(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 23)
Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-sixth. 
Zechariah 10:6 
And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house 
of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have 
mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them 
off: for I am the LORD their God, and will hear them. 
    Zechariah pursues the same subject, - that the work of 
redemption, the beginning of which the Jews saw, would not be 
incomplete, for the Lord would at length fulfil what he had begun. 
The Jews themselves could not acquiesce in those beginnings, which 
were not a hundredth part of what God had promised; it was hence 
necessary for them to raise up their minds above, that they might 
hope for much more than what was evident before their eyes. 
    And this truth is very useful to us, for we are wont to confine 
God's promises to a short duration of time, and when we thus include 
him within narrow limits, we prevent him as it were to do what we 
stand in need of. Let then the example of the return of the people 
of Israel ever come to our minds, for the Lord had promised by his 
Prophets that they would become very eminent, and in every way rich 
and happy; but when this did not take place after their return to 
their country, many of the Jews thought that they had been deceived, 
as they had expected God to fulfil his word immediately, but they 
ought to have suspended their hope and expectation until Christ came 
to the world. On this then the Prophet now insists - that the Jews 
were to rest patiently, until the ripened time came, when the Lord 
would prove that he is not only in part but a complete redeemer of 
his people. 
    Now he says, I will strengthen the house of Judah, and the 
house of Joseph will I save. The kingdom of Israel, we know, had by 
degrees wholly fallen; for at first four tribes were driven into 
exile, and afterwards the whole people perished, so that all thought 
that the name of the ten tribes had become extinct. The Lord 
afterwards visited the kingdom with dreadful ruin. But it must be 
observed, that while the two kingdoms existed, they entertained 
grievous enmities towards each other; for the defection which 
happened under Jeroboam, ever made the Jews violently to hate their 
brethren, the Israelites, as they indeed deserved; for they had in a 
manner rejected God by rejecting the son of David, and became in a 
manner alienated from the body of the Church. Now then Zechariah 
promises something uncommon, when he says that the two peoples shall 
be united, so as to be again one, as before the defection: for the 
house of Joseph means the same as the house of Ephraim; and we know 
that by taking a part for the whole, the house of Ephraim is taken 
for the whole kingdom of Israel. We now then understand the 
Prophet's meaning - that the state of the people would be happier 
than it had been since the ten tribes separated from the kingdom of 
Judah, or from the house of David; for God would gather for himself 
a Church from all the children of Abraham. 
    He then adds, I will bring them back and cause them to dwell. 
The verb here, "hoshvotim" is supposed to be derived from "shav" or 
from "shuv"; but they are mistaken who think these to be words of 
different meanings, because some refer to the one root, and others 
to the other; nor can this be maintained: but those who minutely 
consider the rules of grammar, say that the verb is a compound, and 
means that God would not only restore the ten tribes, but also make 
them to dwell, that is, give them a fixed habitation in their 
    He then adds, Because I have pitied them. Some read this in the 
future tense, but I retain the past, for the Lord assigns here a 
reason for their future gathering, even because he would deal 
mercifully with his people. He recalls then the attention of the 
Jews to the fountains of his mercy, as if he had said, "Though they 
have deserved perpetual ruin, He will yet hear their greenings, 
because he will be propitious to them." As their calamity was an 
hindrance, which prevented the Jews from expecting any such thing, 
he adds, They shall be as though I had not cast them away. By which 
words he reminds them that the punishment which had been inflicted 
on the people, would be only for a time. He then bids them to take 
courage, though they were like the lost or the dead, for he would 
put an end to their miseries. And when God says that he had cast 
away his people, it ought to be taken according to the perceptions 
of men, as we have observed elsewhere; for adoption was 
unchangeable, but external appearance could have led to no other 
conclusion, but that the people had been rejected by God. The 
meaning of the Prophet is, however, clearly this - that though God 
had dealt severely with that people, and inflicted on them the 
heaviest punishment on account of their perfidy, yet his vengeance 
would not be for ever, for he would give place to mercy. 
    He adds another reason, For I Jehovah am their God. He means by 
this sentence that adoption would not be void, though he had for a 
time rejected the Jews: for by calling himself their God, he reminds 
them of his covenant, as though he had said, that he had not in vain 
made a covenant with Abraham, and promised that his seed would be 
blessed. Since then God had pledged his faith to Abraham, he says 
here that he would be the God of his people; not that they deserved 
anything, but because he had gratuitously chosen both Abraham and 
his seed. 
    He in the last place says, And I will hear them. He seems here 
to exhort them to prayer, that, relying on this promise, they might 
ask of God what had been promised. Though this verb is often taken 
in a sense not strictly correct, for God is said to hear those who 
do not flee to him; but what I have stated is more suitable to this 
place - that the people are stimulated to prayer, as God freely 
invites us to himself for this end, that is, that our prayers may 
harmonise with his promises. This is the meaning. It now follows - 
Zechariah 10:7 
And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart 
shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and 
be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the LORD. 
    He declares the same in other words: he had said in the last 
verse, that he would strengthen both the house of Judah and the 
house of Joseph, that is, the ten tribes; he now speaks of Ephraim 
alone, but includes the kingdom of Judah; and he names Ephraim, not 
because he deserved to be honoured, or to be preferred to the Jews, 
for Ephraim had become apostate; but because the return of the ten 
tribes was an event more incredible: this is clearly the reason why 
the Prophet expressly mentions Ephraim. For even to the very 
destruction of the city and of the temple, God had continued to 
promise restoration to the Jews: the hope then of the Jews was 
certain and peculiar to themselves; but as to the Israelites, they 
were like a putrid carcass, for they had heard only something here 
and there, and received only some portion of the prophecies, as a 
grain of seed that falls outside of the field; for they were then as 
it were alienated from the people of God. We now then understand 
what the Prophet means by saying, that the Israelites would be like 
giants; for though they had been cast down by their enemies, and 
then driven in great dishonour and disgrace into exile, and had been 
exposed to all kinds of reproaches, and oppressed by extreme 
bondage; yet God promises them the strength of giants. 
    Now we have said that the words contain a part for the whole; 
for this promise no doubt belongs especially to the Jews: there is 
yet no mention of them, though they were first in rank, and had a 
better ground of hope as to their return, and the Lord had already 
given them some proof. 
    He says, Rejoice shall their hearts through wine; and see shall 
their sons and be glad; exult shall their heart in Jehovah. It is 
certain that they had already a cause for joy, as it is said in the 
book of Psalms, "We became like those who dream, when the Lord 
restored his captives." (Ps. 126: 1.) But the Prophet speaks here of 
a greater joy, that is, when they should see gathered all the tribes 
from their miserable and grievous dispersion: hence it is said in 
the same Psalm, "Gather, Lord, our captivity, like the stream in the 
south;" and then he adds, "They who sow in tears, in joy shall 
reap." In part then did the faithful lament, and in part did they 
rejoice: the beginning of redemptions had raised their minds to joy; 
but on seeing their brethren still living under the tyranny of their 
enemies and having hardly a hope of restoration, they could not but 
mourn. Now the Prophet here declares, that their joy would be full, 
when their complete restoration came. 
    And he extends this joy to their sons; for it was needful to 
restrain their armour in expecting a full favour, as they ever 
closed up their way to God by their complaints, according to what we 
do when we give loose reigns to our wishes, for we then in a manner 
turn away from God. In order then to teach the people patience, the 
Prophet says, "Though ye see not this to-day with your eyes, yet 
your sons shall at length see it." We now perceive that he here 
exhorts them to patience, that they might not anticipate with too 
much haste the promises of God. 
    Of the metaphor it is not needful to say much: he compares to 
the drunken, or to such as become cheerful through drinking, those 
who rejoice in the Lord, not that he expresses an approval of 
drunkenness, but because he wished to show that it would be no 
common joy, as though they were carried away beyond themselves. It 
would be then superfluous to move here the question, whether it be 
right to seek joy by drinking freely. It is indeed true that 
hilarity is connected with the lawful use of wine (Ps. 104: 15;) but 
as we are too prone to excess, we ought to restrain the lusts of the 
flesh rather than to seek some colour of excuse for a sinful 
indulgence. But as I have said, this question does not belong to the 
present passage. It follows - 
Zechariah 10:8 
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and 
they shall increase as they have increased. 
    The same is the object of this verse. By the word whistle, 
Zechariah means what it imports in other passages, - that it will 
not be an arduous world for God; for we are wont to measure his 
works by what our flesh understands. Since then the Jews might have 
easily raised this objection, - that their brethren were dispersed 
through various countries and among many nations, so that the 
assembling of them was incredible, the Prophet meets this objection 
and says, that God was able by mere whistling or by a single nod to 
restore them to their country. God is sometimes said to whistle for 
the wicked, when he constrains them unwillingly to do him service, 
and employs them as instruments to execute his hidden purposes; for 
when great armies daily assemble, it is no doubt through the secret 
appointment of God. When therefore trumpets sound and drums beat, 
the Lord whistles from heaven, to lead the reprobate here and there 
as it pleases him. But in this passage the Prophet simply means, 
that though God may not have many heralds nor an equipped army to 
open a way for his people, he will be satisfied with whistling only; 
for when it should please him, a free passage would be made for 
captives, though the whole world were to hinder their return. These 
two words then are to be joined together, I will whistle for them 
and gather them; as though Zechariah had said, that the nod of God 
would alone be sufficient, whenever he designed to gather the 
    He then adds, For I have redeemed them. Here also I retain the 
past time, as the verb is in the past tense: for God speaks of 
redemption already begun, as though he had said, "I have promised 
that your exile would only be for a time; I have already appeared in 
part as your Redeemer, and I will not discontinue my work until it 
be completed." God then no doubt confirms here what I have stated, - 
that as he had begun in some measure to redeem his people, a 
complete redemption was to be expected, though the distressed could 
hardly believe this. But they ought to have felt assured, that God, 
as it is said in Ps. 138: 1, would not forsake the work of his 
hands. Hence by the consideration of what had commenced he 
encourages the Jews here to entertain confidence, so that they might 
with composed minds look for the end, and doubt not but that the 
whole people would be saved; for the Lord had already proved himself 
to be their Redeemer. It is indeed true that this had not been 
fulfilled as to all the Israelites: but we must ever remember, that 
gratuitous election so existed as to the whole people, that God had 
notwithstanding but a small flock, as Paul teaches us. (Rom. 11: 5.) 
The Prophet at the same time intimates that Christ would be the head 
of the Church, and would gather from all parts of the earth the Jews 
who had been before scattered; and thus the promised restoration is 
to be extended to all the tribes. It afterwards follows - 
Zechariah 10:9 
And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in 
far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn 
    He continues the same subject, and employs here a most suitable 
metaphor - that the dispersion of the people would have a better 
issue than what any one then could have conceived, for it would be 
like sowing. The verb for scattering or sowing is often taken in a 
bad sense; for when people rested in their country, they ought then 
to have considered that they were living under God's protection. 
Dispersion, then, was an evidence of a curse, and it is often so 
taken by Moses. Now God uses it here in an opposite meaning, as 
though he had said, that he would at his pleasure turn darkness into 
light. The meaning then is, that the people had been dispersed 
through God being angry with them, but that the issue of this 
dispersion would be joyful; for the Jews would dwell everywhere, and 
be God's seed, and thus be made to produce abundant fruit. We then 
see that the meaning is, that God's favour would surpass the 
wickedness of the people; for those would bear fruit who had been 
scattered, and scattered because God would no longer exercise care 
over them, and defend them in the promised land. As God then had so 
often threatened by Moses that he would scatter the Jews, he now 
says in another sense, that he would sow them, and for this ends 
that they might everywhere produce fruit. 
    It was an instance of the wonderful grace of God, that he so 
ordered his dreadful judgement as to make the dispersion, as it has 
been said, a sowing of the people; for it hence happened, that the 
knowledge of celestial truth shone everywhere; and at length when 
the gospel was proclaimed, a freer access was had to the Gentiles, 
because Jews were dispersed through all lands. The first receptacles 
(Hospitia) of the gospel were the synagogues. We see that the 
apostles everywhere went first to the Jews, and when a few were 
converted, the door was now opened that more might come, and 
Gentiles were also added to the Jews. Thus the punishment of exile, 
which had been inflicted on them, was the means of opening the door 
for the gospel; and God thus scattered his seed here and there, that 
it might in due time produce fruit beyond the expectation of all; 
and this consideration availed not a little to moderate the 
impatient desires of the people; for the Prophet intimates that this 
alone ought to have satisfied them - that their exile would be 
productive of good, for the Lord would thereby gather much people to 
himself. Had the Jews been confined within their own borders, the 
name of the God of Israel would not have been heard of elsewhere; 
but as there was no part of the East, no part of Asia and of Greece, 
which had not some Jews - and they inhabited many cities of Italy - 
hence it was that the Apostles found, as we have said, wherever they 
came, some already prepared to embrace the gospel. 
    He afterwards adds, They shall remember me in distant lands. He 
shows the manner how the memory of God would be preserved: though 
the Jews sacrificed not in the temple, though they dwelt not in the 
holy land, they would yet ever worship the only true God; as then 
the seed cast on the ground, though it may not appear, and seem even 
to be wholly lost, being apparently consumed by rottenness, does yet 
germinate in its season, and produces fruit; so God teaches us, that 
the memory of his name will occasion this people to fructify in 
their dispersion. But as God promises this, we hence learn that it 
is through his singular kindness that we cherish piety in our 
hearts, when he sharply and severely chastises us. When therefore we 
cease not to worship God, it is certain that we are kept by his 
Spirit; for were this in the power of man, this promise would be 
useless, and even absurd. 
    He says further, They shall live with their sons, and shall 
return. He again speaks of sons, that the Jews might not make too 
much haste; for we know that men, having strong desires, hurry on 
immoderately. That they might not then prescribe time to God, the 
Prophet reminds them that it ought to have been enough for them that 
the Lord would quicken them as it were from the dead, together with 
their children. He however promises them a return, not that they 
would return to their own country, but that they would be all united 
by the faith of the gospel. Though then they changed not their 
place, nor moved a foot from the lands where they sojourned, yet a 
return to their country would be that gathering which would be made 
by the truth of the gospel, as it is well known, according to the 
common mode of speaking adopted by all the Prophets. It follows - 
Zechariah 10:10 
I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather 
them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead 
and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them. 
    He confirms the same prediction - that though the Jews were 
like broken pieces, they were yet to entertain hope of their return 
and future restoration, since God was able to gather them from the 
remotest parts whenever he stretched forth his hand. He then names 
Egypt and Assyria, that the Jews might know that the redemptions 
here promised is equally open to them all, however far separated 
they might be. For though Egypt was not very far from Assyria, yet 
they who had fled to Egypt were regarded with more dislike than the 
rest, who had been forcibly driven into exile; for God had 
pronounced a curse on the flight of those who sought refuge in 
Egypt. Since then they were hated by the others, and as a hostile 
discord existed between them, the Prophet says that the gathering of 
which he speaks would belong to both. 
    He then adds, that such would be the number of men, that there 
would be no place for them; for so ought these words to be 
understood, There shall not be found for them; that is, "They will 
cover the whole land," according to what we have observed elsewhere. 
It is said in Isaiah, "Secede from me," not that the faithful, when 
God shall increase his Church, will molest one another, or desire to 
drive away their brethren; but by this mode of speaking Isaiah means 
that the Church will be filled with such number of men that they 
will press on one another. So also now Zechariah says, that the 
number of people will be so great, that the place will be hardly 
large enough for so vast a multitude. It follows - 
Zechariah 10:11 
And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite 
the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: 
and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of 
Egypt shall depart away. 
    The Prophet confirms what he had said respecting the power of 
God, which is so great that it can easily and without any effort lay 
prostrate all the mighty forces of the world. As then the 
impediments which the Jews observed might have subverted their hope, 
the Prophet here removes them; he reminds the Jews that God's power 
would be far superior to all the impediments which the world could 
throw in their way. But the expressions are figurative, and 
allusions are made to the history of the first redemption. 
    Pass through the sea shall distress. As God formerly gave to 
his people a passage through the Red Sea, (Ex. 14: 21;) so the 
Prophet now testifies that this power was unchangeable, so that God 
could easily restore his people, though the sea was to be dried up, 
and rivers were to be emptied. He says first, Pass shall distress 
through the sea, that is, spread shall distress, &c., for so the 
verb "avar" is to be taken here. Pass then shall distress through 
the sea; that is, the Lord will terrify the sea, and so shake it 
with his power that the waters will obey his command. But he 
afterwards explains himself in other words, He will smite the waves 
in the sea. He means that God's command is sufficient to change the 
order of nature, so that the waters would immediately disappear at 
his bidding. He then adds, All the depths of the river shall dry up; 
some read, "shall be ashamed," deriving the verb from "bush"; but it 
comes from "yavash"; and this indeed means sometimes to be ashamed, 
but it means here to dry up. Others regard it as transitive, "The 
wind shall dry up the depths." But as to the object of the Prophet, 
the passive or active sense of the verb is of no moment; for the 
Prophet no doubt means here, that there would be so much force in 
the very nod of God as to dry up rivers suddenly, according to what 
happened to Jordan; which being smitten by the rod of Moses dried up 
and afforded a passage to the people. 
    He at length speaks clearly, Cast down shall be the pride of 
Asshur, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart. In the preceding 
metaphor Zechariah alludes, as I have said, to the first redemption, 
as it was usual with all the Prophets to remind the people of the 
former miracles, that they might expect from the Lord in future what 
their fathers had witnessed. He now however declares, that God would 
be the Redeemer of his people, though the Assyrians on one side, and 
the Egyptians on the other, were to attempt to frustrate his 
purpose; for they could effect nothing by their obstinacy, as God 
could easily subdue both. He at last adds - 
Zechariah 10:12 
And I will strengthen them in the LORD; and they shall walk up and 
down in his name, saith the LORD. 
    Here at length he includes the substance of what we have 
noticed, that there would be sufficient help in God to raise up and 
support his people, and to render them victorious over all their 
enemies. He had already proved this by saying, that God had formerly 
sufficiently testified by many miracles how much superior he was to 
the whole world; but he briefly completes the whole of this proof, 
and shows, that the Jews, provided that they relied on God and 
expected from him what he had promised, would be sufficiently 
strong, though the whole power of the world were to rise up against 
    He also mentions the name of God, They shall walk, he says, in 
his name, that is, under his auspices. In short, there is here an 
implied contrast between the name of God and the wealth and the 
forces of their enemies, which might have filled the minds of the 
faithful with fear, and cast them down. Hence the Prophet bids the 
Jews to give the glory to God, and not to doubt but that they would 
be victorious, whatever hindrance the world might throw in their 
way. And by this word walk, he means a continued course of life, as 
though he had said, that the people indeed had returned from exile, 
that is, in part; but that more of them were to be expected, for the 
Lord had not only been a leader in their return, but that he would 
be also their perpetual guardian, and defend them to the end. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as we are constrained continually to 
groan under the burden of our sins, and the captivity in which we 
are held justly exposes us to continual trembling and sorrow, - O 
grant, that the deliverance, already begun, may inspire us with the 
hope, so as to expect more from thee than what we can see with our 
eyes; and may we continually call on thee until thou completes what 
thou hast begun, and puttest to flight both Satan and our sins, so 
that being in true and full liberty devoted to thee, we may be 
partakers of that power which has already appeared in our head, 
until having at length passed through all our contests, we may reach 
that blessed rest, where we shall enjoy the fruit of our victory in 
Christ our Lord - Amen 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 24...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-23.txt