(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 22)
Chapter 10. 
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-fifth. 
Zechariah 10:1 
Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD 
shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every 
one grass in the field. 
    Zechariah, after having shown that God would be bountiful 
towards the Jews, so that nothing necessary to render life happy and 
blessed should be wanting, now reproves them for their unbelief, 
because they did not expect from the Lord what he was ready fully to 
bestow on them. As then it depended on them only, that they did not 
enjoy abundance of all blessings, he charges them with ingratitude: 
for though he exhorts them to prayer, there is yet an implied 
reproof. One by merely reading over the words may think that a new 
subject is here introduced, that the Jews are directed to ask of the 
Lord what he had previously promised them; but he who will more 
minutely consider the whole context, will easily find that what I 
have stated is true - that the Jews are here condemned, and on this 
account, because they closed the door against God's favour; for they 
were straitened in themselves, as all the unbelieving are, who 
cannot embrace the promises of God; nor is it at all doubtful but 
that many made great complaints, when they found themselves 
disappointed of their wishes. They had indeed hoped for a most 
abundant supply of corn and wine, and had also promised to 
themselves all kinds of blessings, yet the Lord, as we have seen in 
the book of Haggai, had begun to withdraw his hand, so that they 
laboured under want of provisions; and when mine and thirst 
oppressed them, they thought that they had been in a manlier 
deceived by God. On this ground the Prophet expostulates with them; 
they thrust from themselves, by their want of faith, the favour 
which had been prepared for them. We now then understand the 
Prophet's meaning. 
    He bids them to ask rain of Jehovah. They ought indeed to have 
done this of themselves without being reminded; for though Christ 
has delivered to his Church a form of prayer, it ought yet to be as 
it were the dictate of nature to seek of God our daily bread; and it 
is not without reason that he claims to himself the name of a 
Father. The Prophet then does here reprove the Jews for their brutal 
stupidity - that they did not ask rain of the Lord. He adds, at the 
late seasons, that is, at spring time; for rains at two seasons were 
necessary for the corn, after sowing and before harvest, and 
whenever Scripture speaks of fruitfulness or of a large produce, it 
mentions rain at these two seasons. Zechariah in this place only 
refers to the vernal before harvest; for in that hot country the 
earth wanted new moisture, Ask, he says, rain at the beginning of 
    Jehovah, he adds, will give it; he will make clouds, or storms, 
or boisterous winds, as some read; but it is evident from other 
passages that "chazizim" means clouds, which are as it were 
preparations for rain. He then says, that a shower would come with 
the rain; for some take "geshem" for a shower, that is, heavy rain; 
but the Prophet introduces here the two words, as though he had 
said, that the rains would be continued until the ground was 
saturated and the dryness removed. Some translate, "the rain of a 
shower," but this would be too strained. I prefer then this 
rendering, He will give rain, a shower, that is, abundant rain; to 
every one grass in the field, that is, so that there may be moisture 
enough for the ground. In short, he promises a plentiful irrigation, 
that drought might not deprive them of the hope of food and support. 
What I have stated will appear more clear from the following verse, 
for he adds - 
Zechariah 10:2 
For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, 
and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they 
went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no 
    Here the Prophet, as I have said, confirms the truth, that the 
blame justly belonged to the Jews that God did not deal more 
liberally with them; for he shows that they had fallen into 
superstitions, and had thus turned away the favour of God, which was 
already certain and nigh to them. Zechariah does not here condemn 
foreign nations given to superstitions; but, on the contrary, he 
reproves the Jews themselves for leaving the true God, and for 
retaking themselves to idols, to soothsayers, and diviners, and for 
having thus preferred to feed on their own delusions, rather than to 
open the door to the favour of God, who had freely promised that he 
would suffer them to want nothing. As then God had kindly invited 
the Jews to himself, as he had showed himself ready to do them good, 
was it not the basest ingratitude in them to turn away to idols and 
to attend to magical delusions? for they might have safely 
acquiesced in God's word. They would not have been deprived of their 
hope, had they been firmly persuaded that God had spoken the truth 
to them. As then they had done so grievous a wrong to God, as to run 
after idols, and after the crafts and impostures of Satan, the 
Prophet here deservedly condemns them for this wickedness. 
    Images, he says, have spoken vanity, and diviners have seen 
falsehood, and have told dreams of vanity. He means, in short, that 
whatever means unbelieving men may try, they can attain nothing, and 
they will at length find that they have been miserably deceived by 
Satan. They have recourse to various expedients, for unbelief is 
full of bustle and fervour: "O! this will not succeed, I will try 
something else." Thus the unbelieving wander, and resort to many and 
various expedients. But the Prophet teaches this general truth - 
that when men turn away from God, they have recourse to vain things; 
for there is no truth without God. 
    He afterwards adds, that on account of idols, as well as of 
diviners and magicians, consolation was given in vain; and this he 
confirms by the event, and says, that they had wandered as sheep, 
that they had been distressed, because there was no shepherd. The 
Prophet no doubt refers here to the time of exile, that the Jews 
might learn to be wise, at least by the teaching of experience; for 
they had known to their great loss, that without God there is no 
real and solid comfort: nor does he without reason upbraid them with 
the punishment which their fathers had suffered, for he saw that 
they were walking in their steps. Since then the Jews were imitating 
the depraved inquisitiveness of their fathers, the Prophet justly 
charges them, that they did not acknowledge what, by the event 
itself, was well known to all; for the common proverb is, that 
experience is the teacher of fools. Since they did not become wise 
even when smitten, their stupidity was more than proved. We now then 
perceive what the Prophet means. 
    But we must first notice, that when he bids them to ask rain of 
the Lord, he speaks of the kingdom of Christ, as all the Prophets 
are wont to do; for since the Redeemer, promised to the Jews, was to 
be the author of all blessings, whenever the Prophets speak of his 
coming, they also promise abundance of corn, and plentiful 
provisions, and peace, and everything necessary for the well-being 
of the present life. And Zechariah now follows the same course, when 
he declares that it was not owing to anything in God that he did not 
kindly supply the Jews with whatever they might have wished, but 
that the fault was with themselves; for they had by their unbelief, 
as it has been said, closed the door against his favour. We must yet 
ever remember what we stated yesterday - that whatever the Prophets 
have said concerning a blessed life, ought to be judged of according 
to the nature of the kingdom of Christ. It is a strained 
interpretation to say that rain is heavenly doctrine; and I do not 
say that Zechariah spoke allegorically, but he describes under this 
common figure the kingdom of Christ - even that God will fill his 
elect with all good things, so that they shall not thirst, nor 
labour under any want. 
    But at the same time we must bear in mind the exhortation of 
Christ - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God; other things," he says, 
"shall afterwards be added." (Matt. 6: 33.) He then is strangely 
wrong who thinks that abundance of food was alone promised to the 
Jews; for God intended to lead them by degrees to things higher. The 
Prophet then no doubt includes here, under one kind, all things 
necessary for a happy life; for it is not the will of God to fill 
his faithful people in this world as though they were swine; but his 
design is to give them, by means of earthly things, a taste of the 
spiritual life. Hence the happiness of which Zechariah now speaks is 
really spiritual; for as godliness has the promises of the present 
as well as of the future life, (1 Tim. 4: 8,) so the purpose of God 
was to consult the weakness of his ancient people, and to set forth 
the felicity of the spiritual life by means of earthly blessings. 
    It ought further to be carefully noticed, that the Jews are 
here exposed to derision, because they wandered after their own 
devices, when God was yet not far from them, and ready to aid them. 
Since God then showed himself inclined to kindness, it was a double 
wickedness in them that they chose to run after idols, magical arts, 
and the illusions of Satan, rather than to acquiesce in God's word. 
And similar is the upbraiding we meet with in Jeremiah, when God 
complains that he was forsaken, while yet he was the fountain of 
living water, and that the people dug out for themselves cisterns, 
dry and full of holes. (Jer. 2: 13.) But as this evil is very 
common, let us know that we are here warned to plant our foot firm 
on God's word, where he promises that he will take care of us, 
provided we be satisfied with his favour; nor let us thoughtlessly 
run after our own imaginations; for however our own counsels may 
delight us, and though some success may sometimes appear, yet the 
end will ever show us that most true is what Zechariah teaches us 
here - that whatever we may attempt will be useless and injurious 
too, for God will take vengeance on our ingratitude. 
    We must now also observe, that since Zechariah adduces an 
example of God's vengeance, by which the Jews had found that they 
had foolishly sought vain consolations, we ought to take heed, lest 
we forget those punishments with which God may have visited us in 
order to restore us to himself: let us remember what we ourselves 
have experienced, and what has happened to our fathers, even before 
we were born. Thus then ought the faithful to apply their minds so 
as to recount the judgements of God, that they may derive profit 
from his scourges. He afterwards adds - 
Zechariah 10:3 
Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the 
goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of 
Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle. 
    He had said that the Jews had been driven into exile, and had 
been oppressed by their enemies, because they had no shepherd; not 
indeed to lessen their fault, for they were wholly inexcusable, 
since they had wilful]y renounced God, who would have been otherwise 
their perpetual shepherd: but he now turns his discourse to the 
false teachers, to the false prophets and to the wicked priests. 
Though then they were all unworthy of pardon, yet God here justly 
summons the shepherds first before his tribunal, who had been the 
cause of making others to go astray: as when a blind man leads the 
blind into a ditch, so ungodly pastors become the cause of ruin to 
others. We have elsewhere observed similar passages, in which God 
threatened priests and prophets with special punishment, because 
they had unfaithfully discharged their office; but yet he did not 
absolve the common people, for from the least to the greatest they 
were guilty; and it is also certain that men are punished for their 
obstinacy and wickedness, whenever God gives loose reins to the 
devil, and deceives them by ungodly teachers. 
    We now then see the order observed by the Prophet: At the 
beginning of the chapter he declares that the Jews were without 
excuse, because they had turned aside again to their own 
superstitions, though God had severely punished the sins of their 
fathers, and that thus they had profited nothing; he also shows that 
they were acting perversely, if they clamoured against God, that he 
scantily or badly supported them, for they did not look for any 
thing from him, nor solicited by prayer what he was prepared 
willingly to grant them. Having thus reproved generally the 
wickedness of the whole people, the Prophet now assails the ungodly 
priests, and says that judgement was nigh both the shepherd and the 
    He gives the name of pastors to wolves, which is a common 
thing. And here the Papists betray their folly, laying hold of words 
only, and claiming to themselves all power, because they are called 
pastors in the Church, and as though Antichrist was not to reign in 
the temple of God. Does not Zechariah give an honourable name to 
these wicked men who destroyed the Church of God? Yea, he brings a 
most heavy charge against them, that they scattered and trampled 
under their feet the whole kingdom of God, and yet he calls them 
pastors, even because they held the office of pastors, though they 
were very far from being faithful, and in no respect attended to 
their duties. 
    He then concedes the name of pastors to those who had been 
called to rule the people, and to whom this office had been divinely 
committed; and yet God declares that he would visit them, because 
they had elicited his just displeasure. The same is said of the 
he-goats, by which metaphorical name he means all those who were 
governors, or were in rank above the common people. Those who 
injured and cruelly treated the sheep had been called he-goats by 
other Prophets, and especially by Ezekiel (Ezek. 34: 17.) So then he 
adds the he-goats to the pastors, because the poor and the lower 
orders had been led to ruin through their misconduct. And it hence 
appears how dear to God is the salvation of men; for he denounces 
vengeance on pastors, though they had not exercised tyranny except 
on men worthy of such punishment; for it was the just wages of their 
sins, that the Lord gave them wolves instead of shepherds. But 
though the Jews had merited such a judgement, yet God was angry with 
the pastors on account of his constant solicitude for his Church. 
    And the reason is also added, For visit will God his flock, the 
house of Judah; as though he had said, that he would not regard what 
the Jews were, but would regard his own election; for greatly valued 
by God is his own adoption; and as he had been pleased to choose 
that people, he could not have allowed them to be destroyed. When 
therefore he saw that his Church had been so much exposed to 
destruction through the fault of the pastors, he alleges here as a 
reason for his future vengeance, that he could not endure his favour 
to be brought to nothing; nor is it to be doubted but that he 
mentions here the house of Judah, because he had restored and 
consecrated that people to himself, that he might be served by them. 
He then takes away from the false pastors every pretence for an 
excuse, when he brings forward his own election, as though he had 
said, "Though this people had provoked me a hundred times, and 
deserved a hundred deaths, yet I intended you to be pastors, because 
the house of Judah has been made sacred to me." 
    But the visitation of the flock is different from that of the 
shepherds; for God visits the reprobate, being armed with vengeance, 
and he visits his own people by aiding them. Now the visitation of 
the flock refers to the whole house of Judah: and this was owing, as 
we have said, to their gratuitous adoption; yet the Lord suffered 
many to rush headlong into ruin, because he delivered only his own 
elect. It is indeed a mode of speaking that often occurs in the 
Prophets - that God would help the children of Abraham, when he 
means only those who were Israelites indeed, and not the 
    He adds that they would be as a splendid horse in war. A 
contrast is here no doubt implied between splendid horses and asses 
or oxen; for these shepherds who had tyrannically oppressed God's 
people, are said to be like violent riders who ride on asses and 
shamefully abuse them, or like herdsman, who treat their own oxen 
inhumanely. God then says that he would ride his people in another 
manner, even as the horseman, who sits splendidly on his horse when 
going to battle: for even kings, after having ridden a horse in 
battle, do afterwards wish it to be well taken care of; and they 
show much solicitude for their horses, and even go to the stable 
that they may see, if possible, with their own eyes, that they are 
properly attended to. God then thus intimates, that he indeed 
required obedience from his people, and intended to retain his own 
right, to ride as it were on his own people; but yet that he would 
not oppress them, and that on the contrary he would make them like a 
splendid horse. We now then perceive why the Prophet turns his 
discourse here especially to the false shepherds, not indeed to 
extenuate the fault of the whole people, for none among them was 
worthy of pardon. It follows - 
Zechariah 10:4 
Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him 
the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together. 
    There is here a confirmation of the last verse, but the 
metaphors are different; for he says, that the Jews would be 
fortified by every defence necessary for their security; nor is he 
inconsistent with himself. In the last chapter he indeed taught us, 
that though exposed to all kinds of wrongs, they would yet be safe 
through aid from heaven; but now he promises that there would come 
from them the corner-stone, the nail, the bow, and the exactor; and 
this seems a different doctrine; but it is the same as though he had 
promised, that though they stood in need of many helps, they would 
yet be sufficiently furnished, as God would be ready to aid them 
whenever there was need. 
    By the corner-stone he means the firmness of the building; from 
the Jews then shall be the corner-stone; that is, there shall ever 
be among that people those capable of carrying on the public 
government: then, from thee the nail; beams, we know, and other 
parts of the building, are fastened by nails, and we know also, that 
the ceiling is thereby made secure. Zechariah then mentions here all 
the supports which sustain a building from its very foundation. He 
afterwards adds, the bow of war, that is, what is necessary to 
overcome enemies; and, lastly, the exactor, one who has power over 
bordering nations, and demands tribute or tax from them, as 
conquerors are wont to do from their subjects. 
    We now see what the Prophet means - that when God would 
manifest his care for his people and openly show his favour, the 
Jews would be fortified by all kinds of help, so as to be well 
established, and that they would possess so much public authority as 
to have strength enough to resist all enemies; in short, that they 
would gain the fruit of conquest, and constrain all nations to be 
tributaries to them. 
    If any one asks when has this been fulfilled, my answer is, 
that some preludes of this were given when God raised up the 
Maccabees, and made the Jews again to live according to their own 
laws, and to enjoy their own rights; but no doubt the Prophet 
includes the whole course of redemption. As then God redeemed his 
people only to a small extent until Christ appeared, it is no wonder 
that Zechariah, in speaking of full and complete redemption, extends 
his words to the kingdom of Christ, and this was necessary. We hence 
learn, that the Church stands abundantly firm, and is also furnished 
with all needful things, while it continues under the protection of 
God, and that it is endued with sufficient power to resist all its 
enemies. It follows - 
Zechariah 10:5 
And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in 
the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because 
the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded. 
    He confirms what I have already said - that the Jews would be 
victorious over all nations. Though the Church is fighting under the 
cross, she yet triumphs over all the wicked, partly by hope and 
partly by present success; for God wonderfully sustains it, and 
makes the faithful to possess their souls in patience; and he also 
protects them by his own power, and renders them safe amidst all the 
roarings and insatiable rage of their enemies. Since then God thus 
strengthens the minds of his people, and cherishes in them the hope 
of salvation, and also defends them against raging assaults, it is 
no wonder that the Prophet testifies that the church would be 
victorious, treading down, as a giant or a strong man, her enemies 
in the mire. 
    He gives the reason, For Jehovah will be with them; and this he 
said, that they might know that nothing in this case would be their 
own, but that they might, on the contrary, learn to depend on God's 
aid alone. And he explains this still more clearly at the end of the 
verse, by saying, Ashamed shall be the riders on horses; that is, 
their strength and velour, their use of arms and their skill in 
handling them, shall avail them nothing, for the Lord will lay 
prostrate, notwithstanding their arrogance and pride, all those 
wicked men who in their cruelty devour the faithful, and think that 
they have strength more than enough to destroy the Church: the Lord 
will cause all these things to pass away like mist. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that since constant fightings await us 
here, and our infirmities are so great that without thy power 
supporting us we cannot but fall every moment, - O grant, that we 
may learn to recomb on that help which thou hast promised, and which 
thou hast also offered to us, and dost daily offer through the 
Gospel in thine only-begotten Son; and may we distrust our own 
strength, yea, may we be overwhelmed with despair as to ourselves, 
not indeed that we may despond, but that we may look upward and seek 
the aid of thy Spirit, so that we may not doubt but that we shall be 
equal to our enemies, and even be victorious over them, until having 
at length finished our warfare, we shall reach that blessed rest 
which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. - 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 23...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-22.txt