(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 18)
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-first. 
Zechariah 8:20-22 
20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that 
there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 
21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let 
us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of 
hosts: I will go also. 
22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD 
of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. 
    The Prophet here extends his discourse still farther; for he 
promises not only the complete restoration of his chosen people, but 
also the propagation of the Church; for God, he says, will gather a 
Church for himself from many and remote nations, and unite many 
nations in one body. And this ought to have availed especially to 
animate the Jews, as they were thus taught that the temple was 
built, not only that God might be worshipped by one nation, but by 
all nations. Moreover, as before this time some had come from 
distant lands to worship God, the Prophet may seem here to have this 
in view by using "'od", the adverb of time. But he not only declares 
that some would come, as in the time of Solomon, but as I have 
already said, he promises here something more remarkable - that the 
temple would not belong peculiarly to the Jews, but would be common 
to all nations; for there is to be no language and no nation which 
is not to unite in the true worship of God. But let us consider the 
words of the Prophet. 
    He begins by saying, that God was the author of this prophecy; 
and this was said to secure credit. There was need, as we have said, 
of no common authority, since he was here speaking of what was 
incredible. There was only a handful of people returned to their 
country, and many dangers surrounded them almost every day; so that 
many, wearied with their present condition, preferred exile, and 
regret for their return had now crept into the minds of many, for 
they thought that they had been deceived. Since then the state of 
the people was such, there was need of something more than ordinary 
to confirm what is here said - that the glory of the second temple 
would be greater and more eminent than that of the first: It shall 
yet be, he says. Though a comparison is implied, there is yet no 
equality expressed, as though some few only would come. But as there 
had been no temple for seventy years, and as the temple, now begun 
to be built, was in no high esteem, but mean and insignificant, the 
Prophet says, that the time would yet come, when nations and 
inhabitants of great cities would ascend into Jerusalem. We may 
indeed render "rabot" many or great, for it means both; but the 
Prophet, I think, speaks of great cities; and the reason will 
presently appear. 
    It follows, Come shall the inhabitants of one to one, that is, 
the inhabitants of one city to another; saying, going let us go, &c. 
He means by these words, that there will be a mutual consent among 
all nations, so that they will stimulate one another, and thus unite 
together their exertions. We here see that the Prophet's object was 
to encourage the Jews to entertain good hope, and thus to cause them 
to persevere, so that they might not doubt but that success would 
attend their work and labour, because the Lord would have himself 
worshipped at Jerusalem, not only by themselves but also by all 
nations. But as the Jews could not believe that nations could by 
force be drawn there, he teaches them, that their assembling would 
be voluntary; he says that those who had been before extremely 
refractory would be disposed to come of their own accord, so that 
there would be no need of external force to constrain them; for they 
would willingly come, nay, would excite one another, and by mutual 
exhortations stimulate themselves so as to come together to worship 
God at Jerusalem. 
    The ardour and vehemence of their zeal is to be noticed; for 
the Prophet says, that they would come of their own accord, and also 
encourage one another, according to what we have seen in the second 
chapter, Lay hold will each on the hand of his brother, and say, let 
us go to the mount of the God of Jacob. But more is expressed in 
this place, for not only shall each one encourage his brother 
whenever met and an opportunity be offered, but he says that they 
will come from all quarters. We now then see the design of the 
Prophet in these words. And we hence learn, that faith then only 
produces its legitimate fruit when zeal is kindled, so that every 
one strives to increase the kingdom of God, and to gather the 
straying, that the Church may be filled. For when any one consults 
his own private benefit and has no care for others, he first betrays 
most clearly his own inhumanity, and where there is no love the 
Spirit of God does not rule there. Besides, true godliness brings 
with it a concern for the glory of God. It is no wonder then that 
the Prophet, when describing true and real conversion, says, that 
each would be solicitous about his brethren, so as to stimulate one 
another, and also that the hearts of all would be so kindled with 
zeal for God, that they would hasten together to celebrate his 
    Then he adds, Let us go to entreat the face of Jehovah. The 
phrase is common in Scripture. But we must observe, that the Prophet 
in speaking of God's worship, sets prayer in the first rank, for 
prayer to God is the chief part, yea, the main thing in religion. It 
is, indeed, immediately added, and to seek Jehovah: he explains the 
particular by the general; and in the next verse he inverts the 
order, beginning with the general. However, the meaning continues 
the same, for God seeks nothing else but that we should be teachable 
and obedient, so as to be prepared to follow wherever he may call 
us, and at the same time carefully to enquire respecting his will, 
as we have need of him as our leader and teacher, so that we may not 
foolishly go astray through winding and circuitous courses; for if 
we deem it enough to take presumptuously our own way, the endeavour 
to seek God will be superfluous. It must then be observed, that God 
is then only really sought when men desire to learn from his word 
how he is to be worshipped. But, as I have already said, the Prophet 
adds prayer here, for the design of the whole truth respecting 
salvation is to teach us, that our life depends on God, and that 
whatever belongs to eternal life must be hoped for and expected from 
him. We now then understand the import of the whole. 
    But we must enquire also why he says, that the nations would 
come to seek God at Jerusalem, and there to call on him. The Jews 
foolishly imagine that God cannot be otherwise worshipped than by 
offering sacrifices still in the temple. But the Prophet had 
something very different in view, that the light of truth would 
arise from that city, which would diffuse itself far and wide: and 
this prophecy ought to be connected with that of Isaiah, "A law 
shall go forth from Sion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." 
(Is. 2: 3.) As then the doctrine of salvation which has filled the 
whole world flowed from that city, the Prophet says, that nations 
would come to Jerusalem, not that it would be necessary for them to 
assemble there, but because all were to seek there what could not be 
obtained elsewhere. Since then none could be accounted the children 
of God except they were brought up in that school and acknowledged 
that alone to be true religion which had its first habitation at 
Jerusalem, we hence see why the Prophet expressly mentions that 
    We must further bear in mind, that the temple was built for 
this end and purpose, - that the doctrine of salvation might 
continue there, and have there its seat until the coming of Christ; 
for then was fulfilled that prophecy in the hundred and tenth Psalm, 
"The sceptre of thy power shall God send forth from Sion." The 
Prophet here teaches us, that Christ would not be the king of one 
people only, whose power was to be confined to narrow limits, but 
that he would rule through the whole world, for God would extend his 
sceptre to every quarter of the globe. As tell it behaved the Jews 
to have this end in view, the Prophet, in order to animate them that 
they might not fail in the middle of their work, says, that that 
place was sacred to God, so that salvation might thence be sought by 
the whole world, for all were to be the disciples of that Church who 
wished to be deemed the children of God. 
    But we ought carefully to notice what I have already referred 
to, the two things required in God's worship - to seek him, and also 
to pray to him. For the superstitious, though they pretend great 
ardour in seeking God, yet amuse themselves with many delusions; for 
they hurry on presumptuously, and as it were at random, so that they 
seek not God, but leave him, and weary themselves without thought 
and without any judgement. As then the superstitious have no reason 
for what they do, they can not be said properly to seek God. But the 
faithful seek God, for they acknowledge that he is not to be 
worshipped according to the fancy of any one, but that there is a 
certain prescript and rule to be observed. To us then this is the 
beginning of religion - not to allow to ourselves liberty to attempt 
anything we please, but humbly and soberly to submit to God's word; 
for when any one seeks and chooses an unfit teacher, he will not 
advance as he ought to do. But the Prophet shows, that all the godly 
succeed when they strive to be approved of God by confining 
themselves to his word, and by attempting nothing through their own 
promptings, but when they have such a discernment as not to blend, 
as it is said, profane with sacred things. The second chief thing 
is, to pray to God: and the Prophet thus reminds us why it is that 
God would have us especially to seek him. Nothing indeed results to 
his advantage and benefit from our efforts, but he would have us to 
seek him that we may learn to expect from him everything connected 
with our salvation. This seeking is also defined by the term prayer, 
and not useless is the word face, for though God is invisible, we 
yet ought not to wander with uncertainty, as it were through the 
air, when our purpose is to flee to him, but to go to him with full 
confidence. Unless then we are fully persuaded of what the Scripture 
teaches us - that God is ever nigh those who truly call on him, the 
door will be closed against our prayers, for God's name will be 
profaned though we may express what we wish. As then the nearness of 
God ought to be impressed on our hearts when we prepare ourselves 
for prayer, the Scripture usually adopts this form, to entreat the 
face of God. But this is not to be understood of an ocular sight, 
but, on the contrary, of the conviction of the heart. Let us now 
proceed - 
Zechariah 8:23 
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, 
that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, 
even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We 
will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you. 
    He pursues the same subject in this verse; for as he had before 
said, that the nations would willingly come to worship God, and that 
each would encourage his brother to undertake this pious and holy 
expedition, so he now adds, that ten men would lay hold on the 
border of a Jew's garment: Ten men shall then take hold of the skirt 
of a Jew. He shows here more clearly what I have briefly referred to 
- that there would be no need of arms, or of any compulsion, in 
order to draw or compel the nations to engage in God's service; for 
even ten would of themselves accompany one Jew; and it is a proof of 
a very great readiness when ten surrender themselves to be ruled by 
one. As one Jew could not be sufficient to draw so many nations, the 
Prophet declares that there would be everywhere a union of faith, so 
that those, before wholly alienated from God, would desire to join 
themselves as friends, or rather as companions to the Jews. 
    He says, From all languages. By these words he amplifies the 
miracle; for there cannot be a union between men far distant, 
especially when they are of different languages, as they are 
barbarians to one another. When the Prophet then says that they 
would come frown all languages, and unite together, it more fully 
appears to be God's work; for there is nothing here to be ascribed 
to human contrivances. It must then be that the hearts of those who 
cannot express their minds, and can hardly give a sign, are united 
together by the hidden power of the Spirit. We now perceive the 
Prophet's object in this verse. 
    But he uses in the last clause a phrase different from the one 
he employed before - Let us go with you, for we have heard that with 
you is God. He had said, "Let us go to seek Jehovah, and to entreat 
his face;" but now he says "Let us go with you." But yet he handles 
and confirms the same thing; for the nations could not have sought 
God without following the Jews going before them. For when any one 
separates himself from others, it so happens that he is led astray, 
and feeds on much that is very absurd, as we see to be the case with 
proud and morose men, who invent strange and monstrous things; for 
they shun society, and seem not to themselves to be wise, until they 
put off every feeling of humanity. The character then of faith has 
also this in it - that the elect, while they themselves obey God, 
desire to have many associates in this obedience, and many 
fellow-disciples in true religion. The Prophet thus intended to 
point out two things: be had said before - "Let us go to seek God;" 
and now - "We will go with you." What else is this but to seek God? 
But he expresses more now - that the nations declare that they would 
come to seek God for this end - that they might learn from others, 
like rude beginners, who have their fellow-scholars as their 
teachers; so that every one who had made some progress, was to 
preside over others, and those as yet commencing, and still in the 
first elements of knowledge, were humbly to connect themselves with 
others better informed. Shame prevents many from making in this 
manner any advancement, and so they ever remain sunk in ignorance. 
    The Prophet at the same time not only commends humility, but 
also exhorts all God's children to cultivate unity and concord. For 
whosoever tears asunder the Church of God, disunites himself from 
Christ, who is the head, and who would have all his members to be 
united together. 
    We now then understand that God ought to be sought in order to 
be rightly worshipped by us; and also, that he ought to be thus 
sought, not that each may have his own peculiar religion, but that 
we may be united together, and that every one who sees his brethren 
going before, and excelling in gifts, may be prepared to follow 
them, and to seek benefit from their labours. It is indeed true that 
we ought to disregard the whole world; and to embrace only the truth 
of God; for it is a hundred times better to renounce the society of 
all mortals, and union with them, then to withdraw ourselves from 
God; but when God shows himself as our leader, the Prophet teaches 
us that we ought mutually to stretch forth our hand and unitedly to 
follow him. 
    We have again to notice at the end of the verse what I have 
already referred to - that the nations would come, not compelled by 
force of arms or by violence, but drawn by hearing alone. We have 
heard. By hearing the Prophet means here the doctrine of salvation 
everywhere diffused; for there would be no care nor concern for 
worshipping were we not taught; for faith, as Paul says, is by 
hearing; and so prayer proceeds from faith. (Rom. 10: 17.) In short, 
the Prophet means that the knowledge of religion would be through 
the preaching of the truth, which would rouse all nations to the 
duty of worshipping God. 
    He now again confirms what we have also mentioned - that the 
Jews would have the precedence of all nations; for it appears that 
God would be among them. We hence see that primacy is not ascribed 
to the Jews in being leaders to others, because they excelled others 
by their own virtue or dignity, but because God presided over them. 
Then God is ever to be sought, though we may avail ourselves of the 
labours of men, and follow them when they show us the right way. We 
must ever bear this in mind - that those only exhort truly and 
honestly, who not only do so by word, but who really prove what they 
feel by their conduct; according to what the Prophet has said - Go 
will I also; and he says the same now - Let us go, or, we shall go 
with you. For many there are who are strenuous enough in stimulating 
others; but their vain garrulity appears evident; for while they bid 
others to run, they are standing still; and while they vehemently 
encourage others, they themselves delay and take their rest. Now 
follows - 
Chapter 9. 
Zechariah 9:1 
The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and 
Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all 
the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD. 
    One thing had escaped my notice in the words of the Prophet - 
that great people and strong nations would come. We have said that 
"great" rather than "many" ought to be adopted. The latter meaning 
may indeed be allowed that the worshipers of God would come from 
various cities; but as the word "'atsumot" properly signifies 
strong, and as it is certain that the Prophet means the same thing 
by the two words, it is more probable that he speaks of strong and 
valiant people, as they are not so easily subdued; for the more any 
one excels in prowess, the more stiff is his neck to undertake the 
yoke. As then the strong and the brave, and such as are eminent in 
the world, are not so easily brought to submit to God, the Prophet 
expressly says, that they shall become teachable, and be made 
willing, so that pride, as it is usually the case, shall not be a 
hindrance to them. 
    I come now to the passage in which the Prophet announces a 
heavy burden, or a severe and fearful prophecy respecting Syria and 
other neighbouring nations. I prefer to retain the word "burden," 
rather than to render it prophecy, as many expositors have done; for 
though "masa'" is sometimes taken simply for prophecy, yet there is 
here, as it appears to me, something particular intended; for the 
Prophet denounces God's judgement both on Syria and on the 
surrounding countries, and the word prophecy is not suitable; for to 
say "the prophecy of the word," would be strange and without 
meaning. But when he says, The burden of the word of God, the 
sentence is full, and flows well; for he reminds us that his word 
would not be ineffectual, but full of effect, as it would lie as a 
burden on Syria and on other countries, which they should not be 
able to shake off. The burden then of the word of Jehovah; that is, 
"I have now a prediction which will be grievous and severe to those 
heathens who now disturb the Jews, the chosen people." 
    But this doctrine contains consolation to the godly; for they 
may hence know that they are safe under God's protection, as he 
carries on war with their enemies; nay, his vengeance was now 
prepared against all those who harassed the Jews. As then he had 
before promised that incredible favour of God which we have noticed, 
so now he declares that the Church would be safe under the 
protection of God, inasmuch as vengeance was in readiness for all 
the ungodly. 
    But the Prophet mentions here only the cities known to the 
Jews, for it was enough to refer to them as an example, that the 
Jews might hence conclude that God would be always the protector of 
his Church, so that no enemies shall escape unpunished. The Prophet 
then no doubt mentioned these few cities to the Jews, that they 
might feel assured that nothing is so strong and impetuous in the 
world which God cannot easily subdue and lay prostrate. Now as we 
apprehend the Prophet's object, we shall come to the words. 
    Some think that the word "chadrach" includes the whole of 
Syria, which seems to me probable. Others suppose that some notable 
city is meant, as Damascus is immediately subjoined. But as the 
matter is uncertain, and as there is no doubt but that the Prophet 
speaks of the kingdom of Syria, I will not contest the point. Be it 
then the name of a city or of a country, it is all the same, for the 
Prophet means that the vengeance of God was impending over the 
Syrians, and impending in such a manner, that it would not depart 
from them until they were wholly destroyed. For when he adds that 
its rest would be Damascus, he intimates that God's judgement would 
not be like a storm, which soon passes away, but that it would be a 
heavy and burdensome mass, which could not be dissipated, according 
to what Isaiah says - "The word came on Jacob and fell on Israel;" 
(Isaiah 8: 9;) that is, what God pronounced against Jacob fell on 
Israel. He indeed changes the name, but it is the same as though he 
had said - "When God shall punish Jacob, can the Israelites escape?" 
for they were the same. The sentence then shall fall, that is, it 
shall find its own place: in vain will they run here and there to 
escape. The Jews then will gain nothing by their flight; for the 
vengeance now denounced by the Lord shall lay hold on them. So also 
in this place he says, the burden of the word of Jehovah on the land 
of Chadrak and Damascus, the royal city, the metropolis, shall be 
its rest, its dwelling; for the Lord's vengeance will fix its 
station there, and it cannot be thence removed. In vain then will 
the Syrians try in various ways to escape, for they must be pressed 
down by God's hand, until they be laid prostrate. We now then 
understand in what sense the Prophet says that Damascus would be the 
rest, the habitation, or the abode of God's vengeance. 
    He afterwards adds, For to Jehovah the eye of man. The particle 
"ki" is to be taken here, I think, as an adverb of time, "When". 
There is indeed in reality but little difference, except that the 
common rendering of it greatly obscures the meaning of the Prophet. 
But if it be taken as an adverb of time, the passage will read 
better, When the eye of man shall be to Jehovah, and of all the 
tribes of Israel; that is, when the Jews shall begin to turn to God 
without any dissimulation, but with real sincerity; then he says, 
God will in every way bless them, and raise up his hand against 
their enemies. The Prophet had before exhorted the Jews to 
repentance; for they had been too much given to sacrifices and 
fastings, while no integrity existed among them. So also he shows 
again that their hypocrisy was an hindrance, which prevented God to 
manifest his favour to them; and thus he reminds them, that the gate 
would be opened, and the way made plain and even for God's favour 
and blessings, whenever they raised their eyes to him, that is, 
whenever they derived their hopes from him, and fixed on him their 
dependence. For to direct the eyes to God is nothing else than to 
look to him so as to fix on him all our thoughts. Some understand by 
"man" all mortals, but of this I approve not; nor do I doubt but 
that the Prophet refers to the Jews alone; and doubtless it is not 
consistent with the context to regard any but the Jews. It is indeed 
true, that the Prophet speaks here of the calling of the Gentiles, 
but so as to begin with the Jews; for as they were the first-born, 
so it was necessary for them to have the precedence. The Prophet 
then here declares that God would be glorious in his chosen people, 
and would lay prostrate all the bordering enemies. Then the eye of 
man signifies the same as the eye of the whole people; as though he 
had said, that after the Jews had begun to lay aside all 
dissimulation and devoted themselves to God, and cast all their 
hopes on him, they would then find God sufficiently powerful to lay 
in the dust all their enemies. 
    But he afterwards adds, by way of explanation, "and of all the 
tribes of Israel". Some give this rendering, "How much more," as 
though the Prophet reasoned here from the less to the greater. But, 
as I have already said, this cannot be maintained. First, this 
explanation is strained, "The eye of man, and especially of all the 
tribes of Israel;" for the Jews ought to have had the first place: 
and secondly, the particle "waw" has no amplifying sense. In short, 
he intended by a small particle to show that precedence belonged to 
the Jews. I do not then understand what they mean, who would include 
all nations in the word "man," and then regard the Prophet as 
proceeding to mention the tribes of Israel. Now what I have stated, 
that the true servants of God were then few, is probable enough; 
hence the Prophet here exhorts the whole people to a union in 
religion. Whenever then the whole tribes of Israel directed their 
eyes to God, the burden of his word would then come upon Damascus 
and all the Syrians. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou kindly and graciously extends 
thy hand to us, not only to show us once for all the right way, but 
also to lead us through our whole life, and even to sustain us when 
wearied, and to raise us up when fallen, - O grant, that we may not 
be ungrateful for this thy great kindness, but render ourselves 
obedient to thee; and may we not experience the dreadful power of 
thy judgement, which thou denounces on all thine enemies, who are to 
sustain a vengeance that is to sink them in the abyss of endless 
perdition; but may we suffer ourselves to be ever raised up by thy 
hand, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, to which 
thou invites us, and art ready to lead us, where we shall enjoy the 
fulness of those blessings which have been obtained for us by thy 
only-begotten Son - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 19...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-18.txt