(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 5)
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 
    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 
    Behold I come, he says, and I will dwell in the midst of thee. 
God dwelt then among the Jews, for the building of the temple had 
been begun, and sacrifices had been already offered; but this 
dwelling was typical only. It hence follows, that some new kind of 
presence is here pointed out, when God was to reveal himself to his 
people, not under ceremonial figures and symbols, but by dwelling, 
at the fullness of time, substantially among them; for Christ is the 
temple of the Godhead, and so perfectly unites us to God the Father, 
that we are one with him. And it ought further to be carefully borne 
in mind, that the Prophet does here also make a distinction between 
the ancient types of the law and the reality, which was at length 
exhibited in Christ; for there is no need now of shadows, when we 
enjoy the reality, and possess the completion of all those things 
which God only shadowed forth under the law. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that we continually 
tremble in the midst of dangers, and often stumble and fall through 
the infirmity of our flesh, - O grant, that we may learn so to rely 
on the strength and help which thou promisest to us, that we may not 
hesitate to pass through all kinds of dangers, and boldly and firmly 
to fight under thy banner; and may we be thus gathered more and more 
into the unity of thy Church, until having, finished all our 
troubles and contests, we shall at length reach that blessed and 
celestial rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine 
only-begotten Son. - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 6...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-05.txt