(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 Megiddon. 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 apart. 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 world. 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. Prayer. 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... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-29.txt .