(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 4)
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 
    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. 
    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. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 5...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-04.txt