(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 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. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 6... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-05.txt .