(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 8)
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 
    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 
    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. 
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.

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 9...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-08.txt