemies, and that what they built with great labor, toil, and expense, would be presently demolished. Hence it was that sloth had crept in, so that many had left off the building both of the temple and of the city: and we have also seen elsewhere, that they were too intent on building their own houses, and at the same time neglected the temple; for each looked to his own private advantage, and also to his own pleasures. The Prophet Haggai sharply reproved this indifference, (<370104>Haggai 1:4;) and the Lord clearly showed that he had punished this their sloth; for they preferred their own houses to the temple, and through want of faith trembled, as though their restoration was a mockery. As then the people by their ingratitude had almost wiped away the recollection of their deliverance, the Prophet Haggai severely reproved them; and Zechariah now touches on the same subject.
Hence he says, that before they had begun the work of building the temple, the land was sterile, as though it was cursed by God, and that they were deprived of their hope, and that whatever they attempted proved useless; but that after they had begun, through the encouragement given them by the Prophets, to take courage to build the temple, things changed for the better, and that openly, so that it was easy to conclude, that God had been previously displeased with them, but that now he was favorable, as all things went on prosperously. This change then was a clear token both of God’s displeasure and of God’s favor; for he had justly chastised his people as long as they were under the influence of unbelief, so as not to proceed with the work of building the temple; and afterwards the favor of God had begun to shine on them, as God gave them abundance of provisions, and proved in various ways that he was now favorable to them. Zechariah therefore mentions these things, that they might proceed more cheerfully with their work, and not provoke God’s wrath, which they had previously found to have been so much to their loss, and that they might seek to enjoy his blessing, which was now so manifest before their eyes. This is the import of the whole.
He says, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Strengthened let be your hands. He exhorts them to perseverance: but as men become weak, and many things occur which enfeeble or break down their courage, he uses the word, strengthen; for it is often necessary to gather new strength, and to confirm a pious resolution. Let us now then learn to apply this doctrine to our own benefit, and let us understand what experience sufficiently teaches us, even this — that our hands, though at first well prepared, are yet soon relaxed, and as it were loosed, and even entirely fail, unless new strength be now and then attained; and that this is effected when we are animated by God’s word, and rise superior to the trials which enfeeble us. And Zechariah will presently inform us whence this strength was to be sought, even from the promises which they had already heard from the Prophets; for he would have in vain exhorted them to persevere, had not the ground of confidence been mentioned. For when God is silent, our minds, though before abundantly ready and willing, must languish, and at length wholly fail.
We then see that there can be no courage in men, unless God supports them by his word, so that they may recover their lost strength and regain their alacrity. Had the Prophet only bidden them to take courage, they might have replied, that there was nothing in their circumstances to encourage them; but when the word of God was set before them, every excuse was taken away; and they were now to gird up the loins, and boldly to fight, inasmuch as God supplied them with weapons.
Be strong, he says, ye who hear in these days these words from the mouth of the Prophets. Though Zechariah is not often concise in his words, but in many parts diffuse, yet he is so here, and the whole verse is very emphatical; for after having said that they were not destitute of God’s promises, he adds, “in these days,” and also “these words.” He intimates that they were not only taught a general truth, that they were to render obedience, but that God himself would be their leader to direct their steps and to show them the way: in a word, he omits nothing to enable them to proceed without difficulty with the work which they had begun. There is then an emphasis intended by the demonstrative, “these,” “these;” for the Prophet intimates that God was continually speaking to them, and that he announced not only a general truth, but specific words, by which they might guide their feet and their hands in every action. And he says, that those words were heard from the mouth of the Prophets, for God intended honor to be done to his servants; and it is, as it has been often stated, a true test of faith, when God descends not himself from heaven, or does not appear to us in a visible form, but makes use of men as his ministers. Yet Zechariah briefly intimates, that the Prophets are not the authors of the promises, which are necessary to raise up, support, and stimulate our minds; for the Lord only employs their service; and this is what he means by the word mouth.
He now adds, Who were in that day in which was founded the house of Jehovah, in order to build the temple. Not much time had elapsed since they had begun again to build the temple, and the foundations had been laid; but the work had been discontinued through the unbelief of them all, and also through the private regard of each to his own interest. For as they were in suspense and doubtful, there arose sloth and indifference, and avarice possessed them, so that they despised the temple of God. But he says now that during that short time God often spoke to them by his Prophets with the view of correcting their delay and tardiness, for the Prophet mentions here as it were but one day, for the purpose of expressing how short the time had been. Less excusable then was their sloth, since God daily spoke to them and confirmed by new Prophets what the former ones had said. fm78
It follows, For before these days there was no hire for man, and no hire for beast, no peace to passengers, because I had sent forth all men, each one against his friend. The Prophet mentions here, as I have already said, evidences of God’s curse, by which the Jews might have learnt that he was displeased with their neglect in disregarding the building of the temple, for while omitting that they paid attention to their domestic affairs. He therefore reminds them of what might have made them to fear, lest they should go on still to provoke God; for they had been taught, to their great loss, not to excite in this manner his displeasure: and Zechariah, no doubt, as well as Haggai and Malachi, had often addressed the people on this subject; for we see how prone is the disposition of us all to relapse into forgetfulness when God in any measure relaxes in his discipline. We presently shake off every fear when exempt from evils. This is the reason why it is needful for us to be often reminded of those judgments of God which we have experienced, according to what is done here by Zechariah.
Before these days, he says, there was no hire for man, and no hire for beast; that is, there was no profit from the labor of men or of beasts. He takes it as granted, that men were not tardy in their work, and that beasts performed their labors, but that no fruit appeared. And whence was it the labor of men and of beasts was unprofitable, except from God’s curse, as the law testifies? (<052808>Deuteronomy 28:8.) For when the Prophets speak of God’s curse they refer to the law, and only apply to their present purpose what is stated generally in the law. As then God declares in the law that he will bless the work of the hands, Zechariah draws this inference that God was displeased when men and beasts toiled laboriously without any advantage.
He then adds, There was no peace. When men labor in vain, thirst and want of all things must follow; for though the labor of man, we know, is of itself of no value, yet when blessed by God it is the means of promoting fertility, so that the earth may supply us with food. On the other hand, when the labor of man is barren, even the earth itself refuses to bring forth fruit. It was then no light calamity when God visited the people with poverty and famine. But another evil is added, no less dreadful and even more grievous that the land was so harassed by enemies that no travelling was safe. Hence he says, that there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in; that is, there was no free or peaceable travelling, but they were exposed to pillage and plunder. In a word, Zechariah teaches us here, that the Jews were under a curse both within and without, for the land disappointed those who cultivated it, as it yielded no fruit, and then they were exposed to hostile assaults.
With regard to the words, rxh ˆm, men etsar, some render them, on account of distress, “there was no peace on account of distress.” But we may retain the proper meaning of the preposition ˆm, mem, “there was no peace from distress;” that is, there were none safe from inconvenience and molestation. fm79
The reason is added, Because God had sent forth all men, each one against his neighbor. The Prophet designedly subjoined this, that the Jews might know that these evils could not be ascribed to fortune, as though men did rise up thoughtlessly one against another. Hence he reminds them that their quietness was disturbed by the just and hidden judgment of God, for he can turn as he pleases the hearts of men; he now inclines them to humanity or to mercy, and then he turns them to madness and ferocity. That the Jews might know that they had to do with God, the Prophet declares here that men had been sent forth, that they might mutually rage and assault one another.
Hence they who use the word permit, not only take away from what the Prophet means, but wholly pervert his doctrine and extinguish its light altogether: for God does not say here that he was still when the Jews ill-treated one another; but he meant to have this attributed to his judgment. For when almost the whole world was hostile to a few men, and those related to one another, they ought surely to have been united among themselves; for necessity conciliates even the most alienated, and even pacifies those who have been previously the most violent enemies. Since, then, the Jews were assailed by foreign enemies, they ought to have been friends among themselves, or at least to have been so softened as not to be so hostile towards one another. As then they raged against their own bowels, so that no one spared his own friends, God more fully shows by this circumstance that he was the author of these confusions. And how God kindles the hearts of men to ferocity, and is yet free from all blame, has been explained elsewhere. God indeed executes his righteous judgments, when he sets men one against the other; and if we inquire into the cause and the end, we shall find that men are in this way justly punished. As then in God’s judgments there ever shines forth the highest equity, there is no reason for men to try to implicate him in their own perdition, or to devolve on him a part of the blame. God then justly excites the hearts of men into madness, and yet men themselves bear the whole blame, though God draws them here and there against their will, and makes use of them as his instruments; for the hidden purpose of God does not excuse them, while nothing is less their object than to obey his word, though they are guided by his hidden operation. We know that no work pleases God, but when there is a willing obedience, which none of the reprobate ever render; and we also know that all works are to be judged according to the end designed. We must therefore consider what was the reason that God thus set men against one another, and what end he had in view. But we have elsewhere discussed this subject at large.
Let us then now, in short, bear this in mind, that the Jews mutually harassed and distressed one another, not by chance, but because the Lord, who was their enemy and whose wrath they had provoked, had sent them forth as enemies among themselves.
He afterwards adds, But now, not according to former days, shall I be to the remnant of this people, saith Jehovah of hosts. Zechariah now reminds them that things had changed for the better, as it was evident that God was propitious to them. And if the cause of this change be asked, the answer is, the building of the temple. If nothing had been said by the Prophets, the Jews might have only conjectured, but every doubt had been removed; for God had threatened then with punishment which he afterwards inflicted, and then he exhorted them to repentance, and said that he would be reconciled to them: when the Jews rightly considered these things, they had no need of having recourse to conjectures. It was indeed fully evident that God regarded them with favor, and that the fruits of his favor were before their eyes; and they were thus encouraged to proceed with the work of building the temple. It now follows —

12. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
12. Quia semen pacis, vitis proferet fructum suum, et terra proferet fructum suum (est quidem aliud nomen, sed idem significat, ) et coeli dabunt rorem suum; et possidere faciam reliquias populi hujus omnia haec.

Here Zechariah promises the continuance of God’s favor, which the Jews had now begun to taste. God then had in part openly showed that he was a Father to the Jews, by dealing liberally with them: but in order more fully to strengthen them in their perseverance, Zechariah says that this favor would be continued.
And he says first, that there would be the seed of peace. Some think that it is called the seed of peace because the cultivation of the fields, while the assaults of enemies were dreaded, was deserted; no one dared to bring out his oxen or his horses, and then even when the husbandmen sowed their fields, it was not done as in seasons of quietness and security. As then the fields, when badly cultivated in times of war, do not produce a full crop, so they think that it is called the seed of peace, when husbandmen are permitted to employ necessary labor, when they are free from every fear, and devote securely their toils on the cultivation and the sowing of their fields. Others explain the seed of peace to be this — that it is so when neither storms, nor tempests, nor mildew, nor any other evils do any harm to the corn and fruit. But as µwlç, shelum, means often in Hebrew prosperity, we may so take it here, that it would be the seed of peace, that is, that the seed would be prosperous; and this interpretation seems to me less strained. It shall then be the seed of peace, that is, it shall prosper according to your labor; what is sown shall produce its proper fruit. fm80
There is added an explanation — The vine shall yield its fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and the heaven shall yield its dew. We hence conclude that it was called the seed of peace, because the husbandmen gained their object when the earth, irrigated by the dew of heaven, was not sterile, and when the produce was abundant, when there was plenty of corn and wine, and of other things. There is then peace or prosperity as to the seed, when the corn grows according to our wishes, and comes to maturity, and when heaven responds to the earth, and withholds not its dew, as we have seen in another place. In short, God testifies that the remnant of his people should abound in all good things, for the heaven would not withhold from them its rain, nor the earth shut up its bowels.
But God ever recalls his people to himself, that they may depend on his blessing; for it would be a cold doctrine were we not persuaded of this — that the earth is not otherwise fruitful than as God gives it the power of generating and of bringing forth. We ought therefore ever to regard the blessing of God, and to ask of him to supply us with food, and to pray him every day, as we are taught, to give us our daily bread. But few do this from the heart, and hardly one in a hundred so turns his thoughts to God’s hand as firmly to believe that he daily receives from him his daily food. We now understand what the Prophet means in these words. It now follows —

13. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
13. Et erit, quemadmodum fuistis maledictio inter gentes, domus Iehudah, et domus Israel; sic servabo vos et eritis benedictio: ne timeatis, roborentur manus vestrae.

He goes on with the same subject, and in this verse he states two contrary things, in order to render more clear what he teaches here — that while God was angry the earth was barren, and all things went on unhappily with the Jews; but that when God had begun to be reconciled, the earth had as it were changed its nature, and brought forth plentifully, and that they were in every way made blessed.
Hence he says, As ye have been a curse, etc. Here again he mentions and reminds them how miserable they were while they minded only their private interest, and by neglecting the temple manifested their impiety and ingratitude; for what ought they to have been more ready to do when they returned to their country than to build the temple, and to offer there sacrifices to God, in order to avow him as the author of their deliverance? But the temple was neglected; and the Prophet concludes that they must have been extremely forgetful, if they did not consider what their condition was as long as they had no care for the temple; and he says that they had been a curse among the nations; that is, that they were an example of a curse, according to the threatening of the law. For it is a mode of speaking frequent in Scripture, that the people were a curse; and the common formula of cursing was — “Let the Lord curse thee as he does the Jews.” Zechariah then says that the Jews had been a curse, that they had not only been smitten by God’s hand, but that they had been given up to calamities, in order that they might become to all detestable, and bear in a manner signs of God’s wrath imprinted on them. Whoever then at that time looked on a Jew, he might see that he had the appearance of bearing a curse. In short, Zechariah means that the Jews had been punished in a manner not common or usual, but that God had executed on them dreadful judgments, which made it evident to all that he was grievously offended with them. Ye have been then a curse among all nations. fm81
He then adds, So I will save you, as ye shall be a blessing. The word save is introduced that God might more clearly set forth his favor, lest the Jews should think that the change had been effected by fortuitous change; for we know that men’s thoughts soon change, and they feign this or that cause that they may obscure God’s providence. God then, before he promises that they should be a blessing, says that he would save them. What it is to be a blessing may be easily learnt from the opposite clause. They are then said to be a blessing who bear evident tokens of God’s favor and kindness. So the Prophet means, that when people wished to be prayed for, or when they wished well to one another, this would be the common form of their requests — “May God bless us as he blesses his chosen people: as the Jews are dear to God, so may he favor us with the same or similar kindness.” Thus then we see that the Jews were a curse, when exposed to extreme reproaches; and that they became a blessing when God manifested towards them tokens of favor, and showed in reality, or by the effect, that he was pacified towards them.
He says, in the last place, Fear ye not; strengthened be your hands. He exhorts them to entertain hope, for fear stands opposed to confidence; and fear, proceeding from unbelief, cannot be otherwise dissipated but by God’s promises made to us, which chase away all doubts. Rightly then does the Prophet teach us that the Jews had no reason to fear, for he declares that God was propitious to them. We indeed know that all fear cannot be wholly driven away from the hearts of men; for it would be necessary to deprive us of every feeling before we could regard dangers without fears. But though fear is natural to us, and occasions of fear ever occur to us, yet the fear of unbelief may be dispelled by faith; and hence it is no wonder that God condemns fear, when he promises salvation to his elect. But as I have said, we ought to observe that there is here a contrast between condemnable fear and that confidence which relies on God’s word. We must also add, that the confidence of God’s children is never so complete that they are free from all fear, even the fear of unbelief; but still we ought to struggle against it, so as not to be hindered in the course of our calling. And this we learn more fully from the end of the verse.
Strengthened be your hands. But why does the Prophet forbid the Jews to fear? even for this purpose, — that they might arouse themselves for the work which the Lord had allotted to them, and not allow fear to retard them or to prevent them to persevere.
We now then perceive how the faithful become prepared and ready to render service to God: sloth must first be shaken off — but how? even by having fear removed. What is the remedy for healing fear? even to recomb on the promises of God; for when our minds are composed, the hands and the feet and all the members will be ready to do their office. Alacrity both of mind and heart and of all the members follows, when fear is shaken off, and when men begin so to rely on God’s word, as to know that his help is enough for them against all dangers, and to dread nothing, being convinced that the Lord will by his power remove all hindrances.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees us to be cold and frigid, when all our actions ought to be consecrated to thee, and all our members to be devoted to thy service in obedience to thy word, — O grant, that we may every day courageously strive against our natural indifference, and contend with all hindrances, and boldly repel all assaults which Satan may make, so that though our fervor may not be such as it ought to be, we may yet with sincere desire and genuine affection of heart ever advance in the course of our calling, until we reach the goal and be gathered into thy kingdom to enjoy the victory which thou hast promised to us, and with which thou also daily favourest us, until at length it be fully enjoyed, when we shall be gathered into thy celestial kingdom, through Christ our Lord. — Amen.
ZECHARIAH 8:14, 15
14. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:
14. Quia sic dicit Iehovah exercituum, Quemadmodum cogitavi malum inferre vobis dum me inflammarunt (aut, provocarunt) patres vestri, dicit Iehova exercituum; et non poenituit me;
15. So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
15. Sic conversus sum, cogitavi diebus istis benefacere Ierosolymae et domui Iehudah, ne timeatis.

THE Prophet confirms the truth in the preceding verse, when he said that there would be a wholly different lot to the Jews, as they would in every way be blessed. He shows the cause of the change; for God would begin to favor them, who had been before displeased with them. We indeed know that the Holy Spirit everywhere calls men before God’s tribunal, that they may know that no adversity happens to them, except through their sins. So also in this place Zechariah reminds us, that God had been angry with the Jews, because they had provoked his wrath. But now a promise is added, that God had turned; not that he had changed his mind, but he meant to show that he was pacified. fm82 We indeed know that we are to judge of God’s love or hatred to us by outward things; for when God treats us severely, manifest tokens of his wrath appear; but when he deals kindly with us, then the fruit of reconciliation seems evident. According to this view does he now say, that God was of another mind than formerly towards the Jews; for he designed to show them kindness, having before sharply and severely chastised them. But we must more particularly consider each part.
He says, that as God had previously resolved to punish the Jews, he was now inclined to show mercy, and that they would find him as it were changed and different from what he had been. These verses, as I have said, are explanatory; for the Prophet had briefly promised that the Jews would be a remarkable example of being a blessed people, but he now shows why God had previously inflicted on them so many evils and calamities, even because their fathers had provoked his wrath. And when he says that he had visited them on account of the crimes or sins of their fathers, we must understand this of the body of the people. Superfluous then is the question which some interpreters moot, Whether God punished the children for the sins of their fathers, when yet he declares in another place, that the soul that sins shall die: for in this place the Prophet does not distinguish the fathers from the children, but intimates that God had not been propitious to the Jews, because they had before greatly provoked his wrath. There is yet no doubt, but that every one justly suffered the punishment of his iniquity. The import of the whole is, that the Jews gained nothing by evasion, for God had not without reason visited them, but had rendered a just reward for their sins. This is one thing.
What he adds, that God repented not for being thus angry, means the same as though he had said, that the Jews through their perverseness had only rendered God’s rigour inflexible. Zechariah then reminds us, that when men cease not to add evils to evils, and obstinately rush on as though they would make war with God, he then becomes as it were obstinate too, and according to what is said in the eighteenth Psalm, “deals perversely with the perverse.” The reason then why God declares that he had been implacable to his people, is, because the wickedness of those whom he had spared and long tolerated was become unhealable; for when he saw that they were wholly perverse, he armed himself for vengeance.
And hence we may gather a general truth, — that God cannot be intreated by us, except when we begin to repent; not that our repentance anticipates God’s mercy, for the question here is not, what man of himself and of his own inclination can do; as the object of Zechariah is only to teach us, that when God designs to forgive us, he changes our hearts and turns us to obedience by his Spirit; for when he leaves us in our hardness, we must necessarily be ever afflicted by his hand until we at last perish.
We must at the same time notice what I have also referred to, — that God here closes the mouths of the Jews, that they might not murmur against his severity, as though he had dealt cruelly with them. He then shows that these punishments were just which the Jews had endured; for it had not been for one day only, but for a continued succession of time, that the fathers had excited his wrath. The reason why he speaks of the fathers rather than of themselves is, because they had for a long series of years hardened themselves in their wickedness, and corruption had become in them as it were hereditary. He now says that he had turned; not that he was of another mind, as we have already said, but this is to be understood of what the people experienced; for God seemed to be in a manner different, when he became kind to them and showed them favor, having before manifested many tokens of vengeance.
Now at the end of the verse the Prophet reminds us of the application of his doctrine, even to encourage the Jews, that they might go on with alacrity in the work of building the temple. But we have said that we ought to be armed with God’s promises, so that we may with courageous hearts follow wherever he may call us; for we shall all presently faint except we find that the hand of God is present with us. Since then we are by nature slothful and tender, and since inconstancy often creeps in, this is our only remedy, — that when we seek to go on in the course of our calling to the end, we know that God will be ever a help to us; and this is what the Prophet now teaches us. He then applies what he had before promised to its legitimate purpose, — to encourage the Jews to lay aside their fear, courageously to undertake their work, and to expect what was not yet evident, even a complete restoration. It follows —

ZECHARIAH 8:16, 17
16. These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:
16. Haec verba quae facieties (Haec sunt, nam nomen [µyrbd] est supervacuum, Haec sunt igitur quae facietis, ) Loquimini veritatem, quisque cum socio suo; veritatem et judicium pacis judicate in portis vestris;
17. And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.
17. Et vir (et quisque) malum socio suo ne cogitetis in cordibus vestris; et jusjurandum mendacii ne diligatis; quia omnia haec sunt quae odio habeo, dicit Iehova.

Zechariah exhorts them here to true repentance, by showing that more things were to be hoped for than what they saw with their eyes; and at the same time he shows that it was not enough for them assiduously to build the city and the temple; but he requires other things, even that they should observe integrity and justice towards one another. We indeed know that the Jews were so given to their own ceremonies, that they thought that holiness existed in them: and this error Zechariah had before condemned, and now he inculcates the same truth, — that if they wished to have God propitious to them, and also wished to enjoy continually that goodness which they had already tasted, they were to strive to secure it not only by sacrifices and other ceremonies, but especially by attention to justice and equity.
But the Prophet does not here mention every part of an upright life, but only refers to some things. This mode of speaking is quite common, as we have already often noticed. The Prophet then states a part for the whole; but still he includes generally the whole of the second table, when he says that these things were to be observed, fm83 even that they should speak the truth; that is, deal faithfully with one another, abstain from every falsehood and deceit, and from every kind of craftiness, — and also that they should execute justice in their gates. And because he names neighbors here, it would be very absurd for anyone hence to conclude, that it is lawful to defraud strangers, or those with whom we have no near connection: but the Prophet by this term meant only to set forth the atrocious conduct of the Jews, who spared not even their friends and their brethren. Though then it is a wicked thing to deceive any one, even the farthest from us, it is yet a greater crime when one lies in wait for his near neighbor and brother: and we know that this mode of speaking occurs everywhere in the law; for God, in order to restrain us from evil deeds, has set before us that kind of sin which we are constrained by the impulse of nature to detest. Thus he speaks of secret hatred as being murder. Then the Prophet in this place meant more sharply to reprove the Jews, because such barbarity had prevailed among them, that no one regarded his neighbor, but raged as it were against his own bowels.
As to the words, truth and the judgment of peace, he intimates by them, that not only individuals were privately given to evil deeds, but that also the court of justice was full of frauds and wrong acts, while it ought to have been the sanctuary of justice. Though many may be perversely wicked among the people, yet their audacity and wickedness are always restrained, when the laws are put in force, and incorrupt judges rule. But the Prophet shows that the judges had become like robbers, for there was no integrity in the gates. He mentions truth first, for the judges craftily perverted all truth by misrepresentations, as it is commonly the case. For even the worst of men do not openly say that they approve of a wicked deed; but they find out disguises by which they cover their own baseness, and that of those who do wrong, whom they favor, when bribed with money. It is then necessary that truth should have the first place in courts of justice. By the judgment of peace he understands, when his own is given to every one. Some think that what is right is called the judgment of peace, because when mercenary judges condemn and oppress the innocent, and for gain’s sake patronise what is wrong, many tumults often arise, and then open war ensues: but as the word peace has a wide meaning in Hebrew, we may take the judgment of peace as meaning only a calm and a rightly formed judgment. The Jews, we know, administered justice in the gates.
He afterwards adds, And think not evil every one against his friend. Here the Prophet not only condemns open wrongs, but also the hidden purposes of evil. We hence learn, that the law was not only given to restrain men as it were by a bridle, and that it not only contains a rule of life as to outward duties, but that it also rules their hearts before God and angels. The law is indeed really spiritual; and extremely gross and foolish are they who think that they satisfy the law of Moses, when they abstain from murder and theft and other evil deeds; for we see that the Prophets everywhere required a right feeling in the hearts as Zechariah does in this place, who reminds the Jews, that they were not to devise evil against their friends, no, not in their hearts. He might have omitted the last words; but he meant to condemn those frauds which were wont to be covered by many and various disguises. Though then men may not bring forth their wickedness, yet Zechariah shows that God will punish it; for whatever dwells within, however concealed it may be from the eyes of men, however hidden it may be in the depth of the heart, it must yet come to an account before God.
He adds another kind of evil, even perjury, And love not the oath of falsehood. He might have said, swear not to the injury of thy neighbor; but there is to be observed here a contrast between the perverted love of men and the hatred of God. As then God hates a false oath as all other frauds and falsehoods, so he forbids us to desire it: for if we wish to please God, we must see what he requires from us, inasmuch as we designedly provoke his wrath when we desire or covet what he declares that he hates. In a word, Zechariah shows that God would be propitious and kind to the Jews, provided they truly and from the heart repented, and attended to what was right and just — not only to build the temple, to offer sacrifices, and to observe other rites, but also to form their life according to what integrity required; to labor not only by external acts to discharge their duties towards their neighbors; but also to cleanse their hearts from all hatred, all cruelty, and all depraved affections. It now follows —

ZECHARIAH 8:18, 19
18. And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying,
18. Et fuit sermo Iehovae exercituum ad me, dicendo,
19. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
19. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Iejunium quarti et jenunium quinti, et jejunium septimi, et jejunium decimi (mensis, ) erit domui Iehudah in gaudium et laetitiam et dies festos bonos; ergo veritatem et pacem diligite.

He confirms the same truth, that such would be the restoration of the Church that all the memory of their sorrows would be obliterated. We have already said, that some fasts were observed by the Jews after the destruction of their city. Before two only were mentioned, but now the Prophet names four. In the fourth month the city was taken, and in the fifth the temple was destroyed and burnt down; in the seventh was Gedaliah slain, who had remained with the residue of the people who had been gathered by him; and the fast of the tenth month, as some think, was appointed when the city was besieged. If so, the fast of the tenth month preceded the rest, then followed the fast of the fourth month, in the third place the fast of the fifth month, and, lastly, the fast of the seventh month, on account of the death of Gedaliah.
These then were tokens of mourning to the time of the restoration; for when the city was besieged, God raised up, as it were, a sign of dreadful vengeance; and when Nebuchadnezzar broke through the wall of the city, it was then openly forsaken by God; after the burning of the temple there remained no hope, except that some of the common people continued in the land under the protection of Gedaliah. The root, as it were, of the people was cut off, but some thin fibres were remaining; and when even these were torn asunder, when all who could be found were led into exile, the favor of God had wholly disappeared as to the outward appearance. It behaved then the Jews to be in mourning and humiliation, that they might seek pardon from God. We shall not then say, that these fasts were without reason, and foolishly appointed by them, for they were at liberty to testify their sorrow; nay, it was an act of piety humbly in their guilt to deprecate the wrath of the celestial Judge, when they perceived that he was displeased with them. But God now promises joy, which was to extinguish all sorrow, as the rising of the sun drives away all the darkness of the night.
But the Prophet seems to allude to what he had before taught when he indirectly taunted the Jews, because they were too anxious about keeping fasts, while they neglected the main things. But the simple meaning is, that if the Jews really repented and sincerely sought to return to God’s favor, there would be an end to all their miseries, so that there would be no need of fasting.
We must also remember that the design of fasting is this, that those who have sinned may humble themselves before God, and go as suppliants before his throne, that they may confess their sins and condemn themselves. Fasting then is, as it were, the habit of criminals when they desire to obtain pardon from God; for Christ says, that there is no fasting at marriages and during festal days. (<400915>Matthew 9:15.) We then see that there is here promised a restoration which was to put an end to every former cause of sorrow among the people; not that these fasts of themselves displeased God, for they were appointed, as we have said, for a good purpose — that the people might thus exercise themselves in acts of piety, and also stimulate and support their hope till the time of their deliverance; but Zechariah pursues what he had begun — that God was now plainly reconciled, for he favored his people, and proved this by the blessings he bestowed.
With regard to festal days, we know that among other things they are expressly mentioned by Moses, “Thou shalt rejoice before thy God.” (<051218>Deuteronomy 12:18.) When therefore the Jews celebrated their festal meetings, it was the same as though they stood before God, and were thus fully persuaded that they were in his presence. Forasmuch then as God thus designed to exhilarate his people by festivals, the Prophet does not without reason say, that the fasts, which had been signs of mourning, would be turned into joy and into festal days. Moreover, the Prophet thus speaks, because the observance of the law, which prevailed while the people were in a state of security, had been interrupted in their exile — as though he had said, “As food expelled you to a foreign land, and made you while exiles from your country to grieve and mourn, so now being restored you shall have joy, and religiously keep your festal days.” And thus he indirectly reproves the Jews for having deprived themselves of their festal days, in which the law invited them to rejoice, for they had profaned them. God would not have suffered to be discontinued what he had commanded, had not religion been corrupted; for on this account it was that things changed for the worse, and that sorrow succeeded, which is here designated by fastings.
At length he concludes by saying, Love ye then truth and peace. By truth he means integrity, as we have said before; and Zechariah includes in this word the whole of what is just and right: for when our hearts are cleansed, then the rule of justice and equity is observed. When then we deal sincerely with our neighbors, all the duties of love freely flow from within as from a fountain. As to the word peace, it may be explained in two ways: either as in the former instance when he mentioned the judgment of peace in the sense of judgment rightly formed, and thus to love peace is to love good order; or it may be taken for God’s blessing, as though the Prophet said, “If ye wish to be in a good and prosperous state, observe integrity towards one another; for God will ever be present by his blessing, provided ye be sincere and faithful. fm84 Ye have in a manner sought a curse for yourselves, and dried up as it were the fountain of God’s blessings by your wickedness and your frauds. If then truth reign among you, all felicity shall accompany it; for the Lord will bless you.” I shall not proceed farther now.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou invites us so kindly and graciously to thyself, we may not be refractory, but with every evil affection subdued, offer ourselves to thy service; and since thou requires nothing else from us but to observe what is right towards one another, — O grant that we may be mindful of that brotherhood which thine only-begotten Son has consecrated by his own blood, and call on thee as our Father, and prove by the whole of our conduct that we are thy children; and may every one of us so labor for one another, that being united in heart and affection, we may with one consent aspire after that blessed life, where we shall enjoy that inheritance which has been prepared and obtained by the blood of thy Son, and through him laid up for us in heaven. — Amen.
20. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:
20. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Adhuc quando venient populi et incolae urbium magnarum (vel, multarum;)
21. And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.
21. Et venient incolae unius ad alteram, dicendo, Eamus eundo ad deprecandam faciem Iehovae, et quaerendum Iehovam exercituum; ibo etiam ego.
22. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
22. Et venient populi magni et gentes robustae ad quaerendum Iehovam exercituum Ierosolymae, et depreceandam faciem Iehovae.

THE Prophet here extends his discourse still farther; for he promises not only the complete restoration of his chosen people, but also the propagation of the Church; for God, he says, will gather a Church for himself from many and remote nations, and unite many nations in one body. And this ought to have availed especially to animate the Jews, as they were thus taught that the temple was built, not only that God might be worshipped by one nation, but by all nations. Moreover, as before this time some had come from distant lands to worship God, the Prophet may seem here to have this in view by using dw[, oud, the adverb of time. fm85 But he not only declares that some would come, as in the time of Solomon, but as I have already said, he promises here something more remarkable — that the temple would not belong peculiarly to the Jews, but would be common to all nations; for there is to be no language and no nation which is not to unite in the true worship of God. But let us consider the words of the Prophet.
He begins by saying, that God was the author of this prophecy; and this was said to secure credit. There was need, as we have said, of no common authority, since he was here speaking of what was incredible. There was only a handful of people returned to their country, and many dangers surrounded them almost every day; so that many, wearied with their present condition, preferred exile, and regret for their return had now crept into the minds of many, for they thought that they had been deceived. Since then the state of the people was such, there was need of something more than ordinary to confirm what is here said — that the glory of the second temple would be greater and more eminent than that of the first: It shall yet be, he says. Though a comparison is implied, there is yet no equality expressed, as though some few only would come. But as there had been no temple for seventy years, and as the temple, now begun to be built, was in no high esteem, but mean and insignificant, the Prophet says, that the time would yet come, when nations and inhabitants of great cities would ascend into Jerusalem. We may indeed render twbr, rebut, many or great, for it means both; but the Prophet, I think, speaks of great cities; and the reason will presently appear.
It follows, Come shall the inhabitants of one to one, that is, the inhabitants of one city to another; saying, going let us go, etc. He means by these words, that there will be a mutual consent among all nations, so that they will stimulate one another, and thus unite together their exertions. We here see that the Prophet’s object was to encourage the Jews to entertain good hope, and thus to cause them to persevere, so that they might not doubt but that success would attend their work and labor, because the Lord would have himself worshipped at Jerusalem, not only by themselves but also by all nations. But as the Jews could not believe that nations could by force be drawn there, he teaches them, that their assembling would be voluntary; he says that those who had been before extremely refractory would be disposed to come of their own accord, so that there would be no need of external force to constrain them; for they would willingly come, nay, would excite one another, and by mutual exhortations stimulate themselves so as to come together to worship God at Jerusalem.
The ardor and vehemence of their zeal is to be noticed; for the Prophet says, that they would come of their own accord, and also encourage one another, according to what we have seen in the second chapter <380201>Zechariah 2:1, Lay hold will each on the hand of his brother, and say, let us go to the mount of the God of Jacob. But more is expressed in this place, for not only shall each one encourage his brother whenever met and an opportunity be offered, but he says that they will come from all quarters. We now then see the design of the Prophet in these words. And we hence learn, that faith then only produces its legitimate fruit when zeal is kindled, so that every one strives to increase the kingdom of God, and to gather the straying, that the Church may be filled. For when any one consults his own private benefit and has no care for others, he first betrays most clearly his own inhumanity, and where there is no love the Spirit of God does not rule there. Besides, true godliness brings with it a concern for the glory of God. It is no wonder then that the Prophet, when describing true and real conversion, says, that each would be solicitous about his brethren, so as to stimulate one another, and also that the hearts of all would be so kindled with zeal for God, that they would hasten together to celebrate his glory.
Then he adds, Let us go to entreat the face of Jehovah. The phrase is common in Scripture. But we must observe, that the Prophet in speaking of God’s worship, sets prayer in the first rank, for prayer to God is the chief part, yea, the main thing in religion. It is, indeed, immediately added, and to seek Jehovah: he explains the particular by the general; and in the next verse he inverts the order, beginning with the general. However, the meaning continues the same, for God seeks nothing else but that we should be teachable and obedient, so as to be prepared to follow wherever he may call us, and at the same time carefully to enquire respecting his will, as we have need of him as our leader and teacher, so that we may not foolishly go astray through winding and circuitous courses; for if we deem it enough to take presumptuously our own way, the endeavor to seek God will be superfluous. It must then be observed, that God is then only really sought when men desire to learn from his word how he is to be worshipped. But, as I have already said, the Prophet adds prayer here, for the design of the whole truth respecting salvation is to teach us, that our life depends on God, and that whatever belongs to eternal life must be hoped for and expected from him. fm86 We now then understand the import of the whole.
But we must enquire also why he says, that the nations would come to seek God at Jerusalem, and there to call on him. The Jews foolishly imagine that God cannot be otherwise worshipped than by offering sacrifices still in the temple. But the Prophet had something very different in view, that the light of truth would arise from that city, which would diffuse itself far and wide: and this prophecy ought to be connected with that of Isaiah,
“A law shall go forth from Sion,
and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.” (<230203>Isaiah 2:3.)
As then the doctrine of salvation which has filled the whole world flowed from that city, the Prophet says, that nations would come to Jerusalem, not that it would be necessary for them to assemble there, but because all were to seek there what could not be obtained elsewhere. Since then none could be accounted the children of God except they were brought up in that school and acknowledged that alone to be true religion which had its first habitation at Jerusalem, we hence see why the Prophet expressly mentions that city.
We must further bear in mind, that the temple was built for this end and purpose, — that the doctrine of salvation might continue there, and have there its seat until the coming of Christ; for then was fulfilled that prophecy in the hundred and tenth Psalm, “The scepter of thy power shall God send forth from Sion.” The Prophet here teaches us, that Christ would not be the king of one people only, whose power was to be confined to narrow limits, but that he would rule through the whole world, for God would extend his scepter to every quarter of the globe. As tell it behaved the Jews to have this end in view, the Prophet, in order to animate them that they might not fail in the middle of their work, says, that that place was sacred to God, so that salvation might thence be sought by the whole world, for all were to be the disciples of that Church who wished to be deemed the children of God.
But we ought carefully to notice what I have already referred to, the two things required in God’s worship — to seek him, and also to pray to him. For the superstitious, though they pretend great ardor in seeking God, yet amuse themselves with many delusions; for they hurry on presumptuously, and as it were at random, so that they seek not God, but leave him, and weary themselves without thought and without any judgment. As then the superstitious have no reason for what they do, they can not be said properly to seek God. But the faithful seek God, for they acknowledge that he is not to be worshipped according to the fancy of any one, but that there is a certain prescript and rule to be observed. To us then this is the beginning of religion — not to allow to ourselves liberty to attempt anything we please, but humbly and soberly to submit to God’s word; for when any one seeks and chooses an unfit teacher, he will not advance as he ought to do. But the Prophet shows, that all the godly succeed when they strive to be approved of God by confining themselves to his word, and by attempting nothing through their own promptings, but when they have such a discernment as not to blend, as it is said, profane with sacred things. The second chief thing is, to pray to God: and the Prophet thus reminds us why it is that God would have us especially to seek him. Nothing indeed results to his advantage and benefit from our efforts, but he would have us to seek him that we may learn to expect from him everything connected with our salvation. This seeking is also defined by the term prayer, and not useless is the word face, for though God is invisible, we yet ought not to wander with uncertainty, as it were through the air, when our purpose is to flee to him, but to go to him with full confidence. Unless then we are fully persuaded of what the Scripture teaches us — that God is ever nigh those who truly call on him, the door will be closed against our prayers, for God’s name will be profaned though we may express what we wish. As then the nearness of God ought to be impressed on our hearts when we prepare ourselves for prayer, the Scripture usually adopts this form, to entreat the face of God. But this is not to be understood of an ocular sight, but, on the contrary, of the conviction of the heart. Let us now proceed -

23. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.
23. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, In diebus isitis fiet ut apprehendant decem homines ex cunctis linguis gentium, apprehendant alam viri Judaei, dicendo, Ambulabimus (vel, ambulemus) vobiscum, quia audivimus quod Deus sit vobiscum.

He pursues the same subject in this verse; for as he had before said, that the nations would willingly come to worship God, and that each would encourage his brother to undertake this pious and holy expedition, so he now adds, that ten men would lay hold on the border of a Jew’s garment: Ten men shall then take hold of the skirt of a Jew. He shows here more clearly what I have briefly referred to — that there would be no need of arms, or of any compulsion, in order to draw or compel the nations to engage in God’s service; for even ten would of themselves accompany one Jew; and it is a proof of a very great readiness when ten surrender themselves to be ruled by one. As one Jew could not be sufficient to draw so many nations, the Prophet declares that there would be everywhere a union of faith, so that those, before wholly alienated from God, would desire to join themselves as friends, or rather as companions to the Jews.
He says, From all languages. By these words he amplifies the miracle; for there cannot be a union between men far distant, especially when they are of different languages, as they are barbarians to one another. When the Prophet then says that they would come from all languages, and unite together, it more fully appears to be God’s work; for there is nothing here to be ascribed to human contrivances. It must then be that the hearts of those who cannot express their minds, and can hardly give a sign, are united together by the hidden power of the Spirit. We now perceive the Prophet’s object in this verse.
But he uses in the last clause a phrase different from the one he employed before — Let us go with you, for we have heard that with you is God. He had said, “Let us go to seek Jehovah, and to entreat his face;” but now he says “Let us go with you.” But yet he handles and confirms the same thing; for the nations could not have sought God without following the Jews going before them. For when any one separates himself from others, it so happens that he is led astray, and feeds on much that is very absurd, as we see to be the case with proud and morose men, who invent strange and monstrous things; for they shun society, and seem not to themselves to be wise, until they put off every feeling of humanity. The character then of faith has also this in it — that the elect, while they themselves obey God, desire to have many associates in this obedience, and many fellow-disciples in true religion. The Prophet thus intended to point out two things: be had said before — “Let us go to seek God;” and now — “We will go with you.” What else is this but to seek God? But he expresses more now — that the nations declare that they would come to seek God for this end — that they might learn from others, like rude beginners, who have their fellow-scholars as their teachers; so that every one who had made some progress, was to preside over others, and those as yet commencing, and still in the first elements of knowledge, were humbly to connect themselves with others better informed. Shame prevents many from making in this manner any advancement, and so they ever remain sunk in ignorance.
The Prophet at the same time not only commends humility, but also exhorts all God’s children to cultivate unity and concord. For whosoever tears asunder the Church of God, disunites himself from Christ, who is the head, and who would have all his members to be united together.
We now then understand that God ought to be sought in order to be rightly worshipped by us; and also, that he ought to be thus sought, not that each may have his own peculiar religion, but that we may be united together, and that every one who sees his brethren going before, and excelling in gifts, may be prepared to follow them, and to seek benefit from their labors. It is indeed true that we ought to disregard the whole world; and to embrace only the truth of God; for it is a hundred times better to renounce the society of all mortals, and union with them, then to withdraw ourselves from God; but when God shows himself as our leader, the Prophet teaches us that we ought mutually to stretch forth our hand and unitedly to follow him.
We have again to notice at the end of the verse what I have already referred to — that the nations would come, not compelled by force of arms or by violence, but drawn by hearing alone. We have heard. By hearing the Prophet means here the doctrine of salvation everywhere diffused; for there would be no care nor concern for worshipping were we not taught; for faith, as Paul says, is by hearing; and so prayer proceeds from faith. (<451017>Romans 10:17.) In short, the Prophet means that the knowledge of religion would be through the preaching of the truth, which would rouse all nations to the duty of worshipping God.
He now again confirms what we have also mentioned — that the Jews would have the precedence of all nations; for it appears that God would be among them. We hence see that primacy is not ascribed to the Jews in being leaders to others, because they excelled others by their own virtue or dignity, but because God presided over them. Then God is ever to be sought, though we may avail ourselves of the labors of men, and follow them when they show us the right way. We must ever bear this in mind — that those only exhort truly and honestly, who not only do so by word, but who really prove what they feel by their conduct; according to what the Prophet has said — Go will I also; and he says the same now — Let us go, or, we shall go with you. For many there are who are strenuous enough in stimulating others; but their vain garrulity appears evident; for while they bid others to run, they are standing still; and while they vehemently encourage others, they themselves delay and take their rest. Now follows —

1. The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD.
1. Onus sermonis Iehovae in terra Chadrak, et Damascus quies ejus; quia ad Iehovam oculus hominis et omnium tribuum Israel.

One thing had escaped my notice in the words of the Prophet — that great people and strong nations would come. We have said that “great” rather than “many” ought to be adopted. The latter meaning may indeed be allowed that the worshipers of God would come from various cities; but as the word µymwx[, otsumim properly signifies strong, and as it is certain that the Prophet means the same thing by the two words, it is more probable that he speaks of strong and valiant people, as they are not so easily subdued; for the more any one excels in prowess, the more stiff is his neck to undertake the yoke. As then the strong and the brave, and such as are eminent in the world, are not so easily brought to submit to God, the Prophet expressly says, that they shall become teachable, and be made willing, so that pride, as it is usually the case, shall not be a hindrance to them. fm87
I come now to the passage in which the Prophet announces a heavy burden, or a severe and fearful prophecy respecting Syria and other neighboring nations. I prefer to retain the word “burden,” rather than to render it prophecy, as many expositors have done; for though açm, mesha, is sometimes taken simply for prophecy, yet there is here, as it appears to me, something particular intended; for the Prophet denounces God’s judgment both on Syria and on the surrounding countries, and the word prophecy is not suitable; for to say “the prophecy of the word,” would be strange and without meaning. But when he says, The burden of the word of God, the sentence is full, and flows well; for he reminds us that his word would not be ineffectual, but full of effect, as it would lie as a burden on Syria and on other countries, which they should not be able to shake off. The burden then of the word of Jehovah; that is, “I have now a prediction which will be grievous and severe to those heathens who now disturb the Jews, the chosen people.”
But this doctrine contains consolation to the godly; for they may hence know that they are safe under God’s protection, as he carries on war with their enemies; nay, his vengeance was now prepared against all those who harassed the Jews. As then he had before promised that incredible favor of God which we have noticed, so now he declares that the Church would be safe under the protection of God, inasmuch as vengeance was in readiness for all the ungodly.
But the Prophet mentions here only the cities known to the Jews, for it was enough to refer to them as an example, that the Jews might hence conclude that God would be always the protector of his Church, so that no enemies shall escape unpunished. The Prophet then no doubt mentioned these few cities to the Jews, that they might feel assured that nothing is so strong and impetuous in the world which God cannot easily subdue and lay prostrate. Now as we apprehend the Prophet’s object, we shall come to the words.
Some think that the word ˚rdj, chedrak, includes the whole of Syria, which seems to me probable. Others suppose that some notable city is meant, as Damascus is immediately subjoined. But as the matter is uncertain, and as there is no doubt but that the Prophet speaks of the kingdom of Syria, I will not contest the point. Be it then the name of a city or of a country, fm88 it is all the same, for the Prophet means that the vengeance of God was impending over the Syrians, and impending in such a manner, that it would not depart from them until they were wholly destroyed. For when he adds that its rest would be Damascus, he intimates that God’s judgment would not be like a storm, which soon passes away, but that it would be a heavy and burdensome mass, which could not be dissipated, according to what Isaiah says —
“The word came on Jacob and fell on Israel;” (<230809>Isaiah 8:9;)
that is, what God pronounced against Jacob fell on Israel. He indeed changes the name, but it is the same as though he had said — “When God shall punish Jacob, can the Israelites escape?” for they were the same. The sentence then shall fall, that is, it shall find its own place: in vain will they run here and there to escape. The Jews then will gain nothing by their flight; for the vengeance now denounced by the Lord shall lay hold on them. So also in this place he says, the burden of the word of Jehovah on the land of Chadrak and Damascus, the royal city, the metropolis, shall be its rest, its dwelling; for the Lord’s vengeance will fix its station there, and it cannot be thence removed. In vain then will the Syrians try in various ways to escape, for they must be pressed down by God’s hand, until they be laid prostrate. We now then understand in what sense the Prophet says that Damascus would be the rest, the habitation, or the abode of God’s vengeance.
He afterwards adds, For to Jehovah the eye of man. The particle yk, ki is to be taken here, I think, as an adverb of time, “When”. There is indeed in reality but little difference, except that the common rendering of it greatly obscures the meaning of the Prophet. But if it be taken as an adverb of time, the passage will read better, When the eye of man shall be to Jehovah, and of all the tribes of Israel; that is, when the Jews shall begin to turn to God without any dissimulation, but with real sincerity; then he says, God will in every way bless them, and raise up his hand against their enemies. The Prophet had before exhorted the Jews to repentance; for they had been too much given to sacrifices and fastings, while no integrity existed among them. So also he shows again that their hypocrisy was an hindrance, which prevented God to manifest his favor to them; and thus he reminds them, that the gate would be opened, and the way made plain and even for God’s favor and blessings, whenever they raised their eyes to him, that is, whenever they derived their hopes from him, and fixed on him their dependence. For to direct the eyes to God is nothing else than to look to him so as to fix on him all our thoughts. Some understand by “man” all mortals, but of this I approve not; nor do I doubt but that the Prophet refers to the Jews alone; and doubtless it is not consistent with the context to regard any but the Jews. It is indeed true, that the Prophet speaks here of the calling of the Gentiles, but so as to begin with the Jews; for as they were the first-born, so it was necessary for them to have the precedence. The Prophet then here declares that God would be glorious in his chosen people, and would lay prostrate all the bordering enemies. Then the eye of man signifies the same as the eye of the whole people; as though he had said, that after the Jews had begun to lay aside all dissimulation and devoted themselves to God, and cast all their hopes on him, they would then find God sufficiently powerful to lay in the dust all their enemies.
But he afterwards adds, by way of explanation, and of all the tribes of Israel. Some give this rendering, “How much more,” as though the Prophet reasoned here from the less to the greater. But, as I have already said, this cannot be maintained. First, this explanation is strained, “The eye of man, and especially of all the tribes of Israel;” for the Jews ought to have had the first place: and secondly, the particle waw has no amplifying sense. In short, he intended by a small particle to show that precedence belonged to the Jews. I do not then understand what they mean, who would include all nations in the word “man,” and then regard the Prophet as proceeding to mention the tribes of Israel. Now what I have stated, that the true servants of God were then few, is probable enough; hence the Prophet here exhorts the whole people to a union in religion. Whenever then the whole tribes of Israel directed their eyes to God, the burden of his word would then come upon Damascus and all the Syrians. fm89
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou kindly and graciously extends thy hand to us, not only to show us once for all the right way, but also to lead us through our whole life, and even to sustain us when wearied, and to raise us up when fallen, — O grant, that we may not be ungrateful for this thy great kindness, but render ourselves obedient to thee; and may we not experience the dreadful power of thy judgment, which thou denounces on all thine enemies, who are to sustain a vengeance that is to sink them in the abyss of endless perdition; but may we suffer ourselves to be ever raised up by thy hand, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, to which thou invites us, and art ready to lead us, where we shall enjoy the fullness of those blessings which have been obtained for us by thy only-begotten Son — Amen.
2. And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.
2. Etiam Chemath terminabit in ea; Tyrus et Sidon, quia (vel quamvis) sapiens sit valde.
3. And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets.
3. Et aedificavit Tyrus munitionem sibi, et coacervavit argentum quasi pulverem, et aurum quasi lutum platearum.
4. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.
4. Ecce Dominus expellet (vel, ad inopiam rediget) eam, et percutiet in mari potentiam ejus, et ipsa igne devorabitur.

ZECHARIAH goes on with the same subject: for he says now, that destruction was nigh all the nations who, being neighbors, harassed the people of God. Yesterday I briefly referred to what he had in view, which was to show, that God would so defend his Church as to execute vengeance on all the ungodly who had unjustly persecuted it; and he spoke of the kingdom of Syria, which was contiguous to Judea. But he now goes farther, — that the wrath of God would extend to the remoter parts of Syria: for Hamath is Antioch the great, and it gave a name to a part of Syria. Damascus was the metropolis of the Syrian empire. But as we have said elsewhere, this word is variously taken in Scripture, but generally for the whole country extending from Judea to the Euphrates and even beyond it. We now then see why Zechariah adds Antioch to Syria, as though he had said, that God would now be the avenger of his people, not only by rewarding bordering cities, but also those afar off. He then passes on to Tyrus and Simon, which were, as it is well known, cities on the sea-side, and were also nigh to the Jews; for there was no great distance between Galilee and Phoenicia. But as we said yesterday, destruction is denounced on all the nations who had been inimical to the chosen people.
He says that Hamath, or Antioch, would be in its border. All nearly with one consent apply this to Judea or to Jerusalem, but they are mistaken; and this whole chapter is misunderstood by all expositors, Jews and others. I indeed feel ashamed when I see how widely they have departed from the meaning of the Prophet, and it will be almost a trial to me wholly to reject their mistakes. But it will become plainly evident that none of them have understood what the Prophet means.
They thus explain the passage, that Antioch would be within the borders of Judea, as God would consecrate to himself the lands which were before heathen. But the Prophet no doubt says, as I have already stated, that Antioch would be within the borders of Syria whenever God should visit them all for their wickedness, as though he had said, “God will involve in the same punishment that part of Syria which derives its name from Antioch, because with united forces had all the Syrians assailed his chosen people; though then they are far distant from Judea, they shall yet partake of the same punishment, because they took up arms against his Church.” Hamath then, or Antioch, shall be in the borders of Damascus; that is, it shall not be exempt from the punishment which God will inflict on the bordering kingdom of and. And as we advance this view will become more clear. fm90
He adds, Tyrus and Sidon, though it be very wise. The particle yk, ki, is used, which is properly causal; but we may gather from many parts of Scripture that it is taken as an adversative. Either meaning would not, however, be unsuitable, that God would take vengeance on the Sidonians and Syrians, because they were very crafty, or though they were cautious, and seemed skillful and cunning in managing their affairs: they were not however to escape God’s judgment. If the former meaning be approved, it was the Prophet’s object to show, that when men are extremely provident and labor to fortify themselves by crafty means, God is opposed to them; for it is his peculiar office to take the crafty by their own craftiness. As then too much cunning and craftiness displease God, it may suitably be said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were now summoned before God’s tribunal, because they were extremely crafty, as is commonly the case with merchants in wealthy and maritime cities; for they learn much cunning by the many frauds which they are almost compelled to use. Since then the Sidonians and Syrians were such, it was right to denounce vengeance on them. But the other view is equally suitable, that all the craft of Tyrus and Simon would not prevent God from executing his judgment. As to myself, I think that a reason is here given why God threatens ruin to the Syrians and Sidonians, even because they were given to crafty artifices, and thus circumvented all their neighbors.
But he uses a good word by way of concession; for all who intend to deceive cover their craft with the name of wisdom or prudence. “They wish to be cautious,” when yet they wickedly deceive others by their intrigues and frauds. A concession then is made as to the word wise: but the Prophet at the same time teaches us, that this kind of wisdom is hateful to God, when by the loss of others we increase our own wealth: for an explanation immediately follows —
For Tyrus has for herself built a fortress. The Prophet shows by these words how very cautious or prudent the Syrians had been; for they fortified themselves by strongholds, and thought themselves to be beyond the reach of danger. He then adds, and heaped to herself silver as dust, and gold as the mire of the streets, that is, accumulated wealth above measure; for he mentions “dust” and “mire” as signifying an immense heap; as though he had said, “They have worthless heaps of silver and gold for their vast abundance”. He no doubt includes silver and gold in the fortress which he mentions; for I do not confine the word fortress only to towers and strongholds; but the Prophet, as I think, states generally, that Tyrus was so furnished and fortified with wealth, forces, and all kinds of defences, that it thought itself impregnable.
There is a striking correspondence between rwx, tsur, and rwxm, metsur. rwx, Tsur, he says, has built rwxm, metsur, a fortress. It is a paronomasia worthy of notice, but cannot be retained in Latin.
He now declares that God would be an avenger. Behold, he says, Jehovah will possess, or cause to possess, as some read, but they are mistaken, owing to the two meanings of the verb çry, iresh, which means to possess and also to expel or impoverish; fm91 for interpreters think that a hope of favor and of salvation is here given to these cities, and say that they are now chosen by God as a possession. But this is wholly contrary to the intention of the Prophet, as it appears more clearly from a view of each clause.
Jehovah then will expel her, and smite her strength. The Prophet no doubt alludes to what he had already said — that Tyrus had heaped silver and gold; now on the other hand he declares that Tyrus would be exposed to a scattering; for the heap of gold and silver it had laid up would be dissipated by God: he will then dissipate; or if one chooses to take the verb as meaning to reduce to want, the contrast would thus be suitable — God will then impoverish, or expel her. Afterwards he adds, In the sea will he smite her strength. As Tyrus, we know, was surrounded by the sea, the Prophet by this reference shows God’s power in taking vengeance on her; for the sea would be no restraint or hindrance to God, when he resolved to enter there. The Syrians, indeed, thought themselves safe from every hostile attack, for they had the sea on every side as a triple wall and a triple rampart. Nor was Tyrus altogether like Venice; for Venice is situated in a stagnant sea, while the situation of Tyrus was in a very deep sea, as historians plainly show who relate its assault by Alexander the Great. It had indeed been before taken and plundered; but he did what none had ever thought of — he filled up a part of the sea, so that Tyrus was no longer an island.
We now see what Zechariah had in view, when he threatened ruin to Tyrus, though its strength was in the midst of the sea, beyond the reach of fortune, as it is commonly said. And she shall be consumed by fire. He means that Tyrus would not only be plundered, but wholly demolished; for we know that even the strongest things are consumed by fire. It follows —

5. Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited.
5. Videbit Ascalon et timebit; et Aza, et dolebit valde; et Ekron, quia confusus erit (aut, pudefactus) aspectus ejus; et peribit rex ab Aza (hoc est, Gaza) et Ascalon non habitabitur.

In this verse also is described the devastation of those cities which the Prophet names; as though he had said, that all those cities which had risen up against God’s people were devoted to extreme vengeance. Zechariah says that none would be exempt from punishment, since the hand of God would be stretched forth, and extend everywhere, so that it might be easily concluded, that all those who had unjustly harassed the Church would be thus rewarded for their cruelty. This is the import of what is here said.
He says that Ascalon would see and fear; for at that time the Ascalonites were hostile to the Jews. He speaks the same of Aza, which the Greeks called Gaza; but they were deceived in thinking it was a name given to it by Cambyses, for the reason that Gaza means a treasure in the Persian language. This is childish. It is indeed certain that it has been owing to a change in the pronunciation of one letter; for [, oin, is guttural among the Hebrews, and was formerly so pronounced, like our g: as they called Amorrah, Gomorrah, so Aza is Gaza. We have spoken of this elsewhere.
Now it appears from geography that these cities were near the sea, or not far from the sea, and having this advantage they gathered much wealth. But as wealth commonly generates pride and cruelty, all these nations were very troublesome to the Jews. This is the reason why the Prophet says that grief would come on Gaza, and then on Ekron and on other cities. He adds, Because ashamed shall be her expectation. There is no doubt but they had placed their trust in Tyrus, which was thought to be impregnable; for though enemies might have subdued the whole land, there a secure station remained. Since they all looked to Tyrus, the Prophet says that their hope would be confounded, when Tyrus was overthrown and destroyed. The sum of the whole is, that the beginning of the vengeance would be at Tyrus, which was situated as it were beyond the world, so as not to be exposed to any evils. He says then that the beginning of the calamity would be in that city, to which no misfortunes, as it was thought, could find an access. And then he mentions that other cities, on seeing Tyrus visited with ruin, would be terrified, as their confidence would be thus subverted. He afterwards adds, Perish shall the king from Gaza, and Ascalon shall not be inhabited; that is, such a change will take place as will almost obliterate the appearance of these cities. It follows —

6. And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.
6. Et habitabit extraneus in Azdoth, (hoc est Azoti, et Azdoth verterunt Graci Azotum,) et excidam superbiam Philistim.

In this verse the Prophet denounces a similar ruin on Azotus, and the whole land of the Philistines, or on the whole land of Palestine. For what interpreters say, that the Jews would dwell at Azotus as strangers, that is, though they had previously been counted aliens, is to reach neither heaven nor earth. The Prophet on the contrary means, that after the destruction of these cities, if any inhabitants remained, they would be like strangers, without any certain habitation. The Prophet then mentions the effect, in order to show that the country would be waste and desolate, so as to contain no safe or fixed dwellings for its inhabitants. Some render it spurious, as it is rendered in some other places; and they understand it of the Jews, because they had been before in a mean condition, as though they were like a spurious race. But their opinion is probable, who derive rzmm, memezar, from rwz, zur, which means to peregrinate; and they quote other instances, in which the double mm, mem, is used in the formations of a noun; and it is easy to prove, from many passages of scripture, that rzmm, memezar, means a stranger. fm92 And if any one carefully considers the design of the Prophet, he will see the truth of what I have said — that is, that his object is to show, that all the inhabitants of Azotus, and of the land of the Philistine, would be like lodgers, because all places would be desolate through the slaughter and devastations of enemies. As then Ashdod and Palestine had been before noted for the number of their people, the Prophet says that all the cities of Palestine, and the city Ashdod, would be deserted, except that there would be there a few scattered and wandering inhabitants, like those who sojourn in a strange land. It follows —

7. And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite.
7. Et auferam sanguines ejus ex ore ejus, et abominationes ejus e medio dentium ejus; et qui residuus erit, etiam ipse, erit Deo nostro; et erit quasi dux in Iehuda, et Ekron quasi Iebusaeus.

Interpreters do also pervert the whole of this verse; and as to the following verse, that is, the next, they do nothing else but lead the readers far astray from its real meaning. God says now, that he will take away blood from the mouth of enemies; as though he had said, “I will check their savage disposition, that they may not thus swallow down the blood of my people.” For here is not described any change, as though they were to become a different people, as though the Syrians, the Sidonians, the Philistine, and other nations, who had been given to plunders, and raged cruelly against the miserable Jews, were to assume the gentleness of lambs: this the Prophet does not mean; but he introduces God here as armed with power to repress the barbarity of their enemies, and to prevent them from cruelly assaulting the Church.
I will take away blood, he says, from their mouth; and he says, from their mouth, because they had been inured in cruelty. I will cause, then, that they may not as hitherto satiate their own lust for blood. He adds, and abominations, that is, I will take from the midst of their teeth their abominable plunders; for he calls all those things abominations which had been taken by robbery and violence. fm93 And he compares them to wild beasts, who not only devour the flesh, but drink also the blood and tear asunder the raw carcass. In short, he shows here, under the similitude of wolves and leopards and wild boars, how great had been the inhumanity of enemies to the Church; for they devoured the miserable Jews, as wild and savage beasts are wont to devour their prey.
It afterwards follows, and he who shall be a remnant. Some translate, “and he shall be left,” and explain it of the Philistine and other nations of whom mention is made. But the Prophet doubtless means the Jews; for though few only had returned to their country as remnants from their exile, he yet says that this small number would be sacred to God, and that all who remained would be, as it were, leaders in Judah, however despised they might have been. For there was no superiority even in the chief men among them; only they spontaneously paid reverence to Zerubbabel, who was of the royal seed, and to Joshua on account of the priesthood; while yet all of them were in a low and mean condition. But the Prophet says, that the most despised of them would be leaders and chiefs in Judah. We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning; for after having predicted the ruin that was nigh all the enemies of the Church, he now sets forth the end and use of his prophecy; for God would provide for the good of the miserable Jews, who had been long exiles, and who, though now restored to their country, were yet exposed to the ill treatment of all, and also despised and made even the objects of scorn to their enemies. He then who shall be a remnant, even he shall be for our God, as though he had said, “Though the Lord had for a time repudiated you as well as your fathers, when he drove you here and there and scattered you, yet now God has gathered you, and for this end — that you may be his people: ye shall then be the peculiar people of God, though ye are small in number and contemptible in your condition.” fm94
Then he adds, these remnants shall be as leaders in Judah, that is, God will raise them to the highest honor; though they are now without any dignity, they shall yet be made by God almost all of them princes. It then follows, And Ekron shall be as a Jebusite. Some explain thus — that the citizens of Ekron would dwell in Jerusalem, which the Jebusites had formerly possessed; and others give another view, but nothing to the purpose. The Prophet speaks not here of God’s favor to the citizens of Ekron, but on the contrary shows the difference between God’s chosen people and heathen nations, who gloried in their own good fortune: hence he says, that they should be like the Jebusites, for they at length would have to endure a similar destruction. We indeed know, that the Jebusites had been driven out of that town, when Jerusalem was afterwards built; but it was done late, even under David. As then they had long held that place and were at length dislodged, this is the reason why the Prophet says, that though the citizens of Ekron seemed now to be in the very middle of the holy land, they would be made like the Jebusites, for the Lord would drive away and destroy them all. He afterwards adds —

8. And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.
8. Et castra metabor ad domum meam ab exercitu, a transeunte et redeunte; et non transibit super eos amplius exactor; quia nunc vidi oculis meis.

He concludes what he had been speaking of, — that God would be the guardian of his chosen people, so as to repel on every side the violent assaults of enemies. It is then the same as though he had said, “though the Church is not strongly fortified, it shall yet be impregnable, for God’s protection is of more value than all human strength, than all aids and helps.” God then compares himself here to a moat and a bulwark, and other kinds of fortresses, I will be, he says, a camp to my house. He mentions here house rather than city, that the Jews might feel confident that there was sufficient help in God alone, though they might dwell in a private house or in a cottage. “My Church, though it be a small house, will I yet surround with my defences, so as to render it safe from all harm.”
He says, from the army; and then, from him that passes through, and from him that returns. He places the army in opposition to the house; and thus he exhorts the Jews, not to regard their own strength, but to know that God alone is far better shall all armies. Though then the whole world united together and collected all its forces, he still bids them to be calmly confident, for God alone would be sufficient to put to flight all armies. And according to the same meaning he refers to him that passes through and who returns; as though he had said, “Though enemies may wander through the whole earth and occupy it from one end to the other, yet I will cause my house to remain safe.” By him that returns, he intimates, that though enemies renewed their armies the second and the third time, yet God’s strength would be always sufficient to check their assaults. In a word, what is here taught is the perpetuity of the safety of God’s people, for he will never be wearied in defending them, nor will his power be ever lessened. It often happens that those who with the best intention succor their neighbors, by degrees grow wearied, or they may have their efforts prevented by various events; but the Prophet tells us, that God is not like men, wearied or unable, after having once helped his people and repelled their enemies; for he will be always ready to aid his people, were enemies to renew the battle a hundred times.
By enemy then he means forces; by passing through, the obstinate cruelty of enemies; and by returning, new wars, which one undertakes, when disappointed of his hope, by collecting a new army and repairing his strength. fm95
At length he adds, And pass shall no more the extortioner through them. This sentence explains what he had figuratively expressed, — that though the Jews had been exposed to the will of their enemies, yet God would not hereafter suffer them to be unjustly treated and to be plundered as they had been: for under the name of extortioner he includes all plunderers who had spoiled the miserable Jews of their goods. Then he says, For I have seen with mine eyes. It would be frigid, nay insipid, to explain this clause as some do, that is, as though the Prophet had said, — that he related what had been made known to him from above: for on the contrary God testifies here, that he had seen with his eyes how cruelly and disgracefully the Jews had been treated. And some, while they regard God as the speaker, very unwisely give this explanation, — that God already foresaw what he would do. But evidently God assigns here, as I have said, a reason why he purposed to deliver the Jews from injuries, and for the future to keep them safe and defend them; and the reason given is, because he saw what grievous wrongs they were suffering. And the Prophet speaks according to the usual manner adopted in Scripture; for though nothing is hid from God’s eyes, yet he is rightly said to see what he takes notice of, and what he declares must be accounted for before his tribunal. Though then God saw even before the creation of the world what was to take place afterward in all ages, yet he is rightly said to see what he begins to call to judgment. The Jews indeed thought they were neglected by him; for the Scripture everywhere says, that God closes his eyes, is asleep, lies down, forgets, cares not, when he hides himself and appears not as the avenger of wrongs. Hence, on the other hand, the Lord declares here, that he saw with his eyes those things which were not to be tolerated, inasmuch as enemies had passed all bounds, and had so far advanced and indulged in wantonness, that their pride and cruelty were become intolerable.
Grant, Almighty God, that as the ungodly at this day take such delight in their own filth, that the weakness of our faith is somewhat disturbed by their pride and arrogance, — O grant, that we may learn to lift up our eyes to thy judgments, and patiently wait for what is now concealed, until thou puttest forth the power of thine hand and destroyest all those who now cruelly rage and shed innocent blood, and persecute thy Church in every way they can: and may we so cast ourselves on thy care, so as not to doubt but that thou art sufficient for our safety, and that thou wilt at length make evident what thou hast testified, even that there is so much protection in thine hand, as that we may safely boast that we are safe and blessed, as long as thou art pleased to exercise care over us, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. — Amen.
9. Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
9. Exulta valde filia Sion, jubila fila Ierusalem: Ecce, rex tuus veniet tibi, justus et servatus ipse (vel, idem, ) pauper, et equitans super asinum, et super pullum filium asinarum.

THE Prophet here briefly shows the manner in which the Church was to be restored; for a king from the tribe and family of David would again arise, to restore all things to their ancient state. And this is the view given everywhere by the Prophets; for the hope of the ancient people, as our hope, was founded on Christ. Inasmuch then as things were as yet in a decayed state among the Jews, Zechariah here testifies that God had not in vain formerly spoken so often by his servants concerning the advent of a Redeemer, but that a firm hope was to be entertained, until the prophecies were in due time fulfilled. As then Zechariah has been hitherto speaking of the prosperous and happy state of the Church, he now confirms what he had said; and this was especially necessary, for they could not, as I have already said, have raised up their minds so as to feel confidence as to their salvation, without having a Mediator set before them. But as the faithful were then in great grief and sorrow, Zechariah here exhorts them to perseverance: for by bidding them to rejoice greatly, and even to shout for joy, he no doubt intimates, that though grief and sorrow took fast hold on their hearts, they ought yet to strive manfully, so as to receive the favor of God; for they must have a hundred times succumbed under their evils, had they not Christ before their eyes; not indeed in a carnal manner, but in the mirror of the word; as the faithful see in that what is far distant and even hidden from them.
We now then understand, first, why the Prophet here makes such a sudden reference to Christ; and secondly, why he does not simply exhort the faithful to rejoice, but encourages them greatly to exult as though they were already in a safe and most happy condition.
By the word king, the Prophet intimates, that except they thought God unfaithful in his promises, they were to entertain hope, until the kingdom of David, then apparently fallen, arose again. As God then would have himself acknowledged faithful, and his adoption counted fixed and ratified in the Messiah, it is no wonder that the Prophet now briefly refers to a king; for this mode of speaking was well known by the people. And we have also seen elsewhere, that when the Prophets speak of the safety of the Church, they mention a king, because the Lord designed to gather again the dispersed Church under one head, even Christ. And no doubt there would ever remain a dreadful dispersion, were not Christ the bond of union. He then says that a king would come. But he speaks not as of a king unknown; he only reminds them that God would be true and faithful to his promises. Now since the whole law, and adoption, must have vanished away, except Christ came, his coming ought to have been patiently waited for.
Further, that God’s children might be more confirmed, he says also that this king would come to the people, the daughter of Sion, as though he had said, that God, for the sake of the whole Church, had fixed the royal throne in the family of David: for if the king was to come, that he might indulge in his own triumphs, and be contented with pomps and pleasures, it would have been but a small and wholly barren consolation: but as God in determining to send the Messiah, provided for the safety of the whole Church, which he had promised to do, the people might here derive solid confidence. It is not then a matter of small moment, when the Prophet teaches us, that the king would come to Sion and to Jerusalem; as though he had said, “This king shall not come for his own sake like earthly kings, who rule according to their own caprice, or for their own advantage:” but he reminds us, that his kingdom would be for the common benefit of the whole people, for he would introduce a happy state.
He afterwards states what sort of king he was to be. He first names him just, and then preserved or saved. As to the word, just, it ought, I think, to be taken in an active sense, and so the word which follows: Just then and saved is called the king of the chosen people, for he would bring to them righteousness and salvation. Both words depend on this clause, — that there would come a king to Sion. If he came privately for himself, he might have been for himself just and saved, that is, his righteousness and salvation might have belonged to himself or to his own person: but as he came for the sake of others, and has been for them endued with righteousness and salvation; then the righteousness and salvation of which mention is made here, belong to the whole body of the Church, and ought not to be confined to the person of the king. Thus is removed every contention, with which many have foolishly, or at least, very inconsiderately, wearied themselves; for they have thought that the Jews cannot be otherwise overcome, and that their perverseness cannot be otherwise checked, than by maintaining, that [çwn, nusho, must be taken actively; and they have quoted some passages of Scripture, in which a verb in Niphal is taken in an active sense. fm96 But what need there is of undertaking such disputes, when we may well agree on the subject? I then concede to the Jews, that Christ is saved or preserved, and that he is said to be so by Zechariah.
But we must see what this salvation is which belongs to Christ. This we may gather from what is said by the Prophet. We are not then to contend here about words, but to consider what the subject is, that is, that a just and saved king comes to his chosen: and we know that Christ had no need of salvation himself. As then he was sent by the Father to gather a chosen people, so he is said to be saved because he was endued with power to preserve or save them. We then see that all controversy is at an end, if we refer those two words to Christ’s kingdom, and it would be absurd to confine them to the person of one man, for the discourse is here concerning a royal person; yea, concerning the public condition of the Church, and the salvation of the whole body. And certainly when we speak of men, we say not that a king is safe and secure, when he is expelled from his kingdom, or when his subjects are disturbed by enemies, or when they are wholly destroyed. When therefore a king, deprived of all authority, sees his subjects miserably oppressed, he is not said to be saved or preserved. But the case of Christ, as I have said, is special; for he does not exercise dominion for his own sake, but for the preservation of his whole people. Hence with regard to grammar, I can easily allow that Christ is called just and saved, passively; but as to the matter itself, he is just with reference to his people, and also saved or preserved, for he brings with him salvation to the lost; for we know that the Jews were then almost in a hopeless state.
He however at the same time adds, that the king would be saved, not because he would be furnished with arms and forces, or that he would defend his people after the manner of men; for he says, that he would be poor. fm97 He must then be otherwise preserved safe than earthly princes are wont to be, who fill their enemies with fear, who fortify their borders, prepare an army, and set up every defense to ward off assaults. Zechariah teaches us, that Christ would be otherwise preserved, as he would prove superior to his enemies through a divine power. As then he is poor, he must be exposed to all kinds of injuries; for we see, that when there is no earthly fortress, all the wicked immediately fly together as it were to the prey. If Christ then is poor, he cannot preserve his own people, nor can he prosper in his kingdom. It hence follows, that he must be furnished with celestial power, in order to continue himself safe, and in order to prevent harm to his Church; and this is what Zechariah will presently tell us, and more clearly express. It is now sufficient briefly to state his object.
He afterwards adds, Riding on an ass, the colt, the foal of an ass. fm98 Some think that the ass is not mentioned here to denote poverty, for they who excelled in power among the people were then in the habit of riding on asses. But it seems to me certain, that the Prophet added this clause to explain the word yn[, oni, poor; as though he had said, that the king of whom he spoke would not be distinguished by a magnificent and splendid appearance like earthly princes, but would appear in a sordid or at least in an ordinary condition, so as not to differ from the humblest and lowest of the people. fm99 He then bids the faithful to raise up their eyes to heaven, in order to come to the true knowledge of Christ’s kingdom, and to feel assured that righteousness and salvation are to be expected from him. How so? Because he will be accompanied with nothing that may strike men with fear, but will serve as an humble and obscure individual. We may also here add, that righteousness and salvation must be understood according to the character of Christ’s kingdom; for as the kingdom of Christ is not temporal or what passes away, we conclude that the righteousness he possesses is to be perpetual, together with the salvation which he brings. But I am not disposed ingeniously to speak here of the righteousness of faith; for I think, on the contrary, that by the word is meant here a right order of things, as all things were then among the people in a state of confusion; and this might be easily proved by many passages of Scripture.
The sum of the whole is, that the predictions by which God gave to his chosen people a hope of redemption were not vain or void; for at length in due time Christ, the son of David, would come forth, — secondly, that this king would be just, and saved or preserved; for he would restore things into order which were in a disgraceful state of confusion, — and thirdly, he adds, that this king would be poor; for he would ride on an ass, and would not appear in great eminence, nor be distinguished for arms, or for riches, or for splendor, or for number of soldiers, or even for royal trappings which dazzle the eyes of the vulgar: he shall ride on an ass.
This prophecy we know was fulfilled in Christ; and even some of the Jews are constrained to confess that the Prophet’s words can be justly applied to none else. Yet they do not acknowledge as the Christ of God the Son of Mary; but they think that the Prophet speaks of their imaginary Messiah. Now we, who are fully persuaded and firmly maintain that the Christ promised has appeared and performed his work, do see that it has not been said without reason that he would come poor and riding on an ass. It was indeed designed that there should be a visible symbol of this very thing; for he mounted an ass while ascending into Jerusalem a short time before his death. It is indeed true, that the Prophet’s words are metaphorical: when he says, Come shall a king, riding on an ass, the words are figurative; for the Prophet means, that Christ would be as it were an obscure person, who would not make an appearance above that of the common people. That this is the real meaning is no doubt true. But yet there is no reason why Christ should not afford an example of this in mounting an ass.
I will adduce a similar instance: it is said in the twenty second Psalm, ‘They have cast lots on my garments.’ The metaphor there is no doubt apparent, which means that David’s enemies divided his spoils. He therefore complains that those robbers, by whom he had been unjustly treated, had deprived him of all that he had: and fulfilled has this been in a literal manner, so that the most ignorant must acknowledge that it has not in vain been foretold. We now then understand how well do these things agree — that the Prophet speaks metaphorically of the humble appearance of Christ; and yet that the visible symbol is so suitable, that the most ignorant must acknowledge that no other Christ but he who has already appeared is to be expected.
I omit many frivolous things, which in no degree tend to explain the Prophet’s meaning, but even pervert it, and destroy faith in prophecy: for some think that Christ rode on an ass, and also on a colt, because he was to govern the Jews, who had been previously accustomed to bear the yoke of the law, and that he was also to bring the Gentiles to obedience, who had been hitherto unnameable. But these things are very frivolous. It is enough for us to know what the Prophet means. It afterwards follows —

10. And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth.
10. Et excidam quadrigas (vel, currum) ab Ephraim, et equum ab Ierusalem, et excidetur arcus bellicus (arcus belli;) et loquetur pacem ad gentes; et imperium ejus a mari usque ad mare, et a fluvio usque ad terminos terrae.

The Prophet here expresses more clearly what he had briefly referred to by the word poor, and by the metaphor which we have explained. Hence he says, that there would be no horses, no chariots, no bows, no warlike instruments in Christ’s kingdom; for tranquillity would prevail in it. The sum of the whole is, that Christ and his people would not be kept safe and secure by human defences, by means of many soldiers and of similar helps being at hand; but that God would restrain, and even compose and allay all warlike commotions, so that there would be no need of such aids. We now understand the Prophet’s design.
But we must notice the language here used. God declares here that he would be the giver of peace, so that the Messiah would continue safe in his kingdom; I will cut off, he says; for it might have been objected — “If he is to be poor, what hope can there be of safety?” The answer is, because it will be God’s work to restrain all the assaults of enemies. He means, in short, that the Messiah’s kingdom would be safe, because God from heaven would check all the rage of enemies, so that however disposed they might be to do harm, they would yet find themselves held captive by the hidden bridle of God, so as not to be able to move a finger.
But after having said that the Jews and Israelites would be safe, though stripped naked of all defences, he adds, He will speak peace to the nations; that is, though he will not use threats or terrors, nor bring forth great armies, yet the nations will obey him; for there will be no need of employing any force. To speak peace then to the nations means, that they will calmly hear, though not terrified nor threatened. Some with more ingenuity make the meaning to be that Christ, who reconciles the Father to us, will proclaim this favor of reconciliation; but the Prophet, as I think, with more simplicity, says, that Christ would be content with his own word, inasmuch as the Gentiles would become obedient, and quietly submit to his authority. fm100 The import of the whole is, that Christ would so rule far and wide, that the farthest would live contentedly under his protection, and not cast off the yoke laid on them.
He states in the last place, that his dominion would be from sea to sea, that is, from the Red sea to the Syrian sea, towards Cilicia, and from the river, that is, Euphrates, to the extreme borders of the earth. By the earth we are not to understand the whole world, as some interpreters have unwisely said; for the Prophet no doubt mentioned those places already known to the Jews. For we know that remarkable oracle —
“He shall reign from sea to sea.” (<197208>Psalm 72:8.)
But God speaks of David only, and the words are the same as here; and there was no oracle more commonly known among the Jews. fm101 The Prophet, then, who adduces here nothing new, only reminds the Jews of what they had long ago heard, and repeats, as it were, word for word, what was familiar to them all. For we must bear in mind what I said at the beginning — that the Prophet here strengthens the minds of the godly, and on this account, because the Messiah, on whose coming was founded the gratuitous adoption of the people, as well as their hope of salvation, had not yet appeared. We now then understand the real meaning of this passage. He then adds —

11. As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
11. Etiam tu, in sanguine foederis, tui emisi vinctos tuos e puteo, in quo non erat aqua.

Here he applies his former doctrine to its right use, so that the faithful might emerge from their sorrow, and come to that joy which he had before encouraged them to entertain. He then addresses Jerusalem, as though he had said, “There is no reason for thee to torment thyself with perplexed and anxious thoughts, for I will accomplish what I have promised — that I would become a deliverer to my people.” For this doubt might have occurred to them — “Why does he exhort us to rejoice, while the Church of God is still in part captive, and while those who have returned to their country are miserably and cruelly harassed by their enemies?” To this objection Zechariah answers in the person of God — that God would be able to deliver them, though they were sunk in the deepest gulf. We hence see how this verse harmonises with the other verses: he had before spoken of the happy state of the Church under Christ as its king; but as the condition of the people then was very hard and miserable, he adds, that deliverance was to be expected from God.
But we must observe, that a pronoun feminine is here used, when he says, even thou, or, thou also. Both the Latins and Greeks have been deceived by the ambiguity of the language used, fm102 and have thought that the words are addressed to Christ, as though he was to draw his captives from a deep pit; but God here addresses his Church, as though he had said, “Hear thou.” And the particle µg, gam, is emphatical, meaning this — “I see that I do not prevail much with you, for ye are in a manner overwhelmed by your calamities, and no hope refreshes you, as you think yourselves visited, as it were, with a thousand deaths; but still, though a mass of evils disheartens you, or at least so far oppresses you as to render inefficacious what I say — though, in short, ye be of all men the most miserable, I will yet redeem your captives.” But God addresses the whole Church, as in many other places under the character of a wife.
He says, By the blood of thy covenant. This seems not to belong properly to the Church, for there is no other author of the covenant but God himself; but the relation, we know, between God and his people, as to the covenant, is mutual. It is God’s covenant, because it flows from him; it is the covenant of the Church, because it is made for its sake, and laid up as it were in its bosom. And the truth penetrated more fully into the hearts of the godly, when they heard that it was not only a divine covenant, but that it was also the covenant of the people themselves: Then by the blood of thy covenant, etc. Some refer this, but very unwisely, to circumcision, for the Prophet no doubt had regard to the sacrifices. It was then the same as though he had said — “Why do ye offer victims daily in the temple? If ye think that you thus worship God, it is a very gross and insane superstition. Call then to mind the end designed, or the model given you from above; for God has already promised that he will be propitious to you, by expiating your sins by the only true sacrifice: And for this end offer your sacrifices, and that blood will bring expiation with it. Now since God has not in vain appointed your sacrifices, and ye observe them not in vain, no doubt the benefit will come at length to light, for I have sent forth thy captives. For God does not reconcile himself to men, that he may destroy or reduce them to nothing, or that he may suffer them to pine away and die; for why does God pardon men, but that he may deliver them from destruction?” fm103
We now perceive why the Prophet thus speaks of the blood of the covenant in connection with the salvation of the whole people. “Ye daily offer victims,” he says, “and the blood is poured on the altar: God has not appointed this in vain.” Now since God receives you into favor, that ye may be safe, he will therefore deliver the captives of his Church; I will send forth, he says, or, have sent forth thy captives: for he expresses here in the past tense what he would do in future.
I will send forth thy captives from the pit in which there is no water. He means a deep gulf, where thirst itself would destroy miserable men without being drawn forth by a power from above. In short, he means, first, that the Jews were sunk in the deep; and secondly, that thirst would consume them, so that death was nigh at hand, except they were miraculously delivered by God: but he reminds them, that no impediment would prevent God from raising them to light from the deepest darkness. We then see that this was added, that the Jews might learn to struggle against all things that might strengthen unbelief, and feel assured that they would be preserved safe, for it is God’s peculiar work to raise the dead. This is the meaning. He now adds —

12. Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee;
12. Convertimini ad munitionem vincti spei; etiam hodie annuntio duplicia, rependam tibi (vel, duplicia rependam tibi; uterque sensus non male convenit.)

Zechariah proceeds with the same subject. He bids the Jews suddenly to retake themselves to their fortress. There is no doubt but that he means by that term the holy land; nor do I oppose the opinion of those who think the temple to be intended: for Jerusalem and the whole of Judea is called a fortress, and for this reason, because God had chosen his sanctuary there. It is then the same, as though one wishing to collect a dispersed and straggling band of soldiers were to say, “To the standard, to the standard;” or, “To the troop, to the troop.” For though Judea was not then fortified, nay, Jerusalem itself had no high wall or strong towers, yet they had God as their stronghold, and this was impregnable; for he had promised that the Jews would be safe under the shadow of his wings, though exposed to the caprices of all around them. Nor does he here address them only who had returned, or the exiles who still remained scattered in the East; but by this declaration he encourages the whole Church, that they might be fully persuaded that when assembled under the protection of God, they were as fortified as though they were on every side surrounded by the strongest citadels, and that there would be no access open to enemies.
Return ye then to the stronghold. This could not have appeared unreasonable; for we know that when they were building the city their work was often interrupted; and we know also that the temple was not then fortified by a wall. But Zechariah teaches them, that in that state of things there was sufficient defense in God alone. Though then the Jews were not made safe by moats, or by walls, or by mounds, he yet reminds them, that God would be sufficient to defend them, and that he would be to them, as it is said in another place, a wall and a rampart. (<232601>Isaiah 26:1.)
But it is not without reason that he calls them the captives of hope; for many had wholly alienated themselves from God and altogether fallen away, so as to be unworthy of any promise. By this mark then he distinguishes between the faithful captives and those who had wholly degenerated and separated themselves from the family of God, so as no more to be counted among his people. And this ought to be carefully noticed, which interpreters have coldly passed by. They have indeed said, that they are called captives of hope, because they hoped to be saved; but they have not observed the distinction, by which Zechariah intended to convey reproof to the unbelieving Jews. It was therefore not without meaning that he directed his word to the faithful only, who were not only captives, but also captives having hope. I cannot finish today.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we do not at this day look for a Redeemer to deliver us from temporal miseries, but only carry on a warfare under the banner of the cross, until he appear to us from heaven to gather us into his blessed kingdom, — O grant, that we may patiently bear all evils and all troubles: and as Christ once for all poured forth the blood of the new and eternal covenant, and gave us a symbol of it in the Holy Supper, may we, confiding in so sacred a seal, never doubt but that he will be always propitious to us, and render manifest to us the fruit of his reconciliation, when after having supported us for a season under the burden of those miseries by which we are now oppressed, thou gatherest us into that blessed and perfect glory, which has been procured for us by the blood of Christ our Lord, and which is daily set before us in the gospel, and laid up for us in heaven, until we at length shall come to enjoy it through the same, our Lord Jesus Christ. — Amen.
IN yesterday’s lecture the Prophet exhorted the Jews to assemble into that stronghold of which God was to be the guardian. And we have said that Jerusalem was then to the godly an impregnable fortress, though for the most part without walls, because the place was as it were sacred to God, and as under his care and protection. He now adds a confirmation of this truth, that they would be doubly more blessed who had resorted to Jerusalem than their fathers before their exile: for a comparison is no doubt made between them and their fathers. From the reign of David until the exile, God had proved by many tokens that he had a care for that people; he afterwards raised up, as it were, a new Church, that is, when a liberty to return was granted to the Jews. The meaning then here is, that if the fathers before they were driven from their country had experienced God kind and bountiful, those who had now returned to their country would find God much more bountiful towards his new Church. We now then understand what he means by double, even double happiness; for God would increase his blessings to the Jews, though their condition was then by no means desirable; nay, very hard according to the estimation of the world. But he says, that he declared from that day, intimating, that though the effect of this prophecy was not immediately apparent, yet he spoke with confidence; for they would in course of time find that nothing had been said to them in vain or rashly. The Prophet then shows — here, that he spoke with perfect confidence, and this in order to gain credit to the promise, lest the Jews should doubt that what they heard from the mouth of Zechariah should at length be made evident to them. fm104 Let us now proceed —

13. When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.
13. Quia tetendi mihi Iehudah arcum, implevi Ephraim, et excitavi filios tuos, Sion, contra filios tuos, Graecia; et posui te quasi gladium gigantis (vel, robusti.)

God declares here that the Jews would be the conquerors of all nations, though they were then despised. That people, we know, were hated by all; and they were at the same time weak, and had hardly any strength, so as to be able to resist the wrongs done them on every side. As then this trial might have terrified weak minds, the Prophet says that the Jews would be as it were the bow and the quiver of God, so that they would be able to pierce all nations with their arrow; and that they would also be like a sword, which would wound and lay prostrate the strongest.
We now perceive the meaning of the words, and see also the reason why the Prophet made this addition, even because the Jews were filled with terror on seeing themselves surrounded on every side by violent and strong enemies, to whom they were very unequal in strength. Now, these similitudes we know occur elsewhere in Scripture, and their meaning seems to be this — that the Jews would be the conquerors of all nations, not by their own prowess, as they say, but because the Lord would guide and direct them by his own hand. For what is a bow except it be bent? and the bow itself is useless, except the arrow be discharged. The Prophet then teaches us, that though the Jews could do nothing of themselves, yet there was strength enough in God’s hand alone.
I have bent for me, he says, Judah as a bow. The Lord reminds the Jews of his own power, that they might not regard their own strength, but acknowledge that they were made strong from above, and that strength to overcome their enemies would be given them. Hence he compares Ephraim to a quiver. But we have seen yesterday, that Judah and Ephraim are to be taken as the same; for as it had been a divided body, God intimates here, that when the Jews became again united and joined together, and when the ten tribes showed brotherly kindness towards the kingdom of Judah, then the people would be to him like a bow well furnished, being fully supplied with arrows. fm105
He afterwards adds, I will rouse thy sons, O Sion, against thy sons, O Javan. This apostrophe is more emphatical than if the third person had been adopted; for by addressing first Sion, and then Greece, he shows that he possesses power over all nations, so that he raises up the one and casts down the other, as he pleases.
As to the word ˆwy, Ivan, we have elsewhere seen that it is to be taken for Greece, and now for all the countries beyond sea. Yet many think that the word Jonah is derived from this Hebrew word, and, as it often happens, is corruptly pronounced. But we may gather from many instances that ˆwy, Ivan, is put for Greece, or for distant countries, and specifically for Macedonia. It is then the same as though he had said — That the Jews would be superior to all heathen nations, even were they to unite together and bring vast forces from distant lands. For the Greeks could not have waged war in Judea with a small force; they must have brought with them large armies, to fight in a strange country and unknown to them. Nor could the Jews have attacked the Grecians or other remote nations, except they were favored with aid from heaven. For this reason also he adds, that they would be like a sword, by which a strong man can destroy others of less power. Let us now go on —

14. And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.
14. Et Iehova super eos conspicuus erit, et egredietur quasi fulgur sagitta ejus; et Dominus Iehova tuba clanget, et procedet in turbinibus Theman. (vel, Austri.)

He goes on with the same subject, but explains what I have said — that victory is promised to the Jews, not that which they could gain by their own power, but that which should happen to them beyond their expectation; for this is what is meant when he says, that God would be seen over them. For though the events of all wars depend on God, yet he is said to be seen where there is a remarkable victory, which cannot be accounted for by men. When unequal armies engage, it is no wonder when one becomes victorious; and it may sometimes be that a less number overcomes a greater, even because it exceeded the other in courage, in counsel, in skill, or in some other way, or because the larger army fought from a disadvantageous position, or trusting in its own strength rushed on inconsiderately. But when consternation alone dejects one party and renders the other victorious, in this case the power of God becomes evident. And even heathens have thought that men are confounded from above when courage fails them; and this is most true. We now then understand why the Prophet says, that God would be seen over the Jews, even because they would conquer their enemies, not by usual means, not after an earthly manner, but in a wonderful way, so that it would appear evident to be the work of God.
He then adds, Go forth shall his arrow as lightning. He again repeats and confirms what we have already observed that there would be no movement among the Jews, no celerity, but what would be like the sword, which lies quiet on the ground, except it be taken up by the hand of man, and what also would be like the arrow, which can do no harm except it be thrown by some one. We then see that the victory mentioned before is ascribed to God alone. And for the same reason he adds what follows, that Jehovah would come with the shout of a trumpet, and also, with the whirlwind of the south. In a word, he means that the work of God would be evident when the Jews went forth against the enemies by whom they had been oppressed and would still be oppressed. That they might not then compare their own with their enemies’ strength, the Prophet here brings God before them, by whose authority, guidance, and power this war was to be carried on. And then, that he might extol God’s power, he says, that he would come with the shout of a trumpet, and with the whirlwind of the south.
Interpreters take the whirlwinds of the south simply for violent storms; for we know that the most impetuous whirlwinds arise from the south. But as the Prophet joins the whirlwinds of the south to the shout of a trumpet, he seems to me to allude to those miracles by which God showed to the Jews in a terrific manner his power on Mount Sinai, for the desert of Teman and Mount Paran were in that vicinity. We have seen a similar passage in the third chapter of Habakkuk <350301>Habakkuk 3:1, “God,” he said, “shall come from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.” The Prophet’s object was to encourage the Jews to entertain hope; for God, who had long concealed himself and refrained from helping them, would at length come forth to their aid. How? He reminded them in that passage of the records of ancient history, for God had made known his power on Mount Sinai, in the desert of Teman, and it was the south region with regard to Judea; and we also know that trumpets sounded in the air, and that all this was done that the Jews might reverently receive the law, and also that they might feel certain that they would be always safe under God’s hand, since he thus shook the elements by his nod, and filled the air with lightnings and storms and whirlwinds, and also made the air to ring with the shouts of trumpets. It is for the same reason that the Prophet speaks in this passage, when he says, that God would make himself known as formerly, when he astonished the people by the shouts of trumpets, and also when he appeared in whirlwinds on Mount Sinai. fm106 He then adds —

15. The LORD of hosts shall defend them; and they shall devour, and subdue with sling stones; and they shall drink, and make a noise as through wine; and they shall be filled like bowls, and as the corners of the altar.
15. Iehova exercituum proteget eos; et comedent et subjicient lapidibus fundae, (vel, lapides, ut alii vertun, ) tanquam a vino, et replebuntur quasi phiala, quasi anguli altaris.

He expresses again the same thing in other words — that God would be like a shadow to his people, so that he would with an extended hand protect them from their enemies. Since the Jews might have justly felt a distrust in their own strength, the Prophet continually teaches them that their safety depended not on earthly aids, but that God alone was sufficient, for he could easily render them safe and secure. He also adds, that there would be to them plenty of bread and wine to satisfy them. He seems here indeed to promise too great an abundance, as by its abuse luxury came, for he says, that they would be satiated and be like the drunken; they shall drink, he says, and shall make a noise as through wine. Certainly those who drink wine moderately, do not make noise, but they are as composed and quiet after dinner as those who fast. Zechariah then seems here to make an unreasonable promise, even that of excess in meat and drink. But we have elsewhere seen that wherever the Holy Spirit promises abundance of good things he does not give loose reigns to men’s lusts, but his object is only to show that God will be so bountiful to his children that they shall stand in need of nothing, that they shall labor under no want. Nay, the affluence of blessings is to try our frugality, for when God pours forth as it were with a liberal hand more than what is needful, he thus tries the temperance of each of us; for when in the enjoyment of great abundance, we of our own accord restrain ourselves, we then really show that we are grateful to God. fm107
It is indeed true, that cheerfulness for abundance of blessings is allowed us, for it is often said in the law, “Thou shalt rejoice before thy God,” (<051218>Deuteronomy 12:18;) but we must bear in mind, that frugal use of blessings is required, in order that the gifts of God may not be converted to a sinful purpose.
Then the Prophet does not here excite or stimulate the Jews to intemperance, that they might fill themselves with too much food, or inebriate themselves with too much wine; but he only promises that there would be no want of either food or drink when God blessed them as in former days. And this seems also to be specified at the end of the verse, when he mentions the horns of the altar. He had previously said, that they would be full as the bowls were; but when he adds, “the horns of the altar,” he no doubt reminds them of temperance, that they were to feast as though they were in God’s presence. They were indeed accustomed to pour out the wine and the oil on the horns of the altar; but, at the same time, since they professed that they offered from their abundance of wine and oil some first-fruits to God, it behaved them to remember that their wine was sacred, that their oil was sacred, as both proceeded from God. The Prophet then declares, that the Jews would be thus enriched and replenished with all good things, and that they were yet to remember, that they were to live as in God’s presence, lest they should by luxury pollute what he had consecrated to a legitimate end. He then adds —

16. And the LORD their God shall save them in that day as the flock of his people: for they shall be as the stones of a crown, lifted up as an ensign upon his land.
16. Et servabit eos Iehova, Deus ipsorum, in die illa quad gregem populum suum; quia lapides coronae elevati super terram ejus.

He continues the same subject, but uses various figures, that he might more fully confirm what then was incredible. He indeed reminds them that God would not save his people in an ordinary way, such as is common to men. He compares them to sheep, that they might know, as I have said already, that their salvation would come from heaven, as they were themselves weak, and had no strength and no power; for to show this was the object of this comparison. He declares then that the Jews would be saved, because God would supply them with every thing necessary to conquer their enemies; but that he would in a wonderful manner help their weakness, even like a shepherd when he rescues his sheep from the jaws of a wolf. For the sheep, which escapes death by the coming of the shepherd, have no reason to boast of victory, but all the praise is due to the shepherd. So also God says, that it will be his work to deliver the Jews from their enemies.
By saying, his own people, he seems to confine to his elect what appeared too general; for he had said save then will God. It is however certain that the people who were then small, had been cut off, so that the greater part had perished; but at the same time it was true that God was a faithful guardian of his people, for there were then many Israelites, naturally descended from their common father Abraham, who were only in name Israelites.
He then adds another similitude, — that they would be elevated high, like precious stones in a crown, which are borne on the head of a king, as though he had said, that they would be a royal priesthood according to what is said in the law. He had said before, They shall subdue the stones, or, with the stones, of a sling. More correct seems to be the opinion of those who read with the stones of a sling, fm108 that is, that the Jews would conquer their enemies, not with swords, nor with arrows, but only with stones, in the same manner as Goliath was slain by David. Though not given to warlike arts, nor exercised in the use of arms, they would yet, as the Prophet shows, be conquerors; for their slings would be sufficient for the purpose of slaying their enemies. But some think that heathens and the unbelieving are compared to the stones of the sling, because they are worthless and of no account; which at the first sight seems ingenious, but it is a strained view. It is not at the same time improper to consider that there is here an implied contrast between the stones of the sling, and the stones of a crown; the Jews would cast stones from their slings to destroy their enemies, and they themselves would be precious stones. The Prophet seems here to represent the holy land as the chief part of the whole world. Elevated, he says, shall be the stones of crown over the land of God. Had he said over Egypt or over Assyria, the connection of the clauses would not have been so appropriate; but he names Judea, as the head of the world, and that the Jews, when prosperous and happy in it, would be like the stones of a crown, all the parts set in due order. In short, he shows, that the favor of God alone and his blessing, would be sufficient to render the Jews happy, as they would then excel in honor, enjoy the abundance of all good things, and possess invisible courage to resist all their adversaries.
Let us now enquire when all these things were fulfilled. We have said that Zechariah, by promising fullness to the Jews, gave them no unbridled license to indulge themselves in eating and drinking, but only expressed and extolled, in hyperbolical terms, the immense kindness and bounty of God to them. This is one thing.
But at the same time we must by the way consider another question: He says, that they would be like arrows and swords. Now as they were too much inclined to shed blood, he seems here to excite them in a manner to take vengeance fully on their enemies, which was by no means reasonable. The answer to this is plain — that the Jews were not to forget what God prescribed in his law: for as when God promised large abundance of wine, and a plentiful provision, he did not recall what he had already commanded — that they were to practice temperance in eating and drinking; so now when he promises victory over their enemies, he is not inconsistent with himself, nor does he condemn what he had once approved, nor abrogate the precept by which he commanded them, not to exercise cruelty towards their enemies, but to restrain themselves, and to show mercy and kindness. We hence see that we are not to judge from these words what is right for us to do, or how far we may go in taking revenge on enemies; nor to determine what liberty we have in eating and drinking. Such things are not to be learnt from this passage, or from similar passages; for the Prophet here does only set forth the power of God and his bounty towards his people.
Now again it may be asked, when has God fulfilled this, when has he made the Jews far and wide victorious and the destroyers of their enemies? All Christian expositors give us an allegorical explanation, — that God sent forth his armies when he sent forth Apostles into all parts of the world, who pierced the hearts of men, — and that he slew with his sword the wicked whom he destroyed. All this is true; but a simpler meaning must in the first place be drawn from the words of the Prophet, and that is, — that God will render his Church victorious against the whole world. And most true is this; for though the faithful are not furnished with swords or with any military weapons, yet we see that they are kept safe in a wonderful manner under the shadow of God’s hand. When adversaries exercise cruelty towards them, we see how God returns their wicked devices on their own heads. In this way is really fulfilled what we read here, — even that the children of God are like arrows and swords, and that they are also preserved as a flock; for they are too weak to stand their ground, were not the Lord to put forth his power, when he sees them violently assailed by the wicked. There is then no need to turn the Prophet’s words to an allegorical meaning, when this fact is evident that God’s Church has been kept safe, because God has ever blunted all the weapons of enemies; yea, he has often by a strong hand discharged his arrows and vibrated his sword. For when Alexander the Great had passed over the sea, when he had marched through the whole circuit of the Mediterranean sea, when he had filled all the country with blood, he came at length to Judea; how was it that he left it without committing any slaughter, without exercising any cruelty, except that God restrained him? It will not weary you, if I relate what we read in Josephus; and it is true I have no doubt. He says, that when Alexander came, he was full of wrath, and breathing threats against those Jews by whom he had not been assisted, and who seemed to have despised his authority: after having thus given vent to his rage, he at length came into the presence of Jadeus the high-priest, and seeing him adorned with a mitre, he fell down and humbly asked pardon; and while all were amazed his answer was — that God had appeared to him in that form while he was yet in Greece, and encouraged him to undertake that expedition. When therefore he saw the image or figure of the God of heaven in that sacerdotal dress, he was constrained to give glory to God. Thus far Josephus, whose testimony in this instance has never been suspected.
There is then no reason for any one to weary himself in finding out the meaning of the Prophet, since this fact is clear enough — that God’s elect have been victorious, because God has ever sent forth his arrows and vibrated his sword. At the same time there is another view of this victory; for alien and remote people were subdued by the sword of the Spirit, even by the truth of the gospel: but this is a sense deduced from the other; for when we apprehend the literal meaning of the Prophet, an easy passage is then open to us, by which we may come to the kingdom of Christ. These remarks refer to the abundance of provisions, as well as to the victory over enemies. It now follows —

17. For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.
17. Nam quanta beneficentia ejus? et quanta pulchritudo ejus? Frumentum adolescentes, et mustum recreat (vel, corroborat) puellas.

The Prophet here exclaims at the incredible kindness of God, that the Jews might learn to raise up their thoughts above the world, as they were to look for that felicity which he had before mentioned. We then see that by this exclamation a fuller confirmation is given to what had been said by the Prophet, as though his words were, — “No one ought to judge of God’s favor, of which I have spoken, according to his own doings, or conduct, or experience; but on the contrary, every one of you ought to be filled with amazement at God’s incredible kindness, and at his incredible beauty.” But by the last word he understands the brightness or splendor, which appears in all God’s favors and gifts. fm109
He then concludes by saying, that the abundance of corn and wine would be so great, that young men and young women would eat and drink together, and be fully satisfied. Here a frivolous question may be asked, whether Zechariah allowed the use of wine to young women. But he speaks not here, as I have said before, of God’s blessing, as though it were an incentive to luxury; but what he means is, that the abundance of provisions would be so great as to be fully sufficient, not only for the old, but also for young men and young women. We know that when there is but a small supply of wine, it ought by right of age to be reserved for the old, but when wine so overflows that young men and young women may freely drink of it, it is a proof of great abundance. This then is simply the meaning of the Prophet: but something more shall be said tomorrow on the subject.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we cannot look for temporal or eternal happiness, except through Christ alone, and as thou settest him forth to us as the only true fountain of all blessings, — O grant, that we, being content with the favor offered to us through him, may learn to renounce the whole world, and so strive against all unbelief; that we may not doubt but that thou wilt ever be one kind and gracious Father, and fully supply whatever is necessary for our support: and may we at the same time live soberly and temperately, so that we may not be under the power of earthly things; but with our hearts raised above, aspire after that heavenly bliss to which thou invites us, and to which thou also guides us by such helps as are earthly, so that being really united to our head, we may at length reach that glory which has been procured for us by his blood. — Amen.

1. Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.
1. Petite a Iehova pluviam tempore serotino (vertunt;) Iehova faciet nubes, et pluvium imbrem dabit illis, cuique herbam in agro.

ZECHARIAH, after having shown that God would be bountiful towards the Jews, so that nothing necessary to render life happy and blessed should be wanting, now reproves them for their unbelief, because they did not expect from the Lord what he was ready fully to bestow on them. As then it depended on them only, that they did not enjoy abundance of all blessings, he charges them with ingratitude: for though he exhorts them to prayer, there is yet an implied reproof. One by merely reading over the words may think that a new subject is here introduced, that the Jews are directed to ask of the Lord what he had previously promised them; but he who will more minutely consider the whole context, will easily find that what I have stated is true — that the Jews are here condemned, and on this account, because they closed the door against God’s favor; for they were straitened in themselves, as all the unbelieving are, who cannot embrace the promises of God; nor is it at all doubtful but that many made great complaints, when they found themselves disappointed of their wishes. They had indeed hoped for a most abundant supply of corn and wine, and had also promised to themselves all kinds of blessings, yet the Lord, as we have seen in the book of Haggai, had begun to withdraw his hand, so that they labored under want of provisions; and when mine and thirst oppressed them, they thought that they had been in a manlier deceived by God. On this ground the Prophet expostulates with them; they thrust from themselves, by their want of faith, the favor which had been prepared for them. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning.
He bids them to ask rain of Jehovah. They ought indeed to have done this of themselves without being reminded; for though Christ has delivered to his Church a form of prayer, it ought yet to be as it were the dictate of nature to seek of God our daily bread; and it is not without reason that he claims to himself the name of a Father. The Prophet then does here reprove the Jews for their brutal stupidity — that they did not ask rain of the Lord. He adds, at the late season, that is, at spring time; for rains at two seasons were necessary for the corn, after sowing and before harvest, and whenever Scripture speaks of fruitfulness or of a large produce, it mentions rain at these two seasons. Zechariah in this place only refers to the vernal before harvest; for in that hot country the earth wanted new moisture, Ask, he says, rain at the beginning of summer.
Jehovah, he adds, will give it; he will make clouds, or storms, or boisterous winds, as some read; but it is evident from other passages that µyzyzj, chezizim, means clouds, which are as it were preparations for rain. fm110 He then says, that a shower would come with the rain; for some take µçg, gesham, for a shower, that is, heavy rain; but the Prophet introduces here the two words, as though he had said, that the rains would be continued until the ground was saturated and the dryness removed. Some translate, “the rain of a shower,” but this would be too strained. I prefer then this rendering, He will give rain, a shower, that is, abundant rain; to every one grass in the field, that is, so that there may be moisture enough for the ground. In short, he promises a plentiful irrigation, that drought might not deprive them of the hope of food and support. What I have stated will appear more clear from the following verse, for he adds —

2. For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd.
2. Certe simulacra loquuta sunt vanitatem, et divini viderunt mendacium, et somnia vanitatis loquuti sunt, frustra consolati sunt; ideo transierunt (vel, migrarunt) sicut oves (aut, grex, ) humiliati sunt, quia nullus fuit pastor.

Here the Prophet, as I have said, confirms the truth, that the blame justly belonged to the Jews that God did not deal more liberally with them; for he shows that they had fallen into superstitions, and had thus turned away the favor of God, which was already certain and nigh to them. Zechariah does not here condemn foreign nations given to superstitions; but, on the contrary, he reproves the Jews themselves for leaving the true God, and for retaking themselves to idols, to soothsayers, and diviners, and for having thus preferred to feed on their own delusions, rather than to open the door to the favor of God, who had freely promised that he would suffer them to want nothing. As then God had kindly invited the Jews to himself, as he had showed himself ready to do them good, was it not the basest ingratitude in them to turn away to idols and to attend to magical delusions? for they might have safely acquiesced in God’s word. They would not have been deprived of their hope, had they been firmly persuaded that God had spoken the truth to them. As then they had done so grievous a wrong to God, as to run after idols, and after the crafts and impostures of Satan, the Prophet here deservedly condemns them for this wickedness.
Images, fm111 he says, have spoken vanity, and diviners have seen falsehood, and have told dreams of vanity. He means, in short, that whatever means unbelieving men may try, they can attain nothing, and they will at length find that they have been miserably deceived by Satan. They have recourse to various expedients, for unbelief is full of bustle and fervor: “O! this will not succeed, I will try something else.” Thus the unbelieving wander, and resort to many and various expedients. But the Prophet teaches this general truth — that when men turn away from God, they have recourse to vain things; for there is no truth without God.
He afterwards adds, that on account of idols, as well as of diviners and magicians, consolation was given in vain; and this he confirms by the event, and says, that they had wandered as sheep, that they had been distressed, because there was no shepherd. The Prophet no doubt refers here to the time of exile, that the Jews might learn to be wise, at least by the teaching of experience; for they had known to their great loss, that without God there is no real and solid comfort: nor does he without reason upbraid them with the punishment which their fathers had suffered, for he saw that they were walking in their steps. Since then the Jews were imitating the depraved inquisitiveness of their fathers, the Prophet justly charges them, that they did not acknowledge what, by the event itself, was well known to all; for the common proverb is, that experience is the teacher of fools. Since they did not become wise even when smitten, their stupidity was more than proved. We now then perceive what the Prophet means.
But we must first notice, that when he bids them to ask rain of the Lord, he speaks of the kingdom of Christ, as all the Prophets are wont to do; for since the Redeemer, promised to the Jews, was to be the author of all blessings, whenever the Prophets speak of his coming, they also promise abundance of corn, and plentiful provisions, and peace, and everything necessary for the well-being of the present life. And Zechariah now follows the same course, when he declares that it was not owing to anything in God that he did not kindly supply the Jews with whatever they might have wished, but that the fault was with themselves; for they had by their unbelief, as it has been said, closed the door against his favor. We must yet ever remember what we stated yesterday — that whatever the Prophets have said concerning a blessed life, ought to be judged of according to the nature of the kingdom of Christ. It is a strained interpretation to say that rain is heavenly doctrine; and I do not say that Zechariah spoke allegorically, but he describes under this common figure the kingdom of Christ — even that God will fill his elect with all good things, so that they shall not thirst, nor labor under any want.
But at the same time we must bear in mind the exhortation of Christ —
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God; other things,” he says,
“shall afterwards be added.” (<400633>Matthew 6:33.)
He then is strangely wrong who thinks that abundance of food was alone promised to the Jews; for God intended to lead them by degrees to things higher. The Prophet then no doubt includes here, under one kind, all things necessary for a happy life; for it is not the will of God to fill his faithful people in this world as though they were swine; but his design is to give them, by means of earthly things, a taste of the spiritual life. Hence the happiness of which Zechariah now speaks is really spiritual; for as godliness has the promises of the present as well as of the future life, (<540408>1 Timothy 4:8,) so the purpose of God was to consult the weakness of his ancient people, and to set forth the felicity of the spiritual life by means of earthly blessings.
It ought further to be carefully noticed, that the Jews are here exposed to derision, because they wandered after their own devices, when God was yet not far from them, and ready to aid them. Since God then showed himself inclined to kindness, it was a double wickedness in them that they chose to run after idols, magical arts, and the illusions of Satan, rather than to acquiesce in God’s word. And similar is the upbraiding we meet with in Jeremiah, when God complains that he was forsaken, while yet he was the fountain of living water, and that the people dug out for themselves cisterns, dry and full of holes. (<240213>Jeremiah 2:13.) But as this evil is very common, let us know that we are here warned to plant our foot firm on God’s word, where he promises that he will take care of us, provided we be satisfied with his favor; nor let us thoughtlessly run after our own imaginations; for however our own counsels may delight us, and though some success may sometimes appear, yet the end will ever show us that most true is what Zechariah teaches us here — that whatever we may attempt will be useless and injurious too, for God will take vengeance on our ingratitude.
We must now also observe, that since Zechariah adduces an example of God’s vengeance, by which the Jews had found that they had foolishly sought vain consolations, we ought to take heed, lest we forget those punishments with which God may have visited us in order to restore us to himself: let us remember what we ourselves have experienced, and what has happened to our fathers, even before we were born. Thus then ought the faithful to apply their minds so as to recount the judgments of God, that they may derive profit from his scourges. He afterwards adds —

3. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle.
3. Super pastores iratus est furor meus; super hireos visitabo; quia visitabit Iehova exercituum gregem suum, domum Iehudah; et posuit (vel, ponet) eos, quasi equum decoris sui in praelio.

He had said that the Jews had been driven into exile, and had been oppressed by their enemies, because they had no shepherd; not indeed to lessen their fault, for they were wholly inexcusable, since they had wilfully renounced God, who would have been otherwise their perpetual shepherd: but he now turns his discourse to the false teachers, to the false prophets and to the wicked priests. Though then they were all unworthy of pardon, yet God here justly summons the shepherds first before his tribunal, who had been the cause of making others to go astray: as when a blind man leads the blind into a ditch, so ungodly pastors become the cause of ruin to others. We have elsewhere observed similar passages, in which God threatened priests and prophets with special punishment, because they had unfaithfully discharged their office; but yet he did not absolve the common people, for from the least to the greatest they were guilty; and it is also certain that men are punished for their obstinacy and wickedness, whenever God gives loose reins to the devil, and deceives them by ungodly teachers.
We now then see the order observed by the Prophet: At the beginning of the chapter he declares that the Jews were without excuse, because they had turned aside again to their own superstitions, though God had severely punished the sins of their fathers, and that thus they had profited nothing; he also shows that they were acting perversely, if they clamored against God, that he scantily or badly supported them, for they did not look for any thing from him, nor solicited by prayer what he was prepared willingly to grant them. Having thus reproved generally the wickedness of the whole people, the Prophet now assails the ungodly priests, and says that judgment was nigh both the shepherd and the he-goats.
He gives the name of pastors to wolves, which is a common thing. And here the Papists betray their folly, laying hold of words only, and claiming to themselves all power, because they are called pastors in the Church, and as though Antichrist was not to reign in the temple of God. Does not Zechariah give an honorable name to these wicked men who destroyed the Church of God? Yea, he brings a most heavy charge against them, that they scattered and trampled under their feet the whole kingdom of God, and yet he calls them pastors, even because they held the office of pastors, though they were very far from being faithful, and in no respect attended to their duties.
He then concedes the name of pastors to those who had been called to rule the people, and to whom this office had been divinely committed; and yet God declares that he would visit them, because they had elicited his just displeasure. The same is said of the he-goats, by which metaphorical name he means all those who were governors, or were in rank above the common people. Those who injured and cruelly treated the sheep had been called he-goats by other Prophets, and especially by Ezekiel (<263417>Ezekiel 34:17.) So then he adds the he-goats to the pastors, because the poor and the lower orders had been led to ruin through their misconduct. And it hence appears how dear to God is the salvation of men; for he denounces vengeance on pastors, though they had not exercised tyranny except on men worthy of such punishment; for it was the just wages of their sins, that the Lord gave them wolves instead of shepherds. But though the Jews had merited such a judgment, yet God was angry with the pastors on account of his constant solicitude for his Church.
And the reason is also added, For visit will God his flock, the house of Judah; as though he had said, that he would not regard what the Jews were, but would regard his own election; for greatly valued by God is his own adoption; and as he had been pleased to choose that people, he could not have allowed them to be destroyed. When therefore he saw that his Church had been so much exposed to destruction through the fault of the pastors, he alleges here as a reason for his future vengeance, that he could not endure his favor to be brought to nothing; nor is it to be doubted but that he mentions here the house of Judah, because he had restored and consecrated that people to himself, that he might be served by them. He then takes away from the false pastors every pretense for an excuse, when he brings forward his own election, as though he had said, “Though this people had provoked me a hundred times, and deserved a hundred deaths, yet I intended you to be pastors, because the house of Judah has been made sacred to me.”
But the visitation of the flock is different from that of the shepherds; for God visits the reprobate, being armed with vengeance, and he visits his own people by aiding them. Now the visitation of the flock refers to the whole house of Judah: and this was owing, as we have said, to their gratuitous adoption; yet the Lord suffered many to rush headlong into ruin, because he delivered only his own elect. It is indeed a mode of speaking that often occurs in the Prophets — that God would help the children of Abraham, when he means only those who were Israelites indeed, and not the degenerated.
He adds that they would be as a splendid horse in war. A contrast is here no doubt implied between splendid horses and asses or oxen; for these shepherds who had tyrannically oppressed God’s people, are said to be like violent riders who ride on asses and shamefully abuse them, or like herdsman, who treat their own oxen inhumanely. God then says that he would ride his people in another manner, even as the horseman, who sits splendidly on his horse when going to battle: for even kings, after having ridden a horse in battle, do afterwards wish it to be well taken care of; and they show much solicitude for their horses, and even go to the stable that they may see, if possible, with their own eyes, that they are properly attended to. God then thus intimates, that he indeed required obedience from his people, and intended to retain his own right, to ride as it were on his own people; but yet that he would not oppress them, and that on the contrary he would make them like a splendid horse. We now then perceive why the Prophet turns his discourse here especially to the false shepherds, not indeed to extenuate the fault of the whole people, for none among them was worthy of pardon. It follows —

4. Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.
4.Ab eo angulus, ab eo clavus, ab eo arcus belli, ab eo egredietur omnis exactor pariter.

There is here a confirmation of the last verse, but the metaphors are different; for he says, that the Jews would be fortified by every defense necessary for their security; nor is he inconsistent with himself. In the last chapter he indeed taught us, that though exposed to all kinds of wrongs, they would yet be safe through aid from heaven; but now he promises that there would come from them the corner-stone, the nail, the bow, and the exactor; and this seems a different doctrine; but it is the same as though he had promised, that though they stood in need of many helps, they would yet be sufficiently furnished, as God would be ready to aid them whenever there was need.
By the corner-stone he means the firmness of the building; from the Jews then shall be the corner-stone; that is, there shall ever be among that people those capable of carrying on the public government: then, from thee the nail; beams, we know, and other parts of the building, are fastened by nails, and we know also, that the ceiling is thereby made secure. Zechariah then mentions here all the supports which sustain a building from its very foundation. He afterwards adds, the bow of war, that is, what is necessary to overcome enemies; and, lastly, the exactor, one who has power over bordering nations, and demands tribute or tax from them, as conquerors are wont to do from their subjects. fm112
We now see what the Prophet means — that when God would manifest his care for his people and openly show his favor, the Jews would be fortified by all kinds of help, so as to be well established, and that they would possess so much public authority as to have strength enough to resist all enemies; in short, that they would gain the fruit of conquest, and constrain all nations to be tributaries to them.
If any one asks when has this been fulfilled, my answer is, that some preludes of this were given when God raised up the Maccabees, and made the Jews again to live according to their own laws, and to enjoy their own rights; but no doubt the Prophet includes the whole course of redemption. As then God redeemed his people only to a small extent until Christ appeared, it is no wonder that Zechariah, in speaking of full and complete redemption, extends his words to the kingdom of Christ, and this was necessary. We hence learn, that the Church stands abundantly firm, and is also furnished with all needful things, while it continues under the protection of God, and that it is endued with sufficient power to resist all its enemies. It follows —

5. And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded.
5. Et erunt quasi fortes, (aut, gigantes, ) calcantes in luto platearum in proelio; et proeliabuntur, quia Iehova cum ipsis; et pudefient ascensores equorum.

He confirms what I have already said — that the Jews would be victorious over all nations. Though the Church is fighting under the cross, she yet triumphs over all the wicked, partly by hope and partly by present success; for God wonderfully sustains it, and makes the faithful to possess their souls in patience; and he also protects them by his own power, and renders them safe amidst all the roarings and insatiable rage of their enemies. Since then God thus strengthens the minds of his people, and cherishes in them the hope of salvation, and also defends them against raging assaults, it is no wonder that the Prophet testifies that the church would be victorious, treading down, as a giant or a strong man, her enemies in the mire.
He gives the reason, For Jehovah will be with them; and this he said, that they might know that nothing in this case would be their own, but that they might, on the contrary, learn to depend on God’s aid alone. And he explains this still more clearly at the end of the verse, by saying, Ashamed shall be the riders on horses; fm113 that is, their strength and velour, their use of arms and their skill in handling them, shall avail them nothing, for the Lord will lay prostrate, notwithstanding their arrogance and pride, all those wicked men who in their cruelty devour the faithful, and think that they have strength more than enough to destroy the Church: the Lord will cause all these things to pass away like mist.
Grant, Almighty God, that since constant fightings await us here, and our infirmities are so great that without thy power supporting us we cannot but fall every moment, — O grant, that we may learn to recumb on that help which thou hast promised, and which thou hast also offered to us, and dost daily offer through the Gospel in thine only-begotten Son; and may we distrust our own strength, yea, may we be overwhelmed with despair as to ourselves, not indeed that we may despond, but that we may look upward and seek the aid of thy Spirit, so that we may not doubt but that we shall be equal to our enemies, and even be victorious over them, until having at length finished our warfare, we shall reach that blessed rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. — Amen.
6. And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them.
6. Et roborabo domum Iehudah, et domum Ioseph servabo, et redire (habitare) eos faciam; quia misertus sum eorum, et erunt ac si non abominatus fuissem eos; quia ego Iehova Deus eorum, et exaudiam eos.

ZECHARIAH pursues the same subject, — that the work of redemption, the beginning of which the Jews saw, would not be incomplete, for the Lord would at length fulfill what he had begun. The Jews themselves could not acquiesce in those beginnings, which were not a hundredth part of what God had promised; it was hence necessary for them to raise up their minds above, that they might hope for much more than what was evident before their eyes.
And this truth is very useful to us, for we are wont to confine God’s promises to a short duration of time, and when we thus include him within narrow limits, we prevent him as it were to do what we stand in need of. Let then the example of the return of the people of Israel ever come to our minds, for the Lord had promised by his Prophets that they would become very eminent, and in every way rich and happy; but when this did not take place after their return to their country, many of the Jews thought that they had been deceived, as they had expected God to fulfill his word immediately, but they ought to have suspended their hope and expectation until Christ came to the world. On this then the Prophet now insists — that the Jews were to rest patiently, until the ripened time came, when the Lord would prove that he is not only in part but a complete redeemer of his people.
Now he says, I will strengthen the house of Judah, and the house of Joseph will I save. The kingdom of Israel, we know, had by degrees wholly fallen; for at first four tribes were driven into exile, and afterwards the whole people perished, so that all thought that the name of the ten tribes had become extinct. The Lord afterwards visited the kingdom with dreadful ruin. But it must be observed, that while the two kingdoms existed, they entertained grievous enmities towards each other; for the defection which happened under Jeroboam, ever made the Jews violently to hate their brethren, the Israelites, as they indeed deserved; for they had in a manner rejected God by rejecting the son of David, and became in a manner alienated from the body of the Church. Now then Zechariah promises something uncommon, when he says that the two peoples shall be united, so as to be again one, as before the defection: for the house of Joseph means the same as the house of Ephraim; and we know that by taking a part for the whole, the house of Ephraim is taken for the whole kingdom of Israel. We now then understand the Prophet’s meaning — that the state of the people would be happier than it had been since the ten tribes separated from the kingdom of Judah, or from the house of David; for God would gather for himself a Church from all the children of Abraham. fm114
He then adds, I will bring them back and cause them to dwell. The verb here, µytwbçwh, eushebutim, is supposed to be derived from , sheb, or from bwç, shub; but they are mistaken who think these to be words of different meanings, because some refer to the one root, and others to the other; nor can this be maintained: but those who minutely consider the rules of grammar, say that the verb is a compound, and means that God would not only restore the ten tribes, but also make them to dwell, that is, give them a fixed habitation in their country. fm115
He then adds, Because I have pitied them. Some read this in the future tense, but I retain the past, for the Lord assigns here a reason for their future gathering, even because he would deal mercifully with his people. He recalls then the attention of the Jews to the fountains of his mercy, as if he had said, “Though they have deserved perpetual ruin, He will yet hear their greenings, because he will be propitious to them.” As their calamity was an hindrance, which prevented the Jews from expecting any such thing, he adds, They shall be as though I had not cast them away. By which words he reminds them that the punishment which had been inflicted on the people, would be only for a time. He then bids them to take courage, though they were like the lost or the dead, for he would put an end to their miseries. And when God says that he had cast away his people, it ought to be taken according to the perceptions of men, as we have observed elsewhere; for adoption was unchangeable, but external appearance could have led to no other conclusion, but that the people had been rejected by God. The meaning of the Prophet is, however, clearly this — that though God had dealt severely with that people, and inflicted on them the heaviest punishment on account of their perfidy, yet his vengeance would not be for ever, for he would give place to mercy.
He adds another reason, For I Jehovah am their God. He means by this sentence that adoption would not be void, though he had for a time rejected the Jews: for by calling himself their God, he reminds them of his covenant, as though he had said, that he had not in vain made a covenant with Abraham, and promised that his seed would be blessed. Since then God had pledged his faith to Abraham, he says here that he would be the God of his people; not that they deserved anything, but because he had gratuitously chosen both Abraham and his seed.
He in the last place says, And I will hear them. fm116 He seems here to exhort them to prayer, that, relying on this promise, they might ask of God what had been promised. Though this verb is often taken in a sense not strictly correct, for God is said to hear those who do not flee to him; but what I have stated is more suitable to this place — that the people are stimulated to prayer, as God freely invites us to himself for this end, that is, that our prayers may harmonise with his promises. This is the meaning. It now follows —

7. And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD.
7. Et erunt quasi gigas Ephraim, et laetabitur cor eorum sicuti a vino, et filli eorum videbunt et gaudebunt; exultabit core eorum in Iehova.

He declares the same in other words: he had said in the last verse, that he would strengthen both the house of Judah and the house of Joseph, that is, the ten tribes; he now speaks of Ephraim alone, but includes the kingdom of Judah; and he names Ephraim, not because he deserved to be honored, or to be preferred to the Jews, for Ephraim had become apostate; but because the return of the ten tribes was an event more incredible: this is clearly the reason why the Prophet expressly mentions Ephraim. fm117 For even to the very destruction of the city and of the temple, God had continued to promise restoration to the Jews: the hope then of the Jews was certain and peculiar to themselves; but as to the Israelites, they were like a putrid carcass, for they had heard only something here and there, and received only some portion of the prophecies, as a grain of seed that falls outside of the field; for they were then as it were alienated from the people of God. We now then understand what the Prophet means by saying, that the Israelites would be like giants; for though they had been cast down by their enemies, and then driven in great dishonor and disgrace into exile, and had been exposed to all kinds of reproaches, and oppressed by extreme bondage; yet God promises them the strength of giants.
Now we have said that the words contain a part for the whole; for this promise no doubt belongs especially to the Jews: there is yet no mention of them, though they were first in rank, and had a better ground of hope as to their return, and the Lord had already given them some proof.
He says, Rejoice shall their hearts through wine; and see shall their sons and be glad; exult shall their heart in Jehovah. It is certain that they had already a cause for joy, as it is said in the book of Psalms,
“We became like those who dream,
when the Lord restored his captives.” (<19C601>Psalm 126:1.)
But the Prophet speaks here of a greater joy, that is, when they should see gathered all the tribes from their miserable and grievous dispersion: hence it is said in the same Psalm, “Gather, Lord, our captivity, like the stream in the south;” and then he adds, “They who sow in tears, in joy shall reap.” In part then did the faithful lament, and in part did they rejoice: the beginning of redemptions had raised their minds to joy; but on seeing their brethren still living under the tyranny of their enemies and having hardly a hope of restoration, they could not but mourn. Now the Prophet here declares, that their joy would be full, when their complete restoration came.
And he extends this joy to their sons; for it was needful to restrain their armor in expecting a full favor, as they ever closed up their way to God by their complaints, according to what we do when we give loose reigns to our wishes, for we then in a manner turn away from God. In order then to teach the people patience, the Prophet says, “Though ye see not this today with your eyes, yet your sons shall at length see it.” We now perceive that he here exhorts them to patience, that they might not anticipate with too much haste the promises of God.
Of the metaphor it is not needful to say much: he compares to the drunken, or to such as become cheerful through drinking, those who rejoice in the Lord, not that he expresses an approval of drunkenness, but because he wished to show that it would be no common joy, as though they were carried away beyond themselves. It would be then superfluous to move here the question, whether it be right to seek joy by drinking freely. It is indeed true that hilarity is connected with the lawful use of wine (<19A415>Psalm 104:15;) but as we are too prone to excess, we ought to restrain the lusts of the flesh rather than to seek some color of excuse for a sinful indulgence. But as I have said, this question does not belong to the present passage. It follows —

8. I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.
8. Sibilabo illis et congregabo eos, quia redemi eos; et multiplicabuntur sicuti multiplicait sunt.

The same is the object of this verse. By the word whistle, Zechariah means what it imports in other passages, — that it will not be an arduous world for God; for we are wont to measure his works by what our flesh understands. Since then the Jews might have easily raised this objection, — that their brethren were dispersed through various countries and among many nations, so that the assembling of them was incredible, the Prophet meets this objection and says, that God was able by mere whistling or by a single nod to restore them to their country. God is sometimes said to whistle for the wicked, when he constrains them unwillingly to do him service, and employs them as instruments to execute his hidden purposes; for when great armies daily assemble, it is no doubt through the secret appointment of God. When therefore trumpets sound and drums beat, the Lord whistles from heaven, to lead the reprobate here and there as it pleases him. But in this passage the Prophet simply means, that though God may not have many heralds nor an equipped army to open a way for his people, he will be satisfied with whistling only; for when it should please him, a free passage would be made for captives, though the whole world were to hinder their return. These two words then are to be joined together, I will whistle for them and gather them; as though Zechariah had said, that the nod of God would alone be sufficient, whenever he designed to gather the people. fm118
He then adds, For I have redeemed them. Here also I retain the past time, as the verb is in the past tense: for God speaks of redemption already begun, as though he had said, “I have promised that your exile would only be for a time; I have already appeared in part as your Redeemer, and I will not discontinue my work until it be completed.” God then no doubt confirms here what I have stated, — that as he had begun in some measure to redeem his people, a complete redemption was to be expected, though the distressed could hardly believe this. But they ought to have felt assured, that God, as it is said in <19D801>Psalm 138:1, would not forsake the work of his hands. Hence by the consideration of what had commenced he encourages the Jews here to entertain confidence, so that they might with composed minds look for the end, and doubt not but that the whole people would be saved; for the Lord had already proved himself to be their Redeemer. fm119 It is indeed true that this had not been fulfilled as to all the Israelites: but we must ever remember, that gratuitous election so existed as to the whole people, that God had notwithstanding but a small flock, as Paul teaches us. (<451105>Romans 11:5.) The Prophet at the same time intimates that Christ would be the head of the Church, and would gather from all parts of the earth the Jews who had been before scattered; and thus the promised restoration is to be extended to all the tribes. It afterwards follows —

9. And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.
9. Et seminabo eos in populis, et in remotis partibus recordabuntur mei, et vivent cum fillis suis t revertentur.

He continues the same subject, and employs here a most suitable metaphor — that the dispersion of the people would have a better issue than what any one then could have conceived, for it would be like sowing. The verb for scattering or sowing is often taken in a bad sense; for when people rested in their country, they ought then to have considered that they were living under God’s protection. Dispersion, then, was an evidence of a curse, and it is often so taken by Moses. Now God uses it here in an opposite meaning, as though he had said, that he would at his pleasure turn darkness into light. The meaning then is, that the people had been dispersed through God being angry with them, but that the issue of this dispersion would be joyful; for the Jews would dwell everywhere, and be God’s seed, and thus be made to produce abundant fruit. We then see that the meaning is, that God’s favor would surpass the wickedness of the people; for those would bear fruit who had been scattered, and scattered because God would no longer exercise care over them, and defend them in the promised land. As God then had so often threatened by Moses that he would scatter the Jews, he now says in another sense, that he would sow them, and for this ends that they might everywhere produce fruit. fm120
It was an instance of the wonderful grace of God, that he so ordered his dreadful judgment as to make the dispersion, as it has been said, a sowing of the people; for it hence happened, that the knowledge of celestial truth shone everywhere; and at length when the gospel was proclaimed, a freer access was had to the Gentiles, because Jews were dispersed through all lands. The first receptacles (Hospitia) of the gospel were the synagogues. We see that the apostles everywhere went first to the Jews, and when a few were converted, the door was now opened that more might come, and Gentiles were also added to the Jews. Thus the punishment of exile, which had been inflicted on them, was the means of opening the door for the gospel; and God thus scattered his seed here and there, that it might in due time produce fruit beyond the expectation of all; and this consideration availed not a little to moderate the impatient desires of the people; for the Prophet intimates that this alone ought to have satisfied them — that their exile would be productive of good, for the Lord would thereby gather much people to himself. Had the Jews been confined within their own borders, the name of the God of Israel would not have been heard of elsewhere; but as there was no part of the East, no part of Asia and of Greece, which had not some Jews — and they inhabited many cities of Italy — hence it was that the Apostles found, as we have said, wherever they came, some already prepared to embrace the gospel.
He afterwards adds, They shall remember me in distant lands. He shows the manner how the memory of God would be preserved: though the Jews sacrificed not in the temple, though they dwelt not in the holy land, they would yet ever worship the only true God; as then the seed cast on the ground, though it may not appear, and seem even to be wholly lost, being apparently consumed by rottenness, does yet germinate in its season, and produces fruit; so God teaches us, that the memory of his name will occasion this people to fructify in their dispersion. But as God promises this, we hence learn that it is through his singular kindness that we cherish piety in our hearts, when he sharply and severely chastises us. When therefore we cease not to worship God, it is certain that we are kept by his Spirit; for were this in the power of man, this promise would be useless, and even absurd.
He says further, They shall live with their sons, and shall return. He again speaks of sons, that the Jews might not make too much haste; for we know that men, having strong desires, hurry on immoderately. That they might not then prescribe time to God, the Prophet reminds them that it ought to have been enough for them that the Lord would quicken them as it were from the dead, together with their children. He however promises them a return, not that they would return to their own country, but that they would be all united by the faith of the gospel. Though then they changed not their place, nor moved a foot from the lands where they sojourned, yet a return to their country would be that gathering which would be made by the truth of the gospel, as it is well known, according to the common mode of speaking adopted by all the Prophets. It follows —

10. I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.
10. Et reducam eos e terra Egypti, et ex Assur (ex Assyria) congregabo eos; et ad terram Gilead et Libani adducam eos; et non invenietur illis.

He confirms the same prediction — that though the Jews were like broken pieces, they were yet to entertain hope of their return and future restoration, since God was able to gather them from the remotest parts whenever he stretched forth his hand. He then names Egypt and Assyria, that the Jews might know that the redemptions here promised is equally open to them all, however far separated they might be. For though Egypt was not very far from Assyria, yet they who had fled to Egypt were regarded with more dislike than the rest, who had been forcibly driven into exile; for God had pronounced a curse on the flight of those who sought refuge in Egypt. Since then they were hated by the others, and as a hostile discord existed between them, the Prophet says that the gathering of which he speaks would belong to both. fm121
He then adds, that such would be the number of men, that there would be no place for them; for so ought these words to be understood, There shall not be found for them; that is, “They will cover the whole land,” according to what we have observed elsewhere. It is said in Isaiah, “Secede from me,” not that the faithful, when God shall increase his Church, will molest one another, or desire to drive away their brethren; but by this mode of speaking Isaiah means that the Church will be filled with such number of men that they will press on one another. So also now Zechariah says, that the number of people will be so great, that the place will be hardly large enough for so vast a multitude. It follows —

11. And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart away.
11. Et transibit in mari afflictio, et percutiet in mari fluctus; et arescent omnes profunditates fluminis: et dejicietur superbia Assur, et sceptrum Egypti recedet.

The Prophet confirms what he had said respecting the power of God, which is so great that it can easily and without any effort lay prostrate all the mighty forces of the world. As then the impediments which the Jews observed might have subverted their hope, the Prophet here removes them; he reminds the Jews that God’s power would be far superior to all the impediments which the world could throw in their way. But the expressions are figurative, and allusions are made to the history of the first redemption.
Pass through the sea shall distress. As God formerly gave to his people a passage through the Red Sea, (<021421>Exodus 14:21;) so the Prophet now testifies that this power was unchangeable, so that God could easily restore his people, though the sea was to be dried up, and rivers were to be emptied. He says first, Pass shall distress through the sea, that is, spread shall distress, etc., for so the verb rb[, ober, is to be taken here. Pass then shall distress through the sea, fm122 that is, the Lord will terrify the sea, and so shake it with his power that the waters will obey his command. But he afterwards explains himself in other words, He will smite the waves in the sea. He means that God’s command is sufficient to change the order of nature, so that the waters would immediately disappear at his bidding. He then adds, All the depths of the river shall dry up; some read, “shall be ashamed,” deriving the verb from çwb, bush; but it comes from çby, ibesh: and this indeed means sometimes to be ashamed, but it means here to dry up. Others regard it as transitive, “The wind shall dry up the depths.” But as to the object of the Prophet, the passive or active sense of the verb is of no moment; for the Prophet no doubt means here, that there would be so much force in the very nod of God as to dry up rivers suddenly, according to what happened to Jordan; which being smitten by the rod of Moses dried up and afforded a passage to the people.
He at length speaks clearly, Cast down shall be the pride of Asshur, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. In the preceding metaphor Zechariah alludes, as I have said, to the first redemption, as it was usual with all the Prophets to remind the people of the former miracles, that they might expect from the Lord in future what their fathers had witnessed. He now however declares, that God would be the Redeemer of his people, though the Assyrians on one side, and the Egyptians on the other, were to attempt to frustrate his purpose; for they could effect nothing by their obstinacy, as God could easily subdue both. He at last adds —

12. And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the LORD.
12. Et reborabo eos in Iehova; et in monime ejus ambulabunt, dicit Iehova.

Here at length he includes the substance of what we have noticed, that there would be sufficient help in God to raise up and support his people, and to render them victorious over all their enemies. He had already proved this by saying, that God had formerly sufficiently testified by many miracles how much superior he was to the whole world; but he briefly completes the whole of this proof, and shows, that the Jews, provided that they relied on God and expected from him what he had promised, would be sufficiently strong, though the whole power of the world were to rise up against them.
He also mentions the name of God, They shall walk, he says, in his name, that is, under his auspices. In short, there is here an implied contrast between the name of God and the wealth and the forces of their enemies, which might have filled the minds of the faithful with fear, and cast them down. Hence the Prophet bids the Jews to give the glory to God, and not to doubt but that they would be victorious, whatever hindrance the world might throw in their way. And by this word walk, he means a continued course of life, as though he had said, that the people indeed had returned from exile, that is, in part; but that more of them were to be expected, for the Lord had not only been a leader in their return, but that he would be also their perpetual guardian, and defend them to the end.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are constrained continually to groan under the burden of our sins, and the captivity in which we are held justly exposes us to continual trembling and sorrow, — O grant, that the deliverance, already begun, may inspire us with the hope, so as to expect more from thee than what we can see with our eyes; and may we continually call on thee until thou completes what thou hast begun, and puttest to flight both Satan and our sins, so that being in true and full liberty devoted to thee, we may be partakers of that power which has already appeared in our head, until having at length passed through all our contests, we may reach that blessed rest, where we shall enjoy the fruit of our victory in Christ our Lord — Amen

1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
1. Aperi, Libane, protas tuas, et vorabit ignis cedros tuas:
2. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.
2. Ulula abies, quia cecidit cedrus, quia fortes (vel, praestantes) vastati sunt; ululate quercus Bashan, quia descendit (hoc est, excisa est, vel, prostrate) sylva munita.
3. There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.
3. Vox ululatus pastorum, quia vastata est praestantia eorum (vel, fortitudo;) vox rugitus leonum, quia vastata est superbia Iordanis.

THIS Chapter contains severe threatenings, by which God designed in time to warn the Jews, that if there was any hope of repentance, they might be restored by fear to the right way, and that others, the wicked and the reprobate, might be rendered inexcusable, and also that the faithful might fortify themselves against the strong temptation to despond on seeing so dreadful a calamity awaiting that nation.
This prophecy does not indeed seem consistent with the preceding prophecies; for the Prophet has been hitherto not only encouraging the people to entertain hope, but has also declared that their condition would be so happy that nothing would be wanting to render them really blessed: but now he denounces ruin, and begins with reprobation; for he says, that God had been long the shepherd of that nation, but that now he renounced all care of them; for being wearied he would no longer bear with that perverse wickedness, which he had found in them all. These things seem to be inconsistent: but we may observe, that it was needful in the first place to set before the Jews the benefits of God, that they might with more alacrity proceed with the work of building the temple, and know that their labor would not be in vain; and now it was necessary to change the strain, lest hypocrites, vainly confiding in these promises, should become hardened, as it is commonly the case; and also, lest the faithful should not entertain due fear, and thus go heedlessly before God; for nothing is more ruinous than security, inasmuch as when a license is taken to sin, God’s judgment impends over us. We hence see how useful and reasonable was this warnings of the Prophet, as he made the Jews to understand, that God would not be propitious to his people without punishing their wickedness and obstinacy.
In order to render his prophecy impressive, Zechariah addresses Libanon; as though he was God’s herald, he bids it to open its gates, for the whole wood was now given up to the fire. Had he spoken without a figure, his denunciation would not have had so much force: he therefore denounces near ruin on Lebanon and on other places. Almost all think that by Lebanon is to be understood the temple, because it was built with timber from that mountain; but this view seems to me frigid, though it is approved by the common consent of interpreters. For why should we think the temple to be metaphorically called Lebanon rather than Bashan? And they think so such thing of Bashan, though there is equally the same reason. I therefore regard it simply as the Mount Lebanon; and I shall merely refer to what Joseph us declares, that the temple was opened before the city was destroyed by Titus. But though that history may be true, and it seems to me probable, it does not hence follow that this prophecy was then fulfilled, according to what is said of Rabbi Jonathan, who then exclaimed, “Lo! the prophecy of Zechariah; for he foretold that the temple would be burnt, and that the gates would be previously opened.” These things seem plausible, and at the first view gain our approbation. But I think that we must understand something more solid, and less refined: for I doubt not but that the Prophet denounces complete ruin on Mount Lebanon, and on Bashan and other places. fm123
But why does he bid Lebanon to open its gates? The reason is given, for shortly after he calls it a fortified forest, which was yet without walls and gates. Lebanon, we know, was nigh to Jerusalem, though far enough to be free from any hostile attack. As then the place was by nature sufficiently safe from being assailed, the Prophet speaks, as though Lebanon was surrounded by fortresses; for it was not exposed to the attacks of enemies. The meaning is, — that though on account of its situation the Jews thought that Lebanon was not exposed to any evils, yet the wantonness of enemies would lead them even there. We have already said why the Prophet bids Lebanon to open its gates, even because he puts on the character of a herald, who threatens and declares, that God’s extreme vengeance was already nigh at hand.
He then adds, Howl thou, fir-tree, for the cedar has fallen. No doubt the Prophet by naming Lebanon, mentioning a part for the whole, meant the whole of Judea: and it appears evident from the context that the most remarkable places are here mentioned; but yet the Prophet’s design was to show, that God would punish the whole people, so as not to spare Jerusalem or any other place. And then by the fir-trees and cedars he meant whatever then excelled in Judea or in other places; and for this reason he compares them to the cedars of Lebanon, as though he had said, “There is no reason for the fir-trees to regard themselves as beyond the reach of danger; for if he spares not the cedars what will become of the fir-trees, which possess no such stateliness and grandeur?”
We now then perceive the Prophet’s meaning as to the trees: but he includes, as I have said, under one kind, whatever was valuable in Judea; and this we learn more clearly from what follows: for he adds, Fallen have, or laid waste have been, the strong. fm124 Some read in the neuter gender, “Laid waste have been splendid things;” but I am inclined to regard persons as intended. The Prophet then now simply declares, that the vengeance of God was nigh all the great ones, whom dignity sheltered, so that they thought themselves in no danger. And for the same purpose he adds, Howl, ye oaks of Bashan. He joins, as we see, Bashan to Lebanon; there is then no reason for allegorising only one of the words, when they are both connected. And he says, For fallen has the fortified forest. Either this may be applied to Lebanon, or the Prophet may be viewed as saying in general, that there was no place so difficult of access, which would not be penetrated into, when the Lord should give liberty to enemies to destroy all things. Though then the density of trees protected these mountains, yet the Prophet says that nothing would obstruct God’s vengeance from penetrating into the inmost recesses of strongholds.
He then adds, The voice of the howling of shepherds; for their excellency, or their courage, is laid waste. Here he has rda, ader, and before µyryda, adirim, in the masculine gender. We see then that the Prophet confirms the same thing in other words, “Howl now,” he says, “shall the shepherds.” He intimates that the beginning of this dreadful judgment would be with the chief men, as they were especially the cause of the public ruin. He then says, that the dignity of the great was now approaching its fall, and hence he bids them to howl. He does not in these words exhort them to repentance, but follows the same strain of doctrine. By God’s command he here declares, that the shepherds who took pride in their power, could not escape the judgment which they had deserved: and as this is a mode of speaking usually adopted by the Prophets, I shall no longer dwell on the subject.
He afterwards adds, The voice of the roaring of lions. He no doubt gives here the name of lions, by way of metaphor, to those who cruelly exercised their power over the people. But he also alludes to the banks of Jordan, where there were lions, as it is well known. Since then lions were found along the whole course of Jordan, as it is evident from many passages, he compares shepherds to lions, even the governors who had abused their authority by exercising tyranny over the people: Fallen then has the pride or the excellency of Jordan. In short, it is now sufficiently evident, that the Prophet threatens final destruction both to the kingdom of Judah and to the kingdom of Israel. Both kingdoms were indeed then abolished; but I speak of the countries themselves. The meaning is — that neither Judea nor the land of the ten tribes would be free from God’s vengeance. fm125 He afterwards adds —

4. Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;
4. Sic dicit Iehova, Deus meus, Pasce gregem occisionis.
5. Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the LORD; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.
5. Qui possident ipsum, occident (hoc est, occidunt) et non peccant; et qui vendit ipsum (gregem, vel, ipsas oves) dicit, Benedictus Iehova, et ditatus sum; et qui pascit eas, non parcit illis.
6. For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the LORD: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbor’s hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.
6. Quia (vel, certe) non parcam amplius incolis terrae, dicit Iehova; et ecce ego tradam (vel, trado, vel, venire faciens) hominem quemque in manum proximi sui, et in manum Regis sui; et conterent terram, et non eripiam e manu eorum.

Here is given a reason why God purposed to deal so severely with his people — even because their obstinacy deserved no pardon. As then in the beginning of the chapter the Prophet threatened ruin to the Jews, so now he reminds them that their punishment was nigh, and that they could not be more gently treated, because their wickedness was wholly incurable. We now perceive the design of the Prophet; but he charges the Jews especially with ingratitude, because they responded so basely and shamefully to the singular benefits of God.
He says first, that he was bidden to feed the flock destined to the slaughter. fm126 Now the Prophet does not here relate simply what command he had received from God, but teaches us in general that God had ever performed the office of a good and faithful shepherd towards the Jews. The Prophet then assumes the character of all the shepherds, as though he had said, “There is no reason why this people should plead their ignorance, or attempt to disguise their own fault by other names and various pretences; for God has ever offered them a shepherd, and sent also ministers to guide and rule them: it is not to be ascribed to God that this people has not enjoyed prosperity and happiness.” There is now no need of spending much labor about this verse, as interpreters have done who confine what is here said to Christ alone, as one who had received this office from the Father; for we shall see from the passage itself that the Prophet’s words are by them forcibly wrested from their meaning.
Let it then be borne in mind, that his special object is to show — that God had ever been ready to rule this people, so that he could not have been accused by them of not having done what could have been possibly looked for or expected from a good shepherd. If any one objects and says, that this could have been said in other words, the plain answer is — that God’s perpetual care in his government had been fully shown; for he had not only himself performed the duties and office of a shepherd, but had also at all times set over them ministers, who performed faithfully their work. Since God then had so constantly and sedulously watched over the safety of the people, we see that their ingratitude was wholly proved. And by calling it the flock of slaughter, a reference is made to the time of the Prophet; for the Jews were then as though they had been snatched from the jaws of wolves, having been delivered from exile. They were then as dead sheep, whom the Lord had rescued; and we also know to how many troubles and dangers they had been constantly exposed. And hence appeared more clearly the goodness of God; for he was pleased nevertheless to exercise care over his flock. Then the Prophet enlarges here on God’s favor, because he had not despised his sheep though given up to the slaughter. The words might indeed be extended farther, as though the Prophet referred to what had already taken place, and they might thus be applied to many ages; but it seems to me more probable, that he mentions here what belonged to that age. Zechariah then teaches us why God was constrained to adopt extreme severity, even because he had tried all things that might have healed the people, and yet lost all his labor: when their wickedness became wholly incurable, despair as it were at length constrained God to exercise the severity mentioned here. This is, as I think, the meaning of the Prophet.
He afterwards adds another circumstance, which shows still further the wonderful and ineffable goodness of God, — that he had been a shepherd of a flock, which had not only been harassed by wolves and robbers, but also by its own shepherds. In short, the import of the whole is, — that though wolves and robbers had ranged with great barbarity among the people, yet God had always been their shepherd.
He then enlarges on the subject and says, that they who possessed them had killed them, so that they spared not. By these words the Prophet shows that the safety of the people had been deemed as nothing by their very leaders: they could not then by any excellence of their own have induced God to show so much kindness to them. But these words ought to be attentively noticed, — that when the flock was slain, the executioners or butchers themselves had no mercy, for they thought it was a spoil justly due to them. We see how God extols here his own goodness; for he had condescended to defend and rule and feed that people, who were not only despised in the world, but counted as nothing, and the slaughtering of them deemed a lawful prey: they sin not, fm127 he says, that is, they are not conscious of exercising any cruelty, — Why? because they thought that they justly enriched themselves, while they were plundering so wretched a flock. The more base, then, and inexcusable was the ingratitude of the people, when after having been so kindly received and so gently nourished by God, they yet rejected all his favors and suffered not themselves to be governed by his hand. And it is material to observe here, that these contrasts tend greatly to exaggerate the sins of men, and ought to be considered, that God’s severity may not be blamed; for we know that many complain when God executes his judgments: they would measure all punishments by their own ideas, and subject God to their own will. In order therefore to check such complaints, the Prophet says, that though the flock was most contemptible, it had not yet been despised by God, but that he undertook the care of it.
The shepherds and masters said, Blessed be Jehovah. We are wont to give thanks to God when we really believe that the blessings we have come from him. The robber who kills an innocent man will not say, “Blessed be God;” for he on the contrary tries to extinguish every remembrance of God, because he has wounded his own conscience. The same may be also said of thieves. Hypocrites often profess the name of God; and they whose trade is cheating ever make a speech of this kind, “By God’s grace I have gained so much this year;” that is, after having acquired the property of others by deceit, cheating, and plunder, they give thanks to God! and at the same time they flatter themselves by self-deception, as though all were a lawful prey; for, forsooth! they are not proved guilty before a human tribunal. Now the Prophet here adopts this common mode of speaking, by which men, not conscious of doing wrong, usually testify that their gain is just and lawful.
He then adds, And he who fed then has not spared them. The meaning is, that the people, according to the opinions commonly entertained, were not worthy of mercy and kindness. Hence, as I have said, the wonderful goodness of God shines forth more clearly; for he condescended to take the care of a flock that was wholly despised. fm128 Then he says, I will not spare the inhabitants of the land; behold I will deliver, etc. To some it appears that there is here a reason given; for the Jews would have never been thus stripped, had not God been angry with them; as though he had said, that God’s vengeance was just, inasmuch as they were thus exposed to such atrocious wrongs. But according to my judgment God simply confirms what we have stated, — that his future vengeance on the Jews would be most just, because he had in feeding them so carefully labored wholly in vain. For though the Prophet has not as yet expressed what we shall hereafter see respecting their ingratitude, he yet does not break off his discourse without reason, for indignation has ever some warmth in it; he then in the middle of his argument exclaims here, I will not spare; for God had spared the Jews, when yet all men exercised cruelty towards them with impunity; and when they were contemptible in the sight of all, he still had regarded their safety. As then they had been so ungrateful for so many acts of kindness, ought not God to have been angry with them? This is then the reason why the Prophet introduces here in God’s name this threatening, Surely I will not spare them; that is, “I have hitherto deferred my vengeance, and have surpassed all men in kindness and mercy; but I have misplaced my goodness, and now there is no reason why I should longer suspend my judgment.” I will spare then no longer the inhabitants of this land.
I will give, or deliver, he says, every man into the hand of his friend; as though he had said, “They are no longer sheep, for they will not bear to be ruled by my hand, though they have found me to be the best of shepherds. They shall now tear and devour one another; and thus a horrible dispersion will follow.” Now the Jews ought to have dreaded nothing so much, as to be given up to destroy themselves by mutual slaughter, and thus to rage cruelly against one another and to perish without any external enemy: but yet God declares that this would be the case, and for this reason, because he could not succeed with them, though willing to feed them as his sheep and ready to perform the office of shepherd in ruling them. fm129
He concludes by saying, They shall smite the land, and I will not deliver from their hand. He intimates in the last place that ruin without any remedy was nigh; for he alone was the only deliverer of the people; but now he testifies that their safety would not be the object of his care; for should he see them perishing a hundred times, he would not be moved with pity, nor turn to bring them help, inasmuch as they had precluded all compassion. It now follows —

7. And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock.
7. Et pavi gregem occisionis, nempe (vel, ideoque) pauperes gregis: et sumpsi mihi duas virgas, unam vocavi Elegantiam (vel, Pulchritudinem;) et alteram vocavi Funiculos (alii vertunt, Perditores; de hac voce dicemus;) et pavi gregem.

He resumes here the thread of the discourse, which he had shortly before broken off; for he sets forth what had not yet been sufficiently expressed — that the ingratitude of the people, with which obstinacy was especially united, deserved entire ruin, and that now there was no hope of pardon; for the paternal care of God had been most basely and most shamefully repudiated, as well as the kind favor which he had manifested to the people.
God then complains that he fed the flock. Some apply this to Zechariah; but, as I have said, God relates the acts of kindness which he had uniformly showed to the people, until they became wholly unworthy of his favor. Let us however remember that the Prophet speaks of the remnant; for he does not here recount the benefits of God in ancient times, but describes the state of the people after their return from their exile in Babylon. God seemed before to have committed this office to Zechariah — to feed them; but as I have already said, the design of that was no other than to make it evident that the whole fault was in the people; for they had thrust from them the kindness of God, and in a manner carried on war frowardly with God, so as to prevent any access for his favor. There is therefore here an expostulation in God’s name.
I have fed, he says, the flock of slaughter, even the poor of the flock. Some render ˆkl, on account of; but it may be taken in an explanatory sense: or we may give this rendering — “therefore the poor,” or, especially the poor. With regard to the meaning, God here intimates that he had manifested his care for the whole people, for he had hoped that there were a few sheep yet remaining worthy of having mercy shown to them. As then some poor sheep might have been found among the impure flock, God says, that having this hope, he did not deem it grievous or burdensome to undertake the office of a shepherd in ruling the people. I have then fed the flock of slaughter, even for this reason, he says, because there were some miserable sheep among them: I was therefore unwilling to forsake them, and preferred to try all means rather than to cast away even one little sheep, provided a single one were found in the whole flock. fm130
He says that he took two rods, that he called one µ[n, nom, “Beauty,” and that he called the other µylbj, chebelim, “Cords,” rendered “destroyers” by those who adhere to the Hebrew points; but as lbj, both in the singular and plural, has the meaning of a rope or cord, the Prophet, I have no doubt, means by µylbj, chebelim, ropes or bindings. Grammar, indeed, does not allow this; but Zechariah did not set down the points, for they were not then in use. I indeed know with how much care the old scribes contrived the points, when the language had already ceased to be in common use. They then who neglect, or wholly reject the points, are certainly void of all judgment and reason; but yet some discrimination ought to be exercised; fm131 for if we read here “destroyers,” there is no meaning; if we read “cords,” there is no letter changed, but only two points are altered. As then the subject itself necessarily demands this meaning, I wonder that interpreters suffer themselves to be servilely constrained, so as not to regard the design of the Prophet.
The Prophet then says, that he had taken two rods, that he might devote himself in a manner not common to the office of a shepherd. Shepherds were satisfied with one crook; for by rods he means here the crook used by shepherds. As then every shepherd carried his own crook, the Prophet says here that he was furnished with two crooks, or pastoral staffs, because the Lord surpassed all men in his solicitude in the office of ruling his people. But the remainder I must defer until tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast hitherto so kindly showed thyself to be our Shepherd, and even our Father, and hast carefully provided for our safety, — O grant, that we may not by our ingratitude deprive ourselves of thy favors, so as to provoke thy extreme vengeance, but on the contrary suffer ourselves to be gently ruled by thee, and render thee due obedience: and as thine only-begotten Son has been by thee set over us as our only true Shepherd, may we hear his voice, and willingly obey him, so that we may be able to triumph with thy Prophet, that thy staff is sufficient for us, so as to enable us to walk without fear through the valley of the shadow of death, until we shall at length reach that blessed and eternal rest, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. — Amen.
WE said yesterday that the word µylbj, chebelim, the name given by Zechariah to the second rod, could not be rendered “destroyers,” as all the Hebrews do; for God teaches us that he had fully and faithfully discharged the duties of a shepherd, so that the people perished through their own fault; and since God undertook the office of a shepherd, it could not have been said that he took a staff to destroy them: and there is also no doubt but that he connects this word with the other, µ[n, nom, “beauty.” And he says in the last place, that this rod called µylbj, chebelim, was broken, in order to show that the brotherhood between Judah and Israel was come to an end. Now what affinity can there be between destroying and uniting? It is then clear that the word µylbj, chebelim, is to be taken here for ropes, or cords.
Let us now see why the Prophet calls one “Beauty,” and the other “Ropes.” Some think that the law of nature is designated by µ[n, nom, and by µylbj, chebelim, the law of Moses, and those who render the word “Lines,” such as Jerome, who gives here the right version, think that as the law was a hard yoke on the ancients, the rod was so called because it bound them fast. Others, as Jerome also does, refer to this passage of Moses, “When the Lord cast his line, he chose a place for Israel, and when the Highest divided the nations,” etc. They then think that a line is taken for an inheritance. But the first interpretation is too remote and distorted; with regard to the second, as the Prophet puts the word in the plural number, it cannot be suitably taken for an inheritance, and, as we said yesterday, the following clause shows that the idea of union is included in it.
The meaning of the Prophet then is, that God had so performed his office of a shepherd towards his people, as to rule them in the best manner; this I understand by the word µ[n, nom, beauty, for nothing could have been more perfect in beauty than the government which God had exercised over the Israelites; and hence he compares here his pastoral staff to beauty, as though he had said, “The order of things was so arranged that nothing could be imagined better.” He then mentions unity or concord, and it was the highest favor that God gathered again the scattered Israelites so as to make them one body. It is indeed true, that few of the kingdom of Israel had returned to their own country, but it is yet evident that the remnant was not only from the tribe of Judah, from the half tribe of Benjamin, and from the Levites, but that there were others mingled with them. It was therefore a most appropriate representation, that not only a most beautiful order was established by God, but that was also added a brotherly concord, so that the children of Abraham were joined together in one spirit and in one soul. Since then they had so good a shepherd, the baser and less excusable was their ingratitude in shaking off his yoke, and in not suffering themselves to be ruled by his staff.
We now then see what the words of the Prophet mean, when he introduces God as furnished with two rods, even beauty and gathering. He then repeats what he had said before, I have fed, he says, the sheep, intimating, that it was not owing to him that he should not continue to rule them. It now follows —

8. Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.
8. Et rejeci tres pastores mense uno; et taedio affecta est (ad verbum coarctata est) anima mea in ipsis; atque etiam anima eorum me abominata est.

At the beginning of the verse the Prophet continues the same subject, that God spared no pains in ruling the people, but patiently bore with many grievances; for it is the duty of every good and careful husband man to inspect often his flock, and to change his shepherd, when he finds him idle and inattentive to his duties. God then shows that he had exercised the greatest vigilance, for in one month he had rejected three shepherds, that is, he had within a short space of time often made choice of new shepherds, and substituted them for others, for one month is to be taken here for a short time, and the three shepherds signify many, indefinitely. When a husband man neglects his own flock, he may be deceived all the year round, should he meet with a thief or an inactive and worthless man. Since then God says, that he had changed his shepherds often in one month, he intimates what I have already said, that he took the greatest care of his flock, for he loved it, and omitted nothing necessary to defend it. fm132 And this circumstance especially aggravated the sin of the Jews, for they did not respond to so great a care on God’s part; no, not when they saw that he watched night and day for their safety.
Now the latter part of the verse is a complaint, for God begins to set forth how base had been the wickedness and ingratitude of the people, With weariness, he says, has my soul been affected by them, and their soul has hated me. fm133 He speaks not now of the shepherds, and they are mistaken who so read the passage, as though God had repudiated the shepherds, because his soul w as wearied with them: on the contrary, he turns his discourse to the whole people, and begins to show how wicked they had been, who having been favored with so many benefits, could not yet endure the best of shepherds. Hence he says, that his soul had been straitened by them, for he found no room made for his favors. Paul also, treating on this subject, expostulates with the Corinthians, and says, that he was ready to pour forth his heart and to open widely his mouth, but they themselves were straitened, and he felt himself these straitenings in his own heart. (<470611>2 Corinthians 6:11.) So also God complains here and says, that he was straitened by the Jews; for he found that his blessings were not rightly received, but as it were hindered, so great was the wickedness of the people.
He expresses more clear]y at the end that he was despised by them, They also have hated me. Now it was a contempt in no way excusable, when the Jews would not acknowledge how kindly and bountifully God had treated them. We now perceive the Prophet’s design: after having related how kindly God had condescended to rule the people, he now says that this labor had produced no fruit, for the door for God’s favors had been closed up. It afterwards follows-

9. Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another.
9. Et dixi, Non pascan vos; quod morti devotum est, moriatur; et quod succisioni devotum est, succidatur; et quae residuae erunt, devorent unaquaeque carnem sociae suae.

God now declares what had been briefly mentioned before, — that his judgment could not be deemed cruel, for the people had been extremely wicked, and their wickedness deserved extreme punishment. It seems indeed to be a simple narrative; but God here defends his own cause, for he had tried all means in ruling the people, before he had recourse to extreme rigor. Who indeed could now murmur against God? for he had been ever ready to undertake the office of a shepherd, and had so humbled himself as to take care of that people as his own flock, and had, in short, omitted no kind of attention; and yet he had been despised by that people, and even treated with derision. It was therefore an extreme indignity when they hated God, who had yet dealt with them with so much kindness. We hence see that God’s judgment is here vindicated from every calumny; for the wickedness of the people was altogether inexcusable before God had renounced his care of them.
I said: the time must be noticed, for he intimates that he had not been too hasty in taking vengeance; but that as there was no longer any remedy, he had been constrained, as it were by necessity, to give up his office of a shepherd. I said then, I will not feed you; what is to die, let it die; what is to be cut off, let it be cut off. fm134 He here resigns his office of a shepherd, and intimates that he was innocent and free from all blame, whatever might happen. A shepherd is set over a flock for this purpose, — that he may defend it, even every sheep, both against the depredations of robbers, and the rapacity of wolves: but when he gives up his office, he is exempt from all blame, though afterwards the flock may be stolen or devoured by wolves and wild beasts. God then here openly declares, that it was not to be imputed to him, if the Jews perished a hundred times, for they refused to be ruled by him, and thus he was freed from the pastoral charge. What then is to perish, let it perish; that is, “Since they are not healable, and allow no remedy to be applied to their evils, I leave them; they shall find out what it is to be without a good shepherd.”
We now see more clearly what I before stated, — that the wickedness and ingratitude of the people are here reproved, because they had rejected God, who was ready to be their shepherd, — and that the cause of the ruin which was nigh at hand, was in the Jews themselves, though they anxiously tried, but in vain, to transfer it to another.
He concludes with these words, And those which remain, even those who shall escape external attacks, let them eat one another, since they are not now sheep, but savage wild beasts. And this we know has been fulfilled; for the Jews at length perished through mutual discords, and no one spared his own brother; nay, the nearer the relationship, the more cruelly each raged against the other. Hence God’s judgment, denounced by the Prophet, then appeared most openly, when the Jews perished through intestine broils and even slaughters. It then follows —

ZECHARIAH 11:10, 11
10. And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.
10. Et accepi virgam meam, nempe Pulchritudinem, et confregi eam, ut irritum facerem foedus quod pepigeram cum omnibus gentibus (vel, populis.)
11. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.
11. Et irritum fuit die illo; et cognoverunt sic paupers gregis qui me observabant, quod sermo Iehovae hic esset.

He confirms the same truth, but a metaphor is introduced: for he says, that when he freed himself from the office of a shepherd, he broke the two rods, even Beauty and Gathering. He speaks of the first staff, because things were in a confusion in Judea, before the people were wholly cut off; for the dispersion did not immediately take place, so that there was no sort of social state among the Jews; but social order was so deranged, that it was sufficiently evident that they were not ruled by God. By degrees the purity of doctrine was corrupted, and a flood of errors crept in; superstition gained great strength. When things were in this state of confusion, the pastoral staff was broken, which is called, Beauty. This verse then contains no more than an explanation of the last: and hence also he says, That broken might be the covenant which I had made, that is, that it might be now quite evident that this people are not ruled by my hand and authority.
Some interpreters extend to the whole world what is here said of nations, and think that the same thing is meant by Zechariah as that which is said in <280201>Hosea 2:1, -that the Lord made a covenant with the beasts of the earth and the birds of heaven, that no harm should happen to his people; but the comparison is not suitable. It is then probable, that God here speaks only of the posterity of Abraham; nor is it to be wondered at that they are called nations, for even so Moses says,
“Nations from thee shall be born,” (<011706>Genesis 17:6.)
and this was done for the purpose of setting forth the greatness of God’s favor; for the ten tribes were as so many nations among whom God reigned. It seemed incredible, that from one man, not only a numerous family, but many nations should proceed. The real meaning then seems to be, that God testified that he would no longer be the leader of that people; for when order was trodden under foot, the covenant of God was made void. Why indeed was that covenant continued, and what was its design, except to keep things aright, in a fit and suitable condition? Thus in the church, God regards order, so that nothing should be done rashly, according to every man’s humor. This then was the beginning of that dispersion, which at length followed when the people had fallen off from the order which God had appointed. fm135
He concludes by saying, that in that day the covenant was broken. By which words he intimates that it was not by chance that the law was destroyed, and that the Jews departed from the just government of God, but that it was through the dreadful vengeance of God. In that day then: this is emphatical, as though the Prophet had said, “It ought not to be ascribed to chance that things have changed for the worse, for God has thus executed his judgment, after having with extreme patience borne with the wickedness of the people.” And hence he adds, that the poor of the flock saw that this was the word of Jehovah. Here the Prophet briefly points out two things — that this was not commonly known as God’s judgment, but that almost all with closed eyes overlooked what had happened; for the world contracts as it were hardness, and becomes wilfully obdurate under the scourges of God. All cry out that they are miserable, but no one regards the hand of the striker, as it is said elsewhere. (<230913>Isaiah 9:13.) So also Zechariah charges here the Jews with stupidity; for though the greater part saw all things in confusion, yet they did not consider, but regarded almost as nothing the dreadful judgment of God. It must then be that men are extremely refractory, when they perceive not that they are chastised by God; yet the Prophet charges the Jews with this sottishness; for they regarded not this as the word of Jehovah, they did not believe that this was God’s hand. But he says further, that the poor of the flock perceived this: and thus he shows, that while the body of the people followed the way to ruin, a few derived benefit from God’s scourges; and thus it never happens, that God chastises without some advantage. Though then the reprobate obstinately resist God, and hesitate not to tread under foot his judgments, and as far as they can, render them void, there are yet some few who receive benefit and acknowledge God’s hand so as to humble themselves and repent.
The Prophet, then, after having complained that the chief men, even those who were in honor and in wealth among the Jews, heedlessly despised God’s dreadful judgment, makes this addition, that there were a few very poor and humble men, who regarded this judgment as not having come by chance, but through God, who became a just avenger, because his favor had been wantonly despised: The poor then of the flock knew this to be the word of Jehovah.
As this happened in the time of the Prophet, it is no wonder that at this day, even when God thunders from heaven and makes known his judgments by manifest proofs, the world should yet rush headlong into perdition, and become as it were stupefied in their calamities. In the meantime we ought to strive to connect ourselves with the miserable poor, who are deemed as the offscourings of the world, and so attentively to consider God’s vengeance, that we may seriously fear and not provoke his extreme judgments, and thus perish with the wicked.
We must observe also the expression which Zechariah introduced before the last words, Who attend to me. He mentions it as a singular and a rare thing, that even a few deigned to consider the works of God. The chief wisdom of men, we know, is attentively to consider the hand of God; but almost all seem to be immersed in a state of stupor: when the Lord smites them, they stand as it were amazed, and never, as we have already said, regard the hand of the smiter; and when the Lord freely and kindly cherishes them, they exult in their own wantonness. Thus under every kind of treatment, they are untractable; for they attend not to God, but close their eyes, harden their hearts, and cover themselves with many veils; in short, we find the blindness of the world ever connected with perverseness, so that they in vain pretend ignorance, for they attend not to God, but on the contrary turn their backs on him and darken the clear light by their wickedness.
We now then see why this sentence is introduced, that the poor of the flock understand, because they apply their minds and devote their attention for the purpose of considering the works of God. It hence follows that the bulls, who with their horns fearlessly assail God, and that he-goats, who by their stench fill the air, continue in their brutishness, and derive no benefit from God’s judgments, because they are wilfully and through their own wickedness wholly blind. It follows —

ZECHARIAH 11:12, 13
12. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.
12. Et dixi illis, Si bonum est in oculis vestris (hoc esst, si vobis placet, ) date mercedem meam; quod si non, desistite: et appenderunt mercedem meam triginta argenteos.
13. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.
13. Et dixit Iehova ad me, Projice hoc ad figulum, magnificentiam pretii quo aestimatus sum ab illis: et sumpsi triginta argenteos, et projeci hoc ad templum Iehovae, ad figulum.

God now adds another crime, by which he discovers the wickedness of the people; for they estimated all the labor he had bestowed at a cry insignificant price. He had before complained of ingratitude; but more fully detected was the iniquity and baseness of the people, when they thus regarded as of no value the inestimable favor of God towards them. What the Prophet then says now is — that God at last tried them so as to know whether his benefits were of any account among the Jews, and that it had been fully found out, that all the labor and toil employed in their behalf, had been ill-spent and wholly lost. That Zechariah now speaks in his own person, and then introduces God as the speaker, makes no difference, as we said yesterday, as to the main subject; for his object is to set forth how shamefully the Jews had abused the favor of God, and how unjustly they had despised it. And yet he speaks as God’s minister; for God not only governed that people himself, but also endued with the power of his Spirit many ministers, who undertook the office of shepherds.
He then says, that he came (and what is said properly belongs to God) to the people and demanded a reward, Give me, he says, a reward; if not, forbear. fm136 He expresses here the highest indignation, as though one upbraided the wickedness and ingratitude of his neighbor and said, “Own my kindness, if you please; if not, let it perish: I care not; I see that you are wholly worthless and altogether unworthy of being so liberally treated: I therefore make no account of thy compensations; but at the same time it behaves thee to consider how much thou art indebted to me.” So now does God in high displeasure speak here: “Give me at least a reward, that I may not have served you for nothing: you have misused my labor, I have borne with many wrongs and annoyances in ruling you; what is to be the compensation for my solicitude and care? I indeed make no account of a reward, for I am not a mercenary.” He then adds, that they gave him thirty silverings. fm137 He mentions this no doubt as a mean price, intimating, that they wished by such a small sum to compensate for the many and inestimable favors of God; as when one hires a swineherd or a clown, he gives a paltry sum as his wages; so the Jews, as the Prophet says, acted towards God. At the same time by the mean price, a suitable reward only to a clown, he means those frivolous things by which the Jews thought to satisfy God: for we know how diligent they were in performing their ceremonies, as though indeed these were a compensation that was of any value with God! He requires integrity of heart, and he gives himself to us, that he may in return have us as his own. fm138 This then was the price of labor which the Lord had deserved. It would have been a suitable reward had the Jews devoted themselves wholly to him in obedience to his word. But what did they do? They sedulously performed ceremonies and other frivolous things. This then was a sordid reward, as though they sought to put him off with the reward of a swineherd.
Hence he adds, Jehovah said to me, throw it to the potter. “This truly is my reward! Cast it to the potter, that he may get some bricks or coverings to repair the temple; if there are any parts of the temple dilapidated, let the potter get thereby some bricks, or let any humble artisan have such a price for himself.” But he afterwards speaks ironically when he says, the magnificence and the glory of the price at which he had been estimated! “This is, forsooth! the magnificence of my price, though I had endured many toils! they now deal with me as with some mean swineherd, though I was their Lord and Shepherd: since then they seek thus craftily to satisfy me, and reproachfully offer me a paltry reward, and as it were degrade my glory and spit in my face, Cast, cast it, he says, to the potter;” that is, let them repair the temple, in which they delight so much as if they were in heaven: for the temple is their idol; but God will be never nigh them while they act thus hypocritically with him. “Let them then repair the breaches of the temple and pay the price to the potter, for I will not suffer a price so unworthy of my majesty to be obtruded so disgracefully on me.”
We now then apprehend the meaning of the Prophet: and first we must bear in mind what I have stated, that here is described how irreclaimable had been the wickedness of the people: though rejected by God, when he had broken his rod, they yet esteemed as nothing the favors which they had experienced. How so? because they thought that they performed an abundant service to God, when they worshipped him by external frivolities; for ceremonies without a real sense of religion are frivolous puerilities in God’s presence. What then the Prophet now urges is, that the Jews wilfully buried God’s benefits, by which he had nevertheless so bound them to himself that they could not be released. And to the same purpose is what follows, Cast it to the potter: for he testifies that the price was of no value, nay, that he abominated such a reward as men paid hint when they dealt with him in such a reproachful manner; for as he says in Isaiah, it was a weariness to him —
“I am disgusted with your festal days; why do you daily tread the pavement of my temple?” (<230112>Isaiah 1:12,13;)
and again he says,
“He who slays an ox is the same as he who kills a man.”
(<236603>Isaiah 66:3.)
God in these places shows, as here by Zechariah, that these sacrifices which ungodly men and hypocrites offer to him, without a right feeling of religion, are the greatest abominations to him, — why? Because it is the highest indignity which the wicked call offer, which is as it were to spit in his face, when they compare him to a potter or a swineherd, and think nothing of the reward which he deserves, and that is, to consecrate and really to devote themselves wholly to him without any dissimulation. When therefore men trifle with God and think that he is delighted with frivolous puerilities, they compare him, as I have said, to a swineherd, or to some low or common workman; and this is an indignity which he cannot bear, and for which he manifests hero by his Prophet his high displeasure. fm139
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou ceases not, though provoked by our many sins, to discharge the office of a good and most faithful shepherd, and as thou continues in various ways to testify that Christ watches over us as one who has undertaken the care of our safety, — O grant, that we may be touched with the feeling of true repentance, and so profit under thy scourges, that by considering thy judgments, we may be really humbled under and mighty hand, and so submit to thee, that finding us teachable and obedient, thou mayest continue to rule us to the end, until after having been protected from all harms by the pastoral staff of thine only-begotten Son, we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has been procured for us by his blood. — Amen.
14. Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
14. Et fregi virgam meam alteram, nempe collectionis, ad dissipandam fraternitatem in ter Iehudah et inter Israel.

THERE is here set before us the extreme vengeance of God in scattering his people, so that there would be no longer any union between the children of Abraham. We have seen that the Prophet took two staves or crooks to execute the office of a shepherd in ruling the people. The first staff he said was Beauty, because God had omitted nothing necessary to produce the best order of things. Now when this blessed mode of ruling was trodden under foot, then soon after followed the scattering of the people: and this is the reason why the Prophet says, that he broke the other rod, or his crook. We then see that this people by their ingratitude at length justly deserved to be left without any regular form of government, and also without any union.
As to the word µylbj, chebelim, we have before said that what the Rabbis teach us, that it means “destroyers,” does not comport with the passage. But why should Zechariah say here that the rod was broken, that there should be no more union or fraternity between the kingdom of Judah and the ten tribes? We have already said, that this word by changing the points may have the meaning which has been mentioned; for lbj, chebel, signifies a rope or binding. We must also bear in mind, that this is an instance of “last first” (u[steron pro>teron;) for he told us before that God, bidding adieu to the people, demanded his reward; this then ought to have been first mentioned: but this inversion of order is common in Hebrew. This verse then we are to read, as though it was placed before the last mission, by which God laid aside the office of a shepherd. fm140
I will come now to the passage in Matthew; for after having told us that the thirty pieces of silver were cast away by Judah, and that by them the Potter’s Field was bought, he adds, that this prediction of the Prophet was fulfilled. He does not indeed repeat the same words, but it is quite clear, that this passage was quoted,
“They gave,” he says, “the thirty silvering, the price of the valued, whom they of the children of Israel have valued.”
(<402709>Matthew 27:9.)
In substance then there is no doubt an agreement between the words of Matthew and those of the Prophet. But we must hold this principle, — that Christ was the true Jehovah from the beginning. As then the Son of God is the same in essence with the Father, and is with him the only true God, it is no wonder that what the Prophet figuratively expressed as having been done under the law by the ancient people, has been done to him literally in his own person: for as they had given to God thirty pieces of silver, a sordid price, as his just reward, so he complained that the labor he undertook in ruling them, was unjustly valued; and when Christ was sold for thirty pieces of silver, it was a visible specimen of this prophecy exhibited in his own person.
When Matthew says, that Christ was valued by the children of Israel, he charges the chosen people with impiety. The article oJi, is to be here understood. The expression is indeed, ajpo< uJiwn Israh<l; but the sentence is to be taken in this sense, — that he was valued at so low a price, not by barbarous nations, but by the very people who were of the children of Israel and of the seed of Abraham, as though he had said, “This wrong has been offered to God, not by strangers, but by a people whom he had chosen and adopted as his peculiar possession; and this wickedness is therefore less excusable.”
Then Matthew adds,
“They gave it for the Potter’s Field,
as the Lord had commanded me.” <402707>Matthew 27:7-10.
This part also well agrees with the prophecy. It is indeed certain that this money was not designedly given to buy a field, that the Jews might obey God; but we know that God executes his purposes by means of the wicked, though they neither think nor wish to do such a thing. But what does Zechariah say? Cast it, he says, to the potter; he does not say “To the field of the potter.” But we have explained for what purpose God commanded the thirty silvering to be cast to the potter; it was, that he might get bricks or tiles to repair the temple; and this was said in contempt, or by way of ridicule. Such also was the visible symbol of this as to the purchase of the field; for the potter, the seller of the field, knew not what he was doing; the Scribes and Pharisees thought nothing of fulfilling what had been predicted. But that it might be made evident that Christ was the true God who had from the beginning spoken by the Prophet, God, by setting the thing before their eyes, intended that there should be a visible fact or transaction, that he might as it were draw the attention of the Jews to what is here said. The Prophet proceeds, -

ZECHARIAH 11:15, 16
15. And the LORD said unto me, Take unto thee yet the instruments of a foolish shepherd.
15. Et dixit Iehova mihi, Adhuc sume tibi vas patoris stulti.Fm141
16. For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.
16. Quia ecce ego constituo pastorem in terra; quod excisum est no visitabit, quod juvenile est no requieret, quod confractum est non sanabit, quod stat non pascet; et carnem pinguis comedet, et ungulas eorum confringet.

Here the Prophet teaches us, that when God shall renounce the care of his people there will be some weak form of government; but it is evident that God would no longer perform the office of a shepherd; as though he had said, that the people would be so deserted, that they would yet think themselves to be still under the protection of God, as we see to be the case among the Papists, who proudly make a boasting of this kind — “The Church is never forsaken by God.” Though the truth of God has been long ago completely buried, they yet hold that it is still the true Church, a Church filled with impious superstitions! As then the Papists glory in the title only, and are content with it, so the Jews, we know, boasted of their privileges; and these were their weapons when they sought to oppose and contend with the Apostles — “What! are not we the heritage of God? has he not promised that his sanctuary would be perpetual among us? is not the sacerdotal unction a sure and infallible proof of his favor?” As then the Jews made use of these foolish boastings against the Apostles, so also at this day the Papists hide all infamy under the title of Church. The same thing Zechariah here means by saying that he by God’s command took the instrument of a foolish shepherd. fm142
The word ylk, cali, means in Hebrew any kind of instrument. Some regard it to be a bag with holes, but this is an unsuitable interpretation. By instrument, Zechariah, I have no doubt, means the implements of a shepherds by which he proves himself to be in that office. But he calls him at the same time a foolish shepherd, that we may allow that he was a shepherd only in disguise. The term shepherd is given here by way of concession, according to the usual manner of scripture; and we also at this day concede sometimes the name of Church to the Papists; and we farther concede the name of pastors to their milted bishops, but improperly. So also does Zechariah in this place; though he speaks of a shadow and thing of nought, yet he says that there would be shepherds in Judea; and he adds the reason — Because God would thus punish that wicked and ungrateful people: Behold, he says, I will set a shepherd in the land. God had now, as we have said, renounced the office of a shepherd; but he afterwards set over them wolves, and thieves, and robbers, instead of shepherds, that is, when he executed his dreadful judgment on the Jews: and he shows at the same time what sort of shepherds they would be who in future should possess power over them.
They were to be such as would not look after what had been cut off. Some consider the word twdjknh, enecachedut, as signifying the sick sheep; but they are in my judgment mistaken; for careful shepherds seek what is lost, or what has disappeared from the flock; and this is what Zechariah means, for he says, he will not visit, that is, he will look after what has been cut off from the flock. Then he says, he will not seek r[nh, enor, the young. Some explain this of fat lambs; but others more correctly of those which are tender, not as yet accustomed to follow the shepherd; for sheep by long use keep from going astray, but lambs are more apt to wander from the flock, and are easily scattered here and there. This is the reason why Zechariah makes it one of the duties of a good shepherd to seek what is yet young. He adds in the third place, the sick, What is wounded, he says, he will not heal: and lastly, he will not feed what stands, that is, what is sound. The word literally is, to stand; but it means full vigor or strength. What then is vigorous and sound he will not feed. He then says, The flesh, of the fat he will devour, yea, he will break their hoofs. By these words he amplifies the cruelty of the shepherd; for he will not be satisfied with the fat flesh, without breaking also the bones and the hoofs, as though his barbarity would exceed that of wolves and wild beasts.
We now then see the import of this prophecy: and it seems to have been added, that the Jews might not flatter themselves with an external and evanescent form of government, after having departed from God, and after the covenant which he had made with that nation, having been also renounced by him, so that he should be no longer their Father, or Guardian, or Shepherd. Hypocrites, we know, do not easily put off their obstinacy; though God’s vengeance should be manifest, yet we see how they harden themselves, especially when they can cover their wickedness under some false pretense, a striking example of which we observe among the Papists. We now then perceive the design of the Holy Spirit, when the Prophet is bid to assume the character, and take the implements, of a foolish shepherd.
If any one objects, and says that this was not suitable to a true Prophet of God, the answer is plain — the Prophet deviated not from the right course of his calling, though he assumed the character of a foolish shepherd, an instance of which we have already seen in Hosea, who was commanded to take a harlot, and to beget spurious children from one who had been infamous in her character. (<280102>Hosea 1:2.) As this was a vision presented to Hosea, it does not follow that he did anything disgraceful, so as to prevent him from exercising the office of a holy teacher. So also now, God simply shows to us what would be the fixture condition of that reprobate people.
It must further be noticed, that when anything of a right and good government remains in the external form, there is no reason to conclude from this that God is the ruler, for, as we have already said, it is a ridiculous and senseless glorying when men are inflated and take pride in mere titles or names of distinction. Let us then take heed, that those who bear rule be rightly called by God, and let them afterwards discharge their office faithfully, otherwise they may be a hundred times called pastors, after having attained this degree of honor, and be after all no better than wolves and robbers; for no one is a true pastor whom the Lord does not rule by his Spirit, and who is not his minister, and no ungodly pastors, however they may assume the title, can be called the ministers of God, when he has already, as we see here, forsaken the people.
It must at the same time be observed, that it happens not except through the just judgment of God, that things grow worse and worse, and at length become wholly degenerated; and those who loudly boast and seek to be esteemed by all as pastors, are altogether senseless, for God has not appointed them, and the whole filth of the Papal clergy is at this day a manifest evidence of God’s wrath and indignation, for he thus justly punishes the contempt of his word, and that perverseness by which the world thus awfully provoked him. Though God has been graciously calling the whole world to himself, we yet see how his favor has been rejected, and we also see how almost all have gone on in their obstinacy. God had indeed in his great goodness borne for some ages with this great wickedness, and when he began to punish the ungrateful, he did not break out to extreme vengeance, for he added to scourges heavier scourges, but at length he was constrained to make his wrath to flow like a deluge. Hence has arisen that dreadful confusion which is seen under the Papacy; and this is what the words of the Prophet mean when God declares here that foolish pastors would be set up by his command and through his power, as he would thus execute his judgment on the ungodly.
Now as the Prophet enumerates here those things which are inconsistent with the duty of a good shepherd, we may hence learn, on the other hand, what it is to rule the Church rightly and according to God’s will, and also what are the attributes or marks of a good pastor. Whosoever then would be owned as a good pastor in the Church, must visit those who have been cut off, seek the young, strive to heal the wounded, and feed well the sound and the vigorous; and he must also abstain from every kind of cruelty, and he must not be given to the indulgence of his appetite, nor regard gain, nor exercise any tyranny. Whosoever will thus conduct himself, will prove that he is really a true pastor. But what can be more preposterous than for those to be called pastors who have no flock under their care? who plunder, and gather, and accumulate what they afterward spend in dissipation?
As then it is quite evident, that all those under the Papacy who are called bishops, seek the office for no other end but that they may live sumptuously, without any care or labor, and indulge in pleasures, and also spend in the gratification of their lust what is unjustly got, — as then they are known to be idlers and cruel tyrants, such as the Prophet here describes, do we not clearly see how childishly they boast of their hierarchy, and at the same time declare that they derive their origin from the Apostles? For what sort of successor to Peter or to Paul, is he who exercises the most barbarous tyranny, and who thinks himself not bound to take care of the flock? We then see that there is at this day under the Papacy a striking representation of what the Prophet says here; there is a certain form of government, but God is wholly separated from such a mask or phantom. But we must also bear in mind, that the world suffers merited punishment on account of its ingratitude, when it is thus cruelly and shamefully treated; for it is but just that they who will not bear the easy yoke of Christ, should be made subject to the power of the Devil, and be trodden under foot and disgracefully oppressed by tyrants. This is God’s righteous judgment. The Church, we know, would not have been turned upside down had not the greater part rejected the doctrine of salvation, and shaken off all religion; hence God is in a manner constrained by so great and by such unbridled wantonness to renounce his office of a shepherd. It then follows —

17. Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened.
17.Heus pastor inutilis! deserens gregem! gladius super brachium ejus, et super oculum dextrum ejus; brachium ejus arescendo arescet, et oculus dexter ejus contrahendo contrahetur, (alii obscurando obscurabitur.)

In this verse the Prophet teaches us, that though God would inflict a deserved punishment on the Jews, yet the shepherds themselves would not escape his vengeance; and thus he reminds them, that even in such a confused and depressed state of things, he would still in some degree remember his covenant. He addresses the Shepherds themselves, for he speaks not of one, but of the whole number, as it has already been stated.
Woe to the baseless shepherd, he says; the word lyla, alil, means in Hebrew a thing of nought, and hence idols were called µylyla, alilim, nothings; “Those useless shepherds,” fm143 he says, “who forsake the flock.” He again shows by an explicit term, that those whom he called shepherds were not worthy of so honorable a title. He then only concedes the name, for a shepherd who is not solicitous for the safety of his flock, clearly proves that he is really no shepherd. He then denounces on him a punishment, A sword, he says, on his right arm and on his right eye! By the sword he means any kind of punishment, by the arm is to be understood strength, and by the eye prudence. He means, “God will punish thee both in soul and body, for his curse shall be on thy strength and on thine understanding.” Hence he says, Dry up shall his arm. This seems not indeed to correspond with the metaphor of the sword, but it matters not, for the Prophet, as we have said, includes under that word every kind of punishment. Dry up then shall his arm, that is, all its vigor shall cease, so as to become like a piece of decayed wood; and his right eye, the soundness of his mind or his right understanding, shall by contracting be contracted; some read, shall be darkened; but the verb properly signifies, to wrinkle, as it appears from other places, and I can find no better way of expressing its meaning than by saying that the eye would be contracted. fm144
I have briefly explained the object of the Prophet, even that God would so punish the wickedness of the people, as not to allow those shepherds to escape whom he would employ as instruments in executing his vengeance. For though they were under the direction of divine power, we must yet hold this principle, that they had nothing in common with God; for mere ambition, avarice, and cruelty instigated them; and nothing was farther from their purpose than to obey God: but he extorted service from the unwilling and even the ignorant — for what end? that he might render to the ungrateful, the wicked, and the perverse, in their own sinful ways, the reward which they deserved. We then see that the design of God’s vengeance is just; and we also see that the instruments he employs are ungodly: there is therefore no reason for them to think that they shall be unpunished, because they accomplish God’s purpose, for they do not intend any such thing.
We must also bear in mind, that when the extreme rigour of God prevails, there still remains some evidence of his favor, for some seed, though few in number, is still perpetuated; for the Church is never so completely abolished as not to leave any remnants, for whose safety God is pleased to provide when he executes his vengeance, inasmuch as he stretches forth his hand at the same time against the ministers he has employed, because they had cruelly abused their power. So also at this day the milted bishops shall be made to know how precious to God is the safety of his Church; for though almost all the people and almost every individual are worthy of the most tyrannical cruelty, yet we know that some are found in that labyrinth for whom God has a care. Though then they who at this day possess power under the Papacy think themselves innocent, while they are robbers and wolves, they shall yet find that God is a righteous judge, who will visit their abominable cruelty: for the disorder of the Church is not its destruction, as God ever preserves some remnant.
We also see that the whole strength of men depends on the grace of God; and farther, that a sound mind proceeds from his Spirit: for since it is he who takes away from men both their strength and a right judgment, we hence conclude that to give these things is also in his power. Let men then know that in order to possess due courage and strength, they are to rely on the hidden power of God; and let them also know that in order to discern what is useful and profitable, they must be governed by his Spirit; and let those especially who bear rule be assured of this, that when they exercise power in peace, it is God’s singular gift, and that when they rightly govern their subjects, and are endued with sound discretion, it is wholly to be ascribed to an influence from above.
But it may be asked, how can this harmonise — that those who were before useless are deprived of understanding and strength? To this I answer — that it is the same as though the Prophet had said, that the baseness of him who was previously an useless shepherd would be made conspicuous to all. For however deficient they might have been in their office, they yet for a time deceived the simple multitude; nay, we see at this day how the milted bishops and abbots and their whole company by their delusive splendor, dazzle the eyes of most men: they believe that the Pope is the vicar of God, and the rest the successors of the apostles! But the Prophet here testifies, that when the ripened time shall come, their shameful conduct shall be made evident, so that all shall treat them with contempt, and that they shall become an abomination to all. Though then they may be counted wise and held in admiration, or at least in honor, yet Zechariah threatens them with the loss of both; for God’s curse lies on them, on their arms, and on their right eyes. This is the import of the passage. I shall begin the next chapter tomorrow.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast hitherto so patiently endured, not only our sloth and folly, but also our ingratitude and perverseness, — O grant, that we may hereafter render ourselves submissive and obedient to thee; and as thou hast been pleased to set over us the best of shepherds, even thine only-begotten Son, cause us willingly to attend to him, and to suffer ourselves to be gently ruled by him; and though thou mayest find in us what may justly provoke thy wrath, yet restrain extreme severity, and so correct what is sinful in us, as to continue to the end our Shepherd, until we shall at length, under thy guidance, reach thy heavenly kingdom; and thus do thou keep us in thy fold and under the guidance of thy pastoral staff, that at length being separated from the goats, we may enjoy that blessed inheritance which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy beloved Son. Amen.

1. The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
1. Onus verbi Iehovae super Israel: Dicit Iehova, qui expandit coelos, et fundavit terram, et formavit spiritum hominis in medio ejus.

The inscription seems not to agree with what follows, for he does not denounce any evil on the chosen people in this chapter, but, on the contrary, comforts the miserable, and promises that God would provide for the safety of his Church. Since then Zechariah speaks only of God’s favor and aid, he seems to have mentioned burden here improperly or unreasonably; for açm, mesha, we know, is rightly to be taken for a threatening prophecy. It might indeed be said, that he promises that God would so deliver his Church as to teach it at the same time that it would be subject to many evils and trials: but I rather think that the Prophet’s design was different, even to show that the Israelites, who had preferred exile to God’s favor, would be punished for their sloth and ingratitude, because it was through their own fault that they were not again united in one body, and that they did not rightly worship God in their own country. Interpreters have heedlessly passed over this, as though it had nothing to do with the subject: but except this be borne in mind, what is read in this chapter will be altogether without meaning. I therefore consider that the Prophet here reproves those Israelites who had rejected what they had long desired, when it was offered to them from above and beyond all hope: for nothing was so much wished for by them as a free return to their own country; and we also see how ardently all the Prophets had prayed for restoration. As then the Israelites, given to ease, and pleasures, and their worldly advantages, had counted as nothing the permission given them to return, that they might again be gathered under God’s protection, it was a base ingratitude. Hence the Prophet here reproves them, and shows that their success would be far otherwise than they imagined.
We must also observe, that those who were dispersed in different parts, were retained by their torpidity, because they did not think that the state of the people would continue; for they saw, as they had before found, that Judea was surrounded by inveterate enemies, and also that they would not be a people sufficiently strong to repel the assaults of those around them; for they had already been accustomed to bear all things, and though they might have had some courage, they had completely lost it, having been oppressed by so long a servitude. Since then the ten tribes entertained these ideas, they did not avail themselves of the present kindness of God. Thus it was, that they wholly alienated themselves from the Church of God, and renounced as it were of their own accord that covenant, on which was founded the hope of eternal salvation. fm145
What then does Zechariah teach us in this chapter? Even that God would be the guardian of Jerusalem, to defend it against all violence, and that though it might be surrounded by nations for the purpose of assailing it, he would not yet suffer it to be overcome: and we shall see that many other things are stated here; but it is enough to touch now on the main point, that God would not forsake that small company and the weak and feeble remnant; and that however inferior the Jews might be to their enemies, yet the power of God alone would be sufficient to defend and keep them.
If it be then now asked, why the Prophet calls the word he received a burden on Israel? The answer is plainly this, that the Israelites were now as it were rotting among foreign nations without any hope of deliverance, having refused to be gathered under God’s protection, though he had kindly and graciously invited them all to return. Since then God had effected nothing, by stretching forth his hands, being ready to embrace them again, this was the reason for the burden of which Zechariah speaks; for they would be touched with grief and with envy when they saw their brethren protected by God’s aid, and that they themselves were without any hope of deliverance. In short, there is an implied contrast between the ten tribes and the house of Judah; and this is evident from the context. Having now ascertained the Prophet’s design, we shall proceed to the words.
The burden, he says, of the word of Jehovah on Israel: Say does Jehovah who expanded the heavens, etc. Zechariah thus exalts God in order to confirm the authority of this prophecy; for no doubt the creation of heaven and earth and of man is here mentioned on account of what is here announced. We have elsewhere seen similar declarations; for when anything is said difficult to be believed, what is promised will have no effect on us, except the infinite power of God be brought to our minds. God then, that he may gain credit to his promises, bids us to raise up our eyes to the heavens and carefully to consider his wonderful workmanship, and also to turn our eyes down to the earth, where also his ineffable power is apparent; and, in the third place, he calls our attention to the consideration of our own nature. Since then what Zechariah says could hardly be believed, he prescribes to the Jews the best remedy — they were to raise upwards their eyes, and then to turn them to the earth. The expanse of the heavens constrains us to admire him; for however stupid we may be, we cannot look on the sun, and the moon and stars, and on the whole bright expanse above, without some and even strong emotions of fear and of reverence. Since then God exceeds all that men can comprehend in the very creation of the world, what should hinder us from believing even that which seems to us in no way probable? for it is not meet for us to measure God’s works by what we can understand, for we cannot comprehend, no, not even the hundredth part of them, however attentively we may apply all the powers of our minds.
Nor is it yet a small matter when he adds, that God had formed the spirit of man; for we know that we live; the body of itself would be without any strength or motion, were it not endued with life; and the soul which animates the body is invisible. Since then experience proves to us the power of God, which is not yet seen by our eyes, why should we not expect what he promises, though the event may appear incredible to us, and exceed all that we can comprehend. We now then understand why the Prophet declares, that God expanded thee heavens, and founded the earth, and formed the spirit of man. fm146 By saying “in the midst of him”, he means, that the spirit dwells within; for the body, we allow, is as it were its tabernacle. Let us proceed -

2. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.
2. Ecce ego pono Ierusalem postem contritionis (vel, calicem veneni, aut, mortiferum; alii vertunt, crapulae) omnibus populis per circuitum; atque etiam super Iehudah, erit in obsidionem contra Ierusalem.

Zechariah begins here to teach us what I have briefly explained, that Jerusalem would be under the protection of God, who would render it safe and secure against all enemies. But he uses here figurative terms, which make the point more evident. He says, that Jerusalem would be a threshold of bruising, or breaking. The word ãs, saph, means a threshold almost everywhere in Scripture. But some think that it means here a cup, and then they translate l[r, rol, drunkenness, or fury. But as this word also means breaking, it is not unsuitable to say that Jerusalem is here called a threshold at which people stumble, so that he who comes against this threshold either breaks a bone or receives some other injury. At the same time the Prophet seems to express something more, that whosoever ascended to attack Jerusalem would meet with a stumbling block, by which he might have his legs broken or bruised. The meaning then is, that access to Jerusalem would be closed up, so that enemies would not overcome it, though they reached the walls and the gates, for they would stumble, as it is said, at the threshold.
If the other rendering be approved, the sense would be suitable, — that all the ungodly, while devising schemes against God’s Church, would be inebriated by their own counsels; yea, that their drink would be deadly to them: for the passions of men produce effects like drunkenness. When therefore the ungodly gather their forces against the Church, it is the same as though they were greedily swallowing down wine; for the drunken meet together to indulge in excesses. The meaning then would be, — that this immoderate drinking would be fatal to the nations. But I prefer the former view, — that though the gates of the holy city were open, or even an easy access were made through the walls, yet God would on every side be a defense, so that enemies would stumble, as we have said, at the very threshold and bruise themselves. And this promise was very necessary then, for Jerusalem was exposed to the assaults of all, as it could not have defended itself by moats or walls or mounds: but the Lord here promises that it would be a threshold of bruising.
He then adds, Also against Judah, or over Judah, it shall be during the siege against Jerusalem. The Prophet, as I think, extends the promise to the whole land, as though he had said, “Though the compass of Jerusalem should not contain all the inhabitants, yet they shall be everywhere safe; for God will take them under his protection.” I wonder why some interpreters have omitted the preposition l[, ol, and have translated thus, “Judah also shall be in the siege against Jerusalem:” and they elicit a meaning wholly different, even that some of the Jews themselves would become perfidious, who would not spare their brethren and friends, but become hostile to them, and unite their forces to those of heathen nations. But I consider the meaning to be the reverse of this, — that when Jerusalem shall be besieged, the Lord will put impediments everywhere, which will hinder and prevent the assaults of enemies. When God, he says, shall defend the holy city, even this very thing, (for I apply this phrase to God’s protection,) even this very thing shall be through the whole land; as though he had said, “God will not only be the guardian of the city alone, but also of the whole of the holy land.” fm147 Now this must have sharply goaded the Israelites, seeing that they were excluded from having God’s aid, inasmuch asthey had not thought proper to return to their own country when liberty was freely given them. It follows —

3. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
3. Et erit in die illa, Ponam Ierusalem lapidem onerosum cunctis populis; quisque portabit concisione concidetur (vel, laceratione lacerabitur, ) et congregabuntur contra eam omnes gentes terrae (sic autem resolvi debet oratio, Licet congregentur adversus eam cunctae gentes terrae.)

Zechariah adds here another metaphor, which is very apposite; for when the ungodly made war against the holy city, the object was not to reduce it only to subjection, or to impose a tribute or a tax, or simply to rule over it, — what then? to cut it off entirely and obliterate its name. Since then such a cruelty would instigate enemies to assail the holy city, the Prophet here interposes and declares that it would be to them a most burdensome stone. He thus compares the enemies of Jerusalem to a man who attempts to take up a stone when he is too weak to do so. He then injures his own strength; for when a man tries to do what is too much for him, he loosens some of his joints, or breaks his sinews. The Prophet then means, that though many nations conspired against Jerusalem, and made every effort to overthrow it, they should yet at length find it to be a weight far too heavy for them: they should therefore break or lacerate their own arms, for their sinews would be broken by over-exertion. fm148 Some explain the last clause more frigidly, “In tearing he will be torn,” as when any one takes up a rough stone, he tears his own hands. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, meant to set forth something more serious; and each clause would thus correspond much better; for as we have said, the object of the ungodly was to remove Jerusalem, so as not to leave a stone upon a stone: but God declares here that it would be too heavy a burden, so that they would find their own strength broken in attempting inconsiderately to remove what could not be transferred from its own place.
Now the reason for this prophecy is, because God was the founder of Jerusalem, as it is said,
“Its foundations are in the holy mountains, love does the Lord the gates of Sion,” (<198701>Psalm 87:1,2;)
and again it is said,
“Jehovah in the midst of her, she shall not be moved.”
(<194605>Psalm 46:5.)
We must also remember what we have observed in the last verse: for though the heavens are in continual motion, they yet retain their positions, and do not fall into disorder; but were the heavens and the earth blended together, still Jerusalem, founded by God’s hand and exempt from the common lot of men, and whose condition was peculiar, would remain firm and unchangeable. We hence see why the Prophet says, that there would be no other issue to the ungodly, while attempting to overthrow Jerusalem, than to wound and tear themselves.
He then adds, And assemble against them shall all nations. This, as we have said, was added in order to show, that though enemies flocked together from every quarter, God would yet be superior to them. This clause then contains an amplification, to encourage the faithful to continue in their hope with invincible constancy, though they saw themselves surrounded by hosts of enemies. It afterwards follows —

4. In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
4. Die illo, inquit Iehova, percutiam omnem equum stupore, et sesso rem ejus amentia; et super domum Iehudah aperiam oculos meos, et omnem equum populorum percutiam caecitate.

He pursues here the same subject, but in other words, — that multiplicity of means is in God’s hand, by which he can drive away and break down the fury of enemies. By the words horse and its rider, the Prophet, stating a part for the whole, means whatever is strong, and intimates that it can be easily overcome by divine power
He says first, I will smite every horse with stupor. fm149 Military strength, we know, is in horses and horsemen; but he says that the horses would be stunned, and the horsemen seized as it were with madness, so that they would destroy themselves, and could do no harm to the Church. He then confirms what he said before — that though the whole world conspired against the Church, there would yet be sufficient power in God to repel and check all their assaults and he mentions stupor, madness, and blindness, that the faithful might know that God can by hidden means either destroy or put to flight all their enemies. Though then God fights not with drawn swords, nor uses the common mode of warfare, yet the Prophet says, that he is prepared with other means to lay prostrate their enemies; for even the most powerful in the world cannot proceed so far as to confound their enemies by blindness and madness; but the Prophet here shows, that though no way appears to us by which God may deliver us, we are yet to entertain firm hope, for he can by his breath destroy all enemies, as he can render then blind, and take from them understanding, and wisdom, and strength.
Then he adds, I will open mine eyes on the house of Judah. A reason is here given why all enemies would be smitten with stupor and madness, because the Lord would have a regard for his Church; for to open the eyes means the same thing as to have a care for a thing. It had seemed good to God to neglect his people for a time, and this neglect was as it were an oblivion. Hence the saints often complain “How longs wilt thou sleep! how long wilt thou close thine eyes! Look down, O Lord, and see.” So in this place Zechariah means that God would yet care for his people, so as to subdue their enemies.
We may hence learn a useful doctrine — that, in the first place, there is nothing better for us than to be gathered under the shadow of God’s protection, however destitute of any fortress the Church may be, yea, were she to have innumerable enemies hostile to her, and to be without any strength to resist them. Though then the Church were thus grievously tried, and be in the midst of many dangers, and exposed even to death, let us learn from this passage that those are miserable indeed who through fear or cowardice separate themselves from her, and that they who call on God, and cast on him the care of their safety, shall be made blessed, though the whole world were mad against them, though the weapons of all nations were prepared for their ruin, and horses and horsemen were assembled to overwhelm them; for the defense of God is a sufficient protection to his Church. This is one thing. Then let us learn to exercise our faith, when God seems to cast us as it were between the teeth of wolves; for though he may not afford any visible aid, yet he knows how to deliver us, and possesses hidden means of help, which we may not perceive, because his purpose is to try our faith and our patience. And lastly, let us learn, that when God connives at our miseries, as though he had forgotten us, yet our hope, founded on him, can never be disappointed; for if we abide among his flock, he will at length open his eyes upon us, he will really show that he cares for our safety. It now follows —

5. And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
5. Et dicent duces Iehudah in cordibus suis, Fortitudo mihi (vel, robus) habitatores Ierusalem in Iehova exercituum Deo suo.

He still continues the same subject — that however small and feeble the flock of God would be, it would yet have sufficient strength; for the Lord would stand on the side of those who fled to him. Though then Jerusalem was not as yet filled with citizens, and though there was but one city, yet Zechariah testifies that its strength would be invincible; but he speaks of the chiefs of Judah comparatively. Formerly, we know, it had a great number of men, and great armies were raised from that one tribe and the half tribe of Benjamin. Though then there were formerly many provinces, though the country was full of populous towns, yet almost Jerusalem alone had then begun to be inhabited: but the Prophet says here, that though the whole Church was gathered within the narrow bounds of one city, it would yet have sufficient strength to resist all the attacks of enemies.
Say then shall the chiefs of Judah; that is, though formerly the governors or commanders of thousands had forces in their several towns, yet now all would look to one city; for the land was nearly forsaken and without inhabitants; at the same time they were to entertain hope, for their strength was to be in the Lord. Some insert a conjunction, “Strength will be to me and to the citizens of Jerusalem;” but they pervert the meaning; for the Prophet meant to say in one sentence what I have stated — that the eyes of all would be directed to one city only, and that yet there would be sufficient ground for hope and confidence, for they would become strong, not in themselves, but in their God.
There is a change of number, when he says, a strength to me, for he had spoken of chiefs; it ought then to have been wnl, lanu, to us. But he now introduces each of them as speaking, as though he had said, “No one of the chiefs shall look to his own land, but, on the contrary, direct his eyes to the holy city, and be content with the defense of a few men.” Hence he says, In Jehovah of hosts, their God; for he means that God would be then the protector of that people whom he had for a time forsaken. And he calls him again the Jehovah of hosts, in order to set forth his invincible power, lest the minds of the godly should fail through fear, on seeing themselves far unequal to their enemies. fm150 It follows —

6. In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.
6. In die illa ponam duces Iehudah quasi fornacem (vel, catinum fusorium) ignis inter ligna, et quasi facem (vel, lampadem) ignis in manipulo (hoc est, inter manipulos;) et comedent ad dextram et ad sinistram cunctos populos in circuitu; et habitabitur (vel, manebit) Ierusalem adhuc sub se (hoc est, in loco suo) in Ierusalem.

He adds another metaphor for the sake of a further confirmation; for he says, that the chiefs of Judah would be like a melting pot: some render it a hearth, but improperly and without meaning. He afterwards compares them to a flaming torch, and heathen nations to wood and stubble or chaff. The Spirit speaks thus also in other places; and the reason is to be noticed; for when the ungodly assail the Church of God, all things seem to threaten its ruin; but God declares that they shall be like chaff or wood. “The house of Israel,” says Isaiah, “shall be a flaming fire, and shall consume all the wood of the forest:” so also in this place, “There shall be indeed a great host of enemies, assembled against Israel; but the Lord will consume them, for he will be like fire in the midst of his people, and his people also shall be through the secret power of the Spirit like a burning pot or a torch, which shall consume the chaff, in which there is nothing substantial.”
But the Prophet shows again that the deliverance of the Church is ever wonderful: and hence foolishly do they act who rely on human and earthly instrumentality, and wilfully bind God to their own ways; for whenever God promises to be their deliverer, their inquiry is, “But how can this be? whence will come this aid to us? how will the hand of the Lord be stretched forth to us? whence will he gather his army?” Inasmuch then as we are wont thus anxiously to inquire, and thus drive away from us the aid of God, let this truth, taught by the Prophet, be borne in mind, — that though enemies in great numbers may come upon us, they shall yet be like a heap of wood, and we like fire; for though we have no strength, yet the Lord by his hidden favor will cause that our enemies shall even, by coming nigh us, be consumed.
To the same purpose is the next similitude, — that they would be a torch in handfuls of chaff; for here also the singular number is used for the plural. Then follows an explanation, Consume shall they on the right hand, and on the left, all nations around. Zechariah seems here to ascribe an insatiable cruelty, and a revengeful passion to the faithful, who yet are to be influenced by a meek spirit, so that they may imitate their heavenly Father. But here he speaks not of their disposition and feeling, but only shows, that all the ungodly shall be frustrated in their expectation of success, and not only so, but that they shall also be destroyed. The more furiously then they assail the Church, the more sudden shall be their destruction; for though the faithful may wish to spare them, yet God, the righteous judge, will not spare them. In short, the work of God himself, as in other places, is ascribed to the Church.
In the last place he declares, that Jerusalem shall stand in its own place, where it was. There is here a sort of repetition; and it was made, because enemies thought, as we have already stated, that they could destroy Jerusalem so as wholly to obliterate it: but the Prophet on the other hand says, that it would be established in its own place, because God had chosen it as the place where he purposed to be worshipped, and he had chosen it, as it is often said by Moses, to commemorate his own name. In a word, he intimates, that the Church would be perpetually established: though all mortals conspired for its ruin and assailed it on every side, yet the sanctuary of God, as he had promised, would continue there still, even to the advent of Christ; for then, we know, Jerusalem was to be wholly destroyed, together with the temple, as an end was to come on all these things, and the world was to be renewed.
Grant, Almighty God, that inasmuch as the condition of all those who fight under the banner of the cross of Christ seems at this day hard and even miserable, — O grant, that relying on thy promises, by which thou encourages us, we may continually persevere, and not hesitate to remain in thy fold, though wolves lie in wait for us on every side, and robbers also and thieves furiously assail us, so that we may ever remain under the protection of thy hand, and never envy the children of this world on account of their pleasures, ease, and worldly advantages, but patiently bear to be agitated by constant fear, so that we may with quiet minds wait until thou showest to us, when we come to die, that our salvation is safe and secure in thy hand; and having thus at length passed through all troubles, we may come to that blessed rest, which thine only-begotten Son has procured for us by his own blood. — Amen.
7. The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.
7. Et servabit Iehovah tabernacula Iehudah sicut initio (subaudiendum enim est nota similitudinis;) itaque non gloriabitur decor (vel, magnificentia) domus Davidis, et decore civis Ierusalem contra Iehudam.

THE Prophet teaches us again, — that there is no need of helps when God stretches forth his hand to preserve his people; for he is alone abundantly sufficient. And the design of the verse is to show, that the Jews were to learn to acquiesce in God alone, though they might find themselves destitute of every earthly assistance; for when God purposes to save, he needs no help, as we have said; nor does he borrow any, as he by himself is fully sufficient.
But by the word, Tabernacles, the Prophet means, as I think, sheds, such as afforded but partial protection. It is indeed true that tents are called twjs, sachut, in Hebrew; but the same is often meant by the µylea, aelim, tents, which afforded a temporary accommodation; for they were not strongly built, as it is evident from many passages. I allow that all houses without any difference are sometimes called tabernacles, µylha, aelim; but the word properly signifies a tent, built as a temporary convenience; for it is said that the fathers dwelt in tents, when they had no fixed habitation.
Let us now see why the Prophet speaks of tents. He may have alluded to their dwelling in the wilderness; but as this may seem too remote, I consider that he simply refers to the tents in which the Jews dwelt when they had entered the land, after their deliverance from Egypt; for they must have been wonderfully protected by the hand of God, inasmuch as they had provoked all their neighbors and kindled the hatred of all against themselves. There were indeed some fortified cities; but for the most part they lived in villages, and the greatest part of the people were no doubt satisfied with their tents or sheds. Hence as the Israelites then had no defense, the Prophet now reminds them, that they were then protected by God alone, in order that they might believe that they should in future be safe and secure, as God would defend them to the end. There is then here an implied comparison between tents and fortified cities; and the Prophet bids them to consider what their fathers had formerly experienced, for God faithfully defended them, even when they were unprotected and exposed to the attacks of their enemies.
He says first, Jehovah will save the tents, etc.; as though he had said, “Know that your fathers were formerly defended by the hand of God, when they did not, as to the greater part of them, dwell in cities, but lived scattered in villages: since God then had been the preserver of his people many ages before a king was made, believe that he will be the same to you hereafter.” But we must yet remember what we said yesterday, — that the Jews who had returned to their country had a promise of God’s help, in order that the Israelites, who were retained by their own sloth in Babylon, might know that they were justly suffering punishment for their ingratitude, because they had not given glory to God, as they ought to have done, by committing themselves to his protection, and thus relying on his defense, so as not to seek other helps from the world: he will then save them, he says, as at the beginning; for as, the particle of similitude, is to be understood here. fm151
He then adds, And hence boast shall not the honor of the house of David and the honor of the citizen of Jerusalem over Judah. This latter clause is added, I think, by way of explanation; and this is evident from the subject itself for God declares, that he would be the protector of the helpless, so that they would be no less victorious than if they possessed many armed soldiers, and were furnished with money and other necessaries to carry on war. For by comparing here the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with Judah, he has no doubt a regard to this, — that though there was no kingdom and no fortified cities, there would yet be sufficient protection in him alone, so that he could by himself defend the people, though unarmed, and having no swords, nor power, nor any other requisite means. Boast then shall not the house of David: and this seems to have been mentioned designedly, for while they trusted in their own wealth and power, they did not rest on God as they ought to have done.
As then the Jews had been elated with vain pride, while the dignity of the kingdom remained, and while they possessed wealth and warlike instruments, God here reproves this false confidence; for the Jews had thus obscured his gratuitous favor. For however great might have been the treasures collected by David and Solomon, and however formidable they might have been to their enemies and the neighboring nations, they ought yet to have relied on the protection of God alone. Since then earthly helps had inflated their minds, God now reproves their vain conceit, and shows that the condition of the people would be no less happy, when no king sat on the throne, and no aids enlisted for the protection of the people; and therefore he declares, that though exposed to all evils, they should yet be safe and secure, for God would defend them. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that the royal posterity would not glory against Judah, though dwelling in tents, nor the citizens of Jerusalem, who were then as it were the courtiers: for as the royal seat was at Jerusalem, a sort of vain boasting was made by all the citizens. As then all of them despised the inhabitants of the country, when the condition of the city was illustrious, the Prophet says, the posterity of David and Jerusalem shall not hereafter glory against the people of Judah, scattered in the open fields. It then follows —

8. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
8. Die illo proteget Iehova super habitatorem Ierosolymae; et erit qui aegrotabit inter ipsos die illo quasi David; et domus Davidis sicuti angeli (aut, Dii, ) sicuti angelus Iehovae coram facie ipsorum.

He goes on with the same subject; and he says that God would be like a shield to protect the Jews. For though the verb ˆgy, igen, is used here, yet as it is derived from ˆgm, megen, which means a shield, that metaphor is to be understood here, — even that the Jews, though without power and without warlike instruments, would yet be safe under the protection of God, for he being their shield would be sufficient. And God is here indirectly opposed to all kinds of fortresses which men too anxiously seek, and on which they vainly depend. The Prophet then no doubt claims here for God a power, which in opposition to the whole world, and when no other help appears, would be found sufficient to subdue all enemies and to save his people. Jehovah then shall be, he says, a shield. fm152
But there seems to be here something inconsistent; for he had said before that the Jews would be safe wherever they lived, though they did not dwell at Jerusalem; but now he confines this promise to the citizens of Jerusalem. The answer to this is plain: We observed yesterday, that the piety of those was commended who had preferred to undergo many and grievous trials in returning home, and then to expose themselves to many dangers, rather than to continue in exile, as in that case they wholly separated themselves from the temple. Now since this was the object of the Prophet, it is no wonder that he one while names the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and that at another time he includes generally all the Jews. And by saying in the last verse, that the citizens of Jerusalem were not to glory against the country people, scattered in the villages, he intended, in adopting this way of speaking, to humble the citizens of Jerusalem, but not to exclude them from the promise made to all: as God then was to be the defender of all, the Prophet returns again to Jerusalem. For as God had chosen there his sanctuary, it is not to be wondered that the place was precious in his sight. But it was yet necessary to take away all pride from the Jews, that they might not, as it has been said, trust in earthly aids and supports. This is the meaning, when he says, the protection of God shall be on the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
He now adds — The feeble fm153 among them shall be like David. Some give a refined explanation — that as David, who was not trained up for war, and was by no means strong, being, almost a boy, yet slew the proud giant Goliath, so the feeble among the Jews, as they think, will, by God’s power, be made victorious over their enemies. But this seems forced. The Prophet, then, I have no doubt, connects the whole together, and considers David as a king; for when David slew Goliath, he was yet a boy, remarkable for no velour. After he attained the kingdom, he became more eminent, we know, in every way, than all the kings of the earth. It is then this eminence which the Prophet has in view, when he says that the least and the most despised among them would be like David; as though he had said — “They shall all be endued with royal and heroic velour, not only the common people, but even those who seemed to be like women, and who possessed nothing that was manly; they would yet excel as David in heroic velour.”
It then follows — And the whole house of David shall be as angels; that is, the royal posterity shall be remarkable for angelic velour. And it was necessary to add this, that the faithful might not think that the house of David, from which salvation was to be expected, would be reduced to nothing. For whatever had been promised to them might have vanished, were not that promise to stand firm, on which was founded the salvation of the whole people —
“Thy house shall remain for ever.” (<198937>Psalm 89:37.)
Now as Zechariah seemed to have cast down and wholly overthrown the royal house, it might have occurred to the minds of the faithful, “whence then shall arise our salvation? for it is certain that without Christ we are wholly lost.” Now Christ was not to come forth, except from the house of David. The Prophet then does here opportunely declare, that the royal house would be most eminent, as though all the men belonging to it were angels. He puts down the word µyhla, aleim, which also means God; but he adds in the same sentence — As the angel of Jehovah before their face. fm154 The Prophet compares here, no doubt, the posterity of David to the angel, who had been the leader of the people and the minister of redemption. That angel we conclude was Christ; for though God then appointed many angels to his people, yet Christ, as it is well known, was their prince and head. The Prophet then bids the Jews here to look for the perpetual aid of God, since in the royal house were not only angels, but even the very leader of the fathers, who had exercised the ineffable power of God in redeeming the people.
We now then perceive the design of the Prophet: The import of the whole is, that God would so undertake the defense and protection of his people, as to be of himself sufficient, without any other aid; and also that the minister of salvation would be in the royal house itself; for as formerly, when their fathers were led out of Egypt, God had exercised his power through an angel, so now he had set over them a Mediator. And in accordance with this meaning he adds, µhynpl, lepeniem, “before their face.” He bids the faithful to attend to the royal house, which was then deprived of all dignity, so that it had no power to help. Nothing indeed was then seen in the posterity of David but what was degrading, and even contemptible; and yet the Prophet bids them to expect salvation from that house, which was so brought down as to possess nothing worthy of being noticed.
We may now ask, when was this prophecy fulfilled? Zechariah does indeed predict great things; but in reviewing all histories, nothing of a corresponding character is to be found. It must nevertheless be observed, that this blessed and happy state ass promised to the Jews, because from them Christ was to arise, and also because Jerusalem was to be the mother of all Churches; for from thence the law was to go forth, and from thence God had determined to send forth the royal scepter, that the son of David might rule over the whole world. Since the case was so, we may now easily understand how the condition of that miserable people would become happier and more glorious than under the rich and flourishing kingdom of David; for Christ would at length come, in whom complete happiness was to be found.
We may now also add this — that though few of the Jews embraced the favor of Christ, and the rest fell away, and thus gave place to the Gentiles, yet however small was the portion of the faithful, still the Prophet does not speak here hyperbolically, for the thing itself is what ought to be regarded; and that the Jews did not enjoy this blessed state, was owing to their own ingratitude; but this detracts nothing from the felicity described here by Zechariah. Let us proceed -

9. And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
9. Et erit die illo, quaeram ad perdendum omnes gentes, quae venient contra Ierusalem.

The Prophet repeats again, that though ungodly and wicked men assailed the Church in great number on every side, God would yet be its defender. By saying, I will seek to destroy, etc., he means that God would he fully bent (intentum) to destroy, as men are wont to be anxious when they earnestly pursue an object. Lest then the faithful should think that they should perish through the disdain, or the neglect, or the forgetfulness of God, he says, that he would be their anxious defender. I will seek then, that is, I will be most earnestly solicitous, to destroy all the nations.
This promise no doubt extends far wider than to the Jews; for he prophesies here concerning the kingdom of Christ: for if we consider the state of the people during the whole of the intervening period, from their return to the coming of Christ, the Prophet will certainly appear to have given here a hope of something far greater than what had taken place. But he had a regard especially to Christ. Here then is promised a perpetual defense to the Church; and hence also proceeds confidence as to salvation, for God carefully watches over us, that he may effectually oppose all our enemies.
I only briefly touch on these things, which require long and minute consideration: but it is enough for me to show briefly the meaning of the Prophet, provided this be done clearly, so that each may then apply what is said to his own improvement. We may in the meantime learn also from the words of the Prophet, that the Church is ever to be disquieted in this world, for not only one enemy will cause trouble to it, but even many nations shall rise up against it. It follows —

10. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
10. Et effundam supe domum Davidis, et super habitatorem Ierosolymae Spiritum gratiae et miserationum; (vel, precationum, vertunt alii;) et respicient ad me quem confixerunt; et lugebunt super ipsum tanquam luctu super inigenitum; et amarulenti erunt super eum, quasi amarulentia quae est super primogenitum.

At the beginning of this verse the Prophet intimates, that though the Jews were then miserable and would be so in future, yet God would be merciful to them: and thus he exhorts them to patience, that they might not faint through a long-continued weariness. For it was not enough to promise to them what we have noticed respecting God’s aid, except Zechariah had added, that God would at length be merciful and gracious to them after they had endured so many evils, that the world would regard them as almost consumed.
As to the effusion of the spirit, the expression at the first view seems hard to be understood; for what is it to pour forth the spirit of grace? He ought rather to have said thus, “I will pour my grace upon you.” But what he means is, that God would be merciful, for his spirit would be moved to deliver the Jews; for he compares the spirit of God here to the mind of man, and we know that Scripture often uses language of this kind. The phrase then, I will pour forth the spirit of grace, may be thus suitably expressed — “I will pour forth my bowels of mercy,” or, “I will open my whole heart to show mercy to this people,” or, “My Spirit shall be like the spirit of man, which is wont to move him to give help to the miserable.”
We now then understand the sense in which God may be fitly said to pour forth the spirit of grace. It may yet be taken in a more refined manner, as meaning that God would not only show mercy to his people, but also make them sensible of his mercy; and this view I am inclined to take, especially on account of what follows, the spirit of commiserations, or, of lamentations, for the word, µynwnjt, tachnunim, commonly means lamentations in Hebrew. Some render it “prayers,” but improperly, for they express not the force of the word. It is always put in the plural number, at least with this termination: and there is but one place where we can render it commiserations, that is, in <243109>Jeremiah 31:9 —
“In commiserations will I restore them.”
But even there it may be rendered lamentations consistently with the whole verse; for the Prophet says, “They shall weep,” and afterwards adds, “In lamentations will I restore them.” The greater part indeed of interpreters render it here, prayers; but the Hebrews prefer to translate it commiserations, and for this reason, because they consider that the spirit of grace is nothing else but simply grace itself. The spirit of grace is indeed grace itself united with faith: for God often hears the miserable, extends his hand to them, and brings them a most effectual deliverance, while they still continue blind and remain unconcerned. It is then far better that the spirit of grace should be poured forth on us, than grace itself: for except the spirit of God penetrate into our hearts and instils into us a feeling need of grace, it will not only be useless, but even injurious; for God at length will take vengeance on our ingratitude when he sees his grace perishing through our indifference. What then the Prophet, in my opinion, means is, that God will at length be so propitious to the Jews as to pour forth on them the spirit of grace, and then the spirit of lamentations, in order to obtain grace.
They who render the word prayers, do not, as I have already said, convey the full import of the term. But we may also take commiserations in a passive sense and consistently with its common meaning: I will pour forth the spirit of grace, that they themselves may perceive my grace; and then, the spirit of commiserations, that having deplored their evils, they may understand that they have been delivered by a power from above. Hence Zechariah promises here more than before; for he speaks not here of God’s external aid, by which they were to be defended, but of inward grace, by which God would pour hidden joy into their hearts, that they might know and find by a sure experience that he was propitious to them.
But if the word µwnwnjt, tachnunim, be rendered commiserations, the meaning would be, as I have already stated, that the Jews, through the dictation and the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, would find God merciful to them; but if we render it lamentations, then the Prophet must be viewed as saying something more — that the Jews, previously so hardened in their evils, as not to flee to God for help, would become at length suppliants, because the Spirit would inwardly so touch their hearts as to lead them to deplore their state before God, and thus to express their complaints to Him: fm155 and this view is more fully confirmed by what follows.
They shall look to me, he says, whom they have pierced. We then see here that not only an external grace or favor was promised to the Jews, but an internal light of faith, the author of which is the Spirit; for he it is who illuminates our minds to see the goodness of God, and it is he also who turns our hearts: and for this reason he adds, They shall look to me. fm156 For God, as I have already reminded you, deals very bountifully with the unbelieving, but they are blind; and hence he pours forth his grace without any benefit, as though he rained on flint or on and rocks. However bountifully then God may bestow his grace on the unbelieving, they yet render his favor useless, for they are like stones.
Now, as Zechariah declares that the Jews would at length look to God, it follows, that the spirit of repentance and the light of faith are promised to them, so that they may know God as the author of their salvation, and feel so assured that they are already saved, as in future to devote themselves entirely to him: they shall then look to me whom they have pierced. Here also the Prophet indirectly reproves the Jews for their great obstinacy, for God had restored them, and they had been as untameable as wild beasts; for this piercing is to be taken metaphorically for continual provocation, as though he had said, that the Jews in their perverseness were prepared as it were for war, that they goaded and pierced God by their wickedness or by the weapons of their rebellion. As then they had been such, he says now, that such a change would be wrought by God that they would become quite different, for they would learn to look to him whom they had previously pierced. We cannot finish today.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are this day surrounded with enemies, and without any defense, so that our safety seems to be every moment in danger, — O grant, that we may raise up our hearts to thee, and being satisfied with thy protection alone, may we despise whatever Satan and the whole world may threaten us with, and thus continue impregnable while carrying on our warfare, so that we may at length reach that happy rest, where we shall enjoy not only those good things which thou hast promised to us on earth, but also that glorious and triumphant victory which we shall partake of together with our head, even Christ Jesus, as he has overcome the world for us, in order that he might gather us to himself, and make us partakers of his victory and of all his blessings. — Amen.
WE said in our yesterday’s lecture, that the words, They shall look to me whom they have pierced, are to be taken metaphorically, fm157 for the Prophet expresses here what he had said before — that the Jews would some time return to a sound mind, that is, when endued with a spirit of grace and of commiserations. For it is a true conversion when men seriously acknowledge that they are at war with God, and that he is their enemy until they are reconciled; for except a sinner sets himself in a manner before God’s tribunal, he is never touched by a true feeling of repentance. It is therefore necessary for us to remember, that God has been offended by us, and that we have, as far as we could, instigated him to destroy us, inasmuch as we have provoked his wrath and his vengeance. This then is the real meaning of the Prophet here: for the Jews, after having in various ways and for a long time heedlessly provoked God, would sometime be led to repentance, inasmuch as they would become terrified by God’s judgment, while no one of them thought previous]y that they had any account to render.
John says that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, when his side was pierced by a spear, (<431937>John 19:37;) and this is most true: for it was necessary that the visible symbol should be exhibited in the person of Christ, in order that the Jews might know that he was the God who had spoken by the Prophets; and we have elsewhere seen similar instances. The Jews then had crucified their God when they grieved his Spirit; but Christ also was as to his flesh pierced by them. And this is what John means — that God by that visible symbol made it evident, that he had not only been formerly provoked in a disgraceful manner by the Jews, but that at length in the person of his only-begotten Son this great sin was added to their disgraceful impiety, that they pierced even the side of Christ. It is indeed true, that the side of Christ was pierced by a Roman soldier, but, as Peter says, he was crucified by the Jews, for they were the authors of his death, and Pilate was almost forced by them to condemn him. (<440236>Acts 2:36.) So then the piercing of his side is justly to be ascribed to the Jews, for they executed what their mad impiety suggested by the hand of a foreign soldier.
But it must be observed, that the words of the Prophet are not cited by John with reference to repentance, for he does not speak there of repentance; but his object was briefly to show, that Christ is that God who had from the beginning spoken by the Prophets; for he says, They shall look to me. It is certain that the only true God, the creator of heaven and earth, declared this through his Spirit by the mouth of Zechariah. Then Christ is that same God. We do not, however, thus confound the persons; but we are to conclude that the essence of the Father and of the Son is simple and the same, which those wicked men, who now disturb the Church, attempt to deny. For they imagine that the Father is the only true God, and then they allow that Christ also is a God; but they devise a new kind of divinity, like a river issuing from a fountain. They therefore deny that Christ is the only true God; though they allow that he was begotten from eternity, they yet teach us that the essence of the Father and of the Son is not the same; and they regard Christ as some sort of phantom, I know not what; for they will never allow him to be that God, the author of this prophecy. They say, as they necessarily must say, that Zechariah spoke by his Spirit; but they even account for this by referring to the proximate and the second cause, inasmuch as God the Father employed his own Son. They, however, pertinaciously contend, that Christ is a God not of the same essence with the Father; for the word God, as they imagine, does not properly belong to any but to the Father.
But we clearly see how the Holy Spirit condemns this blasphemy; for he shows by the mouth of the evangelist, that he was not a kind of a second God, who was crucified, but that he was the God who spoke by Moses, and who thus declared himself to be the only true God, and affirmed the same by the mouth of Isaiah —
“My glory will I not give to another: I, I am, and none besides me.” (<234210>Isaiah 42:10:)
Now follows what we read in our last lecture, but time did not allow me to give an explanation: Lament, he says, shall they for him a lamentation as that for an only-begotten; and bitter shall they be for him as with a bitterness for a first-born. Zechariah goes on with the same subject; for he promises as before the spirit of repentance to the Jews, and mentions a particular kind of repentance; but by stating a part for the whole, he includes under this kind every part of it. The beginning of repentance, we know, is grief and lamentation. As then by the phrase, “They shall look to me,” he had not sufficiently expressed what he wished, he now explains his meaning more clearly by mentioning lamentation and grief, that God would at length grant the Jews repentance for heaving crucified Christ. The person indeed is changed; but we know that it is a common thing with the Prophets to introduce God as speaking, now in the first person, then in the second person. fm158 If any one be disposed to think that there is a difference marked out here as to the person, I do not object; but I fear that it is a refinement that will not stand. At the same time we may state this explanation — They shall look to me whom they pierced. Was God the Father pierced? By no means; for he had not put on flesh in which he could have suffered; but this was done by his only begotten Son. Why then does the Father say, They shall look to me? the answer given is, because of the unity of the essence. It then follows — And they shall lament for him and be bitter for him. There is here a transition from the first to the third person; for though Christ is the same with the Father, yet different as to his person. But, as I have already said, I am not inclined to enforce this view; for the Hebrew mode of speaking seems to countenance the other opinion — that the Prophet first introduces God as the speaker, and then narrates himself, as God’s minister, what would take place.
But what I have just referred to is doubtless true — that repentance is here described by stating a part for the whole; for the first thing in order is sorrow, according to what Paul teaches us in <470710>2 Corinthians 7:10; and the reason may also be gathered from what I have said — that it cannot be that sin will displease us, and we repent, except our guilt goad and wound us, while we acknowledge that God is an avenger of sins, and that we have to do with him; for when God the Judge comes forth to punish us, must we not necessarily be smitten with dreadful grief and alarm, yea, be almost so allowed up by it? Hence that bitterness that is mentioned; and hence lamentation; for it cannot be otherwise, when we dread God’s vengeance suspended over us.
But the Prophet, it may be said, seems to mean something else — that they will lament on account of Christ, and not on their own account. To this a ready answer may be given — that the fountain and cause of lamentation is pointed out; for ingratitude will constrain the Jews to lament, inasmuch as they will acknowledge that in their perverse obstinacy they had carried on war with God and his only-begotten Son. He does not then understand that the death of Christ would be bitter to them, as we are wont to shed tears and to lament at the death of a friend, or of a brother or of a son; but because they would know and feel that they had been extremely blind,and by their sins provoked God
Jerome thought that Christ is called the only-begotten with regard to his Divine nature, and the first-born, because he is the elder brother of all the godly, and the Head of the Church. The sentiment is indeed true, but I know not whether it be the sentiment of the Prophet in this passage. I therefore prefer to take this simple view of what is here said, — that the Jews, after having despised Christ, would at length acknowledge him to be a precious and invaluable treasure, the contempt of whom deserved the vengeance of God. Let us proceed -

11. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
11. In die illo magnificabitur (ad verbum, magnus erit) lucus in Ierusalem, sicut luctus Hadadrimon in planitie Megedon.

The Prophet says nearly the same thing to the end of the chapter; but as the event was worthy of being commemorated, he embellishes it with many figurative terms. He then says, that the lamentation for the death of Christ would be like that after the death of Josiah; for they who would have Hadadrimmon to be a man’s name, have no reason for what they hold, and indulge themselves in mere conjecture. It is indeed agreed almost by all that Hadadrimmon was either a town connected with the plain of Megiddon, or a country near Jezreel. But as to what it was, it is a matter of no great consequence. I indeed believe that Hadadrimmon was a neighboring town, or a part of that country in which was situated the plain of Megiddon. fm159
We may now observe, that this comparison which the Prophet institutes is very apposite; for when Josiah was slain by the King of Egypt, it is said in <140503>2 Chronicles 5:30, that an yearly lamentation was appointed. The Jews then were wont every year to lament the death of Josiah; for from that time it was evident that God was so displeased with the people, that they had no longer any hope of deliverance; nay, Jeremiah in his mournful song had special reference to Josiah, as it appears from sacred history. And, among other things, he says, that Christ our Lord, in whose life lived our life, was slain for our sins. Jeremiah then acknowledges that it was a special proof of God’s vengeance, that that pious king was taken away, and that the Jews were thus as it were forsaken, and became afterwards like a dead body, inasmuch as they only breathed in the life of Josiah: and at the same time he reminds us, that the kingdom, which God had intended to be the type and image of the kingdom of Christ, had as it were ceased to exist; for the successor of Josiah was deprived of all royal honor, and at length not only the whole dignity, but also the safety of the people, were trampled under foot. Hence, most fitly does the Prophet apply this lamentation to the death of Christ; as though he had said, — That the Jews lamented yearly the death of Josiah, because it was an evidence of the dreadful vengeance of God that they were deprived of that pious ruler; and that now there would be a similar lamentation, when they perceived that their light of salvation was extinguished, because they had crucified the Son of God, unless they humbly acknowledged their great wickedness, and obtained pardon.
We now then see the true meaning of the Prophet, when he says, that the lamentation in Jerusalem would be like that in Megiddon.
Were any to object and say, that the death of Christ was not accompanied with tears and mourning; I answer, — that the penitence of believers only is here described; for we know that a few only of the whole people were converted to God: but it is not to be wondered that the Prophet speaks generally of the whole nation, though he referred only to the elect of God and a small remnant; for God regarded those few who repented as the whole race of Abraham. Some mention the women of whom Luke speaks; but this seems too confined and strained: and we find also that that lamentation was forbidden by Christ,
“Weep,” he says, “for yourselves and for your children,
not for me.” (<422328>Luke 23:28.)
Since then Christ shows that that weeping was vain and useless, we may surely say that what is here said by Zechariah was not then fulfilled. And we must bear in mind what I have said before, — that by lamentation and sorrow is described that repentance with which the Jews were favored, not indeed all, but such as had been ordained to salvation by the gratuitous adoption of God. It follows —

ZECHARIAH 12:12-14
12. And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
12. Et lugebit terra, familiae, familiae seorsum; familia domus Davidis seorsum, et uxores eorum seorsum;
13. The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
13. Familia domus Levi seorsum, et uxores eorum seorsum; familia Simei seorsum, et uxores eorum seorsum;
14. All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
14. Omnes familiae residuae, familiae, familiae seorsum (hoc est, singulae familiae seorsum, ) et uxores eorum seorsum.

Zechariah seems to have used more words than necessary to complete his subject; for he appears to be diffuse on a plain matter: but we ought to attend to its vast importance; for it seemed incredible, that any of that nation would repent, since they had almost all been given up to a reprobate mind. For who could have thought that there was any place for the favor of God, inasmuch as all, as far as they could, even from the least to the greatest, attempted to involve Christ in darkness? When therefore the Sun of Righteousness was as it were extinguished by the Jews, it seemed probable that they were a nation repudiated by God. But the Prophet here shows, that God would be mindful of his covenant, so that he would turn to himself some of all the families.
Lament, he says, shall the land. This indeed we know did not take place as to the body of the people, but God, to whom a small flock is precious, denominates here as the whole land the faithful, who had felt how grievously they had sinned, and were so pricked in their hearts as though they had pierced the Son of God. (<440237>Acts 2:37.) And though the Jews had destroyed themselves, yet through special and wonderful favor, three thousand were converted at one sermon by Peter; and then many in Greece, Asia Minor, and in the East, repented, and many Churches arose everywhere, as though God had created a new people. If these things be rightly viewed by us, we shall not think it unreasonable that Zechariah promises repentance to the whole land.
What he said before of Jerusalem ought not to be so taken as though he confined what he said to one city, but under this name he includes the whole nation, dispersed through distant parts of the world.
He says now, that this lamentations would be in every family apart. By which word he means, that it would not be a feigned or pretended ceremony, as when one begins to weep and draws tears from the eyes of others. The Prophet then testifies that it would be real sorrow, for one would not imitate another, but every one, impelled by his own feeling, would really grieve and lament. This then is the reason why he says that families would lament apart. Indeed the faithful ought to stimulate others by their example and encourage them to repent, but in a congregation hardly one in ten prays in earnest for pardon and really laments on account of his sins. Since therefore men are thus born to hypocrisy, and are confirmed in it by the whole practice of their the, it is no wonder that the Prophet, in order to set forth real sorrow, represents here every family by itself; as though he had said, “The family of David shall know that it had sinned, and the family of Levi, though it may not observe such an example, shall yet inwardly acknowledge its guilt.” We now see why Zechariah repeats the word apart so often.
By saying, that the women wept apart, he means no doubt the same thing with what we find in the second chapter of Joel (<290201>Joel 2:1)
“Go forth let the bridegroom from his chamber,
and the bride from her recess.”
Men in grief, we know, withdraw from all pleasures and all joy. As then men usually separate themselves from their wives during the appointed time of public grief or mourning, the Prophet makes the women to be by themselves: he intimates at the same time that the women would not wait until the men showed then an example of mourning, but that they would of themselves, and through a feeling of their own, be inclined to lament.
But we must bear in mind what I lately said, — that the grief which the Jews felt for the death of Christ is not what is described, but rather that by which they were touched when God opened their eyes to repent for their own perverseness; for the death of Christ, we allow, is a cause of joy to us rather than of sorrow, but the joy arising from Christ’s death cannot shine in us until our guilt really wounds us through God’s appearing to us as a threatening judge. From this sorrow there arises the desire to repent and the true fear of God. Hence it is, that God himself will give us joy, for he will not have us, as Paul says, to be swallowed up with sorrow; he lays us prostrate, that he may again raise us up.
Now, why he names the house of Levi, and the house of Shimei, or of Simeon, and the house of David, and the house of Nathan, rather than the other tribes, is uncertain: yet it seems to me probable that by the family of David he means the whole tribe of Judah, and the same by the family of Nathan. As to the tribe of Levi it excelled in honor on account of the priesthood, but no honor belonged to Simeon. Why then are Issachar and Reuben the first-born, and the other tribes omitted here? It might indeed have been, that there were then remaining more from the tribes of Simeon and Levi than from the tribe of Zebulon or of Issachar or of Reuben; but this is uncertain, and I am not disposed to make much of mere conjectures. But I am inclined to think that the family of David and the tribe of Levi are here mentioned not for the sake of honor but of reproach, because the royal family and the priests were those who crucified Christ, and pierced God in the person of his only-begotten Son. Jerome conjectures, that the family of Nathan is named, because he was a celebrated Prophet and eminent above others, and that the Prophets are designated by him. He says that many teachers arose from the tribe of Simeon; but I know not where he got his information, for he adduces no proofs. fm160
But I am satisfied with the simple view already given, — that the Prophet by mentioning certain families meant to include the whole people, and that he does not omit the royal family nor the priests, because they were especially those who crucified Christ: and we know that Christ descended from Nathan, though Jerome thought the Prophet to be intended here rather than Nathan, one of Christ’s progenitors: but these things are of small moment.
He says in the last place, that this lamentation would be common to all the remaining families. Though few had returned, except those from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and from the tribe of Levi, yet Zechariah, as I think, means here by the remaining families, the elect who had been miraculously delivered from the common ruin; for blindness had so prevailed, that the rejection of the whole people on the part of God was evident. Under this designation then I consider the remnants of grace, as Paul says, to be included; as though the Prophet had said, that he had spoken of sorrow, not with regard to the whole nation indiscriminately, but to that part which was a remnant according to the gratuitous election of God. Now follows —

1. In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.
1.In die illo erit fons apertus domui Davidis, et incolis Ierosolymae, ad peccatum et ad immunditiam (vel, ad expiationem et aspersionem.)

From this verse we again learn, that Zechariah promised the spirit of repentance to the Jews, so that they would find God still propitious to them, when their circumstances were brought to the verge of despair: for it would not have been enough for them to feel sorrow, except God himself became propitious and merciful to them. He had said indeed that the Spirit of grace and of commiserations would be poured forth; but he had not as yet taught clearly what he now adds respecting remission and pardon. After having then declared that there would be felt by the Jews the bitterest sorrow, because they had as it were pierced God, he now mentions the fruit of this repentance. And hence also appears what Paul means by sorrow not to be repented of; for it generates repentance unto salvation. When then our sorrow is blessed by the Lord, the end is to be regarded; for our hearts are thereby raised up to joy. But the issue of repentance, as Zechariah declares here, is ablution: and he alludes to the legal rites when he says,
A fountain shall be opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. We know that formerly under the law many washings were prescribed to the Jews; and when any one had become defiled, to wash himself was the remedy. It is certain that water was of no value to cleanse the heart; but the sins of men, we know, are expiated by the death of Christ, so that true ablution is by the blood which he shed for us. fm161 Hence the types of the law ought no doubt to be referred to this blood. The meaning is that God would be reconciled to the Jews when they became touched with sincere sorrow, and that reconciliation would be ready for them, for the Lord would cleanse them from every defilement.
He speaks of a fountain opened; and he no doubt intimates here a difference between the law and the gospel. Water was brought daily to the temple; but it was, we know, for private washings. But Zechariah promises here a perpetual stream of cleansing water; as though he had said, “Ablution will be free to all, when God shall again receive his people into favor.” Though remission of sins was formerly offered under the law, yet it is now much more easily obtained by us; not that God grants a license to sin, but that the way in which our filth is cleansed, has become more evident since the coming of Christ. For the fathers under the law were indeed fully assured that God was so propitious as not to impute sins; but where was the pledge of ablution? In the sprinkling of blood, and that blood was the blood of a calf or a lamb. Now since we know that we have been redeemed by Christ, and that our souls are sprinkled with his blood by the hidden power of the Holy Spirit, it is doubtless the same as though God had not only set before our eyes our ablution, but also placed it as it were in our hands, while to the fathers it was more obscure or shown to them at a distance.
And he says, To the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He had before restricted God’s favor to that city, that he might goad the Jews, who had preferred their outward gratifications to so great a happiness; for they thought themselves happy in their exile, because they inhabited a pleasant and fruitful country, and enjoyed quietness and peace; and thus it happened that they despised the deliverance offered to them. Hence the Prophet promises here to the citizens of Jerusalem and to the royal family a fountain in which they might wash away their filth; for from Sion was the law to go forth, and from Jerusalem the word of the Lord. (<230202>Isaiah 2:2.) And we know that from thence were taken the first-fruits of the new Church. fm162 What we have before seen respecting God’s favor being extended farther, is no objection; for both events were in their due order fulfilled, as God blessed the tribe of Judah, who trusted in his promises and returned to their own country, and afterwards extended wider his favor, and gathered into one body those who had been dispersed through distant parts of the world.
He adds, For sin and for uncleanness, or as some read, “for sprinkling,” which is by no means suitable, except the word “sin” be taken for expiation. The word is derived from ddn, nedad, but it often means sprinkling, sometimes uncleanness, and sometimes the uncleanness of women, and so some render it here. The verb signifies to remove or to separate; and hence hdn, nede, is the removal of a woman from her husband during her uncleanness, but it is applied to designate any uncleanness. It might indeed be taken here for the uncleanness of women, as an instance of a part for the whole; but I am led by the context to render it uncleanness. Now if we translate tafj, chathat, sin, then hdn, nede, must be rendered uncleanness; but if the first be expiation, then the second may be sprinkling: and this meaning I am disposed to take, for under the law sins were cleansed by sacrifices as well as by washings. fm163
The import of the whole then is — that though the Jews had in various ways defiled themselves, so that they were become filthy before God, and their uncleanness was abominable, yet a fountain would be prepared for them, by which they might cleanse themselves, so as to come before God pure and clean. We hence see that it was the Prophet’s object to show, that the repentance of which he had spoken would not be useless, for there would be a sure issue, when God favored the Jews, and showed himself propitious to them, and already pacified, and even provided for them a cleansing by the blood of his only-begotten Son, so that no filth might prevent them to call on him boldly and in confidence; for instead of the legal rites there would be the reality, as their hearts would be sprinkled by the Spirit, so that they would be purified by faith, and would thus cast away all their filth.
Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to adopt us as thy people, and from being thine enemies, profane and reprobate, to make us the children of Abraham, that we might be to thee a holy heritage, — O grant, that through the whole course of our life we may so repent as to attain thy mercy, which is daily set before us in thy gospel, and of which thou hast given us a sure pledge in the death of thy only Son, so that we may become more and more humble before thee, and labor to form our life according to the rule of righteousness, and so loathe ourselves, that we may at the same time be allured by the sweetness of thy goodness to call upon thee, and that being thus united to thee, we may be confirmed in the faith, until we shall reach that blessed rest which has been procured for us by the blood of thy Son Jesus Christ. — Amen.
2. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the LORD of hosts, that I will cut off the names of the idols out of the land, and they shall no more be remembered: and also I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.
2. Et erit in die illo, dicit Iehova exercituum, Excidam (vel, delebo) nomina simulachrorum e terra, et non erunt in memoria amplius; atque etiam Prohetas et spiritum immundum auferam (vel, exterminabo, ad verbam est, transire faciam) e terra.

HERE the Prophet mentions another effect, which would follow the repentance of the people, and which the Lord also would thereby produce. There was to be a cleansing from all the defilements of superstitions; for the pure and lawful worship of God cannot be set up without these filthy things being wiped away; inasmuch as to blend sacred with profane things, is the same thing as though one sought to take away the difference between heaven and earth. No religion then can be approved by God, except what is pure and free from all such pollution. We hence see why the Prophet adds, that there would be an end to falsehoods and all errors, and to the delusions of Satan, when God restored his Church; for the simplicity of true doctrine would prevail, and thus abolished would be whatever Satan had previously invented to corrupt religion.
We hence learn what I have just stated — that God cannot be rightly worshipped, except all corruptions, inconsistent with his sincere and pure worship, be taken away. But we must at the same time observe, that this effect is ascribed to God’s word; for it is that which can drive away and banish all the abominations of falsehood, and whatever is uncongenial to true religion. As then by the rising of the sun darkness is put to flight, and all things appear distinctly to the view, so also when God comes forth with the teaching of his word, all the deceptions of Satan must necessarily be dissipated.
Now these two things ought especially to be known; for we see that many, who are not indeed ungodly, but foolish and inconsiderate, think that they give to God his due honor, while they are entangled in many errors, and refrain not from superstitions. Others, more politic, devise this way of peace — that they who think rightly are to concede something to tyrants and false Prophets; and thus they seek to form at this day a new religion for us, made up of Popery and of the simple doctrine of the gospel, and in this manner as it were to transform God. As then we see that men are so disposed to mix all sorts of things together, that the pure simplicity of the gospel may be contaminated by various inventions, we ought to bear in mind this truth, — that the Church cannot be rightly formed, until all superstitions be rejected and banished. This is one thing.
We may also deduce hence another principle — that the word of God not only shows the way to us, but also discovers all the delusions of Satan; for hardly one in a hundred follows what is right, except he is reminded of what he ought to avoid. It is then not enough to declare that there is but one true God, and that we ought to put our trust in Christ, except another thing be added, that is, except we warn men of those intrigues by which Satan has from the beginning deceived miserable mortals: even at this day with what various artifices has he withdrawn the simple and unwary from the true God, and entangled them in a labyrinth of superstitions. Except therefore men be thus warned, the word of God is made known to them only in part. Whosoever then desires to perform all the duties of a good and faithful pastor, ought firmly to resolve, not only to abstain from all impure doctrines, and simply to assert what is true, but also to detect all corruptions which are injurious to religion, to recover men from the deceptions of Satan, and in short, avowedly to carry on war with all superstitions.
This was what Zechariah had in view when he said, In that day, that is, when God would restore his Church, perish shall the names of idols, fm164 so that they shall be remembered no more. By this last expression he sets forth more clearly what I have just stated, that the pure worship of God is then established as it ought to be, and that religion has then its own honor, when all errors and impostures cease, so that even the memory of them does not remain. It is indeed true, that superstitions can never be so abolished, so that no mention of them should be made; nay, the recollection of them is useful —
“Thou shalt remember thy ways,” says Ezekiel, “and be ashamed,” (<261606>Ezekiel 16:6.)
But by this form of speaking Zechariah means, that such would be the detestation of superstitions, that the people would dread the very mention of them. And hence we may learn how much purity of doctrine is approved by God, since he would have us to feel a horror as at something monstrous, whenever the name of an idol is mentioned.
He then refers to false teachers, I will exterminate, he says, the Prophets and the unclean Spirit fm165 from the land. The connection here is worthy of being noticed; for it hence appears how all errors arise, even when a loose rein is given to false teachers. It is indeed true I allow, that the seed of all errors is implanted in each of us, so that every one is a teacher to deceive himself; for we are not only disposed to what is false, but rush headlong into it: it is the corruption of our nature. But at the same time when liberty is taken to teach anything that may please men, the whole of religion must necessarily be corrupted, and all things become mixed together, so that there is no difference between light and darkness. God then here reminds us, that the Church cannot stand, except false teachers be prevented from turning truth into falsehood, and from pealing at their pleasure against the word of God.
And this is what ought to be carefully observed; for we see at this day how some unprincipled men adopt this sentiment — that the Church is not free, except every one is allowed with impunity to promulgate whatever he pleases, and that it is the greatest cruelty to punish a heretic; for they would have all liberty to be given to blasphemies. But the Prophet shows here, that the Church cannot be preserved in a pure state, and, in a word, that it cannot exist as a healthy and sound body, except the rashness and audacity of those who pervert sound and true doctrine be restrained.
We now then understand the import of this verse — that in order that God may be alone and indeed be rightly worshipped, he will take away and banish all idols and all superstitions, and also, that he will exterminate all ungodly teachers who pervert sound doctrine.
He calls them first Prophets, and then unclean spirits. The name of Prophets is conceded to them, though they were wholly unworthy of so honorable a title. As ungodly men ever boast themselves in an audacious manner and hesitate not to pretend God’s name, that they may more boldly proceed in deceiving: hence it is, that Scripture sometimes concedes to them a name which they falsely claim. So also the word spirit is sometimes applied to them —
“Prove the spirits, whether they are of God: every spirit that denies that Christ has come in the flesh, he is a liar.”
(<620401>1 John 4:1.)
John doubtless adopted this mode of speaking according to common usage; for all false teachers claimed this title with great confidence, and maintained that all the errors they spread abroad were revealed to them by the Spirit.” Be it so then, but ye are lying spirits.”
Now then as to this title, there is no obscurity in what the Prophet means: and by way of explanation he adds the unclean spirit, that he might distinguish those vile men from the faithful ministers of God; as though he had said, “They indeed declare that they have drawn down the Spirit from heaven; but it is the spirit of the devil, it is an unclean spirit.” Now as Zechariah declares, that this would be in the Church of God, we learn how foolish the Papists are, who are content with the mere title of honor, and claim to themselves the greatest power, and will have themselves heard without dispute, as though they were the organs of the Spirit. What right indeed do they pretend? that they have been called by the Lord. The same reason might have been assigned by these unprincipled men, whom it was necessary to drive away, in order that the Church might rise again. It then follows that we are not to consider only what name a person has, or with what title he is distinguished, but how rightly he conducts himself, and how faithfully he performs his duties and discharges the office of a pastor. Let us proceed -

3. And it shall come to pass, that when any shall yet prophesy, then his father and his mother that begat him shall say unto him, Thou shalt not live; for thou speakest lies in the name of the LORD: and his father and his mother that begat him shall thrust him through when he prophesieth.
3. Et erit, quum prophetaverit vir (hoc est, quispiam) adhuc, dicent ad eum pater ejus et mater ejus, qui eum genuerunt, Non vies, qu ia mendacium loquutus es in nomine Iehovae; et transfigent eum (vel, confodient, nam habetur verbum illud, [rqd], quod heri vidimus) pater ejus et mater ejus, qui genuerunt eum, quia prophetaverit.

The same concession is made in this verse, where Zechariah speaks of the office of prophesying: he indeed confines what he says altogether to false teachers, for he takes it as granted that there was then no attention given to God’s servants, inasmuch as false spirits had conspired together, so that nothing pure or sound remained in the Church. As then a false and diabolical faction had then prevailed, Zechariah calls them Prophets as though they were all such, for they were heard as the Lord’s servants during that disorder of which mention is made. But he proceeds farther in this verse than before, and says, that there would be so much zeal in God’s children when renewed by his Spirit, that they would not spare even their own children, but slay them with their own hands, when they saw them perverting the truth of God.
Zechariah no doubt alludes to the 13th chapter of <051301>Deuteronomy 13:1 where God requires such a rigorous severity in defending pure doctrine, that a father was to rise up against the son whom he had begotten, that a husband was to lead his wife to death rather than to indulge his love and to pardon impiety, in case the wife solicited him or others to forsake God. The Lord then would have all the godly to burn with so much zeal in the defense of lawful worship and true religion, that no connection, no relationship, nor any other consideration, connected with the flesh, should avail to prevent them from bringing to punishment their neighbors, when they see that God’s worship is profaned, and that sound doctrine is corrupted. This was the rule prescribed by the law. Now after religion had been for a time neglected, and even trodden almost under foot, Zechariah says, that the faithful, when they shall have repented, would be endued with so much zeal for true religion, as that neither father nor mother would tolerate an ungodly error in their own son, but would lead him to punishment; for they would prefer the glory of God to flesh and blood, they would prefer to all earthly attachments that worship which ought to be more precious to us than life itself.
But it must at the same time be observed, that this zeal under the reign of Christ is approved by God; for Zechariah does not here confine what he teaches to the time of the law, but shows what would take place when Christ came, even that this zeal, which had become nearly extinct, would again burn in the hearts of all the godly. It then follows, that this law was not only given to the Jews, as some fanatics verily imagine, who would have for themselves at this day a liberty to disturb the whole world, but the same law also belongs to us: for if at this day thieves and robbers and sorcerers are justly punished, doubtless those who as far as they can destroy souls, who by their poison corrupt pure doctrine, which is spiritual food, who take away from God his own honor, who confound the whole order of the Church, doubtless such men ought not to escape unpunished. It would be indeed better to grant license to thieves and sorcerers and adulterers, than to suffer the blasphemies which the ungodly utter against God, to prevail without any punishment and without any restraint. And this is evident enough from the words of our Prophet.
And little consideration do they also show, who immediately fret from a regard to their own relatives. When faithful ministers and pastors are constrained to warn their people to beware of the artifices of Satan, they seek to bury every recollection of this, because it is invidious, because it leads to reproach. What if their children were to be drawn forth to punishment? How could they bear this, though they might remain at home; for they cannot attend to a free warning from their own pastor, when they find that impious errors are reproved, which we see prevailing, I say not in our neighborhood only, but also in our own bosom and in the Church. Let them then acknowledge their own folly, that they may learn to put on new courage, so that they may make more account of the glory of God, and of the pure doctrine of religion, than of their own carnal attachments, by which they are too fast held. And this is also the reason why the Prophet says, who have begotten him, and he repeats it twice: nor was it in vain that God had those words expressly added,
“The husband shall not suffer the wife who sleeps in his bosom to go unpunished; nor shall the father pardon his son whom he has begotten, nor the mother her own offspring, whom she has nourished, whom she has carried in her womb.”
(<051306>Deuteronomy 13:6, 9.)
All these things are said, that we may learn to forget whatever belongs to the world and to the flesh, when God’s glory and purity of doctrine are to be vindicated by us. fm166
Now the Prophet shows clearly that all this is to be understood of false teachers, for he adds, For falsehood hast thou spoken in the name of Jehovah. And at the same time the atrocity of their sin is here pointed out; for if we rightly consider what it is to speak falsehood in the name of Jehovah, it will certainly appear to us to be more detestable than either to kill an innocent man, or to destroy a guest with poison, or to lay violent hands on one’s own father, or to plunder a stranger. Whatever crimes then can be thought of, they do not come up to this, that is, when God himself is involved in such a dishonor, as to be made an abettor of falsehood. What indeed can more peculiarly belong to God than his own truth? and it is his will also to be worshipped by us according to this distinction: God is truth. Now to corrupt pure doctrine — is it not the same thing, as though one substituted the devil in the place of God? or sought to transform God, so that there should be no difference between him and the devil? Hence the greatest of all crimes, as I have already said, does not come up to this horrible and monstrous wickedness. For how much does the salvations of souls exceed all the riches of the world? and then, how much more excellent is the worship of God than the fame and honors of mortals? Besides, does not religion itself, the pledge of eternal life, swallow up in a manner every thing that is sought in the world? But most sacred to us ought to be the name of God, the sanctifying of which we daily pray for. When therefore what is false is brought forward in the name of God, is not he, according to what I have already said, as it were violently forced to undertake the office of the devil, to renounce himself, and to deny that he is God?
We hence see the design of the Prophet, when he shows that there is no place for pardon, when the ungodly thus wantonly rise up to pervert pure doctrine, and so to confound all things as wholly to destroy true religion.
He adds, Pierce him shall his father and his mother who have begotten him. It is much harder to kill their son by their own hands than to bring him to the Judge, and to leave him to his fate. But the Prophet has taken this from the law — that so much zeal is required from the faithful, that, if it be necessary, they are to exterminate from the world such pests as deprive God of his own honor, and attempt to extinguish the light of true and genuine religion. It follows —

4. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive:
4. Et erit in die illa, pudefient Prophetae, quisque a visione sua, ubi prohetaverint; et non induent vestem pilosam ut mentiantur.

Zechariah proceeds with the same subject, but in other words and in another mode of speaking, and says, that so great would be the light of knowledge, that those who had previously passed themselves as the luminaries of the Church would be constrained to be ashamed of themselves. And he farther shows how it was that so great and so gross errors had arisen, when the whole of religion had been trodden under foot, and that was because Satan had veiled the eyes and minds of all, so that they could not distinguish between black and white.
And such ignorance has been the source of all errors under the Papacy. How great has been the stupidity of that people, as they have indiscriminately admitted whatever their ungodly teachers have dared to obtrude on them? And in their bishops themselves, and in the whole band of their filthy clergy, how great a sottishness has prevailed, so that they differ nothing from asses? For artisans, and even cowherds, surpass many of the priests and many of the bishops, at least in common prudence. While then there was such ignorance in these asses, there could not have been any difference made between truth and falsehood. And then when they put on fine rings, and adorn themselves with a forked metre and its ornaments, and also display their crook, and appear in all their pontifical splendor, the eyes of the simple are so dazzled, that all think them to be some new gods come down from heaven. Hence these prelates were beyond measure proud, until God stripped off their mask: and now their ignorance is well known, and no one among the common people is now deceived.
How then is it, that many are still immersed in their own errors? Because they wish to be so; they close their own eyes against clear light. The kings themselves, and such as exercise authority in the world, desire to be in their filth, and are indifferent as to any kind of abomination; for they fear lest in case of any innovation the common people should take occasion to raise tumults. As they themselves wish to remain quiet, hence it is that they defend with a diabolical pertinacity those superstitions which are abundantly proved to be so. And the people themselves neither care for God nor for their own salvation. Hence then it is, that almost all, from the least to the greatest, regard these asses, who are called prelates, as the most ignorant, and yet they submit to their tyranny. However this may be, the Lord has yet discovered the shame of those who had been a little while ago almost adored.
This is what Zechariah now declares, Ashamed, he says, shall all the Prophets be in that day, every one for his own vision, when they shall have prophesied. And the concession, of which we have spoken, is not without reason; for when the brawling monks about thirty years ago ascended their pulpits, or the prelates, who theatrically acted their holy rites, there was nothing, but what was divine and from heaven. Hence with great impudence they boasted themselves to be God’s messengers, his ministers, vicars, and pastors; though the name of pastors was almost mean in their esteem; but they were Christ’s vicars, they were his messengers, in short, there was nothing which they dared not to claim for themselves. The Prophet ridicules this sort of pride, and seems to say, “Well, let all their trumperies be prophecies; and all their babblings, let these be for a time counted oracles: but when they shall thus prophesy, the Lord will at length make them ashamed, every one for his vision.”
It follows, And they shall not wear a hairy garment that they may lie; that is, they shall not be solicitous of retaining their honor and fame, but will readily withdraw from courting that renown which they had falsely attained. It appears from this place that Prophets wore sordid and hairy garments. Yet interpreters do not appropriately quote those passages from the Prophets where they are bidden to put on sackcloth and ashes; for Isaiah, while announcing many of his prophecies, did not put on sackcloth and ashes, except when he brought some sad message. The same also may be said of Jeremiah, when he was bidden to go naked. But it was a common thing with the Prophets to be content with a hairy, that is, with a sordid and mean garment. For though there is liberty allowed in external things, yet some moderation ought to be observed; for were I to teach in a military dress, it would be deemed inconsistent with common sense. There is no need of being taught as to what common decency may requite. The true Prophets accustomed themselves to hairy garments in order to show that they were sparing and frugal in their clothing as well as in their diet: but they attached no sanctity to this practice, as though they acquired some eminence by their dress, like the monks at this day, who deem themselves holy on account of their hoods and other trumperies. This was not then the object of the Prophets; but only that by their dress they might show that they had nothing else in view but to serve God, and so to separate themselves from the world, that they might wholly devote themselves to their ministry. Now the false Prophets imitated them; hence Zechariah says, they shall no more wear a hairy garment, that is, they shall no more assume a prophetic habit.
His purpose was, not to condemn the false Prophets for wearing that sort of garment, as some have supposed, who have laid hold of this passage for the purpose of condemning long garments and whatever displeased their morose temper; but the Prophet simply means, that when purity of doctrine shall shine forth, and true religion shall attain its own honor, there will be then no place given to false teachers; for they will of themselves surrender their office, and no longer try to deceive the unwary. This is the real meaning of the Prophet: hence he says, that they may lie. We then see that hairy garments are condemned on account of a certain end — even that rapacious wolves might be concealed under the skin of sheep, that foxes might introduce themselves under an appearance not their own. This design, and not the clothing itself, is what is condemned by Zechariah. He afterwards adds —

5. But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.
5. Et dicet, Non sum ego propheta, vir agricola ego sum; quia Adam (vel, homo) docuit me pastorem esse e pueritia mea.

He describes repentance in this verse more fully. When Paul wished to exhort the faithful to newness of life, he said,
“Let him who has stolen, steal no more; but rather work with his own hands, that he may relieve the wants of others.”
(<490418>Ephesians 4:18.)
Paul notices two parts of repentance, — that thieves are to refrain from acts of dishonesty and wrong, — and that they ought to labor in order to aid others and relieve their wants. So also Zechariah mentions these two particulars, — that false prophets will give up their office, — and that they will then spend their labor in doing what is right and just, supporting themselves in a lawful and innocent manner, and affording aid to their brethren.
Having spoken already of the former part, he repeats the same thing again, I am not a prophet. It is then the first thing in repentance, when they who had been previously the servants of Satan in the work of deception, cease to deal in falsehoods, and thus put an end to their errors. Now follows the progress, — that they who lived before in idleness and in pleasures under the pretext of sanctity, willingly devote themselves to labor, and continue no longer idle and gluttonous as before, but seek to support themselves by just and lawful employment. It would not then have been enough for him to say, I am no prophet, had he not added, I am an husbandman; that is, I am prepared to labor, that I may support myself and aid my brethren.
A half reformation might probably succeed with many at this day. Were many monks sure that a rich mess would continue to them in their cloisters, and were also the milted bishops and abbots made certain that nothing of their gain and profit would be lost to them, they would easily grant a free course to the gospel. But the second part of reformation is very hard, which requires toil and labor: in this case the stomach has no ears, according to the old proverb. And yet we see what the Prophet says, — that those are they who truly and from the heart repent, who not only abstain from impostures, but who are also ready to get their own living, acknowledging that they had before defrauded the poor, and procured their support by rapine and fraud.
The Prophet no doubt speaks of impostors, who were then numerous among the Jews; and there were also women who boasted that they were favored with a prophetic spirit; and the true prophets of God had to contend with these sorceresses or wise women, who had ever intruded themselves during a confused state of things, and undertook the office of teaching. As then there were at that time many idlers who lived on superstition, rightly does the Prophet send them away to cultivate the land. So at this day there are many brotherlings who hide their ignorance under their hood, and even all the papal clergy, under the sacred vestment, as they call it; and were they unmasked, it might easily be found out, that they are the most ignorant asses. Now, as the Lord has abundantly discovered their baseness, were they to acknowledge that they have been impostors, what would remain for them, but willingly to do what they are here taught? that is, to become husband men instead of being prophets.
As to the end of the verse, some retain the word Adam; others render it man; and generally the word Adam means man in Scripture. But they who think that Zechariah speaks of the first man, adduce this reason, — that as this necessity of “eating his bread by the sweat of his face” (<010309>Genesis 3:9) was imposed on all mankind after the fall, so also all his posterity were thus taught by Adam their first parent; but this interpretation seems too far-fetched. I therefore take the word indefinitely; as though he had said, “I have not been taught by any master, so as to become capable to undertake the prophetic office; but I am acquainted only with agriculture, and have made such progress, that I can feed sheep and oxen; I am indeed by no means fit to take upon me the office of a teacher.” I take the passage simply in this sense.
With regard to the verb ynnqh, ekenni, hnq, kene, means to possess, to acquire; but as the word hnqm, mekene, which signifies a flock of sheep or cattle, is derived from this verb, the most learned interpreters are inclined to give this meaning, “Man has taught me to possess sheep and oxen.” I am however disposed to give this rendering, as I have already stated, “Man has taught me to be a shepherd.” fm167
The import of the whole is, — that when God shall discover the ignorance, which would so prevail in the Church, as that the darkness of errors would extinguish as it were all the light of true religion, then they who repent shall become so humble, as to be by no means ashamed to confess their ignorance and to testify that they had been impostors as long as they had under a false pretense assumed the office of prophets. The Spirit of God then requires here this humility from all who had been for a time immersed in the dregs of falsehood, that when they find that they are not fit to teach, they should say, “I have not been in school, I was wholly ignorant, and yet I wished to be accounted a most learned teacher; at that time the stupidity of the people veiled my disgrace: but now the light of truth has shone upon us, which has constrained me to feel ashamed; and therefore I confess that I am not worthy to be heard in the assembly, and I am prepared to employ my hands in labor and toil, that I may gain my living, rather than to deceive men any longer, as I have hitherto done.”
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast been pleased to draw us at this day, by the light of thy gospel, out of that horrible darkness in which we have been miserably immersed, and to render thy face so conspicuous to us in the person of thy only-begotten Son, that nothing but our ingratitude prevents us from being transformed into thy celestial glory, — O grant, that we may make such advances in the light of truth, that every one of us may be ashamed of his former ignorance, and that we may freely and ingenuously confess that we were lost sheep, until we were by thy hand brought back into the way of salvation; and may we thus proceed in the course of our holy vocation, until we shall at length be all gathered into heaven, where not only that truth shall give us light, which now rules us according to the capacity of our flesh, but where also shall shine on us the splendor of thy glory, and shall render us conformable to thine image, through Jesus Christ our Lord. — Amen.
6. And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
6. Et dicit ad eum, Quid plagae istae inter manus tuas? et dicet, Quia percussus sum in domo amicorum meorum.

HERE the Prophet, in order to finish what we explained yesterday, says that such would be the discipline among the new people after having repented, that each in his own house would chastise his sons and relatives: and it is an evidence of perfect zeal, when not only judges perform their office in correcting wickedness, but when also private individuals assist to preserve public order, each according to his power. It is indeed true that the use of the sword is not allowed us, so that the offender may be punished by his neighbor: but as it was always allowed by the law of God, that when the matter did not come before a public tribunal, friends might inflict punishment, Zechariah, alluding to this custom, says, that though they who unjustly claimed the prophetic office and spread abroad false and impious errors, should not be visited with capital punishment, yet such would be their zeal for true religion, that friends would privately chastise such as they found to be of this character.
If any one objects and says, that these two things are inconsistent, — that false Prophets were punished with death, and that they were only chastised with stripes or scourges. To this I answer, that Zechariah does not speak precisely of the kind and mode of punishment, but says generally, that false teachers, even in the estimation of their parents, were worthy of death; and that if they were treated more gently they should yet suffer such a punishment, that they would through life be mutilated and ever bear scars as proofs of their shame.
We may at the same time gather from the answer what proves true repentance, Say will one, (it is put indefinitely,) or it will be said, What mean these wounds in thine hands? Then he will say, I have been stricken by my friends. The Prophet shows that those who had previously deceived the people would become new men, so as patiently to bear correction; though it might seem hard when the hands are wounded and pierced, yet he says that the punishment, which was in itself severe, would bee counted mild, for they would be endued with such meekness as willingly to bear to be corrected. Some apply this to Christ, because Zechariah has mentioned wounds on the hands; but this is very puerile; for it is quite evident that he speaks here of false teachers, who had for a time falsely pretended God’s name. As then they say, that they were friends by whom they were smitten, they acknowledge themselves worthy of such punishment, and they murmur not, nor set up any complaint. fm168 It now follows —

7. Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
7. Gladie, (vel, framea, ) expergiscere super pastorem meum, et super virum socium meum, dicit Iehova exercituum; percute pastorem, et dispergentur oves; et reducam manum meam super parvulos.

It was pleasant and delightful to hear what the Prophet said at the beginning of the chapter, for he promised that a fountain would be opened, by which the Jews might cleanse away all their filth, and that God, having been reconciled, would be bountiful to them. As then he had promised so blessed and happy a state, what he had said before might have been so taken, even by the true and faithful servants of God, as though the condition of the Church were to be after that time free from every trouble and inconvenience; hence Zechariah anticipates such a conclusion, and shows that the happy state which he had promised was not to be so looked for, as it though the faithful were to be free from every affliction, for God would in the meantime severely try his Church. Though then God had promised to be bountiful to his Church, he yet shows that many troubles would be mixed up with its prosperity in order that the faithful might prepare themselves to endure all things.
This discourse may indeed appear abrupt, but its different parts harmonise well together, for God so regulates his benefits which he bestows on his Church in this world, as ever to try it in various ways. What is here said was especially necessary, since very grievous afflictions were nigh at hand: for, as it is evident from history, that nation was on the borders of despair when the coming of Christ approached. This then is the reason why the Prophet seems at the first view to join together things so contrary. For what he has hitherto promised tended to prepare the faithful to bear all things patiently, inasmuch as deliverance was nigh. But in the meantime it was needful that they should be expressly encouraged to persevere, lest they should succumb under the extreme evils which were not far distant.
The sum of the whole is, that before the Lord would cleanse his Church and bring it back to perfect order, very grievous calamities were to intervene, for a dreadful disorder there must be when God smites the very shepherds; and the apostrophe, when God addresses the sword, a thing void of reason, is very emphatical. It is much more striking than if he had said, “A sword shall be raised against my shepherds and against my ministers, so that the flock shall be dispersed.” But the metaphor, as I said, is much more expressive, when God directs his words to the sword itself; Awake, watch, O sword, — how? against my shepherd.
Most of our interpreters confine this passage to the person of Christ, because in <402631>Matthew 26:31, this sentence is quoted,
“Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered:”
but this is no solid reason; for what is said of a single shepherd ought probably to be extended to the whole order. When God says in <051815>Deuteronomy 18:15,
“A prophet will I raise up from the midst of you,”
though mention is indeed made of one Prophet only, yet God includes all the Prophets; as though he had said, “I will never deprive you of the doctrine of salvation, but in every age will I show that I care for you, for my Prophets shall be ever present, by whose mouth I shall make it known that I am near you.” This passage is quoted as referring to Christ, and very suitably, because all the Prophets spoke by his Spirit, and at length he himself appeared, and by his mouth the heavenly Father spoke familiarly with us, and fully explained his whole mind, as it is said in the first chapter to the Hebrews
“In various ways and often did God speak formerly to the fathers by the Prophets, but now in these last times by his only-begotten Son.”
As then Christ possesses a supremacy among the Prophets, and hence rightly applied to him are the words of Moses; so also as he is the head and prince of shepherds, this pre-eminence justly belongs to him. But what is said by the Prophet is however to be viewed as a general truth. In short, God threatens the people, and declares that there would be a dreadful disorder; for they would be deprived of their shepherds, so that there would be no government among them, or one in great confusion.
The word tym[, omit, is rendered by some, kindred, (contribulis — one of the same tribe,) by others, kinsman, (consanguineus — one of the same blood,) and by others, one connected, (co-haerens,) that is, with God; and they have considered that this passage cannot be understood of any but of Christ alone: but they have taken up, as I have said, a false principle. The Greek version has citizen (to<n poli>thn,) and some render it, as Theodotion, kindred (sumfulon — one of the same tribe.) Jerome prefers the rendering, one connected or united with me (cohaerentem mihi.) fm169 The word, according to the Hebrews, means an associate, a neighbor, or a friend, or one in any way connected with us. God, I have no doubt, distinguished pastors with this title, because he gave a representation at himself by then to the people; and the more eminent any one is, the nearer, we know, he is to God: and hence kings and judges, and such as exercise authority, are called his sons. So also pastors are called his associates, for they spend their labor in building up the Church. He is the chief Pastor, but he employs his ministers to carry on his work. This is the reason why they are called the associates of God, that is, on account of the connection between them, for they are co-workers with God, as Paul also teaches us. In short, the Prophet calls pastors the associates of God in the same sense in which Paul calls them fellow-workers. (sunergouv <460309>1 Corinthians 3:9.)
Having said that the sword was permitted, nay, commanded, to rise against the shepherd, he immediately adds, that the sheep were dispersed. We then see that in these words is set forth a calamity that was to be feared, and which the people were not able to escape, in order that the faithful might not be too much disheartened, as though God would disappoint them, but that they might stand firm amidst grievous troubles and violent commotions. Since then this disorder was nigh, Zechariah bids the faithful to continue firm and patiently, and quietly hope, until God showed himself again propitious to them, and those evidences of his favor appeared of which he had before spoken. We now see what the design of the Prophet was. But we must especially notice, that it is a sure presage of the people’s ruin and destruction when pastors are taken from them; for when God intends to keep us safe, he employs this instrumentality, that is, he raises up faithful teachers, who rule in his name; and he rules them by his Spirit, and fits them for their rank and station: but when he strikes them, he not only forsakes the people, but also shows that he is the avenger of wickedness, so that the people themselves are destroyed. This is the import of the Prophet’s words.
But this, as I have already observed, was fulfilled in Christ; for he accommodated the passage to himself when his disciples fled from him. Though they were but a small flock, being very few in number, yet they were scattered and put to flight. In that case then, as in a mirror, appeared how truly it had been said by Zechariah, that the scattering is nigh when a pastor is smitten.
By the word sword, he means affliction; for though Christ was not slain by a sword, yet crucifixion and violent death are fitly designated by the word sword.
It follows at the end of the verse, And I will turn my hand to the little ones. Some consider that the little ones would be exposed to many evils, because the Lord would ever hold his rod in his hand to chastise them. But the Prophet, I have no doubt, meant what is far different, — that God would show mercy to them, when the body of the people had been as it were torn into many parts. For all the godly might have been wholly dejected when their shepherds were taken away, and when the people were become like a straying flock. God then comes to their aid, and testifies that his hand would be extended over the miserable and the poor ones, who had been almost overwhelmed by a mass of evils.
This passage is also very serviceable to us in the present state of the Church: for we see how God has lately cut off many pastors, so that what is called the Church is become like a mutilated body. We also see that God often deprives of good and faithful pastors those who have abused his truth, or with impious contempt rejected it. We might then in this case be terrified and cast off all hope of salvation, were we not to remember what Zechariah teaches us here, even that though the Church were contemptible in the world, and though the faithful were few in number, and all of them exposed to calamities, yet God’s hand will be over them, so as to gather for himself again a Church from the torn members. This is the import of the whole. It follows —

8. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
8. Et erit in tota terra, dicit Iehova, portio duae (vel, duorum) in ea excidentur, morientur, et tertia residua erit in ea.

He goes on with the same subject; for he reminds the faithful, that though God had resolved to restore his Church, and though his blessing would be evident, yet very heavy afflictions were not far distant; as though he had said, “God will give you a serene heaven and a bland air, that the land may bring forth its fruit; but still there is a heavy tempest impelling, and ye shall not be exempt from storms and hail. But when God has laid waste a part of the land, he will bless you with corn and wine, so that you shall have sufficient support.” So also in this place he says, “God will protect his Church, and will also be propitious to it, for he will wash away all the filth of wickedness, and will give to you faithful pastors, when he has removed the impostures of Satan: but in the meantime most grievous afflictions await you, and a hard state of things, and difficult to be borne, must be expected; for God will appear as though he intended to destroy his people: such will be the scattering.”
For this reason he says, that there will be through the whole land the most grievous calamities: Two parts, he says, shall die; the third only shall remain.
We now see how all these things agree, and how the Prophet’s words harmonise. In short, he means, that what he had before promised respecting the future favor of God, does not belong indifferently to all, or to the whole body of the people, but to the faithful, whom God will in a wonderful manner deliver from ruin; for of the people God will only save the third part, as he had already resolved to destroy the other two parts. The intention of the Prophet is now by no means doubtful.
But we hence conclude, that what God daily promises to his Church is not to be extended indiscriminately to all, for many falsely profess his name: but he knows his own, as Paul says, and therefore exhorts them to depart from iniquity. (<550216>2 Timothy 2:16.) Let us then know that promises of God’s favor do not appertain to hypocrites: for though he has decreed to deal kindly and graciously with his Church, he yet continues to diminish it, so that the third part only remains safe. Whenever then we speak of God’s mercy towards his Church, and of his aid and help, let us ever bear in mind the cleansing of which Zechariah now speaks, that God will reserve the third part, while the greater portion ever runs headlong into ruin. It is then enough that the third part should be delivered from destruction. But this verse, as it has already appeared, ought to be applied to the kingdom of Christ.
Literally we read, the mouth of the two; but yp, pi, is to be taken metaphorically for part or portion. A part then of the two in it, or two parts in it, (the plural is joined with the singular, as often is the case,) shall perish, shall be cut off. The verb trk, caret, means to cut off; and then [wg, guo, signifies to die or to sink. Though he understands the same things by the two words, it is not yet an unmeaning repetition; for it might have seemed hard and unreasonable that only a third part of God’s people should remain. This diminution of the Church might have disturbed the minds of many, and might have appeared incredible: hence the Prophet, in order to confirm what in itself seemed a paradox, says, they shall die, they shall perish; it has been so decreed, and you are not to contend with God; for given up to ruin shall the greater number be, while a few only shall remain: the third part then shall remain in it. It follows —

9. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.
9. Et ducam (vel, venire faciam) tertiam partem per ignem; et conflabo eos sicuti conflatur argentum: et examinabo eos sicuti probatur aurum: ipse invocabit nomen meum, et ego respondebo ei; et dixi, (vel, dicam, ) populos meus est; et ipse dicet, Iehova Deus meus.

Zechariah proceeds further here, that when God shall cut off two parts of the people, he will yet save the third for this end — that it might be proved by various kinds of trials, and be made to bear many afflictions. With regard to the two parts, the Lord did not afflict them in order to turn them to repentance, but resolved wholly to destroy them. The third part then is reserved for salvation; and yet it is necessary even for them to be cleansed through many afflictions.
Very useful is this doctrine; for we hence first conclude that many, not only from the world, are led into perdition, but also from the bosom of the Church: for when three hundred shall profess to worship God, one hundred only, says Zechariah, will be saved. There are always among the people many hypocrites; nay, the grains lie hid in the midst of much chaff and refuse; it is therefore necessary to devote to ruin and eternal death a larger number than those who shall be saved. Let us then not envy the ungodly, though their prosperity may disturb us and cause us to grieve. (<193702>Psalm 37:2.) We think them happy; for while God spares and supports them, they deride us and triumph over our miseries. But under this circumstance, the Holy Spirit exhorts us to bear patiently our afflictions; for though for a time the happiness of the ungodly may goad us, yet God himself declares that they are fattened in order to be presently slain, when they shall have gathered much fatness. This is one thing.
Then it is in the second place added, that after the greater part, both of the world and of the Church, (at least such as profess to belong to it,) shall be destroyed, we cannot be retained in our position, except God often chastises us. Let us then remember what Paul says, that we are chastised by the Lord, that we may not perish with the world; and the metaphors which the Prophet adopts here are to the same purpose; for he says, I will lead them through the fire. He speaks here of the faithful whom God has chosen into salvation, and whom he has reserved that they might continue safe: yet he says, that they shall be saved through fire, that is, hard trials. But he sets forth this still more clearly, He will prove them, he says, as silver and gold. fm170 The stubble and the chaff, as John the Baptist teaches us, are indeed cast into the fire, (<400312>Matthew 3:12,) but without any benefit; for the fire consumes the refuse and the chaff, and whatever is corruptible. But when the gold and the silver are put in the fire and are purified, it is done that greater purity may be produced, and also that what is precious in these metals may become more apparent: for when the silver is drawn out of the mine, it differs not much from what is earthy. The same is the case with gold. But the furnace so purifies the gold and silver from their dross, that they attain their value and excellency. Hence Zechariah says, that when God casts his faithful people into the fire, he does this according to his paternal purpose in order to burn out their dross, and thus they become gold and silver who were before filthy and abominable, and in whom much dross abounded. We see then that the elect of God, even those who may be rightly counted his children, are here distinguished from the reprobate, however they may profess God’s name and worship.
Now this passage is not inconsistent with that in Isaiah,
“I have not purified thee as silver and gold, for thou hast been wholly consumed.” (<234810>Isaiah 48:10.)
Though God tries his elect by the fire of afflictions, he yet observes moderation; for they would wholly faint were he to purify them to the quick. It is however necessary to pass through this trial of which the Prophet now speaks: and thus the state of the Church is here described — that it ought to be always and continually cleansed, for we are altogether unclean; and then, after God has washed us by his Spirit, still many spots of uncleanness remain in us; besides, we contract other pollutions, for it cannot be but that much contagion is derived from those vices by which we are on every side surrounded.
He now adds, He will call on my name, and I will answer him. fm171 With this consideration God mitigates what was in itself hard and grievous. It is hard to see so many dreadful evils, when God treads under foot the greater part of the world, and when his vengeance bursts forth on the Church itself, so that his severity on every side fills us with fear. But this also is added — that we are daily to feel the fire, as though God meant to burn us, while yet he does not consume us. Hence the Prophet shows how these miseries are to be sweetened to us, and how sorrow becomes not too grievous; for we are tried by the cross and the scourges and chastisements of God in order that we may call on his name. Hearing follows calling; and nothing can be more desirable than this. The Prophet then proves from the happy effect, that there is no reason for the faithful to murmur against God, or impatiently to bear their evils, because being purified they can now really flee to him.
Were any to ask, whether God can by his Spirit only draw the elect to true religion? If so, why is this fire of affliction and hard trial necessary? The answer is, that he speaks not here of what God can do, nor ought we to dispute on the subject, but be satisfied with what he has appointed. It is his will then, that his own people should pass through the fire and be tried by various afflictions, for this purpose — that they may sincerely call on his name. We must at the same time learn that it is the true preparation by which the Lord brings back the elect to himself, and forms in them a sincere concern for religion, when he tries them by the cross and by various chastisements; for prosperity is like mildew or the rust. We cannot then look to God with clear eyes, except our eyes be cleansed. But this cleansing, as I have said, is what God has appointed as the means by which he has resolved to render his Church submissive. It is therefore necessary that we should be subject, from first to last, to the scourges of God, in order that we may from the heart call on him; for our hearts are enfeebled by prosperity, so that we cannot make the effort to pray. But this consolation is ever to be applied to ease our sorrows, when our flesh leads us either to perverseness or to despair; let this remedy occur to us, that though chastisement is hard while it is felt, it ought yet to be estimated by what it produces, as the Apostle also reminds us in <581211>Hebrews 12:11. Let us especially know that the name of God is then seriously invoked, when we are subdued, and all ferocity, and all the indulgence of the flesh, are corrected in us: for we are like untamed heifers, as Jeremiah says, when God indulges us. (<243118>Jeremiah 31:18.) Hence the discipline of the cross is necessary, so that earnest prayer may become vigorous in us.
He shows at last how God may be invoked, for we are taught that he will be kind and propitious to us, whenever called upon. It would not indeed be enough for us to groan under the burden of afflictions, and to be thus awakened to prayer, except God himself allured us and gave us hope of favor. Hence the Prophet adds, I will say, My people they are; and they will say, Jehovah our God is he. The Prophet in short means, that unless the promises of God shine on us, and invite us to prayer, no sincere prayer can ever be drawn from us. How so? Because we first come to God by faith alone, and this opens the gate to us, and all prayers not founded on faith are rejected; and further, we know that men naturally dread the presence of God, and will do so until he gives them a taste of his goodness and love. Hence what Zechariah says here is especially worthy of notice, — that God’s word precedes, so that we may follow with confidence, and be able to enter through the gate opened to prayer, for except he first says, “ye are my people,” we cannot claim the privilege of entering into his presence and say, “thou art our God.” For who has bound God to us, that he should be a God to us? even he himself; for he has bound himself to us when he promised that we shall be his people. There is then, as I have said, no right beginning to prayer until we are taught that God is ready to hear our prayers, as it is said in <196502>Psalm 65:23, “Thou God hearest prayers, and all flesh shall come to thee.”
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that we are full of so many sinful desires, which defile whatever purity thou hast conferred on us by thy Spirit, — O grant, that we may daily profit under thy scourges, and so submit ourselves to be ruled by thee, as to become resigned and obedient, even when thou dealest with us with unusual severity; and may we ever taste of the sweetness of thy goodness in thy greatest rigour, and know that thou thereby providest for our safety, and leadest us towards perfect purity, from which we are as yet far distant, so that we may be obedient to thee in this world, and become hereafter partakers of that victory which Christ has procured for us, and enjoy with him his triumph in thy heavenly kingdom. — Amen.