(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 19)
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-second. 
Zechariah 9:2-4 
2 And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it 
be very wise. 
3 And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as 
the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. 
4 Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in 
the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. 
    Zechariah goes on with the same subject: for he says now, that 
destruction was nigh all the nations who, being neighbours, harassed 
the people of God. Yesterday I briefly referred to what he had in 
view, which was to show, that God would so defend his Church as to 
execute vengeance on all the ungodly who had unjustly persecuted it; 
and he spoke of the kingdom of Syria, which was contiguous to Judea. 
But he now goes farther, - that the wrath of God would extend to the 
remoter parts of Syria: for Hamath is Antioch the great, and it gave 
a name to a part of Syria. Damascus was the metropolis of the Syrian 
empire. But as we have said elsewhere, this word is variously taken 
in Scripture, but generally for the whole country extending from 
Judea to the Euphrates and even beyond it. We now then see why 
Zechariah adds Antioch to Syria, as though he had said, that God 
would now be the avenger of his people, not only by rewarding 
bordering cities, but also those afar off. He then passes on to 
Tyrus and Simon, which were, as it is well known, cities on the 
sea-side, and were also nigh to the Jews; for there was no great 
distance between Galilee and Phoenicia. But as we said yesterday, 
destruction is denounced on all the nations who had been inimical to 
the chosen people. 
    He says that Hamath, or Antioch, would be in its border. All 
nearly with one consent apply this to Judea or to Jerusalem, but 
they are mistaken; and this whole chapter is misunderstood by all 
expositors, Jews and others. I indeed feel ashamed when I see how 
widely they have departed from the meaning of the Prophet, and it 
will be almost a trial to me wholly to reject their mistakes. But it 
will become plainly evident that none of them have understood what 
the Prophet means. 
    They thus explain the passage, that Antioch would be within the 
borders of Judea, as God would consecrate to himself the lands which 
were before heathen. But the Prophet no doubt says, as I have 
already stated, that Antioch would be within the borders of Syria 
whenever God should visit them all for their wickedness, as though 
he had said, "God will involve in the same punishment that part of 
Syria which derives its name from Antioch, because with united 
forces had all the Syrians assailed his chosen people; though then 
they are far distant from Judea, they shall yet partake of the same 
punishment, because they took up arms against his Church." Hamath 
then, or Antioch, shall be in the borders of Damascus; that is, it 
shall not be exempt from the punishment which God will inflict on 
the bordering kingdom of and. And as we advance this view will 
become more clear. 
    He adds, Tyrus and Sidon, though it be very wise. The particle 
"ki" is used, which is properly causal; but we may gather from many 
parts of Scripture that it is taken as an adversative. Either 
meaning would not, however, be unsuitable, that God would take 
vengeance on the Sidonians and Syrians, because they were very 
crafty, or though they were cautious, and seemed skilful and cunning 
in managing their affairs: they were not however to escape God's 
judgement. If the former meaning be approved, it was the Prophet's 
object to show, that when men are extremely provident and labour to 
fortify themselves by crafty means, God is opposed to them; for it 
is his peculiar office to take the crafty by their own craftiness. 
As then too much cunning and craftiness displease God, it may 
suitably be said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were now summoned 
before God's tribunal, because they were extremely crafty, as is 
commonly the case with merchants in wealthy and maritime cities; for 
they learn much cunning by the many frauds which they are almost 
compelled to use. Since then the Sidonians and Syrians were such, it 
was right to denounce vengeance on them. But the other view is 
equally suitable, that all the craft of Tyrus and Simon would not 
prevent God from executing his judgement. As to myself, I think that 
a reason is here given why God threatens ruin to the Syrians and 
Sidonians, even because they were given to crafty artifices, and 
thus circumvented all their neighbours. 
    But he uses a good word by way of concession; for all who 
intend to deceive cover their craft with the name of wisdom or 
prudence. "They wish to be cautious," when yet they wickedly deceive 
others by their intrigues and frauds. A concession then is made as 
to the word wise: but the Prophet at the same time teaches us, that 
this kind of wisdom is hateful to God, when by the loss of others we 
increase our own wealth: for an explanation immediately follows - 
    For Tyrus has for herself built a fortress. The Prophet shows 
by these words how very cautious or prudent the Syrians had been; 
for they fortified themselves by strongholds, and thought themselves 
to be beyond the reach of danger. He then adds, and heaped to 
herself silver as dust, and gold as the mire of the streets, that 
is, accumulated wealth above measure; for he mentions "dust" and 
"mire" as signifying an immense heap; as though he had said, "They 
have worthless heaps of silver and gold for their vast abundance". 
He no doubt includes silver and gold in the fortress which he 
mentions; for I do not confine the word fortress only to towers and 
strongholds; but the Prophet, as I think, states generally, that 
Tyrus was so furnished and fortified with wealth, forces, and all 
kinds of defences, that it thought itself impregnable. 
    There is a striking correspondence between "tsor" and "matsur". 
"Tsor", he says, has built "matsur", a fortress. It is a paronomasia 
worthy of notice, but cannot be retained in Latin. 
    He now declares that God would be an avenger. Behold, he says, 
Jehovah will possess, or cause to possess, as some read, but they 
are mistaken, owing to the two meanings of the verb "yarash" which 
means to possess and also to expel or impoverish; for interpreters 
think that a hope of favour and of salvation is here given to these 
cities, and say that they are now chosen by God as a possession. But 
this is wholly contrary to the intention of the Prophet, as it 
appears more clearly from a view of each clause. 
    Jehovah then will expel her, and smite her strength. The 
Prophet no doubt alludes to what he had already said - that Tyrus 
had heaped silver and gold; now on the other hand he declares that 
Tyrus would be exposed to a scattering; for the heap of gold and 
silver it had laid up would be dissipated by God: he will then 
dissipate; or if one chooses to take the verb as meaning to reduce 
to want, the contrast would thus be suitable - God will then 
impoverish, or expel her. Afterwards he adds, In the sea will he 
smite her strength. As Tyrus, we know, was surrounded by the sea, 
the Prophet by this reference shows God's power in taking vengeance 
on her; for the sea would be no restraint or hindrance to God, when 
he resolved to enter there. The Syrians, indeed, thought themselves 
safe from every hostile attack, for they had the sea on every side 
as a triple wall and a triple rampart. Nor was Tyrus altogether like 
Venice; for Venice is situated in a stagnant sea, while the 
situation of Tyrus was in a very deep sea, as historians plainly 
show who relate its assault by Alexander the Great. It had indeed 
been before taken and plundered; but he did what none had ever 
thought of - he filled up a part of the sea, so that Tyrus was no 
longer an island. 
    We now see what Zechariah had in view, when he threatened ruin 
to Tyrus, though its strength was in the midst of the sea, beyond 
the reach of fortune, as it is commonly said. And she shall be 
consumed by fire. He means that Tyrus would not only be plundered, 
but wholly demolished; for we know that even the strongest things 
are consumed by fire. It follows - 
Zechariah 9:5 
Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very 
sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the 
king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. 
    In this verse also is described the devastation of those cities 
which the Prophet names; as though he had said, that all those 
cities which had risen up against God's people were devoted to 
extreme vengeance. Zechariah says that none would be exempt from 
punishment, since the hand of God would be stretched forth, and 
extend everywhere, so that it might be easily concluded, that all 
those who had unjustly harassed the Church would be thus rewarded 
for their cruelty. This is the import of what is here said. 
    He says that Ascalon would see and fear; for at that time the 
Ascalonites were hostile to the Jews. He speaks the same of Aza, 
which the Greeks called Gaza; but they were deceived in thinking it 
was a name given to it by Cambyses, for the reason that Gaza means a 
treasure in the Persian language. This is childish. It is indeed 
certain that it has been owing to a change in the pronunciation of 
one letter; for "ayin" is guttural among the Hebrews, and was 
formerly so pronounced, like our g: as they called Amorrah, 
Gomorrah, so Aza is Gaza. We have spoken of this elsewhere. 
    Now it appears from geography that these cities were near the 
sea, or not far from the sea, and having this advantage they 
gathered much wealth. But as wealth commonly generates pride and 
cruelty, all these nations were very troublesome to the Jews. This 
is the reason why the Prophet says that grief would come on Gaza, 
and then on Ekron and on other cities. He adds, Because ashamed 
shall be her expectation. There is no doubt but they had placed 
their trust in Tyrus, which was thought to be impregnable; for 
though enemies might have subdued the whole land, there a secure 
station remained. Since they all looked to Tyrus, the Prophet says 
that their hope would be confounded, when Tyrus was overthrown and 
destroyed. The sum of the whole is, that the beginning of the 
vengeance would be at Tyrus, which was situated as it were beyond 
the world, so as not to be exposed to any evils. He says then that 
the beginning of the calamity would be in that city, to which no 
misfortunes, as it was thought, could find an access. And then he 
mentions that other cities, on seeing Tyrus visited with ruin, would 
be terrified, as their confidence would be thus subverted. He 
afterwards adds, Perish shall the king from Gaza, and Ascalon shall 
not be inhabited; that is, such a change will take place as will 
almost obliterate the appearance of these cities. It follows - 
Zechariah 9:6 
And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of 
the Philistines. 
    In this verse the Prophet denounces a similar ruin on Azotus, 
and the whole land of the Philistines, or on the whole land of 
Palestine. For what interpreters say, that the Jews would dwell at 
Azotus as strangers, that is, though they had previously been 
counted aliens, is to reach neither heaven nor earth. The Prophet on 
the contrary means, that after the destruction of these cities, if 
any inhabitants remained, they would be like strangers, without any 
certain habitation. The Prophet then mentions the effect, in order 
to show that the country would be waste and desolate, so as to 
contain no safe or fixed dwellings for its inhabitants. Some render 
it spurious, as it is rendered in some other places; and they 
understand it of the Jews, because they had been before in a mean 
condition, as though they were like a spurious race. But their 
opinion is probable, who derive "mamzer" from "zur" which means to 
peregrinate; and they quote other instances, in which the double 
"mem", is used in the formations of a noun; and it is easy to prove, 
from many passages of scripture, that "mamzer" means a stranger. And 
if any one carefully considers the design of the Prophet, he will 
see the truth of what I have said - that is, that his object is to 
show, that all the inhabitants of Azotus, and of the land of the 
Philistine, would be like lodgers, because all places would be 
desolate through the slaughter and devastations of enemies. As then 
Ashdod and Palestine had been before noted for the number of their 
people, the Prophet says that all the cities of Palestine, and the 
city Ashdod, would be deserted, except that there would be there a 
few scattered and wandering inhabitants, like those who sojourn in a 
strange land. It follows - 
Zechariah 9:7 
And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his 
abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, 
shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and 
Ekron as a Jebusite. 
    Interpreters do also pervert the whole of this verse; and as to 
the following verse, that is, the next, they do nothing else but 
lead the readers far astray from its real meaning. God says now, 
that he will take away blood from the mouth of enemies; as though he 
had said, "I will check their savage disposition, that they may not 
thus swallow down the blood of my people." For here is not described 
any change, as though they were to become a different people, as 
though the Syrians, the Sidonians, the Philistine, and other 
nations, who had been given to plunders, and raged cruelly against 
the miserable Jews, were to assume the gentleness of lambs: this the 
Prophet does not mean; but he introduces God here as armed with 
power to repress the barbarity of their enemies, and to prevent them 
from cruelly assaulting the Church. 
    I will take away blood, he says, from their mouth; and he says, 
from their mouth, because they had been inured in cruelty. I will 
cause, then, that they may not as hitherto satiate their own lust 
for blood. He adds, and abominations, that is, I will take from the 
midst of their teeth their abominable plunders; for he calls all 
those things abominations which had been taken by robbery and 
violence. And he compares them to wild beasts, who not only devour 
the flesh, but drink also the blood and tear asunder the raw 
carcass. In short, he shows here, under the similitude of wolves and 
leopards and wild boars, how great had been the inhumanity of 
enemies to the Church; for they devoured the miserable Jews, as wild 
and savage beasts are wont to devour their prey. 
    It afterwards follows, and he who shall be a remnant. Some 
translate, "and he shall be left," and explain it of the Philistine 
and other nations of whom mention is made. But the Prophet doubtless 
means the Jews; for though few only had returned to their country as 
remnants from their exile, he yet says that this small number would 
be sacred to God, and that all who remained would be, as it were, 
leaders in Judah, however despised they might have been. For there 
was no superiority even in the chief men among them; only they 
spontaneously paid reverence to Zerubbabel, who was of the royal 
seed, and to Joshua on account of the priesthood; while yet all of 
them were in a low and mean condition. But the Prophet says, that 
the most despised of them would be leaders and chiefs in Judah. We 
now perceive the Prophet's meaning; for after having predicted the 
ruin that was nigh all the enemies of the Church, he now sets forth 
the end and use of his prophecy; for God would provide for the good 
of the miserable Jews, who had been long exiles, and who, though now 
restored to their country, were yet exposed to the ill treatment of 
all, and also despised and made even the objects of scorn to their 
enemies. He then who shall be a remnant, even he shall be for our 
God, as though he had said, "Though the Lord had for a time 
repudiated you as well as your fathers, when he drove you here and 
there and scattered you, yet now God has gathered you, and for this 
end - that you may be his people: ye shall then be the peculiar 
people of God, though ye are small in number and contemptible in 
your condition." 
    Then he adds, these remnants shall be as leaders in Judah, that 
is, God will raise them to the highest honour; though they are now 
without any dignity, they shall yet be made by God almost all of 
them princes. It then follows, And Ekron shall be as a Jebusite. 
Some explain thus - that the citizens of Ekron would dwell in 
Jerusalem, which the Jebusites had formerly possessed; and others 
give another view, but nothing to the purpose. The Prophet speaks 
not here of God's favour to the citizens of Ekron, but on the 
contrary shows the difference between God's chosen people and 
heathen nations, who gloried in their own good fortune: hence he 
says, that they should be like the Jebusites, for they at length 
would have to endure a similar destruction. We indeed know, that the 
Jebusites had been driven out of that town, when Jerusalem was 
afterwards built; but it was done late, even under David. As then 
they had long held that place and were at length dislodged, this is 
the reason why the Prophet says, that though the citizens of Ekron 
seemed now to be in the very middle of the holy land, they would be 
made like the Jebusites, for the Lord would drive away and destroy 
them all. He afterwards adds - 
Zechariah 9:8 
And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of 
him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no 
oppressor shall pass through them any more: for now have I seen with 
mine eyes. 
    He concludes what he had been speaking of, - that God would be 
the guardian of his chosen people, so as to repel on every side the 
violent assaults of enemies. It is then the same as though he had 
said, "though the Church is not strongly fortified, it shall yet be 
impregnable, for God's protection is of more value than all human 
strength, than all aids and helps." God then compares himself here 
to a moat and a bulwark, and other kinds of fortresses, I will be, 
he says, a camp to my house. He mentions here house rather than 
city, that the Jews might feel confident that there was sufficient 
help in God alone, though they might dwell in a private house or in 
a cottage. "My Church, though it be a small house, will I yet 
surround with my defences, so as to render it safe from all harm." 
    He says, from the army; and then, from him that passes through, 
and from him that returns. He places the army in opposition to the 
house; and thus he exhorts the Jews, not to regard their own 
strength, but to know that God alone is far better shall all armies. 
Though then the whole world united together and collected all its 
forces, he still bids them to be calmly confident, for God alone 
would be sufficient to put to flight all armies. And according to 
the same meaning he refers to him that passes through and who 
returns; as though he had said, "Though enemies may wander through 
the whole earth and occupy it from one end to the other, yet I will 
cause my house to remain safe." By him that returns, he intimates, 
that though enemies renewed their armies the second and the third 
time, yet God's strength would be always sufficient to check their 
assaults. In a word, what is here taught is the perpetuity of the 
safety of God's people, for he will never be wearied in defending 
them, nor will his power be ever lessened. It often happens that 
those who with the best intention succour their neighbours, by 
degrees grow wearied, or they may have their efforts prevented by 
various events; but the Prophet tells us, that God is not like men, 
wearied or unable, after having once helped his people and repelled 
their enemies; for he will be always ready to aid his people, were 
enemies to renew the battle a hundred times. 
    By enemy then he means forces; by passing through, the 
obstinate cruelty of enemies; and by returning, new wars, which one 
undertakes, when disappointed of his hope, by collecting a new army 
and repairing his strength. 
    At length he adds, And pass shall no more the extortioner 
through them. This sentence explains what he had figuratively 
expressed, - that though the Jews had been exposed to the will of 
their enemies, yet God would not hereafter suffer them to be 
unjustly treated and to be plundered as they had been: for under the 
name of extortioner he includes all plunderers who had spoiled the 
miserable Jews of their goods. Then he says, For I have seen with 
mine eyes. It would be frigid, nay insipid, to explain this clause 
as some do, that is, as though the Prophet had said, - that he 
related what had been made known to him from above: for on the 
contrary God testifies here, that he had seen with his eyes how 
cruelly and disgracefully the Jews had been treated. And some, while 
they regard God as the speaker, very unwisely give this explanation, 
- that God already foresaw what he would do. But evidently God 
assigns here, as I have said, a\ reason why he purposed to deliver 
the Jews from injuries, and for the future to keep them safe and 
defend them; and the reason given is, because he saw what grievous 
wrongs they were suffering. And the Prophet speaks according to the 
usual manner adopted in Scripture; for though nothing is hid from 
God's eyes, yet he is rightly said to see what he takes notice of, 
and what he declares must be accounted for before his tribunal. 
Though then God saw even before the creation of the world what was 
to take place afterward in all ages, yet he is rightly said to see 
what he begins to call to judgement. The Jews indeed thought they 
were neglected by him; for the Scripture everywhere says, that God 
closes his eyes, is asleep, lies down, forgets, cares not, when he 
hides himself and appears not as the avenger of wrongs. Hence, on 
the other hand, the Lord declares here, that he saw with his eyes 
those things which were not to be tolerated, inasmuch as enemies had 
passed all bounds, and had so far advanced and indulged in 
wantonness, that their pride and cruelty were become intolerable. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as the ungodly at this day take such 
delight in their own filth, that the weakness of our faith is 
somewhat disturbed by their pride and arrogance, - O grant, that we 
may learn to lift up our eyes to thy judgements, and patiently wait 
for what is now concealed, until thou puttest forth the power of 
thine hand and destroyest all those who now cruelly rage and shed 
innocent blood, and persecute thy Church in every way they can: and 
may we so cast ourselves on thy care, so as not to doubt but that 
thou art sufficient for our safety, and that thou wilt at length 
make evident what thou hast testified, even that there is so much 
protection in thine hand, as that we may safely boast that we are 
safe and blessed, as long as thou art pleased to exercise care over 
us, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, which has been 
prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 20...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-19.txt