(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 9) Lecture One Hundred and Forty-second. Zechariah 4:7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. Here the angel pursues the same subject which we have been already explaining - that though the beginning was small and seemed hardly of any consequence and importance, yet God would act in a wonderful manner as to the building of the temple. But as this was not only arduous and difficult, but also in various ways impeded, the angel now says, that there would be no hindrance which God would not surmount or constrain to give way. He compares to a mountain either the Persian monarchy or all the hosts of enemies, which had then suddenly arisen in various parts, so that the Jews thought that their return was without advantage, and that they were deceived, as the event did not answer to their wishes and hopes. We now then perceive the design of the Holy Spirit: as Satan attempted by various artifices to prevent the building of the temple, the angel declares here that no obstacle would be so great as to hinder the progress of the work, for God could suddenly reduce to a plain the highest mountains. What art thou, great mountain? The expression has more force than if the angel had simply said, that all the attempts of enemies would avail nothing; for he triumphs over the pride and presumption of those who then thought that they were superior to the Jews: "Ye are," he says, "like a great mountain; your bulk is indeed terrible, and sufficient at the first view not only to weaken, but also to break down the spirits; but ye are nothing in all your altitude." But the text may be read in two ways, "What art thou, great mountain? A plain before Zerubbabel;" or, "What art thou, great mountain before Zerubbabel? A plain." The latter rendering is the best, and it is also what has been universally received. And he says that this mountain was before Zerubbabel, that is, in his presence, for it stood in opposition to him. Now this doctrine may be fitly applied to our age: for we see how Satan raises up great forces, we see how the whole world conspires against the Church, to prevent the increase or the progress of the kingdom of Christ. When we consider how great are the difficulties which meet us, we are ready to faint and to become wholly dejected. Let us then remember that it is no new thing for enemies to surpass great mountains in elevation; but that the Lord can at length reduce them to a plain. This, then, our shield can cast down and lay prostrate whatever greatness the devil may set up to terrify us: for as the Lord then reduced a great mountains to a plain, when Zerubbabel was able to do nothing, so at this day, however boldly may multiplied adversaries resist Christ in the work of building a spiritual temple to God the Father, yet all their efforts will be in vain. He afterwards adds, He will bring forth the stone of its top. The relative is of the feminine gender, and must therefore be understood of the building. Zerubbabel shall then bring forth the stone, which was to be on the top of the temple. By the stone of the top, I understand the highest, which was to be placed on the very summit. The foundations of the temple had been already laid; the building was mean and almost contemptible: it could not however be advanced, since many enemies united to disturb the work, or at least to delay it. Nevertheless the angel promises what he afterwards explains more fully - that the temple would come to its completion, for Zerubbabel was to bring forth and raise on high the stone of the top, which was to be on the very summit of the temple. And then he subjoins, shoutings, grace, grace, to it; that is, God will grant a happy success to this stone or to the temple. The relative here again is feminine; it cannot then be applied to Zerubbabel, but to the temple or to the stone: it is however more probable that the angel speaks of the temple. And he says that there would be shoutings; for it was necessary to encourage the confidence of the faithful and to excite them to prayer, that they might seek, by constant entreaties, a happy and prosperous issue to the building of the temple. The angel, then, bids all the godly with one voice to pray for the temple; but as all prosperous events depend on the good pleasure of God, he uses the word "chen", grace, which he repeats, that he might more fully encourage the faithful to perseverance, and also that he might kindle their desire and zeal. We now then see what this verse on the whole contains: first, the angel shows that however impetuously the ungodly might rage against the temple, yet their attempts would be frustrated, and that though they thought themselves to be like great mountains, it was yet in the power and will of God to reduce them to a plain, that is, suddenly to lay them prostrate. This is one thing. Then secondly, he adds, that a happy success would attend the building of the temple; for Zerubbabel would bring forth the top-stone, the highest. And lastly, he subjoins, that the faithful ought unanimously to pray, and so to persevere with the greatest ardour and zeal, that God might bless the temple, and cause the building of it to be completed. It now follows - Zechariah 4:8,9 8 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. He confirms in this passage what I lately stated - That there was no reason for the faithful to entertain doubts or to feel anxious, because they saw that the beginning of the building was mean and despised by the world; for the Lord would at length show that it was built by his sanction and command, and that it would succeed far better than all of them had thought. But he says that the word of Jehovah came to him; and yet at the end of the next verse he shows that this address came from the mouth of the angel. But it is a well-known and a common mode of speaking, that God himself is said to speak, when he employs either angels or men as his agents; for the person of the messenger lessens in no degree the reverence due to the word: the majesty, then, of God ought to remain inviolable in his word, whether brought to us by men or by angels. Now the Prophet felt assured that nothing was adduced by the angel, but what he conveyed as the minister of God. The sum of the whole is, that the temple, though some interruptions happened, was yet so begun that its completion was at length to be expected; as God had made use of the labours of Zerubbabel, so he would not forsake the work of his hands. Since, then, God was the chief founder of the building, it could not be but that the temple would at length be completed. This is what the angel had in view in these words, The hands of Zerubbabel have founded this house. Of the foundation there was indeed no doubt; but many believed that the building would ever remain unfinished, for Satan had already by means of the most powerful enemies impeded its progress. As then despair had laid hold on the minds of almost all, the angel declares that Zerubbabel would gain his object in finishing the temple which he had begun. He afterwards adds, Thou shalt know that God has sent me to you. Of this knowledge we have spoken elsewhere. The meaning is, that the event would be a sure and suitable proof, that nothing had been rashly undertaken by them, but that the temple was built by God's command, for his power would be evident in its completion. And he addresses the Prophet, who though he was fully persuaded of the event and of the fulfilment of this prophecy, yet learnt by what took place that the angel who gave the promise was sent from above. We have said elsewhere that there are two kinds of knowledge; one is of faith, which we derive from the word, though the thing itself does not appear; the other is of experience, when God adds accomplishment to the promise, and proves that he had not spoken in vain and this is the knowledge which the angel means when he says, Thou shalt know that I have been sent from above to you. Now if this be applied to Christ, it may, as I have said, be justly done; for it is certain that angels were then sent in such a manner that Christ was the chief. Since, then, nothing was undertaken as to the building of the temple without Christ being the leader, he rightly says here that he was sent by the Father. It afterwards follows - Zechariah 4:10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth. Here the angel reproves the sloth and fear of the people, for the greater part were very faint-hearted; and he also blames the Jews, because they formed a judgement of God's work at the first view, Who is he, he says, that has despised the day of paucities? He does not ask who it was, as though he spoke only of one, or as though they were few in number or insignificant but he addresses the whole people, who were chargeable with entertaining this wrong feeling; for all were cast down in their minds, because they thought that the work begun would be a sport to the ungodly, and would come to nothing, according to what we read in Nehemiah, (3: 12,) that the old men wept, so that nearly all threw down their tools, and left off the building of the temple. We hence see that not a few despised the small beginnings, and that the minds of all the people were dejected, for they thought that they laboured in vain while building the temple, which made no approach to the glory and splendour of the former temple: "What are we doing here? we seek to build a temple for God; but what is it? does it correspond to the temple of Solomon? No, not in the tenth degree; yet God has promised that this temple would be most glorious." While then they were considering these things, they thought either that the time was not come, or that they toiled in vain, because God would not dwell in a tent so mean. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Who is he that has despised the day of paucities? God then sets himself in opposition to an ungrateful and ill- disposed people, and shows that they all acted very foolishly, because they cast and fixed their eyes only on the beginning of things, as though God would not surpass by his power what human minds could conceive. As then God purposed in a wonderful manner to build the temple, the angel reproves here the clamours of the people. He then adds, They shall rejoice when they shall see the workman's plummet in the hard of Zerubbabel. Though he had adopted a severe and sharp reproof, he yet mitigates here its severity, and promises to the Jews that however unworthy they were of such kindness from God, they would yet see what they had by no means expected, even Zerubbabel furnished with everything necessary for the completion of the temple. Hence they shall see Zerubbabel with his tin-stone; that is, with his plummet. As builders in our day use a plumb-line, so he calls that in the hand of Zerubbabel a tin-stone, which he had when prepared to complete the temple. This doctrine may be also applied to us: for God, to exhibit the more his power, begins with small things in building his spiritual temple; nothing grand is seen, which attracts the eyes and thoughts of men, but everything is almost contemptible. God indeed could put forth immediately his power, and thus rouse the attention of all men and fill them with wonder; he could indeed do so; but as I have already said, his purpose is to increase, by doing wonders, the brightness of his power; which he does, when from a small beginning he brings forth what no one would have thought; and besides, his purpose is to prove the faith of his people; for it behaves us ever to hope beyond hope. Now when the beginning promises something great and sublime, there is no proof and no trial of faith: but when we hope for what does not appear, we give due honour to God, for we depend only on his power and not on the proximate means. Thus we see that Christ is compared to a shoot, which arises from the stem of Jesse. (Is. 11: 1.) God might have arranged that Christ should have been born when the house of David was in its splendour, and when the kingdom was in a flourishing state: yet his will was that he should come forth from the stem of Jesse, when the royal name was almost cut off. Again, he might have brought forth Christ as a full-grown tree; but he was born as an insignificant shoot. So also he is compared by Daniel to a rough and unpolished stone cut off from a mountain. (Dan. 2: 45.) The same thing has also been accomplished in our age, and continues still at this day to be accomplished. If we consider what is and has been the beginning of the growing gospel, we shall find nothing illustrious according to the perceptions of the flesh; and on this account the adversaries confidently despise us; they regard us as the off-scourings of men, and hope to be able to cast us down and scatter us by a single breath. There are many at this day who despise the day of paucity, who grow faint in their minds, or even deride our efforts, as though our labour were ridiculous, when they see us sedulously engaged in promoting the truth of the gospel; and we ourselves are also touched with this feeling: there is no one who becomes not sometimes frigid, when he sees the beginning of the Church so mean before the world, and so destitute of any dignity. We hence learn how useful it is for us at this day to be reminded, that we shall at length see what we can by no means conjecture or hope for according to present appearances; for though the Lord begins with little things, and as it were in weakness, yet the plummet will at length be seen in the hand of the Architect for the purpose of completing the work. There is at this day no Zerubbabel in the world, to whom the office of building the temple has been committed; but we know that Christ is the chief builder, and that ministers are workmen who labour under him. However then may Satan blind the unbelieving with pride and haughtiness, so that they disdain and ridicule the building in which we labour; yet the Lord himself will show that he is the chief builder, and will give to Christ the power to complete the work. He afterwards adds, These seven are the eyes of Jehovah, going round through the whole earth. The angel calls the attention of Zechariah to what we have before observed; for the discourse was respecting the plummet, and Zechariah said, that there were shown to him seven eyes in that stone. The angel explains what those seven eyes meant, even that the Lord by his providence would conduct the work to its completion. But we have said that seven eyes are attributed to God, that we may be assured that nothing is hid from him; for no one among men or angels possesses so great a clear-sightedness but that he is ignorant of some things. Many of Gods mysteries, we allow, are hid from angels; but when they are sent forth, they receive as much revelation as their office requires. But the angel shows here, that we ought by no means to fear that anything will happen which God has not foreseen; for the seven eyes, he says, go around through the whole earth: not that God has need of seven eyes; but we know what the number seven means in Scripture; it signifies perfection. The meaning then is - that God would sufficiently provide that nothing should happen that might disturb him, or turn him aside, or delay him in the execution of his work. How so? because there were seven eyes; that is, he by his providence would surmount all difficulties, and his eyes went round through the whole earth, so that the devil could devise nothing behind or before, on the right hand or on the left, above or below, which he could not easily frustrate. We now then perceive the object of the Prophet. With regard to the words, some render "eleh" in the neuter gender, "These are seven, they are the eyes of God." But as to the sense, there is no ambiguity: for the angel would have the faithful to recumb on God's providence, in order that they might be secure and fear no danger; as the Lord would remove whatever was contrary to his purpose. It now follows - Zechariah 4:11-14 11 Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? 12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? 13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth. The same vision is again related, at least one similar to that which we have just explained; only there is given a fuller explanation, for the Prophet says that he asked the angel what was meant by the two olive-trees which stood, one on the right, the other on the left side of the candlestick, and also by the two pipes of the olive-trees. Some render "shevilim" ears of corn, thinking that the branches of the olive-trees are compared to ears of corn, because they were full and loaded with berries; but the metaphor seems to me immaterial. The word in Hebrew is indeed ambiguous; but it often means a pipe, or a running or flowing; and this sense best suits this passage; and I wonder that this meaning has been overlooked by all interpreters; for no doubt necessity constrained them to retake themselves to this metaphor, however unnatural it was. But we know that this spectacle was presented to Zechariah in order to show that the olive-tree continually supplied abundance of oil, lest the wick should become dry, and lest the lamps should thus fail. Since then on every side there were pourers or pipes, and three tubes received the oil from one olive-tree, and four received it from the other, so that great abundance thus flowed from the two olive-trees, and since there were also seven pipes, we see how suitable it was that they should be between the olive-trees on the right and on the left, and also that their tubes for the oil should be between the pourers and the two pipes. As then the oil ran through the pourers and passed through the two pipes, he asks the angel what these flowing meant? The answer was, These are the two sons of oil, who stand before the Lord of all the earth; that is, they are the two fountains which supply oil from God himself, lest the lamps should fail through the want of it. This is the import of the whole. I have said that there is some difference in the visions though the angel relates hardly anything new, except respecting the flowing and the tubes; but as a new explanation is given, Zechariah no doubt more fully considered what he had slightly looked on before. The more attentive then to the vision the Prophet became, the more confirmed he was; for God showed to him now what he had not sufficiently observed before, namely, that there were pipes or tubes through which the oil flowed into each of the pourers, and further, that these flowing or a continual running of the oil, was like that of a river, which runs through its own channel. But God intended to instruct his Prophet by degrees, that we may learn at this day to apply our thoughts to the understanding of his doctrine; for the instruction to be derived from it is not of an ordinary kind, as I have already reminded you. Indeed the state of things in our time is nearly the same with that of his time: for Christ now renews by the power of his Spirit that spiritual temple which had been pulled down and wholly demolished; for what has been the dignity of the Church for many ages? Doubtless, it has been for a long time in a dilapidated state; and now when God begins to give some hope of a new building, Satan collects together many forces from all parts to prevent the progress of the work. We are also tender and soft, and even faint-hearted, so that hardly one in a hundred labours so courageously as he ought. We hence then learn how necessary for us is this doctrine: it was not, therefore, to no purpose that the Prophet did not apprehend at once and in an instant what was presented to him in the vision, but made progress by degrees. We have also mentioned before, that the desire of improvement observed in Zechariah ought to be noticed. For though we attain not immediately what God teaches, yet the obscurity of a passage ought not to damp our ardour; but we ought rather to imitate the Prophet, who, in things difficult and unknown to him, asked explanations from the angel. Angels are not indeed sent now to us from heaven to answer our questions; but yet no one shall be without benefit who will humbly and with a sincere desire ask of God; for God will either by his ministers so elucidate what seems obscure to us and full of darkness, that we shall know that there is nothing but what is clear in his word; or he will by the Spirit of knowledge and judgement supply what is deficient in the ministrations of men. And this is also the reason why the angel replies, Dost thou not know what these mean? For he does not upbraid Zechariah with ignorance, but rather reminds all the faithful, that they ought to quicken themselves, and to exert all their ardour to learn, lest sloth should close up the way against them. This reply, then, of the angel no doubt belongs to us all, "Dost thou not know what these mean?" We ought to remember that the things we esteem as common far exceed our thoughts. It indeed often happens that one runs over many parts of Scripture, and thinks that he reads nothing but what is clear and well known, while yet experience teaches us that we are inflated with too much self-confidence; for we look down, as it were from on high, on that doctrine which ought, on the contrary, to be reverently adored by us. Then let every one of us, being warned by this sentence of the angel, acknowledge that he as yet cleaves to first principles, or, at least, does not comprehend all those things which are necessary to be known; and that therefore progress is to be made to the very end of life: for this is our wisdom, to be learners to the end. I come now to the answers of the angel, These are the two sons of oil. Some understand by the two sons of oil a king and a priest; but this is by no means suitable. There is no doubt but that he calls the perpetual flowing the two sons of oil; as though he had said, that it could not possibly be that the grace of God should ever fail to preserve the Church, as God possesses all abundance, and bids his grace so to flow, as that its abundance should never be diminished. He therefore says, that they stand with the Lord of the whole earth: for "al" sometimes means with, and sometimes concerning; but I prefer taking its simple meaning; therefore, stand do the sons of oil with the Lord. Some render, "nigh the Lord," but improperly; for they pervert the Prophet's meaning, inasmuch as the angel means that these two sons of oil stood with God, as though he had said, that there is such fullness of grace in God, that it could never be exhausted. Though then the oil flowed, it would yet be sufficient to replenish the seven lamps, that is, fully; so that God would raise up his Church, preserve it safe, and lead it to the highest perfection. Hence God is not so poor but that he can continually supply as much grace as will be sufficient for the preservation of his Church. How so? because there are two sons of oil, that is, two continual flowing from him, so that the faithful shall really find, that when they are enriched by the gifts of God, they are in no danger of being in want. This is the meaning. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since Satan at this day sets against us many terrors to cast us down, and we are very weak, - O grant, that with our eyes lifted above we may meditate on that invincible power which thou possesses, and by which thou canst overcome all the hindrances of this world: and then, when nothing in this world but what is contemptible appears to us as capable to confirm and support our faith, may we, by the eye of faith, behold thine hidden power, and never doubt but that thou wilt at length perform what the world at this day thinks to be impossible and therefore ridicules; and may we so constantly persevere in this confidence, that every one of us may devote to thee his labour to the end, and never faint in the work of promoting the spiritual building, until at length we ourselves shall be gathered, and others shall be gathered through our labours, to offer to thee not only spiritual sacrifices, such as thou receives now from us, but also to offer to thee, together with the angels, eternal sacrifice of praise and triumphant thanksgiving, on seeing perfected what at this day is only weakly begun. - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 10... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-09.txt .