(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 28) Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-first. Zechariah 12:7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah. The Prophet teaches us again, - that there is no need of helps when God stretches forth his hand to preserve his people; for he is alone abundantly sufficient. And the design of the verse is to show, that the Jews were to learn to acquiesce in God alone, though they might find themselves destitute of every earthly assistance; for when God purposes to save, he needs no help, as we have said; nor does he borrow any, as he by himself is fully sufficient. But by the word, Tabernacles, the Prophet means, as I think, sheds, such as afforded but partial protection. It is indeed true that tents are called "sachot" in Hebrew; but the same is often meant by the "'ohalim", tents, which afforded a temporary accommodation; for they were not strongly built, as it is evident from many passages. I allow that all houses without any difference are sometimes called tabernacles, "'ohalim"; but the word properly signifies a tent, built as a temporary convenience; for it is said that the fathers dwelt in tents, when they had no fixed habitation. Let us now see why the Prophet speaks of tents. He may have alluded to their dwelling in the wilderness; but as this may seem too remote, I consider that he simply refers to the tents in which the Jews dwelt when they had entered the land, after their deliverance from Egypt; for they must have been wonderfully protected by the hand of God, inasmuch as they had provoked all their neighbours and kindled the hatred of all against themselves. There were indeed some fortified cities; but for the most part they lived in villages, and the greatest part of the people were no doubt satisfied with their tents or sheds. Hence as the Israelites then had no defence, the Prophet now reminds them, that they were then protected by God alone, in order that they might believe that they should in future be safe and secure, as God would defend them to the end. There is then here an implied comparison between tents and fortified cities; and the Prophet bids them to consider what their fathers had formerly experienced, for God faithfully defended them, even when they were unprotected and exposed to the attacks of their enemies. He says first, Jehovah will save the tents, &c.; as though he had said, "Know that your fathers were formerly defended by the hand of God, when they did not, as to the greater part of them, dwell in cities, but lived scattered in villages: since God then had been the preserver of his people many ages before a king was made, believe that he will be the same to you hereafter." But we must yet remember what we said yesterday, - that the Jews who had returned to their country had a promise of God's help, in order that the Israelites, who were retained by their own sloth in Babylon, might know that they were justly suffering punishment for their ingratitude, because they had not given glory to God, as they ought to have done, by committing themselves to his protection, and thus relying on his defence, so as not to seek other helps from the world: he will then save them, he says, as at the beginning; for as, the particle of similitude, is to be understood here. He then adds, And hence boast shall not the honour of the house of David and the honour of the citizen of Jerusalem over Judah. This latter clause is added, I think, by way of explanation; and this is evident from the subject itself for God declares, that he would be the protector of the helpless, so that they would be no less victorious than if they possessed many armed soldiers, and were furnished with money and other necessaries to carry on war. For by comparing here the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem with Judah, he has no doubt a regard to this, - that though there was no kingdom and no fortified cities, there would yet be sufficient protection in him alone, so that he could by himself defend the people, though unarmed, and having no swords, nor power, nor any other requisite means. Boast then shall not the house of David: and this seems to have been mentioned designedly, for while they trusted in their own wealth and power, they did not rest on God as they ought to have done. As then the Jews had been elated with vain pride, while the dignity of the kingdom remained, and while they possessed wealth and warlike instruments, God here reproves this false confidence; for the Jews had thus obscured his gratuitous favour. For however great might have been the treasures collected by David and Solomon, and however formidable they might have been to their enemies and the neighbouring nations, they ought yet to have relied on the protection of God alone. Since then earthly helps had inflated their minds, God now reproves their vain conceit, and shows that the condition of the people would be no less happy, when no king sat on the throne, and no aids enlisted for the protection of the people; and therefore he declares, that though exposed to all evils, they should yet be safe and secure, for God would defend them. This is the reason why the Prophet says, that the royal posterity would not glory against Judah, though dwelling in tents, nor the citizens of Jerusalem, who were then as it were the courtiers: for as the royal seat was at Jerusalem, a sort of vain boasting was made by all the citizens. As then all of them despised the inhabitants of the country, when the condition of the city was illustrious, the Prophet says, the posterity of David and Jerusalem shall not hereafter glory against the people of Judah, scattered in the open fields. It then follows - Zechariah 12:8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the LORD before them. He goes on with the same subject; and he says that God would be like a shield to protect the Jews. For though the verb "yagan" is used here, yet as it is derived from "magen", which means a shield, that metaphor is to be understood here, - even that the Jews, though without power and without warlike instruments, would yet be safe under the protection of God, for he being their shield would be sufficient. And God is here indirectly opposed to all kinds of fortresses which men too anxiously seek, and on which they vainly depend. The Prophet then no doubt claims here for God a power, which in opposition to the whole world, and when no other help appears, would be found sufficient to subdue all enemies and to save his people. Jehovah then shall be, he says, a shield. But there seems to be here something inconsistent; for he had said before that the Jews would be safe wherever they lived, though they did not dwell at Jerusalem; but now he confines this promise to the citizens of Jerusalem. The answer to this is plain: We observed yesterday, that the piety of those was commended who had preferred to undergo many and grievous trials in returning home, and then to expose themselves to many dangers, rather than to continue in exile, as in that case they wholly separated themselves from the temple. Now since this was the object of the Prophet, it is no wonder that he one while names the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and that at another time he includes generally all the Jews. And by saying in the last verse, that the citizens of Jerusalem were not to glory against the country people, scattered in the villages, he intended, in adopting this way of speaking, to humble the citizens of Jerusalem, but not to exclude them from the promise made to all: as God then was to be the defender of all, the Prophet returns again to Jerusalem. For as God had chosen there his sanctuary, it is not to be wondered that the place was precious in his sight. But it was yet necessary to take away all pride from the Jews, that they might not, as it has been said, trust in earthly aids and supports. This is the meaning, when he says, the protection of God shall be on the inhabitants of Jerusalem. He now adds - The feeble among them shall be like David. Some give a refined explanation - that as David, who was not trained up for war, and was by no means strong, being, almost a boy, yet slew the proud giant Goliath, so the feeble among the Jews, as they think, will, by God's power, be made victorious over their enemies. But this seems forced. The Prophet, then, I have no doubt, connects the whole together, and considers David as a king; for when David slew Goliath, he was yet a boy, remarkable for no velour. After he attained the kingdom, he became more eminent, we know, in every way, than all the kings of the earth. It is then this eminence which the Prophet has in view, when he says that the least and the most despised among them would be like David; as though he had said - "They shall all be endued with royal and heroic velour, not only the common people, but even those who seemed to be like women, and who possessed nothing that was manly; they would yet excel as David in heroic velour." It then follows - And the whole house of David shall be as angels; that is, the royal posterity shall be remarkable for angelic velour. And it was necessary to add this, that the faithful might not think that the house of David, from which salvation was to be expected, would be reduced to nothing. For whatever had been promised to them might have vanished, were not that promise to stand firm, on which was founded the salvation of the whole people - "Thy house shall remain for ever." (Psalm 89: 37.) Now as Zechariah seemed to have cast down and wholly overthrown the royal house, it might have occurred to the minds of the faithful, "whence then shall arise our salvation? for it is certain that without Christ we are wholly lost." Now Christ was not to come forth, except from the house of David. The Prophet then does here opportunely declare, that the royal house would be most eminent, as though all the men belonging to it were angels. He puts down the word "'elohim", which also means God; but he adds in the same sentence - As the angel of Jehovah before their face. The Prophet compares here, no doubt, the posterity of David to the angel, who had been the leader of the people and the minister of redemption. That angel we conclude was Christ; for though God then appointed many angels to his people, yet Christ, as it is well known, was their prince and head. The Prophet then bids the Jews here to look for the perpetual aid of God, since in the royal house were not only angels, but even the very leader of the fathers, who had exercised the ineffable power of God in redeeming the people. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet: The import of the whole is, that God would so undertake the defence and protection of his people, as to be of himself sufficient, without any other aid; and also that the minister of salvation would be in the royal house itself; for as formerly, when their fathers were led out of Egypt, God had exercised his power through an angel, so now he had set over them a Mediator. And in accordance with this meaning he adds, "lefaneyhem", before their face." He bids the faithful to attend to the royal house, which was then deprived of all dignity, so that it had no power to help. Nothing indeed was then seen in the posterity of David but what was degrading, and even contemptible; and yet the Prophet bids them to expect salvation from that house, which was so brought down as to possess nothing worthy of being noticed. We may now ask, when was this prophecy fulfilled? Zechariah does indeed predict great things; but in reviewing all histories, nothing of a corresponding character is to be found. It must nevertheless be observed, that this blessed and happy state ass promised to the Jews, because from them Christ was to arise, and also because Jerusalem was to be the mother of all Churches; for from thence the law was to go forth, and from thence God had determined to send forth the royal sceptre, that the son of David might rule over the whole world. Since the case was so, we may now easily understand how the condition of that miserable people would become happier and more glorious than under the rich and flourishing kingdom of David; for Christ would at length come, in whom complete happiness was to be found. We may now also add this - that though few of the Jews embraced the favour of Christ, and the rest fell away, and thus gave place to the Gentiles, yet however small was the portion of the faithful, still the Prophet does not speak here hyperbolically, for the thing itself is what ought to be regarded; and that the Jews did not enjoy this blessed state, was owing to their own ingratitude; but this detracts nothing from the felicity described here by Zechariah. Let us proceed - Zechariah 12:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. The Prophet repeats again, that though ungodly and wicked men assailed the Church in great number on every side, God would yet be its defender. By saying, I will seek to destroy, &c., he means that God would he fully bent (intentum) to destroy, as men are wont to be anxious when they earnestly pursue an object. Lest then the faithful should think that they should perish through the disdain, or the neglect, or the forgetfulness of God, he says, that he would be their anxious defender. I will seek then, that is, I will be most earnestly solicitous, to destroy all the nations. This promise no doubt extends far wider than to the Jews; for he prophesies here concerning the kingdom of Christ: for if we consider the state of the people during the whole of the intervening period, from their return to the coming of Christ, the Prophet will certainly appear to have given here a hope of something far greater than what had taken place. But he had a regard especially to Christ. Here then is promised a perpetual defence to the Church; and hence also proceeds confidence as to salvation, for God carefully watches over us, that he may effectually oppose all our enemies. I only briefly touch on these things, which require long and minute consideration: but it is enough for me to show briefly the meaning of the Prophet, provided this be done clearly, so that each may then apply what is said to his own improvement. We may in the meantime learn also from the words of the Prophet, that the Church is ever to be disquieted in this world, for not only one enemy will cause trouble to it, but even many nations shall rise up against it. It follows - Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn. At the beginning of this verse the Prophet intimates, that though the Jews were then miserable and would be so in future, yet God would be merciful to them: and thus he exhorts them to patience, that they might not faint through a long-continued weariness. For it was not enough to promise to them what we have noticed respecting God's aid, except Zechariah had added, that God would at length be merciful and gracious to them after they had endured so many evils, that the world would regard them as almost consumed. As to the effusion of the spirit, the expression at the first view seems hard to be understood; for what is it to pour forth the spirit of grace? He ought rather to have said thus, "I will pour my grace upon you." But what he means is, that God would be merciful, for his spirit would be moved to deliver the Jews; for he compares the spirit of God here to the mind of man, and we know that Scripture often uses language of this kind. The phrase then, I will pour forth the spirit of grace, may be thus suitably expressed - "I will pour forth my bowels of mercy," or, "I will open my whole heart to show mercy to this people," or, "My Spirit shall be like the spirit of man, which is wont to move him to give help to the miserable." We now then understand the sense in which God may be fitly said to pour forth the spirit of grace. It may yet be taken in a more refined manner, as meaning that God would not only show mercy to his people, but also make them sensible of his mercy; and this view I am inclined to take, especially on account of what follows, the spirit of commiserations, or, of lamentations, for the word, "tachanunim" commonly means lamentations in Hebrew. Some render it "prayers," but improperly, for they express not the force of the word. It is always put in the plural number, at least with this termination: and there is but one place where we can render it commiserations, that is, in Jer. 31: 9 - "In commiserations will I restore them." But even there it may be rendered lamentations consistently with the whole verse; for the Prophet says, "They shall weep," and afterwards adds, "In lamentations will I restore them." The greater part indeed of interpreters render it here, prayers; but the Hebrews prefer to translate it commiserations, and for this reason, because they consider that the spirit of grace is nothing else but simply grace itself. The spirit of grace is indeed grace itself united with faith: for God often hears the miserable, extends his hand to them, and brings them a most effectual deliverance, while they still continue blind and remain unconcerned. It is then far better that the spirit of grace should be poured forth on us, than grace itself: for except the spirit of God penetrate into our hearts and instils into us a feeling need of grace, it will not only be useless, but even injurious; for God at length will take vengeance on our ingratitude when he sees his grace perishing through our indifference. What then the Prophet, in my opinion, means is, that God will at length be so propitious to the Jews as to pour forth on them the spirit of grace, and then the spirit of lamentations, in order to obtain grace. They who render the word prayers, do not, as I have already said, convey the full import of the term. But we may also take commiserations in a passive sense and consistently with its common meaning: I will pour forth the spirit of grace, that they themselves may perceive my grace; and then, the spirit of commiserations, that having deplored their evils, they may understand that they have been delivered by a power from above. Hence Zechariah promises here more than before; for he speaks not here of God's external aid, by which they were to be defended, but of inward grace, by which God would pour hidden joy into their hearts, that they might know and find by a sure experience that he was propitious to them. But if the word "tachanunim" be rendered commiserations, the meaning would be, as I have already stated, that the Jews, through the dictation and the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, would find God merciful to them; but if we render it lamentations, then the Prophet must be viewed as saying something more - that the Jews, previously so hardened in their evils, as not to flee to God for help, would become at length suppliants, because the Spirit would inwardly so touch their hearts as to lead them to deplore their state before God, and thus to express their complaints to Him: and this view is more fully confirmed by what follows. They shall look to me, he says, whom they have pierced. We then see here that not only an external grace or favour was promised to the Jews, but an internal light of faith, the author of which is the Spirit; for he it is who illuminates our minds to see the goodness of God, and it is he also who turns our hearts: and for this reason he adds, they shall look to me. For God, as I have already reminded you, deals very bountifully with the unbelieving, but they are blind; and hence he pours forth his grace without any benefit, as though he rained on flint or on arid rocks. However bountifully then God may bestow his grace on the unbelieving, they yet render his favour useless, for they are like stones. Now, as Zechariah declares that the Jews would at length look to God, it follows, that the spirit of repentance and the light of faith are promised to them, so that they may know God as the author of their salvation, and feel so assured that they are already saved, as in future to devote themselves entirely to him: they shall then look to me whom they have pierced. Here also the Prophet indirectly reproves the Jews for their great obstinacy, for God had restored them, and they had been as untameable as wild beasts; for this piercing is to be taken metaphorically for continual provocation, as though he had said, that the Jews in their perverseness were prepared as it were for war, that they goaded and pierced God by their wickedness or by the weapons of their rebellion. As then they had been such, he says now, that such a change would be wrought by God that they would become quite different, for they would learn to look to him whom they had previously pierced. We cannot finish to-day. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as we are this day surrounded with enemies, and without any defence, so that our safety seems to be every moment in danger, - O grant, that we may raise up our hearts to thee, and being satisfied with thy protection alone, may we despise whatever Satan and the whole world may threaten us with, and thus continue impregnable while carrying on our warfare, so that we may at length reach that happy rest, where we shall enjoy not only those good things which thou hast promised to us on earth, but also that glorious and triumphant victory which we shall partake of together with our head, even Christ Jesus, as he has overcome the world for us, in order that he might gather us to himself, and make us partakers of his victory and of all his blessings. - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 29... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-28.txt .