(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 29)
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-second. 
    We said in our yesterday's lecture, that the words, They shall 
look to me whom they have pierced, are to be taken metaphorically, 
for the Prophet expresses here what he had said before - that the 
Jews would some time return to a sound mind, that is, when endued 
with a spirit of grace and of commiserations. For it is a true 
conversion when men seriously acknowledge that they are at war with 
God, and that he is their enemy until they are reconciled; for 
except a sinner sets himself in a manner before God's tribunal, he 
is never touched by a true feeling of repentance. It is therefore 
necessary for us to remember, that God has been offended by us, and 
that we have, as far as we could, instigated him to destroy us, 
inasmuch as we have provoked his wrath and his vengeance. This then 
is the real meaning of the Prophet here: for the Jews, after having 
in various ways and for a long time heedlessly provoked God, would 
sometime be led to repentance, inasmuch as they would become 
terrified by God's judgement, while no one of them thought 
previous]y that they had any account to render. 
    John says that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, when his 
side was pierced by a spear, (John 19: 37;) and this is most true: 
for it was necessary that the visible symbol should be exhibited in 
the person of Christ, in order that the Jews might know that he was 
the God who had spoken by the Prophets; and we have elsewhere seen 
similar instances. The Jews then had crucified their God when they 
grieved his Spirit; but Christ also was as to his flesh pierced by 
them. And this is what John means - that God by that visible symbol 
made it evident, that he had not only been formerly provoked in a 
disgraceful manner by the Jews, but that at length in the person of 
his only-begotten Son this great sin was added to their disgraceful 
impiety, that they pierced even the side of Christ. It is indeed 
true, that the side of Christ was pierced by a Roman soldier, but, 
as Peter says, he was crucified by the Jews, for they were the 
authors of his death, and Pilate was almost forced by them to 
condemn him. (Acts 2: 36.) So then the piercing of his side is 
justly to be ascribed to the Jews, for they executed what their mad 
impiety suggested by the hand of a foreign soldier. 
    But it must be observed, that the words of the Prophet are not 
cited by John with reference to repentance, for he does not speak 
there of repentance; but his object was briefly to show, that Christ 
is that God who had from the beginning spoken by the Prophets; for 
he says, They shall look to me. It is certain that the only true 
God, the creator of heaven and earth, declared this through his 
Spirit by the mouth of Zechariah. Then Christ is that same God. We 
do not, however, thus confound the persons; but we are to conclude 
that the essence of the Father and of the Son is simple and the 
same, which those wicked men, who now disturb the Church, attempt to 
deny. For they imagine that the Father is the only true God, and 
then they allow that Christ also is a God; but they devise a new 
kind of divinity, like a river issuing from a fountain. They 
therefore deny that Christ is the only true God; though they allow 
that he was begotten from eternity, they yet teach us that the 
essence of the Father and of the Son is not the same; and they 
regard Christ as some sort of phantom, I know not what; for they 
will never allow him to be that God, the author of this prophecy. 
They say, as they necessarily must say, that Zechariah spoke by his 
Spirit; but they even account for this by referring to the proximate 
and the second cause, inasmuch as God the Father employed his own 
Son. They, however, pertinaciously contend, that Christ is a God not 
of the same essence with the Father; for the word God, as they 
imagine, does not properly belong to any but to the Father. 
    But we clearly see how the Holy Spirit condemns this blasphemy; 
for he shows by the mouth of the evangelist, that he was not a kind 
of a second God, who was crucified, but that he was the God who 
spoke by Moses, and who thus declared himself to be the only true 
God, and affirmed the same by the mouth of Isaiah - "My glory will I 
not give to another: I, I am, and none besides me." (Isaiah 42: 10:) 
    Now follows what we read in our last lecture, but time did not 
allow me to give an explanation: Lament, he says, shall they for him 
a lamentation as that for an only-begotten; and bitter shall they be 
for him as with a bitterness for a first-born. Zechariah goes on 
with the same subject; for he promises as before the spirit of 
repentance to the Jews, and mentions a particular kind of 
repentance; but by stating a part for the whole, he includes under 
this kind every part of it. The beginning of repentance, we know, is 
grief and lamentation. As then by the phrase, "They shall look to 
me," he had not sufficiently expressed what he wished, he now 
explains his meaning more clearly by mentioning lamentation and 
grief, that God would at length grant the Jews repentance for 
heaving crucified Christ. The person indeed is changed; but we know 
that it is a common thing with the Prophets to introduce God as 
speaking, now in the first person, then in the second person. If any 
one be disposed to think that there is a difference marked out here 
as to the person, I do not object; but I fear that it is a 
refinement that will not stand. At the same time we may state this 
explanation - They shall look to me whom they pierced. Was God the 
Father pierced? By no means; for he had not put on flesh in which he 
could have suffered; but this was done by his only begotten Son. Why 
then does the Father say, They shall look to me? the answer given 
is, because of the unity of the essence. It then follows - And they 
shall lament for him and be bitter for him. There is here a 
transition from the first to the third person; for though Christ is 
the same with the Father, yet different as to his person. But, as I 
have already said, I am not inclined to enforce this view; for the 
Hebrew mode of speaking seems to countenance the other opinion - 
that the Prophet first introduces God as the speaker, and then 
narrates himself, as God's minister, what would take place. 
    But what I have just referred to is doubtless true - that 
repentance is here described by stating a part for the whole; for 
the first thing in order is sorrow, according to what Paul teaches 
us in 2 Cor 7: 10; and the reason may also be gathered from what I 
have said - that it cannot be that sin will displease us, and we 
repent, except our guilt goad and wound us, while we acknowledge 
that God is an avenger of sins, and that we have to do with him; for 
when God the Judge comes forth to punish us, must we not necessarily 
be smitten with dreadful grief and alarm, yea, be almost so allowed 
up by it? Hence that bitterness that is mentioned; and hence 
lamentation; for it cannot be otherwise, when we dread God's 
vengeance suspended over us. 
    But the Prophet, it may be said, seems to mean something else - 
that they will lament on account of Christ, and not on their own 
account. To this a ready answer may be given - that the fountain and 
cause of lamentation is pointed out; for ingratitude will constrain 
the Jews to lament, inasmuch as they will acknowledge that in their 
perverse obstinacy they had carried on war with God and his 
only-begotten Son. He does not then understand that the death of 
Christ would be bitter to them, as we are wont to shed tears and to 
lament at the death of a friend, or of a brother or of a son; but 
because they would know and feel that they had been extremely blind, 
and by their sins provoked God 
    Jerome thought that Christ is called the only-begotten with 
regard to his Divine nature, and the first-born, because he is the 
elder brother of all the godly, and the Head of the Church. The 
sentiment is indeed true, but I know not whether it be the sentiment 
of the Prophet in this passage. I therefore prefer to take this 
simple view of what is here said, - that the Jews, after having 
despised Christ, would at length acknowledge him to be a precious 
and invaluable treasure, the contempt of whom deserved the vengeance 
of God. Let us proceed - 
Zechariah 12:11 
In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the 
mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon. 
    The Prophet says nearly the same thing to the end of the 
chapter; but as the event was worthy of being commemorated, he 
embellishes it with many figurative terms. He then says, that the 
lamentation for the death of Christ would be like that after the 
death of Josiah; for they who would have Hadadrimmon to be a man's 
name, have no reason for what they hold, and indulge themselves in 
mere conjecture. It is indeed agreed almost by all that Hadadrimmon 
was either a town connected with the plain of Megiddon, or a country 
near Jezreel. But as to what it was, it is a matter of no great 
consequence. I indeed believe that Hadadrimmon was a neighbouring 
town, or a part of that country in which was situated the plain of 
    We may now observe, that this comparison which the Prophet 
institutes is very apposite; for when Josiah was slain by the King 
of Egypt, it is said in 2 Chron. 5: 30, that an yearly lamentation 
was appointed. The Jews then were wont every year to lament the 
death of Josiah; for from that time it was evident that God was so 
displeased with the people, that they had no longer any hope of 
deliverance; nay, Jeremiah in his mournful song had special 
reference to Josiah, as it appears from sacred history. And, among 
other things, he says, that Christ our Lord, in whose life lived our 
life, was slain for our sins. Jeremiah then acknowledges that it was 
a special proof of God's vengeance, that that pious king was taken 
away, and that the Jews were thus as it were forsaken, and became 
afterwards like a dead body, inasmuch as they only breathed in the 
life of Josiah: and at the same time he reminds us, that the 
kingdom, which God had intended to be the type and image of the 
kingdom of Christ, had as it were ceased to exist; for the successor 
of Josiah was deprived of all royal honour, and at length not only 
the whole dignity, but also the safety of the people, were trampled 
under foot. Hence, most fitly does the Prophet apply this 
lamentation to the death of Christ; as though he had said, - That 
the Jews lamented yearly the death of Josiah, because it was an 
evidence of the dreadful vengeance of God that they were deprived of 
that pious ruler; and that now there would be a similar lamentation, 
when they perceived that their light of salvation was extinguished, 
because they had crucified the Son of God, unless they humbly 
acknowledged their great wickedness, and obtained pardon. 
    We now then see the true meaning of the Prophet, when he says, 
that the lamentation in Jerusalem would be like that in Megiddon. 
    Were any to object and say, that the death of Christ was not 
accompanied with tears and mourning; I answer, - that the penitence 
of believers only is here described; for we know that a few only of 
the whole people were converted to God: but it is not to be wondered 
that the Prophet speaks generally of the whole nation, though he 
referred only to the elect of God and a small remnant; for God 
regarded those few who repented as the whole race of Abraham. Some 
mention the women of whom Luke speaks; but this seems too confined 
and strained: and we find also that that lamentation was forbidden 
by Christ, "Weep," he says, "for yourselves and for your children, 
not for me." (Luke 23: 28.) Since then Christ shows that that 
weeping was vain and useless, we may surely say that what is here 
said by Zechariah was not then fulfilled. And we must bear in mind 
what I have said before, - that by lamentation and sorrow is 
described that repentance with which the Jews were favoured, not 
indeed all, but such as had been ordained to salvation by the 
gratuitous adoption of God. It follows - 
Zechariah 12:12-14 
12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the 
house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house 
of Nathan apart, and their wives apart; 
13 The family of the house of Levi apart, and their wives apart; the 
family of Shimei apart, and their wives apart; 
14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives 
    Zechariah seems to have used more words than necessary to 
complete his subject; for he appears to be diffuse on a plain 
matter: but we ought to attend to its vast importance; for it seemed 
incredible, that any of that nation would repent, since they had 
almost all been given up to a reprobate mind. For who could have 
thought that there was any place for the favour of God, inasmuch as 
all, as far as they could, even from the least to the greatest, 
attempted to involve Christ in darkness? When therefore the Sun of 
Righteousness was as it were extinguished by the Jews, it seemed 
probable that they were a nation repudiated by God. But the Prophet 
here shows, that God would be mindful of his covenant, so that he 
would turn to himself some of all the families. 
    Lament, he says, shall the land. This indeed we know did not 
take place as to the body of the people, but God, to whom a small 
flock is precious, denominates here as the whole land the faithful, 
who had felt how grievously they had sinned, and were so pricked in 
their hearts as though they had pierced the Son of God. (Acts 2: 
37.) And though the Jews had destroyed themselves, yet through 
special and wonderful favour, three thousand were converted at one 
sermon by Peter; and then many in Greece, Asia Minor, and in the 
East, repented, and many Churches arose everywhere, as though God 
had created a new people. If these things be rightly viewed by us, 
we shall not think it unreasonable that Zechariah promises 
repentance to the whole land. 
    What he said before of Jerusalem ought not to be so taken as 
though he confined what he said to one city, but under this name he 
includes the whole nation, dispersed through distant parts of the 
    He says now, that this lamentations would be in every family 
apart. By which word he means, that it would not be a feigned or 
pretended ceremony, as when one begins to weep and draws tears from 
the eyes of others. The Prophet then testifies that it would be real 
sorrow, for one would not imitate another, but every one, impelled 
by his own feeling, would really grieve and lament. This then is the 
reason why he says that families would lament apart. Indeed the 
faithful ought to stimulate others by their example and encourage 
them to repent, but in a congregation hardly one in ten prays in 
earnest for pardon and really laments on account of his sins. Since 
therefore men are thus born to hypocrisy, and are confirmed in it by 
the whole practice of their the, it is no wonder that the Prophet, 
in order to set forth real sorrow, represents here every family by 
itself; as though he had said, "The family of David shall know that 
it had sinned, and the family of Levi, though it may not observe 
such an example, shall yet inwardly acknowledge its guilt." We now 
see why Zechariah repeats the word "apart" so often. 
    By saying, that the women wept apart, he means no doubt the 
same thing with what we find in the second chapter of Joel, "Go 
forth let the bridegroom from his chamber, and the bride from her 
recess." Men in grief, we know, withdraw from all pleasures and all 
joy. As then men usually separate themselves from their wives during 
the appointed time of public grief or mourning, the Prophet makes 
the women to be by themselves: he intimates at the same time that 
the women would not wait until the men showed then an example of 
mourning, but that they would of themselves, and through a feeling 
of their own, be inclined to lament. 
    But we must bear in mind what I lately said, - that the grief 
which the Jews felt for the death of Christ is not what is 
described, but rather that by which they were touched when God 
opened their eyes to repent for their own perverseness; for the 
death of Christ, we allow, is a cause of joy to us rather than of 
sorrow, but the joy arising from Christ's death cannot shine in us 
until our guilt really wounds us through God's appearing to us as a 
threatening judge. From this sorrow there arises the desire to 
repent and the true fear of God. Hence it is, that God himself will 
give us joy, for he will not have us, as Paul says, to be swallowed 
up with sorrow; he lays us prostrate, that he may again raise us up. 
    Now, why he names the house of Levi, and the house of Shimei, 
or of Simeon, and the house of David, and the house of Nathan, 
rather than the other tribes, is uncertain: yet it seems to me 
probable that by the family of David he means the whole tribe of 
Judah, and the same by the family of Nathan. As to the tribe of Levi 
it excelled in honour on account of the priesthood, but no honour 
belonged to Simeon. Why then are Issachar and Reuben the first-born, 
and the other tribes omitted here? It might indeed have been, that 
there were then remaining more from the tribes of Simeon and Levi 
than from the tribe of Zebulon or of Issachar or of Reuben; but this 
is uncertain, and I am not disposed to make much of mere 
conjectures. But I am inclined to think that the family of David and 
the tribe of Levi are here mentioned not for the sake of honour but 
of reproach, because the royal family and the priests were those who 
crucified Christ, and pierced God in the person of his only-begotten 
Son. Jerome conjectures, that the family of Nathan is named, because 
he was a celebrated Prophet and eminent above others, and that the 
Prophets are designated by him. He says that many teachers arose 
from the tribe of Simeon; but I know not where he got his 
information, for he adduces no proofs. 
    But I am satisfied with the simple view already given, - that 
the Prophet by mentioning certain families meant to include the 
whole people, and that he does not omit the royal family nor the 
priests, because they were especially those who crucified Christ: 
and we know that Christ descended from Nathan, though Jerome thought 
the Prophet to be intended here rather than Nathan, one of Christ's 
progenitors: but these things are of small moment. 
    He says in the last place, that this lamentation would be 
common to all the remaining families. Though few had returned, 
except those from the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and from the 
tribe of Levi, yet Zechariah, as I think, means here by the 
remaining families, the elect who had been miraculously delivered 
from the common ruin; for blindness had so prevailed, that the 
rejection of the whole people on the part of God was evident. Under 
this designation then I consider the remnants of grace, as Paul 
says, to be included; as though the Prophet had said, that he had 
spoken of sorrow, not with regard to the whole nation 
indiscriminately, but to that part which was a remnant according to 
the gratuitous election of God. Now follows - 
Chapter 13. 
Zechariah 13:1 
In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David 
and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. 
    From this verse we again learn, that Zechariah promised the 
spirit of repentance to the Jews, so that they would find God still 
propitious to them, when their circumstances were brought to the 
verge of despair: for it would not have been enough for them to feel 
sorrow, except God himself became propitious and merciful to them. 
He had said indeed that the Spirit of grace and of commiserations 
would be poured forth; but he had not as yet taught clearly what he 
now adds respecting remission and pardon. After having then declared 
that there would be felt by the Jews the bitterest sorrow, because 
they had as it were pierced God, he now mentions the fruit of this 
repentance. And hence also appears what Paul means by sorrow not to 
be repented of; for it generates repentance unto salvation. When 
then our sorrow is blessed by the Lord, the end is to be regarded; 
for our hearts are thereby raised up to joy. But the issue of 
repentance, as Zechariah declares here, is ablution: and he alludes 
to the legal rites when he says, 
    A fountain shall be opened to the house of David, and to the 
inhabitants of Jerusalem. We know that formerly under the law many 
washings were prescribed to the Jews; and when any one had become 
defiled, to wash himself was the remedy. It is certain that water 
was of no value to cleanse the heart; but the sins of men, we know, 
are expiated by the death of Christ, so that true ablution is by the 
blood which he shed for us. Hence the types of the law ought no 
doubt to be referred to this blood. The meaning is that God would be 
reconciled to the Jews when they became touched with sincere sorrow, 
and that reconciliation would be ready for them, for the Lord would 
cleanse them from every defilement. 
    He speaks of a fountain opened; and he no doubt intimates here 
a difference between the law and the gospel. Water was brought daily 
to the temple; but it was, we know, for private washings. But 
Zechariah promises here a perpetual stream of cleansing water; as 
though he had said, "Ablution will be free to all, when God shall 
again receive his people into favour." Though remission of sins was 
formerly offered under the law, yet it is now much more easily 
obtained by us; not that God grants a license to sin, but that the 
way in which our filth is cleansed, has become more evident since 
the coming of Christ. For the fathers under the law were indeed 
fully assured that God was so propitious as not to impute sins; but 
where was the pledge of ablution? In the sprinkling of blood, and 
that blood was the blood of a calf or a lamb. Now since we know that 
we have been redeemed by Christ, and that our souls are sprinkled 
with his blood by the hidden power of the Holy Spirit, it is 
doubtless the same as though God had not only set before our eyes 
our ablution, but also placed it as it were in our hands, while to 
the fathers it was more obscure or shown to them at a distance. 
    And he says, To the house of David and to the inhabitants of 
Jerusalem. He had before restricted God's favour to that city, that 
he might goad the Jews, who had preferred their outward 
gratifications to so great a happiness; for they thought themselves 
happy in their exile, because they inhabited a pleasant and fruitful 
country, and enjoyed quietness and peace; and thus it happened that 
they despised the deliverance offered to them. Hence the Prophet 
promises here to the citizens of Jerusalem and to the royal family a 
fountain in which they might wash away their filth; for from Sion 
was the law to go forth, and from Jerusalem the word of the Lord. 
(Is. 2: 2.) And we know that from thence were taken the first-fruits 
of the new Church. What we have before seen respecting God's favour 
being extended farther, is no objection; for both events were in 
their due order fulfilled, as God blessed the tribe of Judah, who 
trusted in his promises and returned to their own country, and 
afterwards extended wider his favour, and gathered into one body 
those who had been dispersed through distant parts of the world. 
    He adds, For sin and for uncleanness, or as some read, "for 
sprinkling," which is by no means suitable, except the word "sin" be 
taken for expiation. The word is derived from "nadad", but it often 
means sprinkling, sometimes uncleanness, and sometimes the 
uncleanness of women, and so some render it here. The verb signifies 
to remove or to separate; and hence "nidah" is the removal of a 
woman from her husband during her uncleanness, but it is applied to 
designate any uncleanness. It might indeed be taken here for the 
uncleanness of women, as an instance of a part for the whole; but I 
am led by the context to render it uncleanness. Now if we translate 
"chatat" sin, then "nidah" must be rendered uncleanness; but if the 
first be expiation, then the second may be sprinkling: and this 
meaning I am disposed to take, for under the law sins were cleansed 
by sacrifices as well as by washings. 
    The import of the whole then is - that though the Jews had in 
various ways defiled themselves, so that they were become filthy 
before God, and their uncleanness was abominable, yet a fountain 
would be prepared for them, by which they might cleanse themselves, 
so as to come before God pure and clean. We hence see that it was 
the Prophet's object to show, that the repentance of which he had 
spoken would not be useless, for there would be a sure issue, when 
God favoured the Jews, and showed himself propitious to them, and 
already pacified, and even provided for them a cleansing by the 
blood of his only-begotten Son, so that no filth might prevent them 
to call on him boldly and in confidence; for instead of the legal 
rites there would be the reality, as their hearts would be sprinkled 
by the Spirit, so that they would be purified by faith, and would 
thus cast away all their filth. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast been pleased to adopt 
us as thy people, and from being thine enemies, profane and 
reprobate, to make us the children of Abraham, that we might be to 
thee a holy heritage, - O grant, that through the whole course of 
our life we may so repent as to attain thy mercy, which is daily set 
before us in thy gospel, and of which thou hast given us a sure 
pledge in the death of thy only Son, so that we may become more and 
more humble before thee, and labour to form our life according to 
the rule of righteousness, and so loathe ourselves, that we may at 
the same time be allured by the sweetness of thy goodness to call 
upon thee, and that being thus united to thee, we may be confirmed 
in the faith, until we shall reach that blessed rest which has been 
procured for us by the blood of thy Son Jesus Christ. - Amen.

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 30...

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