(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 15)
Chapter 8. 
Lecture One Hundred and forty-eighth. 
Zechariah 8:1,2 
1 Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 
2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great 
jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. 
    Some think that at the beginning of this chapter the people are 
reproved for their unfaithfulness, because they conducted themselves 
towards God in a way they ought not to have done, as they had 
violated that sacred marriage which God had been pleased to contract 
with them; for it is a common mode of speaking for God to compare 
himself to jealous husbands, when he sees his Church dealing with 
him unfaithfully. But this meaning is inadmissible: for the verb 
"kana'", connected as it is here, is to be taken in a good sense, as 
signifying concern or affection, inasmuch as "lamed" means, "on 
account of," or "for;" and we have in the first chapter a similar 
sentence; and it is evident that in many other places the meaning is 
no other, but that God burned with wrath against all the enemies of 
his Church, as he regarded his Church with singular love. Emulation 
then here does not mean jealousy, but is to be taken in a different 
sense, as signifying that concern which God had for the protection 
of his Church. The whole then of this chapter proves that God would 
be the defender of his people, and that such was his care for the 
safety of all the godly, that he resolved to oppose the whole world, 
if necessary, for their protection. This is the sum of the whole. 
    He then says, that the word of Jehovah came to him; we hence 
learn, that this was a distinct prophecy. He adds, I have been 
zealous for Sion (for as we have said, the letter lamed is to be 
thus taken) with great zeal. This was indeed an incredible change, 
for God had for a time restrained himself, while the ungodly at 
their pleasure harassed the Church, so that they thought that they 
could do so with impunity. As God then had for some time remained at 
rest, what the Prophet says here could not have been easily 
believed, that is, that God would, through a sudden jealousy, 
undertake the cause of the Church. Hence the indignation, 
immediately subjoined, must be regarded with reference to enemies, 
as though he had said, that all the ungodly would now perceive what 
they had by no means expected, - that God was the protector of 
Jerusalem. It now follows - 
Zechariah 8:3 
Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the 
midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; 
and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. 
    The Prophet now more clearly explains what he intended; but it 
was necessary to preserve this order - that enemies were to be by 
force ejected from their possession, and the Church delivered, 
before God could dwell in the midst of it; for how could God have 
proved that Jerusalem was under his guardianship and protection 
without having first subdued its enemies? It was not then without 
reason that the Prophet commenced with this promise - that God was 
prepared for war, and was burning with wrath, that he might deliver 
his Church from the hands of enemies. Then follows the fruit of the 
victory; for it would not have been enough for God to avenge the 
wrongs done to his chosen people, without gathering the dispersed 
and restoring the Church to its ancient condition. For it often 
happens that those who have been cruelly treated find an avenger; 
but no comfort, or very little comfort, comes to them, as they are 
made nothing better; but the Lord here refers to these two things - 
that he would take up arms to defend his chosen people, and also 
that he would become, as the case was, the defender and protector of 
the holy city. 
    The repetition of the sentence, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, 
almost in every verse, was no doubt intended for the purpose of 
strengthening their faith; for it was, as I have already said a 
thing incredible. It was then necessary to bring forward often the 
name of God, that the faithful might more readily give assent to the 
prophecy which they knew proceeded from God, even the God of hosts, 
whose power is infinite, and to whom nothing is difficult, as we 
shall find it presently stated. 
    And he says that he had returned; not that the accomplishment 
of this prophecy was then visible, but the decree is put for the 
reality. God had been, as it were, for a long time silent, while his 
people were exposed as a sport to their enemies; and he seemed then 
to be far away from Jerusalem, for the place was desolate and waste, 
yea, it was a scene of dreadful vengeance. God, then, during the 
whole of that time, seemed to have forsaken the place, according to 
the testimony of Ezekiel, who says, that God had removed from the 
temple, and that it was an empty place, and as it were profane. On 
this account he says now that he had returned; for he intended 
openly to show that it had not in vain been made the seat of his 
glory, when he had commanded his name to be there invoked. It is 
indeed true that mount Sion had never been forsaken by God; but no 
other opinion could have been formed, when there were there no 
altar, no sacrifices, and no people to worship God; for this is said 
with reference to divine worship; and the holiness of the mount was 
also nothing, except as far as God had consecrated it to himself. 
Hence these two things were connected - the holiness of the mount 
and the presence of God. It therefore follows that God, according to 
the judgement of men, was absent, when no religion appeared there, 
and the Jews offered there no sacrifices. 
    He further says, that he had returned, that he might dwell in 
the midst of Jerusalem. It was necessary to add this, that the Jews 
might be convinced that his return was not in vain; for many said 
that they foolishly made too much haste, and that though the 
commencement had been favourable, yet many troubles would come upon 
them in future, and that their building would be only for a short 
time, and that though they spent much toil and labour in rebuilding 
the city, it would yet be only for a season, as their enemies would 
shortly come and destroy their new edifices. Since then reports of 
this kind were spreading, it was necessary to support the minds of 
the godly, that they might be fully persuaded that God had returned 
to his people, and had become the restorer of his exiles for this 
end - that he might as before dwell at Jerusalem. 
    We now apprehend the Prophet's object; it was as though he had 
said, that the people had not returned in vain to their country, but 
that they had been delivered by the authority of God, and that his 
dwelling at Jerusalem would be fixed and perpetual, as it had before 
been his habitation. We indeed know that the stability of the Church 
is not otherwise secured than by the presence of God, as it is said 
in Psalm 46:, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;" 
for the Church would not be less exposed to sudden and frequent 
destruction than other things, were it not that God, her support, 
dwells in her. And this is what our Prophet means here when he says, 
that God would dwell there. 
    He adds, And called shall be Jerusalem the city of truth, and 
the mount of Jehovah the mount of holiness. By the first clause the 
Prophet reminds us why God had for a time forsaken Jerusalem, even 
because it was a city given to falsehoods, wicked devices, deceits, 
and perverse counsels. As then the Jews had wholly degenerated from 
true religion, the Prophet intimates that the city became destitute 
of its guardian and protector, even of God himself. And for the same 
purpose are added the words, the mount of Jehovah shall be called 
the mount of holiness. For however proudly the Jews boasted that 
they worshipped God, they yet had profaned both the temple and the 
altar by their sins, as we have seen it proved by the Prophet 
Haggai. (Hag. 2: 15.) Here then Zechariah indirectly reproves the 
Jews for having corrupted all purity by their frauds, and also for 
having, by the defilements of their sins, polluted Sion and the 
temple of God. At the same time he teaches us that God dwells in his 
Church where he sanctifies it. 
    Hence God is never idle while he dwells in his people; for he 
cleanses away every kind of impurity, every kind of deceit, that 
where he dwells may ever be a holy place. Therefore the Prophet not 
only promises here an external blessing to the Jews, but also shows 
that God performs what is far more excellent - that he cleanses the 
place where he intends to dwell, and the habitation which he 
chooses, and casts out every kind of filth. And since God promises 
to do this, we hence see that it is his own peculiar work and gift 
to cleanse all our impurities, and also to dissipate everything 
false and deceitful. The import of the whole is, that when God 
reconciles his people to himself, he not only brings an outward 
blessing of an earthly kind, but also something better and far more 
excellent, even the renewal of the heart and mind, and that when all 
things are polluted and filthy, he restores true and perfect 
cleanness and integrity. 
    We must further bear also in mind what I have already stated - 
that their sins are here intimated to the Jews, that they might be 
touched with shame, and seek repentance; for we have seen that they 
were very slow and tardy in this respect. It was then necessary to 
stimulate them that they might repent. For what the Prophet says 
clearly intimates that mount Sion had been profaned, though God had 
consecrated it to himself; for God's worship had been there 
vitiated, and there was there no integrity; and that the faithful 
city, such at least as it ought to have been, had become full of 
falsehood and treachery; for truth is not to be confined to that 
fidelity which men ought to observe one towards another, but is to 
be extended to that sincerity which the faithful ought to possess as 
to the pure and sincere worship of God. This is the sum of the 
whole. It now follows - 
Zechariah 8:4 
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women 
dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in 
his hand for very age. 
    He confirms what we have already stated, that the Jews would be 
safe under the hand and protection of God, as he would dwell among 
them. The cause of a safe and quiet state he made to be the presence 
of God. For when we have peace with the whole world, we may yet 
disturb one another, except the God of peace restrains us; inasmuch 
as mutual and intestine discord may harass us, though we may be 
spared by external enemies. It is then necessary in the first place, 
that the God of peace and salvation should dwell in the midst of us. 
But when we have the presence of God, then comes full security. 
Suitably then does the Prophet now say, that yet dwell would old men 
and old women the midst of Jerusalem: for since the time the Jews 
had returned, they had been harassed, we know, by continual wars; 
and it could hardly be expected that they could live long in a state 
of incessant troubles, while new fears were daily disturbing them. 
Since then they were thus in incessant and endless dangers, the 
Prophet gives them relief, and promises that there would be to them 
yet a quiet habitation, so that both men and women would live to 
extreme old age. Hence he says, There shall yet dwell, &c. 
    Then he adds, a staff shall be to man for his age, or on 
account of multitude of days. This seems indeed to have been said 
with no great propriety; for it would have been much better had 
vigour been given them, so that men failed not through old age. 
Hence the weakness mentioned here seems to have been a sign of God's 
curse rather than of his favour; and on this account the Lord 
promises by Isaiah, that old men would be vigorous and strong, (Is. 
65: 20;) so that they felt not the disadvantage of age. But the 
design of Zechariah, as we have already reminded you, was here 
different; for many by their daily complaints depressed the minds of 
the godly, declaring that they were deceived, and saying that 
Jerusalem would not long stand, as they were surrounded by so many 
enemies. Hence Zechariah shows, that the Jews would be in no danger 
of falling by the hand of enemies, as they would live securely 
without any external disturbances; for we know that many old men, 
half alive through age and supporting themselves by a staff, cannot 
be anywhere seen, except in a state of peace and quietness, 
undisturbed by enemies. 
    We now then perceive the design of the Prophet, which was to 
show, that Jerusalem would be tranquil and in peace, and that this 
would be the fruit of God's presence; for its citizens would die 
through years, and not through the violence of eternal enemies. To 
the same purpose is what follows - 
Zechariah 8:5 
And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing 
in the streets thereof. 
    He repeats and confirms the same thing by another 
representation - that boys and girls would play in the streets and 
on the public roads, which could not be during the troublous time of 
war; for when arms clatter, the sound of trumpets is heard, and 
assaults of enemies are dreaded, every one keeps his children at 
home, and in public there is sad confusion, and few are found 
abroad; in short there is no cheerfulness even in children when fear 
is hanging over them. We hence see, that what is here promised is a 
state of quietness to Jerusalem; for God would keep off the onsets 
of enemies - not that Jerusalem was ever exempt from all evils, but 
that God's defence was so effectual as to render them safe amidst 
many and various dangers. 
    It is not needful here anxiously to raise the questions - 
Whether it is lawful to play during times of peace? for the Prophet 
here took his language from the common habits of men, and even from 
the very nature of things; for we know that men give way to 
cheerfulness when no fear lays hold on their minds, and that play 
and sport are allowed to children. The Prophet meant only this, that 
though the Jews might then have something to do with various 
enemies, they would yet be in a state of peace and safety. He 
afterwards adds - 
Zechariah 8:6 
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the 
remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous 
in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts. 
    He sharply reproves here the lack of faith in the people; for 
as men are wont to measure whatever is promised by their own 
understanding, the door of entrance for these prophecies was nearly 
closed up when they saw that the fury of their enemies could by no 
means be pacified. They had indeed tried in various ways to check 
them, or at least to conciliate them; and we know that many edicts 
had been proclaimed in favour of the Jews by the kings of Persia; 
but such was the common hatred to them, that new enemies arose 
continually. On this account it is that the Prophet now blames their 
want of faith; and he points out, as by the finger, the source of 
their unbelief when he says, that they had no faith in God who spoke 
to them, because he promised more then what they could conceive to 
be possible. And this deserves notice, for if we wish to pull up 
unbelief by the roots from our hearts, we must begin at this point - 
to raise up our thoughts above the world; yea, to bid adieu to our 
own judgement, and simply to embrace what God promises; for his 
power ought to carry us up to such a height that we may entertain no 
doubt but that what seems to us impossible will surely be 
accomplished. What the Prophet calls "wonderful" is the same as 
impossible; for men often wonder at God's worlds without believing 
them, and even under the false pretence of wonder deny his power. 
Hence when God promises anything, doubts immediately creep in - "Can 
this be done?" If a reason does not appear, as the thing surpasses 
our comprehension, we instantly conclude that it cannot be. We thus 
see how men pretending to wonder at God's power entirely obliterate 
    When therefore the Prophet now says, If this be wonderful in 
your eyes, shall it be so in mine? it is the same as though he had 
said, "If you reject what I promise to you, because it is not in 
accordance with your judgement, is it right that my power should be 
confined to what you can comprehend?" We hence see that nothing is 
more preposterous than to seek to measure God's power by our own 
understanding. But he seems to say at the same time, that it is 
useful for us to raise upwards our minds, and to be so filled with 
wonder, while contemplating God's infinite power, that nothing 
afterwards may appear wonderful to us. We now perceive how it 
behaves us to wonder at God's works, and yet not to regard anything 
wonderful in them. There is no work of God so minute, but that it 
contains something wonderful, when it is considered as it ought to 
be; but yet when raised up by faith we apprehend the infinite power 
of God, which seems incredible to the understanding of the flesh, we 
look down as it were on the things below; for our faith ascends far 
above this world. 
    We now see the true source of unbelief and also of faith. The 
source of unbelief is this - when men confine God's power to their 
own understanding; and the source of faith is - when they ascribe to 
God the praise due to his infinite power, when they regard not what 
is easy, but being satisfied with his word alone they are fully 
persuaded that God is true, and that what he promises is certain, 
because he is able to fulfil it. So Paul teaches us, who says, that 
Abraham's faith was founded on this assurance - that he doubted not 
but that he who had spoken was able really to accomplish his word. 
(Rom. 4: 20.) Hence, that the promises of God may penetrate into our 
hearts and there strike deep roots, we must bid adieu to our own 
judgement; for while we are wise in ourselves and rely on earthly 
means, the power of God vanishes as it were from our sight, and his 
truth also at the same time disappears. In a word, we must regard, 
not what is probable, not what nature brings, not what is usual, but 
what God can do, what his infinite power can effect. We ought then 
to emerge from the confined compass of our flesh, and by faith, as 
we have said, ascend above the world. 
    And he says, In the eyes of the remnant of this people, &c. By 
this sentence he seems to touch the Jews to the quick, who had 
already in a measure experienced the power of God in their 
restoration; for thirty years before their freedom had been given 
them by Cyrus and Darius, they regarded as a fable what God had 
promised them; they said that they were in a grave from which no 
exit could have been expected: they had experienced how great and 
incredible was God's power; and yet as people astonished, they 
despaired of their future safety. This ingratitude then is what 
Zechariah now indirectly reproves by calling them the remnant of his 
people. They were a small number, they had not raised their banner 
to go forth against the will of their enemies; but a way had been 
suddenly opened to them beyond all expectation. Since then they had 
been taught by experience to know that God was able to do more than 
they could have imagined, the Prophet here justly condemns them for 
having formed so unworthy an idea of that power of God which had 
been found by experience to have been more than sufficient. He 
afterwards adds - 
Zechariah 8:7,8 
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from 
the east country, and from the west country; 
8 And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of 
Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in 
truth and in righteousness. 
    He pursues the same subject, and introduces a preface, very 
necessary in so confused a state of things; for it was very 
difficult to raise up desponding minds and to inspire them with 
confidence, when pressed down with fear and trembling. This is the 
reason why Zechariah repeats so often, that he declared nothing but 
God's commands only. 
    Behold, he says, I will save, or deliver my people. As 
dispersion took away hope, the Prophet restores it, and says, that 
it would not be difficult to gather the people from all parts of the 
world, when God stretched forth his hand; and emphatical is the 
expression, I will deliver my people. God then does here exalt 
himself, that we may learn to exalt his power, and not to judge of 
it according to our own comprehension. I will deliver my people, he 
says, from the rising as well as from the setting of the sun. This 
sentence then is connected with the preceding, in which the Prophet 
briefly shows that the Jews erred and acted perversely, when they 
ascribed no more to God than what the judgement of their own flesh 
dictated, or what seemed probable according to the course of nature. 
As then he had taught them that great wrong is done to God except he 
is separated from men, and shines eminent above the whole world, he 
now adds, that God, with whom nothing is wonderful or difficult, had 
resolved to gather his people, and from their dispersion to restore 
them again to Jerusalem. The Prophet then says here nothing new, but 
rightly applies what he had just said of God's infinite and 
incomprehensible power, which men absurdly attempt to inclose in 
their own brains, and to attach to earthly instrumentalities. 
    He then adds, I will restore them, and they shall dwell, he 
says, in the midst of Jerusalem. He again confirms what I have 
already stated, - that their return would not be in vain, though 
many said, that the Jews had done foolishly in having returned so 
quickly into their own country; and they condemned their 
determination, as though they had been suddenly carried away by 
extreme ardour. Hence the Prophet, in order to show that God had 
dealt faithfully with his people, promises them here a safe and a 
perpetual habitation at Jerusalem. They shall dwell, he says; that 
is, "As you now see that you have been gathered, so expect that God 
will be your protector, so as to render you safe, and to make 
Jerusalem to be again inhabited, as it had been formerly." 
    He afterwards adds, They shall be to me for a people, and I 
shall be to them for a God. By these words the Prophet confirms what 
he has hitherto taught, when he now speaks of the renewal of the 
covenant; for the whole hope of the people depended on this one 
thing, - that God remembered the covenant which he had made with 
them. This covenant had indeed been broken, according to the usual 
language of Scripture; for the people, when removed into exile, 
thought that they were cast away and forsaken by God. As then the 
memory of this covenant had been buried as to the effect, or as they 
say, apparently, the Prophet, in order to confirm what he has 
already said, expressly declares, that they would be God's people, 
and that he would be their God. We now then understand why he adds, 
"I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people". 
    In the last place he says, in truths and righteousness; that 
is, "settled and permanent shall be this felicity": for when God 
shows that he cares for his people, then follow outward blessings, 
which are evidences of his favour. The Prophet adds, that this shall 
be in truth and righteousness; for God will not be propitious and 
kind to his people only for a short time, but will continue his 
favour to them to the end. As then God intended to establish the 
safety of the city, he testifies that he would be its God in 
righteousness, even in sincerity, in good faith, and without 
dissimulation, and also without any danger of changing. And how this 
was to be fulfilled we shall hereafter see. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that though we daily depart from thee by 
our sins, we may not yet be wholly removed from the foundation on 
which our salvation depends; but do thou so sustain us, or even 
raise us up when fallen, that we may ever continue in our degree, 
and also return to thee in true repentance, and whatever may happen 
to us, may we learn ever to look to thee, that we may never despair 
of thy goodness, which thou hast promised to be firm and perpetual, 
and that especially while relying on thy only-begotten Son our 
Mediator, we may be able to call on thee as our Father, until we 
shall at length come to that eternal inheritance, which has been 
obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 16...

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