(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. Prayer. 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 .