John Calvin, Commentary on Zechariah



Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin.

Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen,
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire.

Volume Fifth. Zechariah and Malachi

WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan.
Printed in the United States of America.

Printed in the United States of America
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TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE

This volume completes Calvin's Commentaries on the Twelve Minor
Prophets,--a Work which, had he written no other, 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 Hag. i. 15, with Zech. i. 1. Ezra mentions them as the
two Prophets who encouraged the rebuilding of the Temple. Ezra v.1;
vi. 14.
    The greatest part of ZECHARIAH was written, according to LOWTH,
in prose; but adds that "some parts about the end of his Prophecy
(ch. ix. x. and the beginning of xi) are poetical and highly
embellished, and that they are sufficiently perspicuous, though
written by a Prophet, who of all is perhaps the most obscure." 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, ch. i. 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 Matt. xxvii. 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.
    "It is alleged," observes BLAYNEY, "that the Evangelist St.
Matthew, ch. xxvii. 9, cites a passage found in Zech. xi. 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 ( ) may
have been written by mistake by some transcribers of Matthew's
Gospel, that 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. This first is, that
many things are mentioned in these chapters which correspond not
with Zechariah's time; the second, that the prophecy in ch. xi.
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, (Ch. ii. 4,) and these chapters
in his advanced years. And BLAYNEY thinks that he is the ZECHARIAH
mentioned by our Saviour in Matt. xxii. 35, and that he was slain by
the Jews on account of these prophecies which he announced in his
old age.

    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 ch. iii. 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 tithes. The Jews are wont to call him the seal
(chotam) 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." 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 the 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 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 Psalms, that the labour
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 the 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,
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 at 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 judgement 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."
    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, 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.

                            J.O.
Thrussington, July 1849.



CALVIN'S PREFACE TO ZECHARIAH

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 carefully 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 any fear of
God, or hardly any religion. It was therefore needful to blend
strong and sharp reproofs with promises of favour, that they might
thus be prepared to receive Christ. This is the substance of the
whole. I shall now proceed to the words.




COMMENTARIES ON THE PROPHET ZECHARIAH

CHAPTER 1

Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-fourth.

Zechariah 1:1-3
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,
2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.
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.

    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 Matt. xxiii.
35. Zechariah is indeed said there to have been killed between the
temple and the altar, and he is called the son of Barachiah: 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. 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, (Heb. x.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. 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
favour 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 favour, 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. (Eph. v.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 judgement, 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 favour
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 favoured 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; (Hag. ii, 17;) so that they had already
laboured for several years under want and other evils. God then had
not so blessed them, that they could in every way recognise his
paternal favour. 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 favour, 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 favour, but
provoked his wrath, like their fathers, inasmuch as they did not
from the hear repent.
    The Papists allege this passage in defence 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 labour 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 judgement 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, SAID 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--

Zechariah 1:4
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.

    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 FATHER: 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 defence 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, 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 endeavoured 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,
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 favour
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 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 favour, as though they sought designedly
to drive him far from them, lest he should come to them.

Prayer

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.


Lecture One Hundred and Thirty Five

Zechariah 1:5,6
5 Your fathers, where [are] they? and the prophets, do they live for
ever?
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.

    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. 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 judgements, 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 judgements; but after their death these judgements 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 laboured 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 endeavour as far
as I can, that you may remember what I teach after my death." (2
Pet. i. 15.) We now perceive the object of the Prophet.
    He then immediately adds, BUT MY WORDS AND MY STATUTES 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 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, 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 judgement 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--

Zechariah 1:7-11
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,
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.
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].
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.
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.


   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 endeavour 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 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
enquires 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 colours 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 colours 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 colour, 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, 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 favoured 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 judgements, 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 defence 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: 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
judgements, 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 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 labour 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 colours 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 colour, 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 judgements, 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.
   
   Prayer.
   
   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
succour 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.
   
   
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-sixth.
   
Zechariah 1:12
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?

   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; 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, (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," (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 favour 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?
   We ought at the same time to notice the special import of the
words, "how long," "'ad matay". The angel indeed afterwards explains
himself, when he expressly mentions the term of seventy years. 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
fervour, as that of the ungodly, who in praying accuse God, rage
against him, and quarrel with his judgements. 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.
   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. It now follows -

Zechariah 1:13
13 And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me [with] good
words [and] comfortable words.
   
   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 favours 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." 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 judgements, according to what is said by Isaiah, "Let us
eat and drink, tomorrow we shall die." (Is. 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 -

Zechariah 1:14
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.

   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, is according to the common language of Scripture. For as
God cannot otherwise sufficiently express the ineffable favour which
he has towards his elect he is pleased to adopt this similitude,
that he undertakes the defence 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 -

Zechariah 1:15
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.

   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
favour? 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 favour 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 favour: 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 judgement, 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." (Ezek. 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,
"me'at", 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 -

Zechariah 1:16
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.

   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, "kawh" is to be taken for a
perpendicular line, as in Is. 28: 17, and in other places. There is
here an addition of "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 favour 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 favour, 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 -

Zechariah 1:17
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.

   I cannot finish to-day.
   
Prayer.
   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.
   

Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-seventh.

   
   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 "tefutsennah" 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 favour to the whole people.
    He then adds, "Comfort Zion will yet Jehovah, and he will yet
choose Jerusalem." The particle "'od" yet, is repeated; for the
suspension of favour, of which we have before spoken, might have
somewhat prevented the faithful from realising the promise. As then
God's favour 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 favour, because their adoption seems obliterated in
the eyes of men, when there appears no evidence of his paternal
favour. 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, (Rom. 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, "ametas meletos", 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 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 -

Zechariah 1:18-21
18 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
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.
20 And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
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.
    
    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 labour 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, (Dan. 2: 32,) that
there were to be four principal monarchies, by which God intended to
give clear and memorable examples of his judgements. 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: 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, 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 -
    
    
Chapter 2.

Zechariah 2:1-4
1 I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a
measuring line in his hand.
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.
3 And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another
angel went out to meet him,
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.

    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
favour 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, 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 favour 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 favour 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 defence 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 -

Zechariah 2:5
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.

    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", (Isa. 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 favour: 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 defence."
    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.
    
    
Prayer.
    
    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.
    
    
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-eighth.

Zechariah 2:6
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.

    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 favour 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 "hoy" 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 favour, 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 favour
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. He now adds -

Zechariah 2:7
Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
    
    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. (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." (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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 2:8
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.
    
    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
favour, 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." (Ps. 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 fulfil 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 favours: "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 splendour 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".
    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." (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: -

Zechariah 2:9
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.

    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" 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," (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 favour 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. (Rom. 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 -

Zechariah 2:10
Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will
dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD.
    
    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 favour, 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.
    
    
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-ninth.

Zechariah 2:11
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.

    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 "'elayich", "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 -

Zechariah 2:12
And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and
shall choose Jerusalem again.
    
    The Prophet confirms the former doctrine, but removes offences,
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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 2:13
Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of
his holy habitation.
    
    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 succour 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; 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 -


Chapter 3.


Zechariah 3:1,2
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.
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?
    
    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 laboured
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. 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 defence 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 neighbours were troublesome to
them, because Satan turned every stone and tried every experiment to
make void the favour 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. (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, rebuke thee let Jehovah, who
has chosen Jerusalem". God speaks here; and yet he seems to be the
angel of Jehovah: 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." (Gen. 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 judgement. 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?"
Here God makes known the favour 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 favour; 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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 3:3,4
3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the
angel.
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.
    
    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. 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 succour 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." 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 clamour
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 dishonour and reproach of the
high priest into very great glory, even when the time of gratuitous
remission or of good pleasure arrived.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.
    
    
Lecture One Hundred and Fortieth.


Zechariah 3:5
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.

    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, 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 honourably 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 honour 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
favours 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 honour 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 -

Zechariah 3:6,7
6 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
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.

    Here the Prophet shows for what purpose he gave Joshua his
appropriate dress and splendour; and he teaches us, that it was not
done simply as a favour to man, but because God purposed to protect
the honour 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 favours 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 pretence 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 honoured, 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, &c. 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 honour 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 labours 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
honourable 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 honour, 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. 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
honour 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 honour
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 honour. 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, 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 1 Cor. 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
honour 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 honour 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 honour 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 -

Zechariah 3:8
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.
    
    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
favour 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, 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 "tsemach" 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 honour 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 honour, 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. 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 favour;
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 favour: 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. 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, 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 clamoured, "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 favour. 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 -

Zechariah 3:9
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.
    
    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 28th chapter; and in Psalm 118 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 laboured
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 labour 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 11th of Isaiah; 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. 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." We now understand the
full meaning of the Prophet. What remains I cannot finish now.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 splendour 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.
    
    
    Lecture One Hundred and Forty-first.
    
    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 favouring this people." It now follows
in the Prophet -

Zechariah 3:10
In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his
neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.

    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 rigour and severity. Here then is
shown to them a sudden change. He therefore adds, In that day, ye
shall call every one his neighbour 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 neighbours 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, (chap. 4: 4,) and
according to what Isaiah says in the second chapter. Let us now
proceed -



Chapter 4.


Zechariah 4:1-6
1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a
man that is wakened out of his sleep,
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:
3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl,
and the other upon the left side thereof.
4 So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying,
What are these, my lord?
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.
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.

    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 fulfil 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 labour 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
favour, 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 sees 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; 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 honour. 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, &c. 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", 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 labours 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 defence for its preservation,
in order that it might retain its perfect state and continue in
vigour 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 judgement 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 honour 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 favour 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
judgement 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 to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
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.
    

Lecture One Hundred and Forty-second.


Zechariah 4:7
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.
    
    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. 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 "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 ardour and zeal, that God
might bless the temple, and cause the building of it to be
completed. It now follows -

Zechariah 4:8,9
8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
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.

    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; 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 labours 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 fulfilment 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 -

Zechariah 4:10
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.

    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 judgement 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 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 laboured in vain while building
the temple, which made no approach to the glory and splendour 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?
    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 clamours of the
people.
    He then adds, They shall rejoice when they shall see the
workman's plummet in the hard of Zerubbabel. 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; 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 honour
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. (Is. 11: 1.) God might have arranged that
Christ should have been born when the house of David was in its
splendour, 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. (Dan. 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
labour 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 labour under
him. However then may Satan blind the unbelieving with pride and
haughtiness, so that they disdain and ridicule the building in which
we labour; 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.
    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 "eleh" 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 -

Zechariah 4:11-14
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?
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?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And
I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the
Lord of the whole earth.

    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 "shevilim" 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. 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 labours 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 ardour; 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
judgement 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 ardour 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 "al" 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.
    
Prayer.

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 labour 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 labours, 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.
    
    


    
    
    
Chapter 5.

Lecture One Hundred and Forty-third.

Zechariah 5:1-4
1 Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a
flying roll.
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.
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.
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.
    
    The angel shows in this chapter, that whatever evils the Jews
had suffered, proceeded from the righteous judgement 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; 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
over the face of the whole land. We must remember what I have just
said, that God's judgement 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, "mizeh kamoha"; 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 judgement without any exception.
    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:" (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 dishonoured, 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 judgement 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 fulfil not
whatever has been written. (Deut. 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 -

Zechariah 5:5-8
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.
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.
7 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a
woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.
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.
    
    Here I stop; I intended to add all the verses, but I can hardly
finish the whole to-day. 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 rigour, 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; 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 favour; 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 "'efah";
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.
    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." (Ps. 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 -

Zecharia 5:9-11
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.
10 Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these
bear the ephah?
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.

    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.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou threatens us with severe
punishment to restrain us from sin, we may regard thy judgement, 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 rigour 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
favour which has been laid up for us in heaven, through Jesus Christ
our Lord. - Amen.
    
    
Chapter 6.

Lecture One Hundred and Forty-fourth.

Zechariah 6:1-3
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.
2 In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot
black horses;
3 And in the third chariot white horses; and in the fourth chariot
grisled and bay horses.

    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
colours, because some of the Caesars raged cruelly against the Jews
and the Church of God, and some of them showed more lenity. 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
(ineluctabile); 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 colour 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 colour then was white, for the
favour 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 colour of the horses was white;
for such was the favour 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 colours 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 judgement in their own
land, for they had been severely afflicted. As God then is wont to
execute his judgement first on his own household, and as it is
written, "judgement begins at his own house," (1 Pet. 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, 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 colour. 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 colour to designate the
wars carried on among then, but rather the calamities brought by
them on the Jews, yet I consider the black colour 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 judgements,
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 colour, 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 colour; 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 -

Zechariah 6:4,5
4 Then I answered and said unto the angel that talked with me, What
are these, my lord?
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.
    
    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, &c. 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.
    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 -

Zechariah 6:6,7
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.
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.

    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 judgement. 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
judgement 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 "'amutsim" strong; and this is the proper meaning of the
word, for "'amats" properly means to fortify, to strengthen; but as
colour 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, "berudim" grilled. Hence some
interpreters join together the two, and say that the horses were
grilled, or spotted like hail, and then that they were "'amutsim",
somewhat red. Jerome seems to me to have sufficiently refuted this
opinion, because the other horses were "'adomim", red, but these
were of different colours. 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
colour 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 -

Zechariah 6:8
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.
    
    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 labour 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 favour 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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
judgement 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.
    
    
Lecture One Hundred and Forty-fifth.

Zechariah 6:9-11
9 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
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;
11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the
head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;
    
    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 neighbours, 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 favour 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 clamours 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
"hagolah" 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. 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." (Ezek.
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:
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.

    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 honour, or because he could look for royal
dignity; but that he was to bear this honour 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." (Is. 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 vigour 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, 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." (Hag. 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, (Col. 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 splendour 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. 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 fulfilment of this prophecy is the renovation
which took place at the coming of Christ. It follows
    
Zechariah 6:14
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.

    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 fulfil 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 -

Zechariah 6:15
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.
    
    The Prophet also states, that men would come from remote lands
to contribute labour 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 labour 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 labour 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 favour. 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 favour, 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 favour, 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.
    
    
Chapter 7.

Lecture One Hundred and Forty-sixth.

Zechariah 7:1-3
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;
2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech,
and their men, to pray before the LORD,
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?

    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. 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
judgement, 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 favour 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 vigour; 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." (Ps. 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
favour 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. (Is. 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." (Ps. 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," &c. (Deut. 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." (Is. 2: 3; Mic. 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 labour on their own private concerns than on
teaching the people. However this case may have been, it was an
illustrious testimony of God's favour, 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. 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 honour 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 "nazar", 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?" 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 -

Zechariah 7:4-9
4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
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?
6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for
yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
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?
8 And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgement,
and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:

    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 labours 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, "tsamtuni", and afterwards added "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." (1 Cor. 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 pretence; 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 labour 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,
"kara'" 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, (Mat. 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 labour, 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.
    

Lecture One Hundred and Forty-seventh.
    
    Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, saying, The judgement 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 judgement 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 favour or hatred, so that they
decided cases not in a just and equitable manner. We then learn from
the Prophet's words, that judgements were then given corruptly, so
that the judge either decided in favour of a friend, or was bought
by a price or a reward. As then there was no truth in the judgements
given, but false pretences and colourings, the Prophet here exhorts
them to execute the judgement of truth, that is, true judgement,
when no respect of persons is shown, and when neither hatred nor
favour prevails, but equity alone is regarded.
    He then addresses the whole people in common, and says, Show,
or exercise, kindness and mercy, 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
neighbours; 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 neighbour. He afterwards adds -

Zechariah 7:10
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.

    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 favour, 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 favour 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. Let us proceed -

Zechariah 7:11,12
11 But they refused to hear, and pulled away the shoulder, and
stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
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.
    
    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
pretence 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. (Matt. 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
clear.
    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 Zeph. chap. 3. 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 "soreret" 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.
    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 Ezek. 3:
9, and in Jer. 17: 1, it is to be taken for adamant, or the hardest
stone. 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. 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 honour 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 pretence 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 judgement had
been so dreadful against obstinate men. It afterwards follows -

Zechariah 7:13
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.

    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 honour by which he
favours 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, &c.
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.
    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 -

Zechariah 7:14
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.
    
    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 "sa'ar" 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 neighbours 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 judgement 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 judgement 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 honoured it with peculiar
favour.
    Zechariah then condemns the Jews, not only because they had by
their own fault extinguished the favour as to the produce of the
land, but because they had corrupted the land itself, which had been
so singularly favoured 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 honour 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 honour 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
favour 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast adopted us for this end,
that we may show brotherly kindness one towards another, and labour
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
    

Chapter 8.

Lecture One Hundred and forty-eighth.

Zechariah 8:1,2
1 Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great
jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.

    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
"kana'", connected as it is here, is to be taken in a good sense, as
signifying concern or affection, inasmuch as "lamed" means, "on
account of," or "for;" and we have in the first chapter a similar
sentence; 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; we hence
learn, that this was a distinct prophecy. He adds, I have been
zealous for Sion (for as we have said, the letter lamed is to be
thus taken) with great zeal. 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 -

Zechariah 8:3
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.

    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 judgement 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. 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 favourable, 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 labour 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. 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. (Hag. 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 -

Zechariah 8:4
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.
    
    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, &c.
    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
vigour 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 favour; and on this account the Lord
promises by Isaiah, that old men would be vigorous and strong, (Is.
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.
    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 -

Zechariah 8:5
And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing
in the streets thereof.

    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 defence 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 -

Zechariah 8:6
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.

    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 favour 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 judgement, 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 pretence 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 judgement, 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 fulfil 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.
(Rom. 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
judgement; 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, &c. 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 -

Zechariah 8:7,8
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from
the east country, and from the west country;
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.

    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 judgement 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 ardour. 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 favour. 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
favour 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. And how this
was to be fulfilled we shall hereafter see.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.
    

Lecture One Hundred and Forty-ninth.

Zechariah 8:9-11
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.
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
neighbour.
11 But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the
former days, saith the LORD of hosts.
    
    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 labour, 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, (Hag. 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 favourable, as all things went on
prosperously. This change then was a clear token both of God's
displeasure and of God's favour; 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 favour of God had begun to shine on them, as God gave them
abundance of provisions, and proved in various ways that he was now
favourable 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 honour 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.
    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 judgements 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 labour of men
or of beasts. He takes it as granted, that men were not tardy in
their work, and that beasts performed their labours, but that no
fruit appeared. And whence was it the labour of men and of beasts
was unprofitable, except from God's curse, as the law testifies?
(Deut. 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 labour in vain,
thirst and want of all things must follow; for though the labour 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 labour 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, "min hatsar", 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 "min",
"there was no peace from distress;" that is, there were none safe
from inconvenience and molestation.
    The reason is added, Because God had sent forth all men, each
one against his neighbour. 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 judgement 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 judgement. 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 judgements, 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 judgements 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 favour, and that the
fruits of his favour were before their eyes; and they were thus
encouraged to proceed with the work of building the temple. It now
follows -

Zechariah 8:12
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.

    Here Zechariah promises the continuance of God's favour, 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 favour 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 labour, 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 "shalom"
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 labour; what is sown shall produce its proper fruit.
    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 -

Zechariah 8:13
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.

    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, &c. 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 judgements, which made it
evident to all that he was grievously offended with them. Ye have
been then a curse among all nations.
    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 favour, 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 favour 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 favour 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 favour, 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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
fervour 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.
    

Lecture One Hundred and Fiftieth.

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:
15 So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem
and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
    
    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 favour 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. 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
favour, 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 neighbour; execute the judgement of truth and peace in
your gates:
17 And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his
neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I
hate, saith the LORD.

    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;
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 neighbours 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 neighbour 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 neighbour, but raged
as it were against his own bowels.
    As to the words, truth and the judgement 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 favour, when
bribed with money. It is then necessary that truth should have the
first place in courts of justice. By the judgement of peace he
understands, when his own is given to every one. Some think that
what is right is called the judgement 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 judgement of peace as meaning only a calm and a
rightly formed judgement. 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 neighbour; 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 labour not only by external
acts to discharge their duties towards their neighbours; 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,
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.
    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 favour
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 favour, 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.
(Matt. 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 favoured 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." (Deut. 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 neighbours, 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 judgement of peace in the sense of
judgement 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. 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 labour 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.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-first.

Zechariah 8:20-22
20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that
there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:
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.
22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD
of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.

    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 "'od", the adverb of time. 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 "rabot" 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, &c.
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 labour, 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 ardour 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, 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 endeavour
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. 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."
(Is. 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 sceptre 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
sceptre 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
ardour 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 judgement. 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 -

Zechariah 8:23
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.
    
    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 frown 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 labours. 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. (Rom. 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
labours 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 -


Chapter 9.

Zechariah 9:1
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.
    
    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 "'atsumot" 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.
    I come now to the passage in which the Prophet announces a
heavy burden, or a severe and fearful prophecy respecting Syria and
other neighbouring nations. I prefer to retain the word "burden,"
rather than to render it prophecy, as many expositors have done; for
though "masa'" is sometimes taken simply for prophecy, yet there is
here, as it appears to me, something particular intended; for the
Prophet denounces God's judgement 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 favour 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 "chadrach" 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, 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 judgement 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;"
(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
"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 favour to them; and thus he reminds them, that the gate
would be opened, and the way made plain and even for God's favour
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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 judgement, 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
fulness of those blessings which have been obtained for us by thy
only-begotten Son - Amen.
    

Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-second.

Zechariah 9:2-4
2 And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it
be very wise.
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.
4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in
the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.

    Zechariah goes on with the same subject: for he says now, that
destruction was nigh all the nations who, being neighbours, 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.
    He adds, Tyrus and Sidon, though it be very wise. The particle
"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 skilful and cunning
in managing their affairs: they were not however to escape God's
judgement. If the former meaning be approved, it was the Prophet's
object to show, that when men are extremely provident and labour 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 judgement. 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 neighbours.
    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 "tsor" and "matsur".
"Tsor", he says, has built "matsur", 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 "yarash" which
means to possess and also to expel or impoverish; for interpreters
think that a hope of favour 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 -

Zechariah 9:5
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.

    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 "ayin" 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 -

Zechariah 9:6
And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of
the Philistines.
    
    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 "mamzer" from "zur" which means to
peregrinate; and they quote other instances, in which the double
"mem", is used in the formations of a noun; and it is easy to prove,
from many passages of scripture, that "mamzer" means a stranger. 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 -

Zechariah 9:7
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.

    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. 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."
    Then he adds, these remnants shall be as leaders in Judah, that
is, God will raise them to the highest honour; 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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 9:8
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.
    
    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 succour their neighbours, 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.
    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 judgement. 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 judgements, 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.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-third.

Zechariah 9:9
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.
    
    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
favour 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 "nosha" must
be taken actively; and they have quoted some passages of Scripture,
in which a verb in Niphal is taken in an active sense. 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. 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 defence
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. 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 "aniy", 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. 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 splendour, 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 -

Zechariah 9:10
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.

    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 favour 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. 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." (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. 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 -

Zechariah 9:11
As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy
prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.
    
    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, 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 "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, &c. 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?"
    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 favour, 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 -

Zechariah 9:12
Turn you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I
declare that I will render double unto thee;

    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 defence 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. (Is. 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 to-day.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-fourth.

    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. Let us
now proceed -

Zechariah 9:13
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.

    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.
    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 "yavan", 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 "yavan" 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
favoured 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 -

Zechariah 9:14
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.

    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, "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. He then adds -

Zechariah 9:15
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.
    
    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 labour 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.
    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," (Deut. 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 -

Zechariah 9:16
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.

    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 ah 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", 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 favour of God alone and
his blessing, would be sufficient to render the Jews happy, as they
would then excel in honour, 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 fulness 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 -

Zechariah 9:17
For how great is his goodness, and how great is his beauty! corn
shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids.

    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 favour, 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
splendour, which appears in all God's favours and gifts.
    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 to-morrow
on the subject.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 favour 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.
    
    
    
Chapter 10.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-fifth.


Zechariah 10:1
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.
    
    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 favour; 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
laboured 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 favour
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 seasons, 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 "chazizim" means clouds, which are as it were
preparations for rain. He then says, that a shower would come with
the rain; for some take "geshem" 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 -

Zechariah 10:2
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.

    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 favour 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 favour 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, 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 fervour: "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 favour. 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
labour 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." (Matt. 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, (1 Tim. 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. (Jer. 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 favour; 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 judgements of God, that they may derive profit
from his scourges. He afterwards adds -

Zechariah 10:3
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.

    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 wilful]y 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 clamoured 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 judgement 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 honourable 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 (Ezek. 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 judgement, 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 favour
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 pretence 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 -

Zechariah 10:4
Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him
the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.

    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 defence 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.
    We now see what the Prophet means - that when God would
manifest his care for his people and openly show his favour, 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 -

Zechariah 10:5
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.

    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; 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 recomb 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.
    
    
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-sixth.

Zechariah 10:6
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.

    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 fulfil 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 fulfil 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.
    He then adds, I will bring them back and cause them to dwell.
The verb here, "hoshvotim" is supposed to be derived from "shav" or
from "shuv"; 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.
    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. 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 -

Zechariah 10:7
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.

    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 honoured, 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. 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 dishonour 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." (Ps. 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 armour in expecting a full favour, 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 to-day 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 (Ps. 104: 15;) but
as we are too prone to excess, we ought to restrain the lusts of the
flesh rather than to seek some colour of excuse for a sinful
indulgence. But as I have said, this question does not belong to the
present passage. It follows -

Zechariah 10:8
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and
they shall increase as they have increased.

    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.
    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 Ps. 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. 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. (Rom. 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 -

Zechariah 10:9
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.
    
    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 favour 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.
    It was an instance of the wonderful grace of God, that he so
ordered his dreadful judgement 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 -

Zechariah 10:10
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.

    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.
    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 -

Zechariah 10:11
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 sceptre of
Egypt shall depart away.
    
    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, (Ex. 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, &c., for so the
verb "avar" is to be taken here. Pass then shall distress through
the sea; 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 "bush"; but it
comes from "yavash"; 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 sceptre 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 -

Zechariah 10:12
And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and
down in his name, saith the LORD.
    
    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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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
    
    
Chapter 11.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-seventh.


Zechariah 11:1-3
1 Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.
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.
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.

    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 labour 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 judgement 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
Lebanon; 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.
    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. 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 "adar", and
before "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 judgement 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 judgement 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. He afterwards adds -

Zechariah 11:4-6
4 Thus saith the LORD my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;
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.
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 neighbour'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.

    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. 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 labour 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 favour,
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 labour: 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, 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 favours
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 judgements: 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. Then he says, I will not spare the inhabitants of the
land; behold I will deliver, &c. 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 judgement 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
laboured 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 judgement." 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.
    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 -

Zechariah 11:7
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.

    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 favour 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 favour. 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 favour.
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 "lachen" 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.
    He says that he took two rode, that he called one "no'am",
"Beauty," and that he called the other "chovlim", "Cords," rendered
"destroyers" by those who adhere to the Hebrew points; but as
"chaval" both in the singular and plural, has the meaning of a rope
or cord, the Prophet, I have no doubt, means by "chovlim" 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
judgement and reason; but yet some discrimination ought to be
exercised; 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 to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 favours, 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.
    
    
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-eighth.

    We said yesterday that the word "chovlim", 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, "no'am", "beauty." And he says in the last
place, that this rod called "chovlim" 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 "chovlim" 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
"no'am". and by "chovlim" 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,"
&c. 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 "no'am", 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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 11:8
Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed
them, and their soul also abhorred me.

    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. 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 mesa 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 favoured
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 favours. 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. (2 Cor. 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 labour had produced no fruit, for
the door for God's favours had been closed up. It afterwards follows
-

Zechariah 11:9
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.

    God now declares what had been briefly mentioned before, - that
his judgement 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 rigour. 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 judgement 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. 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 judgement, 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.
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.

    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 the second chapter of Hosea, - 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," (Gen. 17: 6.) and this was done for the purpose of setting
forth the greatness of God's favour; 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 humour. 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.
    He concludes by saying, that in that way 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 judgement,
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 judgement, 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. (Is. 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 judgement 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 judgements, 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 honour and in wealth among the Jews,
heedlessly despised God's dreadful judgement, makes this addition,
that there were a few very poor and humble men, who regarded this
judgement as not having come by chance, but through God, who became
a just avenger, because his favour 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 judgements 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 judgements, 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 judgements,
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.
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.

    God now adds another crime, by which he discovers the
wickedness of the people; for they estimated all the labour 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 favour 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 labour 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 favour 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. He expresses here the highest indignation,
as though one upbraided the wickedness and ingratitude of his
neighbour 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 labour, 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. 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 favours 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. This then was the price of
labour 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
favours 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?" (Is. 1:
12,13;) and again he says, "He who slays an ox is the same as he who
kills a man." (Is. 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 judgements, 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.


Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-ninth.

Zechariah 11:14
14 Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might
break the brotherhood between Judah and 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 "chavalim", 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 "chevel" signifies a rope or binding. We must also
bear in mind, that this is an instance of "last first" (husteron
proteron;) 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.
    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." (Matt. 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 labour 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
"hoi", is to be here understood. The expression is indeed, "apo
huion Israel"; 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." 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.
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.

    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 favour?" 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.
    The word "keliy" 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 judgement 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 "hanichchadot" as signifying the sick
sheep; but they are in my judgement 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 "hana'ar", 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 vigour 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 pretence, 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. (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 honour, 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 judgement 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 favour 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
judgement 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 labour, 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 judgement. 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 -

Zechariah 11:17
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.

    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 "'elil" means
in Hebrew a thing of nought, and hence idols were called "'alilim",
nothings; "Those useless shepherds," he says, "who forsake the
flock." He again shows by an explicit term, that those whom he
called shepherds were not worthy of so honourable 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 vigour 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.
    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 favour, 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 judgement, 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 splendour, 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 honour, 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 to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.
    
    
    
Chapter 12.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixtieth.

Zechariah 12:1
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.

    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 favour and aid, he seems to have mentioned
"burden" here improperly or unreasonably; for "masa", 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
favour, 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.
    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, &c. 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. 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 -

Zechariah 12:2
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.

    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 "saf" means a threshold almost everywhere in Scripture. But
some think that it means here a cup, and then they translate "ra'al"
rot, 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 defence, 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 "'al" 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." Now this must have sharply goaded the Israelites,
seeing that they were excluded from having God's aid, inasmuch as
they had not thought proper to return to their own country when
liberty was freely given them. It follows -

Zechariah 12:3
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.

    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. 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," (Ps. 87: 1,
2;) and again it is said, "Jehovah in the midst of her, she shall
not be moved." (Ps. 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 -

Zechariah 12:4
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.
    
    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. 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 defence 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 -

Zechariah 12:5
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.

    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 "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
defence 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. It follows -

Zechariah 12:6
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.

    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 favour 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-first.

Zechariah 12:7
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.

    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 "sachot" in Hebrew; but the same is often
meant by the "'ohalim", 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, "'ohalim"; 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 neighbours 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 defence, 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, &c.; 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
defence, 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.
    He then adds, And hence boast shall not the honour of the house
of David and the honour 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 favour. 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
neighbouring 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 -

Zechariah 12:8
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.

    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 "yagan" is
used here, yet as it is derived from "magen", 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.
    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 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." (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 "'elohim", which
also means God; but he adds in the same sentence - As the angel of
Jehovah before their face. 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 defence 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, "lefaneyhem", 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 sceptre, 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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 12:9
And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy
all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
    
    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, &c., 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 defence 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 -

Zechariah 12:10
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.

    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, "tachanunim"
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
Jer. 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 "tachanunim" 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: 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 favour 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. 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 arid rocks. However bountifully then
God may bestow his grace on the unbelieving, they yet render his
favour 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
to-day.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that as we are this day surrounded with
enemies, and without any defence, 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.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-second.

    We said in our yesterday's lecture, that the words, They shall
look to me whom they have pierced, are to be taken metaphorically,
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 judgement, 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, (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. (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." (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. 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 2 Cor 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 -

Zechariah 12:11
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the
mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
    
    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 neighbouring
town, or a part of that country in which was situated the plain of
Megiddon.
    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 2 Chron. 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 honour, 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." (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 favoured, 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;
13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the
family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart;
14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives
apart.

    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 favour 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. (Acts 2:
37.) And though the Jews had destroyed themselves, yet through
special and wonderful favour, 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, "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 honour on account of the priesthood, but no honour
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 honour 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.
    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 -


Chapter 13.

Zechariah 13:1
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.
    
    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. 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 favour." 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 favour 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.
(Is. 2: 2.) And we know that from thence were taken the first-fruits
of the new Church. What we have before seen respecting God's favour
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 favour, 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 "nadad", 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 "nidah" 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
"chatat" sin, then "nidah" 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.
    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 favoured 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.
    
Prayer.
    
    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 labour 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.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-third.

Zechariah 13:2
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.

    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 honour, 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, 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 honour, 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," (Ezek. 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 Spirits 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 honourable 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." (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 honour, 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 -

Zechariah 13:3
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.

    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 Deuteronomy,
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 defence 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 neighbours, 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 honour, 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
neighbourhood 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." (Deut. 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.
    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 dishonour, 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 honours 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
honour, and attempt to extinguish the light of true and genuine
religion. It follows -

Zechariah 13:4
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:

    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 splendour, 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
honour 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 honour, 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 -

Zechariah 13:5
But he shall say, I am no prophet, I am an husbandman; for man
taught me to keep cattle from my youth.

    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." (Eph. 4: 18.) Paul notices
two parts of repentance, - that thieves are to refrain from acts of
dishonesty and wrong, - and that they ought to labour 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 labour 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 labour, 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 labour, 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 labour: 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 favoured 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" (Gen. 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 "hiknani", "kanah", means to possess,
to acquire; but as the word "mekanah", 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."
    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 pretence
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 labour and
toil, that I may gain my living, rather than to deceive men any
longer, as I have hitherto done."
    
Prayer.
    
    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 splendour of thy glory, and shall render us conformable to
thine image, through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-fourth.

Zechariah 13:6
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.

    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 neighbour: 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 hand? 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. It now follows -

Zechariah 13:7
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.
    
    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; A wake, watch, O
sword, - how? against my shepherd.
    Most of our interpreters confine this passage to the person of
Christ, because in Matth. 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 Deut. 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 "'amit" 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 ("ton
politen,) 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). The word, according to the
Hebrews, means an associate, a neighbour, 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 labour 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. (sunergous, 1 Cor. 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 favour 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 -

Zechariah 13:8
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.

    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 favour 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. (2 Tim. 2: 16.) Let
us then know that promises of God's favour 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 "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 "karat"
means to cut off; and then "gu'" 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 -

Zechariah 13:9
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.

    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. (Ps. 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. The stubble and the chaff, as John the Baptist
teaches us, are indeed cast into the fire, (Matt. 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." (Is. 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.
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 Heb. 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. (Jer. 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 favour. 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 Ps. 65: 23, "Thou God hearest prayers,
and all flesh shall come to thee."
    
Prayer.
    
    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.


Chapter 14.

Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-fifth.


Zechariah 14:1,2
1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided
in the midst of thee.
2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the
city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished;
and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue
of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

    Zechariah pursues the same subject as in the preceding chapter:
for having promised a joyful and happy state to the faithful, who
despising their indulgences in Chaldea had returned to their own
country, he now reminds them that their peaceful condition in Judea
would not be without many trials and troubles; and therefore he
exhorts them to patience, lest they should faint in their
adversities, and repent of their return.
    Some apply this chapter to the time of Antichrist, some refer
it to the last day, others explain it of the destruction of the city
which happened in the reign of Vespasian; but I doubt not but that
the Prophet meant here to include the calamities which were near at
hand, for the city had not yet been built, the Jews having been much
harassed by their neighbours; and we also know how atrocious was the
tyranny which Antiochus exercised: in short, there was a continued
series of evils from the time the city and the temple began to be
built till the coming of Christ. As then the Jews, who had preferred
foreign countries to their own, might have boasted of their lot and
despised their brethren, as though they had foolishly and
thoughtlessly removed from foreign lands, and had been too
precipitate in returning, God designed to declare by the mouth of
Zechariah what evils were at hand, that the faithful might with a
courageous mind be prepared to undergo their trials, and that they
might never succumb under any evils, for the Lord had promised more
to them than what they could have attained in Chaldea and other
countries. Having now explained the meaning of the Prophet, I shall
come to the words.
    Behold, he says, the day shall come to Jehovah, and divided
shall be thy spoils in the midst of the city. By the demonstrative
particle Behold, the certainty of the prophecy, as it has been
elsewhere said, is intimated; for the Prophet points out as by the
finger what could not yet be comprehended by human minds. And he
says, that the day would come to Jehovah, that they might know that
they would suffer a just punishment when the Lord treated them in
this manner; for men, we know, indulge themselves and seek
pleasures, and when God seems not to deal kindly with them, they
raise a clamour as though he were too severe. Hence the Prophet
reminds them, that so great a calamity would not come without a
cause, for God would then execute his judgement. He does not
expressly describe it, but he speaks as though he summoned them
before God's tribunal. Now when we understand that we have to do
with God, it avails us nothing to murmur. It is then better to be
silent when God is set forth as being in the midst of us, for it is
certain that he will not in chastising us exceed what is just.
    But here is described a hard affliction; for Zechariah
intimates that the city would be exposed to the will of enemies, so
that they would divide at pleasure their spoils in the very midst of
it. What conquerors snatch away, they afterwards in private divide
among themselves; and we know that many cities have been plundered,
when yet the conquerors have not dared to expose to view their
spoils. But the Prophet means here that there would be no strength
in the Jews to prevent their enemies from dividing the spoils at
their leisure in the midst of the city.
    He afterwards adds, I will gather all nations against
Jerusalem. He confirms what I have already said, that God would be
the author of those calamities, and thus he puts a restraint on the
Jews, that they might not expostulate with him respecting the
severity of their punishment. He then shortly intimates, that the
nations would not come by chance to attack Jerusalem; and that
whatever commotions would arise, they could not be ascribed to
chance or to fortune, or to the purposes of men, but to the decree
of heaven. He then bids them to look to God, that they might humble
themselves umber his mighty hand, according to what Peter also does.
(1 Pet. 5: 6.) He might have said in a briefer manner, "All the
nations shall conspire;" but he ascribes this to God, and says, that
he will bring them, like a prince, who collects an army, which he
commands to fight under his banner. And by naming all nations, he
reminds them that their trials would not be light; for such would be
the union of enemies, and so large would be their number, that
Jerusalem would be brought nigh to utter ruin. But afterwards he
subjoins a consolation to moderate the grievousness of that
calamity: yet he says first -
    Taken shall be the city, plundered shall be the houses, and the
women shall be ravished. What usually happens to a city taken by
storm, the citizens of Jerusalem, the Prophet says, would have to
endure. It is indeed an extreme outrage, when women are ravished by
enemies; and then, poverty is often more grievous than death; and
yet he says, that when deprived of their substance they would have
to witness an outrage more hard to be borne than death itself,
because their women would be subjected to such a disgrace.
    He adds, that half part of the city would depart. He had said
before that a third part only would be saved; but he now seems to be
inconsistent with himself. But as to number we need not anxiously
enquire, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for the Prophets often
mention half part and then the third, when yet they mean the same
thing. It is the same as though he had said, that the destruction
would be so great, that hardly half of them would remain alive.
    Now follows the consolation which I have mentioned, - that the
residue of the people would not be exterminated from the city. By
these words the Prophet teaches them, that though hard would be the
condition of the city, as it would be reduced nearly to a waste, yet
they who having returned to their country sincerely worshipped God,
would be blessed; for the Church would ever remain safe, and that
how much soever God might lessen the number, yet a part of the
Church, however small, would be kept safe. The object then of the
Prophet is to comfort the faithful, that they might sustain whatever
evils might be at hand, and look for what God promises, even that a
Church would again emerge, and that God would really prove that
Jerusalem was not in vain his sanctuary, where he would bless the
remnant which escaped, and escaped through his wonderful favour. He
afterwards adds -

Zechariah 14:3
Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as
when he fought in the day of battle.

    Zechariah here amplifies the favour of God, - that he will go
forth openly, and avowedly carry on war against all the enemies of
Jerusalem. It was not indeed a small mitigation of their evils, that
a part of the Church would be saved. But the Prophet declares here
what is still far better, - that when God afflicted his Church, and
suffered it to be violently assailed by enemies, he would become at
length the avenger of all the wrongs they might have done. We know
how we are wounded and tried, when God gives loose reins to the
ungodly, and when they grow wanton in their wickedness and triumph,
insult God, and almost spit as it were at the very clouds. When
therefore the ungodly thus petulantly exult, and God in the meantime
hides himself and is still, it is difficult to wait patiently for
the issue. Hence the Prophet promises that God will become the
avenger, after having allowed his Church to be for a time chastised
by ungodly and wicked enemies.
    Go forth, he says, shall Jehovah. We know the meaning of this
metaphorical expression. The Prophets sometimes extend the phrase,
"Go forth shall God from his holy place," as though they said - that
the Jews would find by experience that God's name is not invoked in
vain in his temple, and that it has not been said in vain, that God
is seated between the cherubim. But the Prophet seems here to speak
of God generally, as going forth armed from his recesses to resist
the enemies of his Church. Go forth then shall God; for he had for a
time concealed his power. In a like manner, we know that God hides
his face from us when he brings us no help, and when we also think
that we are neglected by him. As then God, as long as he hides his
power, seems to be without power, hence the Prophet says here, Go
forth shall Jehovah, and he will fight against these nations.
    By these words he intimates, that there is no reason for the
faithful to envy their enemies, even when all things go on
prosperously with them; for they will at length find that they
cannot injure the Church without God undertaking its cause,
according to what he has promised, "I will be an enemy to thine
enemies." (Ex. 23: 22.) But as this is a thing difficult to be
believed, he calls to mind ancient history,_
    As in the day, he says, in which he fought in the day of
battle. Some confine this part to the passage through the Red Sea;
but I think that Zechariah includes all the instances which God had
given to the Jews to prove that they were the objects of his care.
God then, not only once, not at one time, nor in one manner, had put
forth his power, that the Jews might plainly see that they became
conquerors through his aid. This is what Zechariah means. He in
effect says, "Both you and your fathers have long ago found that God
is wont to fight for his Church; for he has honoured you with
innumerable victories; you have been often overwhelmed with despair,
and his favour unexpectedly shone upon you, and delivered you beyond
all that you hoped for: you had often to contend with the strongest
enemies; they were put to flight, even when ye were wholly unequal
to them in number, and yet God bestowed upon you easy victories.
Since then God has so often and in such divers ways cast down your
enemies, why should you not hope for the same aid still from him?"
    We hence see why the Prophet now refers to the ancient battles
of God, even that he might by facts confirm the Jews in their hope,
and that they might not doubt but that God was endued with power
sufficiently strong to subdue all the ungodly, for he loses none.
    And he adds, in the day of battle, even when there is need of
help from heaven. He indeed calls it the day of engagement or
contest, for so the word "kerav" properly means. When therefore it
was necessary for God to engage with enemies, then his power
appeared: "There is hence no reason for you hereafter to doubt, but
that he will still prevail against your enemies." We know that this
mode of speaking is frequently and commonly used by the Prophets,
that is, when they adduce examples of God's favour and power, by
which he has proved that there is in him alone sufficient help for
the deliverance of his Church.
    It behaves us now to apply to ourselves what is here said, for
Zechariah did not only speak for the men of his age, or for those of
the next generation, but he intended to furnish the Church with
confidence till the end of the world, so that the faithful might not
faint under any trials. Whenever then the ungodly prevail, and no
hope shines on us, let us remember how often and by what various
means God has wonderfully delivered his Church as it were from
death; for it was not his purpose only once to help and aid his own
people, but also to animate us, that we at this day may not despond,
when we endure evils with which the fathers formerly struggled. He
then adds -

Zechariah 14:4
And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which
is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall
cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and
there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall
remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.

    He continues the same subject, that God's power would be then
conspicuous in putting enemies to flight. He indeed illustrates here
his discourse by figurative expressions, as though he wished to
bring the Jews to see the scene itself; for the object of the
personification is no other but that the faithful might set God
before them as it were in a visible form; and thus he confirms their
faith, as indeed it was necessary; for as we are dull and entangled
in earthly thoughts, our minds can hardly rise up to heaven, though
the Lord with a clear voice invites us to himself. The Prophet then,
in order to aid our weakness, adds a vivid representation, as though
God stood before their eyes.
    Stand, he says, shall his feet on the mount of Olives. He does
not here promise a miracle, such as even the ignorant might conceive
to be literal; nor does he do this in what follows, when he says,
The mount shall be rent, and half of it shall thorn to the east and
half to the west. This has never happened, that mount has never been
rent: but as the Prophet could not, under those grievous trials,
which might have overwhelmed the minds of the godly a hundred times,
have extolled the power of God as much as the exigency of the case
required without employing a highly figurative language, he
therefore accommodates himself, as I have said, to the capacity of
our flesh.
    The import of the whole is, - that God's power would be so
remarkable in the deliverance of his Church, as though God
manifested himself in a visible form and reviewed the battle from
the top of the mountain, and gave orders how everything was to be
done.
    He says first, Stand shall his feet on the mount of Olives. Why
does he not rather say, "In the city itself?" Even because he meant
by this mode of speaking to show, that God would watch, that he
might see what would be necessary for the deliverance of his Church.
All these things, I know, are explained allegorically, - that Christ
appeared on the mount of Olives, when he ascended into heaven, and
also, that the mount was divided, that it might be passable, and
that the apostles might proceed into the various parts of the world,
in order that they might assail all the nations: but these are
refinements, which, though they please many, have yet nothing solid
in them, when they are by any one properly considered. I then take a
simpler view of what the Prophet says, - that God's hand would be
sufficiently conspicuous, whenever his purpose was to aid his
miserable and afflicted Church.
    The same view is to be taken of what follows, that a great
valley would be in the middle, for the rent would be one half
towards the north and the other half towards the south. It is the
same thing as though he had said, that Jerusalem was as it were
concealed under that mountain, so that it was hid, but that
afterwards it would be on an elevated place, as it is said
elsewhere, "Elevated shall be the mountain of the Lord," say both
Isaiah and Micah, "above all mountains." (Is. 2: 2; Mic. 4: 1.) That
hill, we know, was small; and yet Isaiah and Micah promise such a
height as will surpass almost the very clouds. What does this mean?
Even that the glory of the God of Jerusalem will be so great, that
his temple will be visible above all other heights. So also in this
place, Rent, he says, shall be the mount of Olives, so that
Jerusalem may not be as before in a shaded valley, and have only a
small hill on one side, but that it may be seen far and wide, so
that all nations may behold it. This, as I think, is what the
Prophet simply means. But those who delight in allegories must seek
them from others. It now follows -

Zechariah 14:5
And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of
the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye
fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah:
and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.

    The Prophet says again, that God's presence would be terrible,
so that it would put to flight all the Jews; for though God promises
to be the deliverer of his chosen people, yet as there were still
mixed with them hypocrites, his language varies. But we must further
observe, that though the Lord may appear for our deliverance, it yet
cannot be but that his majesty will strike us with fear; for the
flesh must be humbled before God. What the Prophet then says is the
same as though he had said, that the coming of God, which he had
just mentioned, would be fearful to all, not only to open enemies
whom he would come to destroy, but also to the faithful, though they
knew that he would put forth his power to save them. And thus the
Prophet seems to reason from the less to the greater; for if the
faithful, who look anxiously for God, yet tremble and quake at his
presence, what must happen to his enemies, who know that he is
against them? As then the Prophet bids here the faithful to be
prepared reverently to look for God, so also he shows that he will
be dreadful to all the ungodly, in order that the elect might not
hesitate to flee to his aid and to rely on him.
    Flee, he says, shall ye through the valley of the mountains.
Some imagine this to have been a valley so called, because it was of
long extent, stretching through chains of mountains; but we read
nothing of this in scripture. It seems to me probable, that valleys
of the mountains were all those places called, which were rough,
impassable, and intricate. Since then there was much wood, and no
easy passage through these countries, the Prophet says that there
would be a long valley, which never was before, but which the
rending, of which he had spoken, would produce. And for the same
purpose he adds, Reach shall the valley of the mountains to Azal.
This I think is a proper name of a place; yet some render it, next;
but I see not for what reason. The meaning then is, - that where
there were previously many hills which were not passable, or even
mountains through which it was difficult to penetrate, there would
be one continuous and even valley to a place very remote.
    And he says, that flight would be hasty, as in the days of
Uzziah, king of Judah; for it appears from sacred history that Judah
was then shaken with a terrible earthquake. The Jews, as they are
bold in their conjectures, suppose that this happened when Uzziah
approached the altar to burn incense to God; and Jerome has followed
them. But at what time that earthquake happened is not certain. Amos
says that he began to prophecy two years after an earthquake, (Am.
1: 1;) but for what cause the earth was then shaken we nowhere read:
and yet we learn from this as well as from other passages, that it
was an awful sign and presage of God's vengeance. God then intended
to announce to the Jews a dreadful calamity, when he thus shook the
earth. And for the same purpose also does Zechariah now say, that
the flight would be precipitous, as when the Jews retook themselves
to flight, as it were in extreme despair, in the time of Uzziah. As
then ye fled from the earthquake, so shall ye flee now. A long time
had indeed intervened from the death of Uzziah to the return of the
people; hence the Prophet intimates that it would be an unusual
calamity, for the like had not happened which had caused so much
terror to the Jews for many ages.
    But we must remember what I have said - that this coming of God
is not described as fearful for the purpose of threatening the Jews;
but rather in order to show that the ungodly would not be able to
stand in the presence of God, as he would terrify even those for
whose aid he would come forth. And we must also observe what has
been stated that God varies his address by his Prophets; for now he
speaks to the whole Church, in which hypocrites are mingled with the
sincere, and so threatening must be blended with promises, and then,
he directs his words especially to the elect alone, to whom he
manifests his favour.
    He says at length, And come shall Jehovah, my God. The Prophet
repeats what he had said shortly before - that God's power would be
made evident to the Jews, as though they saw it with their eyes.
There is indeed no necessity to suppose that God would actually
descend from heaven; but he teaches us, as I have said, that though
God's power would be for a time hidden, it would at length appear in
the deliverance of his elect, as though God descended for the
purpose from heaven. He calls him his God, in order to gain more
credit to his prophecy. He no doubt thus courageously assailed all
the ungodly, to whom promises as well as threatening were a mockery;
and he also intended to support the minds of the godly, that they
might not doubt but that this was promised them from above, though
they heard but the voice of a mortal man. The Prophet then with
great confidence claims God here as his God, as though he had said -
that there was no reason for them to judge of what he said by any
worldly circumstance or by his person; in short, he declares here
that he was sent from above, that he did not rashly intrude himself,
so as to promise anything which he himself had invented, but that he
was favoured with a divine mission, so that he represented God
himself.
    And this also is the object of the conclusion, which has been
overlooked by some. All the saints with thee. There seems to be here
a kind of indignation, as though the Prophet turned himself away
from his hearers, whom he observed to be in a measure prepared
obstinately to reject his heavenly doctrine; for he turns his
discourse to God. The sentence seems indeed to lose a portion of its
gracefulness, when the Prophet speaks so abruptly, Come shall
Jehovah my God, all the saints with thee. He might have said "all
the saints with him:" but as I have said, he addresses God, as
though he could not, on account of disgust, speak to malignant and
perverse men, and this serves much to confirm the authority of his
prophecy; for he not only declares boldly to men what was to be, but
also appeals to God as his witness; nay, he seems as though he had
derived by a secret and familiar colloquy what he certainly knew was
committed to him by God. But by saints, as I think, he understands
the angels; for to include the holy patriarchs and kings, would seem
unnatural and far-fetched: and angels, we know, are called saints or
holy in other places, as we have seen in the third chapter of
Habakkuk; and they are called sometimes elect angels. In short, the
Prophet shows, that the coming of God would be magnificent; he would
descend, as it were, in a visible manner together with his angels,
that men's minds might be roused into admiration and wonder. This is
the meaning.

Zechariah 14:6,7
6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be
clear, nor dark:
7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day,
nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall
be light.
    
    The Prophet confirms what we have already observed that the
Church would be subject to many troubles and commotions, so that the
faithful should not enjoy the common light, but be more miserable
than men in general. And he has ever the same object in view, to
prepare the faithful to exercise patience, and to remind them that
they are not to promise themselves such enjoyments in the holy land,
as though they were to be free from the trials of the cross. Lest
then they should deceive themselves with vain hopes, he sets before
them many evils and many calamities, that they might confidently
wait for the aid, of which he had spoken, while immersed in thick
darkness, and hardly able to distinguish between day and night. But
the rest shall be considered to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast deigned to separate
us to be thy peculiar treasure, and leadest us daily under thy
banner, and invites us so kindly and gently by the voice of thy
gospel, - O grant, that we may not reject so great a kindness, nor
render ourselves unworthy of our holy calling; and whatever evils
must be borne by us, may we sustain them with resigned minds, until
having at length finished the contests by which thou wouldst now
exercise and prove our faith, we shall be received into that blessed
rest, which is laid up for us in heaven, and has been purchased for
us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-sixth.

    We explained shortly yesterday why the Prophet says, that there
would be for some time no difference between day and night; it was
to prepare the faithful for all changes, and to show that they are
not to promise themselves anything certain or sure in this world.
Days and nights revolve throughout all seasons of the year, but the
Prophet shows that there would be an uncertain time, as though it
were twilight, or that there would not be constant light, but light
mixed with darkness. The two verses ought to be connected together,
when he says, In that day there shall not be precious light and
mingled light, or, on the contrary, thick darkness. What he says
afterwards, in that day there shall not be day or night, is
disjoined by some, but not rightly, as we shall presently see.
    But with regard to the words, light of preciousnesses, it is
agreed among all writers that the word "yekarot" means what is
excellent. As to this word then there is no ambiguity; for the
Prophet means that it shall not be a light day, such as is wont to
be during a clear sky. But as to the second word, interpreters
differ. It is written "kippa'ot": "kapha" means to coagulate, to
become thick: hence "kippa'ot" signifies density or dense darkness.
Some think it to be in construction; and others, that "waw" is to be
put in; and this is probable, as we may see from the context, though
yet it may have a twofold meaning. If indeed we join these two
words, the Prophet may understand that the light would not be very
clear, and that there would not be thick darkness. But we may take
the light of densities for that which is steady and fixed, which
gains such strength, that it cannot be darkened. But I prefer a
different view: we know that the copulative in Hebrew is often taken
adversatively; and this exposition is the most suitable, - that
there would not be clear light, but on the contrary, a density, that
is, thick darkness, which would obscure the light of the sun, or
hinder the eyes of men from enjoying clear light. This seems to be
the meaning of our Prophet, In that day there shall not be light,
that is, that day shall not be clear, that is, so far that it can be
numbered among fair and bright, or clear days; but on the contrary,
there will be densities, that is, it will be a cloudy time, for much
darkness will fill the sky, and prevent men to see the sun.
    As to the subject itself, it is sufficiently apparent what the
Prophet meant; for as I said yesterday, and have again reminded you,
it was to be a perilous time, so that the miserable Jews would
hourly and every moment be filled with fear, as they should see many
dangers around them; and there would ever be some appearance of a
sudden change. As when we find the south wind blowing, and the
heavens covered with clouds, a shower is expected, and every one
keeps within floors, and they who travel dare not proceed lest a
storm overtakes them; so also the Prophet says, that this time would
be like cloudy and dark days.
    The same is the meaning of what he adds, It shall be one day,
when it shall not be day and night; as though he had said, that
there would not be any settled state of weather. Interpreters have
given a very different view - that it would be neither day nor
night. Some give this reason, because the Lord will rule his Church
by faith; and we indeed know that our salvation is hid under the
safe keeping of faith. Others give an entirely different meaning, -
that the Lord will so fill heaven and earth by his own brightness,
that there will be no need for the sun and the moon, according to
what is said by Isaiah, "Shine to thee shall not the sun by day nor
the moon by night; but to thee shall Jehovah be an eternal light."
(Isa. 60: 19.) But these are mere refinements. The real meaning of
the Prophet, I doubt not, is, - that men would be in continual
trepidation, as wile the air is in various ways agitated, when
clouds arise, when the thunder is heard, and when the light of the
sun disappears. When such is the state of the sky, men we know fear,
for there is hardly a distinction between day and night. Thus our
Prophet warns the faithful as to future events, and prepares them
for patience, lest any storm should overwhelm them, and they should
despond when overtaken by it, but that they might look for what had
been foretold, even for darkness mixed with light, which would be a
continual twilight: and the word, twilight, the ancients have said,
is derived from one signifying what is doubtful (crepusculum a
crepero.)
    But we must also notice what he afterwards says, that this day
would towards evening be light. He here intimates, that there will
ever be a joyful end to the troubles of the faithful. Though then
they were tossed by many cares, and troubled with various kinds of
fear, as though they were in darkness, yet he says, that the evening
would be clear. And this ought to be carefully observed, for with
this solace alone is the Spirit wont to ease the sorrows of the
godly, that is, that after God has for a while tried them, there
will come shortly an end, and that a joyful one, to all their evils,
so that God will shine on them like the sun in its meridian
splendour. He calls, in short, the attention of the faithful to this
end, because God makes thus a distinction between the elect and the
reprobate; for though he afflicts both alike, and overwhelms them as
with darkness, there is yet light prepared for his elect; and after
having suffered them for a time to lie in darkness, he will make
them at length to emerge into clear light; but he deprives the
reprobate of every hope.
    This is the subject which the Prophet now handles; as though he
had said, - "There is no reason for the faithful to be disheartened
by adversities, when darkness on all sides surrounds them; for the
Lord will at length restore light to them, of which it was needful
for them to be deprived for a time." But Zechariah speaks not here
of one day, but of a period which would be like a dark day, even
until Christ by his coming restored the full light, as the Sun of
Righteousness, according to what he is called by Malachi.
    Then he says, that this day is known to Jehovah, in order that
the faithful night depend on his good pleasure, and not too
anxiously enquire about an event hidden from them and the whole
world. The day then is known, says Zechariah, only to God, though he
speaks of things well known, and which the Jews had at length to
know by experience. But his object must be regarded, for his purpose
was to restrain the godly, that they might not unnecessarily torment
themselves, for we are wont to be too curious to know things: when
God's design is to calm us, and to make us rely on his providence,
then many thoughts come across our minds, and toss us here and
there, and thus we torment ourselves with anxiety. As then it is
disease is innate in human nature, the Prophet supplies a seasonable
remedy, - that the faithful are to allow themselves to be ruled by
God, and to follow the example of their father Abraham, "The Lord
will provide:" when he was in extremity and no escape was open he
committed himself to God's providence. So also Zechariah says, that
it would be entirely dependent on the will of God alone, now to
cover the heavens with darkness, and then to restore the sun, and
also to blend darkness with light; and nothing is better for men
than to check themselves, and not to enquire more than what is
right, nor take away anything from God's power, for whenever men
murmur against God's judgements, it is the same thing as though they
wished to penetrate into heaven, and concede nothing to him except
what they themselves think right. Then, in order to check this
presumption, the Prophet says, that this day is known to Jehovah, so
that the faithful might patiently wait until the ripened end should
come, for our curiosity drives us here and there, so that we always
wish to be certain about the end, "How long is this to endure?" and
thus we complain against God; but when we are not able to
subordinate our minds to his will, then we break forth as it were
into a furious temper.
    We hence see how useful a doctrine this clause contains, where
the Prophet sets God as the judge and the arbitrator of all events,
so that he afflicts the Church as long as it pleases him, sets
bounds to adversities, and regulates all things as it seemeth good
to him; and he also covers the heavens with thick clouds, and takes
away the sight of the sun. All this then is what the Prophet would
have us to know is in God's power, and directed by his counsel. It
now follows -

Zechariah 14:8
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from
Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them
toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be.

    Here is subjoined a more cheering prophecy, - that the grace of
God would yet prevail. Whatever evils, and troubles, and dangers,
and fears, and diseases awaited the faithful, he yet says that in
such miseries they would still be made happy. And this ought to be
carefully observed, for nothing can be more suitably found to
alleviate our sorrows than to put in the balance God's benefits on
one side, and on the other the punishments and chastisements which
he brings on us; for as God's mercy and kindness always greatly
preponderate, it cannot be but that we shall be able to say with
holy Job, "If good things have we received from the Lord's hand, why
should we refuse evil things?" (Job 2: 10.) This then is what
Zechariah sets before us, - that though the Church may be harassed
by many cares, and subject to many fears, and terrified by many
dangers, and be as it were in trepidation, yet the grace of God, if
rightly viewed, is sufficient to administer invaluable comfort, for
go forth shall living waters from Jerusalem.
    This prophecy no doubt refers to the kingdom of Christ, and
this may be sufficiently proved by other passages. The Prophet then
has hitherto spoken of the many afflictions, which were nigh at
hand, in order that the Jews might not faint or entirely fail; but
he now directs their minds to the kingdom of Christ, from whence
they were to look for not only a deliverance from all evils, but
also the full restitution of the Church, and as it were the
renovation of the world.
    There is here no doubt an implied contrast between living
waters and those which soon dry up: hence he says, that they would
flow continually summer and winter. Judea, we know, was subject to
want of water, and there were no waters around Jerusalem, except the
spring of Siloam, which had waters in abundance, and supplied the
wants of the citizens. But the Prophet promises living waters, which
would not be like occasional streams, but flow continually. At the
same time he seems to regard something higher. As by living waters
he understands those which are spiritual, so he compares these
waters with all those streams which are earthly; as though he had
said, "the fountain from which the two streams arise is
inexhaustible, so that its exuberance shall never fail, but shall
send forth streams from one sea to the opposite sea, and shall water
the farthest regions of the earth."
    By the eastern sea many understand the Lake Asphaltes, but it
seems to me more probable that the Prophet speaks of the Persian
Sea; for if he had said that the waters would go forth to that lake,
the distance would be very short; but he meant on the contrary to
show, that the copiousness of the waters would be so large and
abundant that though they would pass through the whole earth, yet
their flow would never cease. By the hinder sea he no doubt meant
the Mediterranean. The import of the whole is, - that thong the
earth were previously dry, yet such would be the abundance of waters
as to be sufficient for all, not only as in former times to the
inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews in whatever part
of the country they might dwell.
    Now, since the language is metaphorical, we must bear in mind
what I have lately said, - that here is set forth the spiritual
grace of God; nor is it a new thing to apply the word waters to the
Spirit of God: "I will pour forth waters on the dry land and rivers
on the thirsty land" (Is. 44: 3;) and again, "I will give clean
waters." (Ezek. 36: 25.) There is a twofold reason why Scripture
gives the name of waters to the Holy Spirit, - because he performs
the two offices of cleansing and of watering: for we are like barren
and dry land, except the Lord by his Spirit from heaven gives us new
vigour and conveys moisture to us. As then the earth derives
moisture from heaven, that it may produce fruit, so also we must
have conferred on us by the hidden power of the Spirit whatever
vigour we may possess. Since then Zechariah promises a fountain of
living waters, he understands that God's grace would be offered to
all the Jews, so that they might drink and be satisfied, and no more
be exposed as formerly to the want of water.
    If any one objects and says, that this interpretation seems
forced, the answer is ready at hand, which is this, - that as it is
certain that the prophet here speaks of the kingdom of Christ, this
rule is to be remembered, - That whatever is foretold of Christ's
kingdom, must correspond with its nature and character. Since then
the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, there is no doubt but that when
Scripture, as we have seen, promises a large produce of corn and
wine, an abundance of all good things, tranquillity and peace, and
bright days, it intends by all these things to set forth the
character of Christ's kingdom. We hence see what the prophet means
by living waters; and then, why he says that they would go forth to
the east and to the west; and lastly, why he adds, that they would
flow in winter as well as in summer. It now follows -

Zechariah 14:9
And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall
there be one LORD, and his name one.

    Here the prophet shows more clearly, and without using a
figurative language, what might otherwise be more obscure: he says,
that Jehovah would be king. Here Zechariah compares the kingdom of
Christ with those periods of misery and calamities which had
preceded, and which had continued till the coming of Christ. We
indeed know that there had been the most dreadful scattering through
the whole land, since the time the ten tribes separated from the
family of David; for since the body of the people ceased to be one,
they wilfully contrived ruin for themselves. When therefore the
Israelites fought against Judah, the wrath of God appeared, the
fruit of their defection. We indeed know that David was not made
king by the suffrages of men, but was chosen by the decree of God.
Hence when the kingdom of Israel departed from the son of David, it
was the same as though they had refused to bear the authority of God
himself, according to what he said to Samuel, "Thee have they not
despised, but me, that I should not reign over them." (1 Sam. 8: 7.)
And yet Samuel was only a governor for a time over the people; but
when the people through a foolish zeal wished a king to be given
then, God complains that he was despised in not being allowed to
reign over them alone. This was more fully completed, when the ten
tribes separated themselves from the lawful kingdom which God
himself had established and had commanded to be inviolable. From
that time then God was not their king. This is one thing.
    Afterwards we know that the kings of Israel joined themselves
with the kings of Syria to overthrow the kingdom of Judah, and that
the Jews also sent for aid to the Assyrians, and afterwards had
recourse to the Egyptians. At length the kingdom of Israel was cut
off; then the kingdom of Judah, and the city was destroyed and the
temple burnt, so that the worship of God for a time ceased. They
afterwards returned; but we know they were ever oppressed by hard
and cruel tyranny: when they perceived that they were unprotected,
because they had refused to take shelter under the wings of God.
Though he had so often told them that they would be safe and secure
under his protection, they yet refused that favour. Therefore the
Jews then found to their great loss that God was not their king.
    Hence when Zechariah now speaks of the restoration of the
Church, he rightly says, that Jehovah would be king; that is, though
the Jews had been torn asunder and pillaged by tyrants, though they
had suffered many reproaches and wrongs, yet God would become again
their king, that He might defend them against all unjust violence
and keep them under His protection. Nothing indeed can be more
blessed than to live under the reigns of God; and this highest
happiness is ever promised to the faithful.
    We now understand the Prophet's meaning as to this part; but he
shows immediately after that this cannot be hoped for, except the
Jews really attended to true religion and worshipped God aright and
cast away their superstitions. Hence he joins together these two
things, - that the condition of the people would be a happy one,
because God would undertake the care of them and perform the office
of a king, - and then, that God would be their king, in order that
he might be rightly and sincerely worshipped by them: there shall
be, he says, one Jehovah. Here the Prophet briefly shows that the
legitimate worship of God cannot be set up, unless superstition be
abolished. We indeed know that God is jealous, as he calls himself,
so that he cannot bear rivals: for when we devise for ourselves any
sort of deity, we instantly take from God what is his own. The
Prophet then teaches us, that God cannot be truly worshipped, except
he shines alone as the supreme, so that our religion may be pure and
sound. In short, he indirectly condemns here those superstitions by
which the earth had been corrupted and polluted, and also the
superstitions by which true religion had been adulterated and the
worship under the law had been violated. For this reason he says,
that Jehovah would be one.
    He expresses this still clearer by saying, that his name would
be one. This second clause may indeed appear useless; for whatever
can be said of God is comprehended in his oneness. But as we are
wont by various artifices to cover superstitions, and ever devise
new excuses and new disguises, by which our impiety may seem
specious and plausible, the Prophet expressly adds here, that God's
name is one; as though he had said, "It is not enough for men to
declare that they acknowledge one true God or one supreme deity,
except also they agree in some true and simple faith, so that the
name of this one true God may be celebrated on the earth." But the
idea of the Prophet will become more clear if we notice the
difference between the one true God and the name of the only true
God, or the one name of God. All the philosophers with one mouth
teach, that there are not many gods, but some supreme deity, who is
the source of divinity: and this is what has been believed by all
heathen nations. But in course of time they began to imagine that
from this source many gods have emanated; and hence has come a
multitude of false gods, so that some worshipped Jupiter, others
Mercury, others Apollo; not because they thought that there are many
gods partaking of original divinity; but because they imagined that
gods have proceeded from the supreme fountain. As then the Jews
might have sought subterfuges, and excused themselves by saying that
they did not in heart worship many gods, the Prophet adds the second
clause, - that the name of God is one; which means, that there is a
certain way in which God is to be worshipped, that there is a
certain fixed rule, so that no one is to follow what he himself may
imagine to be right, and that the majesty of God ought not to be
profaned by various errors, nor should men be lost each in his own
notion, but that all ought to attend to the voice of God, and to
hear what he testifies of himself.
    We now then understand what the Prophet means: he says first,
that things would be in a happy state in Judea, when God would be
regarded as one, that is, when the whole land had been cleansed from
its defilements, and when true religion again prevailed: but as this
purity would not easily obtain footing in the world, and as men
easily decline from it, he adds, that the name of God would be one,
in order that the Jews might understand that God cannot be rightly
worshipped except he be alone worshipped; and that it cannot be one,
unless there be one faith, prescribed and certain, and not
alternating between diverse opinions, like that of the heathens,
whose religion is no other than to follow what they themselves
imagine or what they have derived from their ancestors.
    Now this is a remarkable passage: God distinguishes himself
from all idols and his worship from all superstitions; and the more
attentively we ought to consider what the Prophet teaches us,
because our inclinations, as I have said, to vanity, is so great,
and this is what experience itself sufficiently shows, and we also
see how easily superstition, like a whirlwind, carries us away, and
not only one superstition, but innumerable kinds of superstition.
The more then it behaves us to notice this truth, so that the one
name of God may prevail among us, and that no one may allow himself
the liberty of imagining anything he pleases; but that we may know
what God ought to be worshipped by us. And Christ also condemns for
this reason all the forms of worship which prevailed in the world,
by saying to the woman of Samaria, "Ye know not what ye worship, we
Jews alone," he says, "know this." (John 4: 22.) We hence see that
this one thing is sufficient to condemn all superstitions, that is,
when men follow their own fancies, and observe not a fixed and
unchangeable rule, which cannot deceive. It follows -

Zechariah 14:10
All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of
Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place,
from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the
corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's
winepresses.

    The Prophet in this verse promises two things, - that the city
would be in a very prominent place, so as to be seen at a distance,
and also, that it would be a secure and peaceable habitation.
    With regard to the former part he says, Turned shall be the
whole land into a plain. We indeed know that Jerusalem was situated
with mountains around it, its foundations, as it is said in Ps. 87:
1, were on the holy mountains. As then the country was uneven on
account of its many hills, the Prophet says, that it would become a
wide plain, so that travelling would not be rough and difficult as
before; and further, that Jerusalem would not be low in a deep
place, but would be on a plain, which would not prevent it from
being seen from whatever quarter the visitants might come.
    The whole land, he says, shall be a plain from Geba to Rimmon.
As we do not fully know what sort of country that was, nor where
Geba and Rimmon were, I shall not speak here particularly on every
word; but it is enough for us to understand the design of what is
said, which was to show - that steep places would become level
ground, so that Jerusalem might be seen from far, and that the
surface being level there would be no mountains to impede a distant
view.
    Then follows the second clause, Inhabited shall be Jerusalem in
its own place; that is, though it was formerly pulled down, and now
lies as it were dilapidated, and the buildings already begun are
very imperfect, yet it shall on itself be inhabited, it shall have
the same limits, the same boundaries: in short, the Prophet means,
that the size of the city would be the same as it was formerly.
    Zechariah, we know, performed the office of a teacher, when the
Jews began, not without great hindrances, to build the city. They
were not able at first to take in the whole compass; indeed they
thought this impracticable, until they were encouraged by Ezra and
Nehemiah, as we learn from the books of both. Since then the city
they began to build was confined in its limits, Zechariah says, that
there was no reason to despair, for in a short time it would again
attain its ancient splendour, and be extended to all its gates, as
it is afterwards stated. And a description of the ancient city, when
destroyed, is no doubt given here when he says,
    From the gate of Benjamin to the place of the first gate, (he
mentions the place of the gate, for there was then no gate, as that
part of the city remained as yet desolate,) to the gate of the
corners, from the citadel of Hananeel to the wine-vats of the king.
Though we know not fully now how far the ancient Jerusalem extended,
or what was its exact situation, it is yet certain that the Prophet
meant that such would be the greatness and magnificence of the city,
that its condition would fully equal its ancient splendour which
then had disappeared. The city, as it is well known, had been very
large; though writers do not agree on the subject, yet it is
commonly admitted, that it included 30 stadia. This was certainly no
common size; and hence the Prophet states what all thought to be
incredible, that though the extent of the city was small, it would
yet become a new Jerusalem, not inferior to the former either in
largeness or in magnificence, or in any other respect. But we must
defer what remains till to-morrow.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou gatherest us for this end,
that we may be to thee a peculiar people, and as thou hast separated
us from profane men, that thy legitimate worship may prevail among
us, - O grant, that we may all attend to thy word, and surrender
ourselves wholly to thee, and never thorn aside either to the right
hand or to the left, but continue to observe the rule which thou
hast prescribed, so that we may know by the continual flowing of thy
favour that thou rulest in the midst of us; and may we by this
enjoyment be stimulated more and more to love, worship, and fear
thee, so that consecrating ourselves, body and soul, truly and from
the heart, to thee, we may make continual advances in true religion,
until having at length put off all the filth of our flesh we shall
come to that blessed inheritance, which has been purchased for us by
the blood of thy only begotten Son - Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-seventh.

Zechariah 14:11
And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter
destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

    Zechariah concludes what he said in the last verse by saying,
that Jerusalem when restored by God to its pristine state would be a
populous city, for the indefinite verb here used means the same as
though he had said, that the number of people would be as great as
it had been before, though a small portion only had returned. We
indeed know how difficult it is to fill a city with inhabitants when
once deserted, especially after a long interval of time. But the
Prophet here exhorts the Jews to entertain hope, for the Lord would
gather again a large number of men, so as to fill the city with
inhabitants.
    He adds, there shall be no more utter destruction. By the word
"cherem" I have no doubt, the Prophet means all utter ruin, such as
had happened when the people were driven into exile. And for this
reason and in the same sense, Isaiah says, that God had sworn that
the destruction of the city would be like the deluge of Noah, (Is.
54: 9;) for he should never again bring such a grievous and dreadful
vengeance on his people. But we learn from the whole passage, that
this prophecy extends to the kingdom of Christ; for though Jerusalem
was destroyed by Titus, it is yet true that God bad been the
perpetual guardian of that city, inasmuch as the fulness of time had
come when Christ was revealed. It is then the same as though the
Prophet had said, that such should be the moderation of God's anger,
that the name of the city would wholly perish, nor the whole people
be forced to migrate. This then is what he understands by "cherem".
    He now adds, that those who returned thither shall dwell safely
in Jerusalem, for the Lord would protect them, and by an extended
hand defend them against all enemies. We have elsewhere reminded you
of the Prophet's object; for he wished to goad the tardiness and
sloth of those who made so much of their pleasures in Chaldea, that
to return to the inheritance promised them from above was unpleasant
and grievous to them. Hence he shows of how great a benefit of God
they had deprived themselves; for being dispersed among the heathen
nation they knew not that God's aid was provided for them. They
indeed deprived themselves of that promise which especially belonged
to the remnant who dwelt at Jerusalem. The Prophet had also a
particular regard to those miserable inhabitants of the land, who
having been stimulated by God's promises, had despised all dangers
and all difficulties, and then had undergone, not grudgingly, vast
troubles that they might possess their own country. The Prophet then
shows that they had no reason to repent, for the Lord would bless
them, and make them to dwell safely in the midst of enemies, by whom
we know they were on every side surrounded, and further, that the
city would become populous, though they were not then many in
number. It follows -

Zechariah 14:12
And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the
people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume
away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume
away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their
mouth.

    The Prophet adds, that though there would not be wanting many
ungodly men, who should distress the Church, and attempt many things
for its destruction, yet God would be a defender and would inflict
punishment, which would exhibit a clear and decided proof of that
paternal favour which he manifests towards his Church. But these
things do not seem to harmonise - that the people should dwell
safely at Jerusalem, and yet that there would be enemies violently
disturbing the city: but by saying, that they should dwell safely,
he means not that there would be none anxious to do them harm; but
that trusting in God's protection they would continue safe in the
greatest dangers, as they would feel persuaded that God, who
promised to stand on their side, would be stronger than all. The
habitation of the godly would then be secure, not because they
dreaded no attacks of enemies, but because they firmly believed that
they would be preserved by a power from above, though the devil
excited many people on all sides against them, and also prepared and
suborned many wicked men to contrive their ruin.
    And to this power it behaves us to raise up our thoughts when
various enemies rage against us, so that we may dwell in safety and
wait with quiet minds until God shall deliver us; for our safety is
concealed under the faithful protection of God, which is only made
known to us by the word and promises. Let us, however, bear in mind
what the Prophet teaches us here - that when God gives loose reins
to enemies, his vengeance is near, so that he will visit with
punishment all those wrongs and injuries which we patiently endure.
    This, he says, shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall
smite all people. He mentions all people again, lest a multitude of
enemies should terrify the faithful, when they found themselves
unequal to them, and almost overwhelmed by their vast number; they
were not to doubt but that the hand of God would prevail. Then he
adds, His flesh shall consume away, or melt away: there is a change
of number, but the sense is not obscured; for he says, This shall be
the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people; his flesh
shall melt away, as though he was speaking of one man; and then he
immediately adds, while he shall stand on his feet; and his eyes
shall melt away, and his tongue in their mouth. We see how the
Prophet changes the number three times; but there is in the subject
itself nothing ambiguous. He means that it would be nothing to God,
when resolved to punish the adversaries of his Church, whether they
were many or few; for he can easily destroy them all, as though he
had to do only with one man. But it seems also that Zechariah had
another thing in view - that as God's vengeance would regard each
individual, no one of them would be safe, and that thus the
vengeance of God would be universal, without any exception, and
executed on all armies and on each individual.
    We must now notice the kind of punishment which is here
described - that God would destroy them all without the hand or the
aid of men: his flesh, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve. In
this case divine vengeance is more clearly seen, that is, then
enemies, though no one fights with them, yet of themselves consume
away: and then he adds, when they shall stand on their feet; and yet
their flesh shall melt away. The Prophet no doubt alludes to the
curses of the law, among which this is especially to be observed -
that God in various ways consumes the wicked, so that they melt away
when no cause appears. (Deut. 28: 21, 22.)
    The meaning then is, that God has various means by which he can
reduce to nothing our enemies, though they may seek aid on every
side. We are therefore taught by these words to cast all our cares
on God; for when our enemies seem to be placed beyond the chance of
danger, and confidently boast that nothing adverse can happen to
them, yet in God's hand is their death and life, so that they can be
consumed by his breath only. There is then no reason for us to
depend on earthly means, when we seek to be certain respecting the
destruction of our enemies; for God can inwardly consume them;
though they may seem to stand whole and sound, yet they will be
dissolved, so that even their eyes shall melt away in their
cavities, that is, they shall fail without any external force. We
indeed know that eyes are well protected; being covered with their
defences, they seem to be beyond the reach of harm. But the Prophet
intimates that the hidden vengeance of God can penetrate into the
bowels and marrow; in short, that there is nothing so safe that it
can escape the vengeance of God. The tongue also, he says, shall
melt away, or dissolve (it is the same verb) in their mouth. He
afterwards adds -

Zechariah 14:13
And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the
LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the
hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand
of his neighbour.

    The Prophet seems again to be inconsistent with himself; for
after having declared that God would be the defender of his people,
so as to destroy and consume all people for their sake, he now adds
that there would be intestine discords, by which the Jews would
wilfully consume one another; while yet there is nothing more
improbable than that the people, who live under God's protection,
should so divide themselves into factions, as to perish miserably
without any outward enemy. But these things do not ill accord,
provided we bear in mind what I have already said - that these
things are to be taken in a different sense; for the Prophet at one
time warns the faithful of the evils which were impending, lest
being shaken by their suddenness, they should despond; at another
time he promises them a happy condition, for they would ever be the
objects of God's care. So then we may explain the matter thus -
"Though enemies on every side should unite and conspire against you,
though they should hasten with great fury and rage to destroy you,
and though a vast member at home, and domestic enemies from the
bosom of your city, should rise up against you, yet God will prevail
against them, and all your enemies shall at length be for your good
and benefit."
    This then is the reason why Zechariah blends together what
seems to be wholly inconsistent. It was necessary to know both these
things - that the faithful might be fully persuaded that God watched
over their safety, for it was his purpose to defend the holy city,
and to be its perpetual guardian - and then, that they might also be
prepared in their minds to bear many trials and troubles, lest they
should promise to themselves a joyful state, and thus indulge in
carnal security. Having now explained the Prophet's intention, we
must briefly notice the words.
    He says that there would be a great tumult from Jehovah among
them. This no doubt refers to the Jews; for the Prophet shows that
they would be not only exposed to external injuries, but also to
another evil - that they would arm themselves against one another,
as though they would tear out their own bowels. A tumult, he says,
shall be among them, which is the extreme of evils that can happen
to a city or people; for no danger is nearer than when they who
ought as one man to unite strength and courage to repel an enemy,
rage internally against themselves.
    But this passage deserves special notice, as here is described
to us the condition of the Church, such as it is to be until the end
of the world; for though the Prophet speaks here of the intermediate
time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, yet
he paints for us a living representation, by which we can see that
the Church is never to be free or exempt from this evil - that it
cannot drive away or put to flight domestic enemies. And we must
also observe, that this tumult, as he says, would be from Jehovah.
He means that whenever the Church is rent, and sects burst forth,
and many hypocrites and ungodly men, who for a time pretend to be
God's true servants, furiously assail true religion - whenever these
things arise, the Prophet means that they do not happen by chance,
but that they are God's judgements, in order to prove the faith of
his people, and to humble his Church, and also to give to his people
a victory and a crown. However this may be, though their own
ambition rouses heretics, and all the ungodly, to disturb the
Church, and though the devil excites them by his own fans, yet God
sits in the chief place, and whatever commotions rage in the Church
proceed from him. Hence Paul says that heresies must be, that those
who are approved may become manifest. (1 Cor. 11: 19.) Certainly
this is not the object of the devil; but Paul shows that it is the
high purpose of God, so that he may distinguish by severe trial
between his sincere servants and hypocrites; for he not only permits
tumults to arise, but even stirs them up. And hence also we learn,
that nothing is better than to flee to him when ungodly men race and
distort our peace; for he can easily by a nod silence those
commotions which he excites.
    He adds, Every one shall lay hold on the hand of his companion,
and rise up (or perish) shall his hand against the hand of his
neighbour. This passage may admit of a twofold meaning. The first
is, that every one for the sake of obtaining help will lay hold on
the hand of his neighbour, and yet without any advantage, for his
own hand would perish, that is, he who sought aid for his friend
could not support himself: and this is the meaning given by many
interpreters; as though the Prophet had said, that the state of
things would be so desperate, that every one would be constrained to
seek help from his friend, and yet could not obtain what he desired,
for while attempting to lay hold on the hand of his friend, he would
find that he could not grasp it. But a different meaning would
better correspond with the next verse, - that every one would
violently lay hold on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand would
rise up against the hand of his neighbour. I think then that this
part is added as explanatory, - that when God raised tumults among
the Jews, every one would start forward to act violently against his
neighbour, and raise up his hand to hurt him: for it follows -

Zechariah 14:14
And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the
heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver,
and apparel, in great abundance.

    Zechariah speaks here no doubt on the same subject; for he
adds, that there would be an intestine war between the country and
the city, though they were but one body, and since their return they
were under the same Divine banner: God had indeed been their leader
in their journey, and was in short the only remaining glory of the
people. It was then something horribly monstrous, that Judah should
join himself to enemies in order to destroy the city: yet the
Prophet says that this evil, as well as other evils, would soon be
witnessed; so that they would have not only to sustain the assaults
of enemies, who would come from far, but would also find their
brethren hostile and hurtful to them: Fight then shall Judah against
Jerusalem.
    At what time this happened, it is well known; for under
Antiochus we know that both the city and the whole land were full of
traitors; inasmuch as hardly one in a hundred continued to follow
true religion. Thus it happened, that almost all were trodden under
foot. It was not then without reason foretold by Zechariah, that the
Jews would become cruel enemies to their own brethren.
    He then adds, collected shall be the armies of all nations. The
word "cheyl" means forces, wealth and strength. I am disposed to
follow what I have already said, - that the army or strength of all
nations around would be collected to overthrow Jerusalem. The
Prophet intimates in these words that the Jews would apparently be
the most miserable of men, were their condition estimated by their
state at that time; for there would be harassing traitors within, so
that they had to fear intrigues and hidden dangers, and many people
also from every part would unite to destroy them. Nothing can be
imagined more miserable than to be assailed from within and from
without by almost the whole of mankind. But there will presently
follow a consolation; and hence we must bear in mind what I have
said, that threatening are given by way of warning, that the
faithful might courageously bear those ruinous attacks, relying on
the hope of a better state of things, according to what God had
promised.
    When afterwards he mentions gold, and silver, and garments, he
intimates that the enemies, whom he speaks of, would not come, as
though they were hungry, running to the prey; but that they would be
so savage as to seek nothing but blood; for they would be furnished
with necessaries, having an abundance of gold and silver. For what
purpose then would they come? Not to satiate their avarice, but only
to gorge human blood, and thus to extinguish the memory of the
chosen people. Even to hear this was terrible; but it was necessary
to warn the faithful, lest they should be surprised by any sudden
event. He afterwards adds -

Zechariah 14:15
And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel,
and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents,
as this plague.

    Zechariah in this verse raises up the minds of the godly, so
that they might know that their energies would effect nothing, but
that after having tried every thing they would be put to flight by
the power of God. And hence appears more evident what has been twice
repeated, - that the Prophet does not simply denounce calamities to
terrify the Jews, but to animate them to constancy, that they might
boldly exult, even when nearly overwhelmed by a vast heap of evils.
    The meaning then is, - that after Satan had tried every thing
to effect the ruin of the Church, and the ungodly had left nothing
undone, there would yet be a successful issue to the faithful; for
God would execute his vengeance, not only on men, but also on horses
and camels, and on all cattle: and since God's wrath would burn
against all animals, which are in themselves innocent, it may with
certainty be concluded, that those enemies who had provoked him by
their cruelty, could not escape his judgement, and the punishment
described here by the Prophet. He then subjoins -

Zechariah 14:16
And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the
nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to
year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast
of tabernacles.

    Zechariah here advances farther, - that those who shall have
escaped the ruin of which he had spoken shall be so humbled that
they would of their own accord submit to God. He said before, that
God would take vengeance and destroy all the enemies of his Church;
but the promise here is still more valuable, - that he would turn
the hearts of those who escaped punishment, so that without any
constraint they would become obedient; for come, he says, shall they
every year to worship God in his temple. Then the sum of what is
said is this, that God would subdue all the enemies of his Church,
and in two ways, for some he would destroy, and he would humble
others, so as to make them willing servants and ready of themselves
to obey his authority. It shall be then that every one who shall
remain of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall ascend
to supplicate God, or humbly to worship God.
    If the time be inquired, I answer, that whenever the Prophets
speak of the conversion of the nations, they are wont to speak
always in general terms; but that this is an hyperbolical language,
and that still there is nothing unreasonable in this excess, for
surely it was a wonderful work of God when a great number from the
nations became subject to him. We indeed know, that the name of the
people of Israel was universally hated, so that their religion was
disliked by almost the whole world. It was then a thing incredible
when Zechariah said, that men from all countries would be so changed
as to worship the true God of Israel. But many Churches we know were
everywhere formed in the world, and men without number professed
God's name, and undertook his yoke, and embraced that religion which
before had been despised by them, and which indeed they had
persecuted with the greatest hatred. It is therefore no wonder that
the Prophet should say, that the remnant who escaped the sword of
vengeance would at length become the willing servants of God. But we
ought to notice, as I have said, the mode of speaking commonly
adopted by the Prophets, for, in order to amplify the grace of God,
they speak in general terms, though what they say ought to be
confined to the elect alone.
    Ascend, he says, shall every one from year to year. Zechariah
speaks here also according to the apprehensions of the people.
Festivals, we know, were appointed by God; the Israelites ascended
at least three times a year unto the temple, but as this was too
hard and difficult for the miserable exiles to do, who had been
scattered through all countries, those influenced by zeal for
religion were wont to descend unto Jerusalem once a year. To this
custom of the law the Prophet now alludes, as though he had said,
"God indeed spares some, yet they will at length come to his service
without any constraint, and submit to the God of Israel." But he
speaks, as I have said, according to the rites of the law; and of
this mode of speaking we have often reminded you: I shall therefore
pass by the subject, but some additional remarks shall be made at
the end of this chapter. Ascend then shall every one to supplicate
the king, Jehovah of hosts; that is, that they might confess the
only true God to be king: for he has regard to the Prophecy which we
considered yesterday, when he said that the only true God would be
king. So also in this place, confirming the former truth he says,
that they who had before furiously assailed the Church would become
the worshipers of God, for they would understand him to be the king
of the whole world. But the remainder shall be deferred to another
time.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that thy Church at this
day is miserably torn by many discords, and that there are so many
traitorous ministers of Satan, who cease not to disturb it, - O
grant, that we may find by experience what thou hast promised by thy
Prophet, even that thou wilt be the perpetual guardian of those whom
thou hast been pleased once to choose as thine own, and whom thou
hast received into thine own embrace, so that they may courageously
proceed amidst all discords, and come forth at length as conquerors:
and may it please thee also to put forth thine hand, and to execute
that vengeance which thou hast denounced by the same Prophet, so as
to destroy and reduce to nothing not only those who openly oppose
thee and thy servants and children, but also those serpents, who by
intrigues and frauds and by other base means, harass and torment thy
Church, until we shall at length attain a full victory and triumph
in thy celestial kingdom, together with our head, even Christ Jesus
our Lord. - Amen.


Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-eighth.

Zechariah 14:17,18
17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families
of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts,
even upon them shall be no rain.
18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no
rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the
heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

    Zechariah goes on here with the same subject, - that the name
of the only true God would be known throughout the whole world, so
that all nations would unite in his worship, while the whole earth
was before polluted with various superstitions, and every one
followed his own god: but the more clearly expresses here than in
the last lecture, that vengeance was prepared for all the despisers
of the true God. He says then, that the curse of God is laid up for
all those who would not come to Jerusalem humbly to worship God to
there.
    We have said that in these words is set forth the legitimate
worship of God; for after the coming of Christ it was not necessary
to ascend into Jerusalem according to what John says in ch. 4:21
"The time comes and now is, that the true worshippers of God shall
worship God, neither in this mountains nor at Jerusalem;" but in
every part of the world. But the Prophets speak according to the
state of things in their time, and always describe the spiritual
worship of God according to the types of the law. To ascend then
into Jerusalem amounts to the same thing as to embrace true religion
and cordially to engage in the worship of the only true God, such as
has been prescribed in his word. The meaning then is, - that all who
despised the God of Israel would be accursed.
    Then what follows is mentioned by the Prophet as a part for the
whole; he declares that there would be no rain on the despisers of
God; as though he had said, that they would perceive God's
vengeance, as he would take away from them all the necessaries of
life; for by rain the Prophet means whatever is needful for the
support of life. And we know that as to the blessings of God needful
for the present life, the chief thing is, when he renders the
heavens and the earth the servants as it were of his bounty to us:
for how can we be supplied with food, except the earth by his
command open its bowels and the heavens hear the earth, as it is
said elsewhere, (Hos. 2: 21;) so that rain may irrigate it, and
render it fruitful, which must be otherwise barren?
    We now then understand the design of the Prophet, - that in
order to invite all nations to the pure worship of God, he declares
that all who refused to serve the only true God would be accursed.
He further intended by this prophecy to animate the Jews, that they
might firmly proceed in the course of true religion until the coming
of Christ, and never doubt but that the God whom they worshipped
would be the supreme king of the whole world, though before hidden
as it were in a corner of the world, while worshipped in Judea
alone. The Prophet then intimates that though God had been despised
by all nations, his name would yet be sanctified and adored; and
also, that if any deprived him of his legitimate worship they would
be visited with punishment, because they were destined to perish
through famine and want, inasmuch as the heavens would deny rain to
them, and the earth would not give them food.
    But Zechariah speaks expressly of the Egyptians: and we indeed
know that they were most inveterate enemies to true religion; and he
might have also mentioned the Assyrians and the Chaldeans; but as
the Egyptians were nearer and more contiguous to the holy land,
their hatred towards the Jews was more virulent. This is the reason
why Zechariah speaks of them particularly. It may at the same time
appear strange that he threatens them with want of rain; for we know
that Egypt expects no rain from above, because of the peculiar
condition of the country; for according as the Nile overflows, do
the inhabitants look for a fruitful produce of corn and of all other
things. The Prophet then ought not to have thus threatened the
Egyptians, for they might have justly laughed at him for saying that
there would be no rain for them, the want of which is not much felt
there. But the Prophet's intention was simply what I have already
explained, - that God would be a Father to the Jews, and also to
others who joined in his worship according to the law. Though then
the Egyptians had no need of rain, yet by this metaphor Zechariah
denounced on them sterility as the punishment of impiety.
    And we may further observe, that though the overflowing of the
Nile irrigated the whole land and made it fruitful, yet rain was by
no means useless; and it is said in Ps. 105: 32, "He turned their
rain into hail," Egypt being the place spoken of; for the Lord
destroyed all its fruit, because the rain was turned into hail. It
appears also evident from history, that rain is desirable in Egypt
in order to render the produce more abundant. But the Lord has
favoured that country with a peculiar benefit by supplying the want
of rain by the Nile.
    There is then nothing doubtful in the meaning of the Prophet,
as his object was to show, that the Lord would constrain all people
to become obedient to true religion, not only those Jews who were
far removed from Judea, but even the Egyptians themselves, who had
been always most alienated from true and pure worship.
    He adds, There shall be upon them the plague. He now speaks
more generally; and what he before specifically mentioned, he now
declares in general terms, - that God would execute vengeance and
destroy and reduce to nothing all those who took not on them the
yoke, so as to worship him sincerely, together with the Jews,
according to what the law prescribes. He again repeats the words,
who ascended not into Jerusalem; not that he intended to confine the
worship of God to ceremonies or rites under the law; but because it
was necessary, until Christ abrogated all the ancient rites, that
the worship of God should be thus described; nor could it then be
separated from these external exercises.
    But here it may be rightly inquired, why the Prophet speaks
specifically of the feast of tabernacles, since the passover was
deemed first among the festivals. The reason seems to me to have
been this, - because it was difficult to believe that the Jews would
return to their own country, that God would become again their
redeemer. Many interpreters say, that the Prophet speaks of the
feast of tabernacles, because it behaved them to be sojourners in
the world: but a similar reason might be given for other days. We
must then inquire why he mentions the feast of tabernacles and not
other feasts. Now we know that when the Prophets speak of the second
restoration of the people, they often call attention to that
wonderful deliverance from Egypt by which God had proved that he
possessed sufficient power to redeem and save his own people. To
this instance does Zechariah now allude, as I think, and says, that
God would restore his people by his wonderful and inexpressibly
great power, so that they might justly celebrate the feast of
tabernacles as their fathers formerly did: for we know why God
commanded the Jews to dwell every year under the branches of trees;
it was, that they might be mindful of that deliverance which had
been granted to their fathers; for they had continued forty years in
the desert, where they had no buildings, but huts only, made of
branches of trees. When therefore they went forth from their houses,
and dwelt as it were in the open air in tents, they thus revived the
memory of the wonderful manner by which their fathers were
delivered. Hence God, in order to show that their return from the
Babylonian exile was worthy of being remembered, says here that the
feast of tabernacles would be celebrated.
    In short, the Prophet means that God would be such a deliverer
of his people, that all the nations, even from the remotest parts,
would acknowledge it as a remarkable miracle: it is the sense then
as though he had said, that the deliverance of the people would be
an evidence of divine power so manifest and illustrious, that all
nations would acknowledge that the God of Israel is the creator of
heaven and earth, and is so endued with supreme power, that he
governs the whole world; and, in a word, that he is the only true
God who ought to be worshipped. It afterwards follows -

Zechariah 14:19
This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all
nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.

    He repeats the same thing, and almost in the same words; but
yet it is not done without reason: for we ought to consider how
difficult it was to believe what is said, as the Jews who had
returned to their country were few in number, and unwarlike, and on
every side opposed by their enemies. Since then the Church was
almost every moment in danger, it was no wonder that the faithful
had need of being strengthened under their trials, which often
disturbed and harassed their minds. This then is the reason why the
Prophet repeats often the same thing.
    This, he says, shall be the sin of Egypt and of all nations,
&c. The word "chatat" properly means wickedness, sin; but as
piaculum in Latin sometimes means sin, and sometimes expiation, so
"chatat" in Hebrew: it signifies at one time sin, at another the
sacrifice by which sin is atoned: and hence Christ is said to have
been made sin; for when he offered himself as an expiation, he
sustained the curse which belonged to us all, by having it
transferred on himself (Gal. 3: 13.) As Christ then was an
expiation, he was on this account called sin. And the Greek
translators did not change the name, because they saw that "chatat"
in Hebrew, is taken for a sacrifice or punishment as well as for
sin; hence they used the word "hamartia" indiscriminately.
    So then the Prophet says that this would be the sin or the
punishment of Egypt and of all nations, as though he had said, "If
they despise the God of Israel and condemn his worship, such a
contumacy shall not be unpunished; for God will show himself to be
the vindicator of his own glory." And hence we conclude, that
nothing ought to be more desired by us than that God should reveal
himself to us, so that we may not presumptuously wander after
superstitions, but purely worship him; for no one rightly worships
God, except he who is taught by his word. It is then a singular
favour, when the Lord prescribes to us the rule by which we may
rightly worship him: but when we assent not to his true and
legitimate worship, we here see that our whole life is accursed. It
now follows -

Zechariah 14:20
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS
UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the
bowls before the altar.

    Zechariah teaches us in this verse, that God would become the
king of the world, so that all things would be applied to his
service, and that nothing would be so profane as not to change its
nature, so as to be sanctified for the service of God. This is the
import of the whole. There is some obscurity in the words; but
interpreters for the most part have been led astray, because they
have not sufficiently attended to the design of the Prophet; and
thus they have wrested the words to their own views, while they did
not understand the subject.
    There will be, he says, an inscription on the shades or head
coverings of horses, holiness to Jehovah. No interpreters have
perceived that there is here an implied comparison between the mitre
of the high priest and all profane things; for since the high priest
was a type of Christ, there was inscribed on his tiara, Holiness to
Jehovah, "kodesh la'Adonai", and as the holiness of the temple, and
of everything belonging to the service under the law, depended on
the priesthood, this inscription must be viewed as extending to
everything in the temple, to the altar, to the sanctuary, to the
sacrifices, to the offerings, to the candlestick, to the incense,
and in short, to all sacred things.
    What now does the Prophet mean? There shall be, ho says, that
inscription which the high priest bears on his head, holiness to
Jehovah; there shall be, he says, this inscription on the stables of
the horses.
    As to the word "metzilot", it is only found here. Some derive
it from "tzul", and others from "tzalah"; but the more received
opinion is that it comes from "tzalal", in which the lamed is
doubled. And some render it trappings; others, reins; others, bells;
and all only conjecture, for there is no certainty. Some also render
it the deep; and this sense may be also suitable. But what I have
already stated seems to me more probable - that the shades or
blinkers of horses are meant, and are here metaphorically called
stables. Though then the stable of a horse is a mean and sordid
place, and often filthy, yet the Prophet says that it would become
holy to the Lord.
    The meaning then is, that no place was so profane which would
not be made holy when God reigned through the whole world. But if
any one prefers trappings, or warlike harness, I do not object; for
this view also is not unsuitable. Nothing is less holy than to shed
human blood; and hence the Scripture says, that their hands are
polluted who justly slay an enemy in war; not because slaughter is
of itself sinful, but because the Lord intended to strike men with
terror, that they might not rashly commit slaughter. It would not
then ill suit this place to say, that the Lord would make holy the
trappings of horses, so that nothing disorderly would hereafter be
done in war, but that every one putting on arms would acknowledge
God to be a judge in heaven, and would not dare, without a just
cause, to engage with his enemy.
    Ridiculous and puerile is what Theodore says in the first book
of his Ecclesiastical history. He quotes this passage, and says that
it was fulfilled when Helena, the mother of Constantine, adorned the
trappings of a horse with a nail of the cross; for her purpose was
to give this to her son as a sort of charm. One of those nails by
which she thought Christ was crucified, she put in the royal diadem;
of the other she caused the bit of a bridle to be made, or according
to Eusebius, to be partly made; but Theodore says that the whole was
made of it. These are indeed rank trifles; but yet I thought proper
to refer to them, that you might know how foolish that age was.
Jerome indeed rejects the fable; but as it was believed by many, we
see how shamefully deluded at that time were many of those who were
accounted the luminaries of the Church. I now return to the words of
the Prophet.
    He says, that upon the stables, or upon the trappings of the
horses, there would be this inscription - Holiness to Jehovah -
"kodesh la'Adonai": then he adds, All the pots in the house of
Jehovah shall be as the vessels before the altar; that is, whatever
was before only applied to profane uses, would be invested with
holiness. I then give this interpretation - that pots or kettles
would be like the vessels of the altar, as the whole apparatus for
cooking would be converted to the service of God; as though he had
said that there would be no profane luxuries, as before, but that
common food would be made holy, inasmuch as men themselves would
become holy to the Lord, and would be holy in their whole life and
in all their actions.
    But most go astray in supposing that the trappings would be
made into pots; for the Prophet meant another things that holiness
would exist among men in peace as well as in war, so that whether
they carried on war, or rested at home, whether they ate or drank,
they would still offer a pure sacrifice to God, both in eating and
drinking, and even in warfare. Such then is the view we ought to
take of the Prophet's words - that all the pots in the house of
Jehovah shall be like the vessels before the altar; that is,
"whatever has hitherto been profaned by the intemperance and
luxuries of men, shall hereafter become holy, and be like the
vessels of the temple itself."
    Jerome philosophises here with great acuteness, as the Prophet
intimated that the sacrifices offered under the law would be of no
account, because God would no longer require the fat of beasts, nor
any of the ritual observations, but would desire only prayers, which
are the sacrifices approved by him; and hence he renders "mizrakim"
bowls, and not vessels, a word of wider meaning; but it signifies
the latter.
    We now see that what Zechariah meant was this - that God would
so claim the whole world as his own, as to consecrate men and all
their possessions wholly to his own service, so that there would be
no longer any uncleanness, that whether they ate or drank, or
engaged in war, or undertook any other work, all things would be
pure and holy, for God would always be before their eyes. Let us
proceed -

Zechariah 14:21
Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the
LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of
them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the
Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.

    The Prophet explains here more clearly what we have already
considered - that such would be the reverence for God, and the fear
of him through the whole world, that whatever men undertook would be
a sacrifice to him: he therefore says, that all the kettles, or
pots, or vessels, would be sacred to God. And this is fulfilled when
men regard this end - to glorify God through their whole life, as
Paul exhorts us to do. (1 Cor. 10: 31.) Our provisions and our beds,
and all other things, become then holy to God, when we really devote
ourselves to him, and regard in all the actions of our life the end
which I have mentioned, even to testify in truth that he is our God,
and that we are under his guidance. By such comparisons then does
Zechariah teach us, that men will be sacred to God; for nothing they
touch shall be unclean, but what was before profane shall be
sanctified to his glory.
    Come, he says, shall they who sacrifice, and shall boil flesh
in pots; as though he had said, That such would be the multitude of
men who would ascend to offer sacrifices to God, that the vessels of
the temple before in use would not be sufficient. It would hence be
necessary to apply for that purpose what was previously profane. The
language of Isaiah is similar, for he says that they who were
Levites would become priests of the first order, and that those of
the common people would become Levites, so that they might all come
nigh to God. (Isaiah 66: 20, 21.) The meaning then of the Prophet is
now clear - that he wished to stir up the Jews to constancy and
firmness, who regarded their small number as their reproach and were
almost disheartened: as then they thought that they had in vain
returned to their own country, as the Lord did not gather the whole
people, he says that God's worship would become more celebrated than
at the time when the state of things was most flourishing in Judea;
for assemble they would, from the whole world, to offer sacrifices
to God at Jerusalem, so that the whole city, with all its utensils,
would be sacred to God, for the pots and the sacred vessels of the
temple, used before under the law, would not be sufficient.
    And he adds, And there shall be no Canaanite in the land: the
meaning is, that the Church would become pure from all defilements:
and this change ought to have given no small comfort to the Jews in
their sad and calamitous state; for God had used no small severity,
when all were driven into exile; and many tokens of this dreadful
rigour still remained, since very few worshipped God, and were
despised by all, so that true religion was exposed to the contempt
and ridicule of all nations. This compensation then, that the Lord
would by this remedy cleanse his Church from its filth, must have
greatly allayed their sorrow: on this subject I have already said
much.
    Zechariah now briefly promises that the Church would become
pure, so that all would from the heart and sincerely worship God,
and that there would be no mixture of hypocrites to pollute the
temple and holy things. But this seems strange, since the Church has
ever been contaminated by many pollutions: and hence John the
Baptist compares it to a floor, where the chaff is mixed with the
wheat; and it is also compared to a net, into which are gathered
many fishes, some good and some bad; and also at this day, in the
kingdom of Christ, the Church is subject to this evils that it
cannot cast out all corruptions: it seems then that the Prophet has
spoken hyperbolically. But what we have elsewhere said ought to be
borne in mind - that a comparison is made between the ancient state
of the people and their second state, when the Church was renewed.
As the religion had been in the most disgraceful manner corrupted,
and as the Jews had impudently boasted that they were the holy
people of God, while they were the most wicked of men, the Prophet
justly says, that the Church when renewed would be purer; for the
Lord would cleanse it by the cross, as gold and silver are cleansed,
which are not only tried by the fire, but become also brighter,
because the dross is removed. This is simply what the Prophet means
when he says, that there will be no Canaanite among the people of
God; that is, there will be no foreign or profane men, mingled with
the faithful, to pollute the pure worship of God.
    Some have wrested the passage and applied it to the last coming
of Christ. But this is inconsistent with the subject in hand. At the
same time I allow that the kingdom of Christ, according to the
prophetic mode of writing, is here described from its commencement
to its end. When God therefore purposed to renew his Church, he
cleansed it from much filth, and still daily cleanses it, nor will
he cease to do so, until, after all the defilements of the world
having been removed, we shall be received into the celestial
kingdom. Whenever then the Prophets speak of perfection under the
reign of Christ, we ought not to confine what they say to one day or
to a short time, but we ought to include the whole time from the
beginning to the end. Hence when Christ appeared in the world, then
began to shine the splendour of which Zechariah now speaks: but the
Lord will go on until that shall be completed which now makes
continual progress.
    Some read, There shall be a merchant no more, &c.; and they
have some reason for what they say, for the word is sometimes
rendered merchant: but as in this case, we must have recourse to
allegories, and take merchants for impious corrupters who make a
merchandise of God's worship, or give this interpretation, that
there shall be no merchant any more, because all would freely bring
their offerings, - as these explanations are not appropriate, it is
better to take the passage simply as it is - that the Lord will
gather his elect, so that pure sacrifices will be offered by them
all; and that there will be no hypocrites any more to contaminate
and corrupt the Church, or to adulterate the worship of God.
    
Prayer.
    
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to choose us as
thy peculiar treasure, and to consecrate us to thyself in the person
of thy only-begotten Son, - O grant, that we may so follow holiness
through the whole course of our life, that thy glory may shine forth
in all our works: and may we never undertake anything except for
this end - that thy name may be more and more glorified, and may we
be holy both in body and soul, and free from all the pollutions of
the flesh and of the world, that we may be thus confirmed in the
hope of our calling, and be encouraged to proceed during the
remainder of our course, until we shall at length reach that glory
which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten
Son. - Amen.
    

End of Calvin's Commentary on Zechariah.