(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 32) Chapter 14. Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-fifth. Zechariah 14:1,2 1 Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. 2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Zechariah pursues the same subject as in the preceding chapter: for having promised a joyful and happy state to the faithful, who despising their indulgences in Chaldea had returned to their own country, he now reminds them that their peaceful condition in Judea would not be without many trials and troubles; and therefore he exhorts them to patience, lest they should faint in their adversities, and repent of their return. Some apply this chapter to the time of Antichrist, some refer it to the last day, others explain it of the destruction of the city which happened in the reign of Vespasian; but I doubt not but that the Prophet meant here to include the calamities which were near at hand, for the city had not yet been built, the Jews having been much harassed by their neighbours; and we also know how atrocious was the tyranny which Antiochus exercised: in short, there was a continued series of evils from the time the city and the temple began to be built till the coming of Christ. As then the Jews, who had preferred foreign countries to their own, might have boasted of their lot and despised their brethren, as though they had foolishly and thoughtlessly removed from foreign lands, and had been too precipitate in returning, God designed to declare by the mouth of Zechariah what evils were at hand, that the faithful might with a courageous mind be prepared to undergo their trials, and that they might never succumb under any evils, for the Lord had promised more to them than what they could have attained in Chaldea and other countries. Having now explained the meaning of the Prophet, I shall come to the words. Behold, he says, the day shall come to Jehovah, and divided shall be thy spoils in the midst of the city. By the demonstrative particle Behold, the certainty of the prophecy, as it has been elsewhere said, is intimated; for the Prophet points out as by the finger what could not yet be comprehended by human minds. And he says, that the day would come to Jehovah, that they might know that they would suffer a just punishment when the Lord treated them in this manner; for men, we know, indulge themselves and seek pleasures, and when God seems not to deal kindly with them, they raise a clamour as though he were too severe. Hence the Prophet reminds them, that so great a calamity would not come without a cause, for God would then execute his judgement. He does not expressly describe it, but he speaks as though he summoned them before God's tribunal. Now when we understand that we have to do with God, it avails us nothing to murmur. It is then better to be silent when God is set forth as being in the midst of us, for it is certain that he will not in chastising us exceed what is just. But here is described a hard affliction; for Zechariah intimates that the city would be exposed to the will of enemies, so that they would divide at pleasure their spoils in the very midst of it. What conquerors snatch away, they afterwards in private divide among themselves; and we know that many cities have been plundered, when yet the conquerors have not dared to expose to view their spoils. But the Prophet means here that there would be no strength in the Jews to prevent their enemies from dividing the spoils at their leisure in the midst of the city. He afterwards adds, I will gather all nations against Jerusalem. He confirms what I have already said, that God would be the author of those calamities, and thus he puts a restraint on the Jews, that they might not expostulate with him respecting the severity of their punishment. He then shortly intimates, that the nations would not come by chance to attack Jerusalem; and that whatever commotions would arise, they could not be ascribed to chance or to fortune, or to the purposes of men, but to the decree of heaven. He then bids them to look to God, that they might humble themselves umber his mighty hand, according to what Peter also does. (1 Pet. 5: 6.) He might have said in a briefer manner, "All the nations shall conspire;" but he ascribes this to God, and says, that he will bring them, like a prince, who collects an army, which he commands to fight under his banner. And by naming all nations, he reminds them that their trials would not be light; for such would be the union of enemies, and so large would be their number, that Jerusalem would be brought nigh to utter ruin. But afterwards he subjoins a consolation to moderate the grievousness of that calamity: yet he says first - Taken shall be the city, plundered shall be the houses, and the women shall be ravished. What usually happens to a city taken by storm, the citizens of Jerusalem, the Prophet says, would have to endure. It is indeed an extreme outrage, when women are ravished by enemies; and then, poverty is often more grievous than death; and yet he says, that when deprived of their substance they would have to witness an outrage more hard to be borne than death itself, because their women would be subjected to such a disgrace. He adds, that half part of the city would depart. He had said before that a third part only would be saved; but he now seems to be inconsistent with himself. But as to number we need not anxiously enquire, as I have elsewhere reminded you; for the Prophets often mention half part and then the third, when yet they mean the same thing. It is the same as though he had said, that the destruction would be so great, that hardly half of them would remain alive. Now follows the consolation which I have mentioned, - that the residue of the people would not be exterminated from the city. By these words the Prophet teaches them, that though hard would be the condition of the city, as it would be reduced nearly to a waste, yet they who having returned to their country sincerely worshipped God, would be blessed; for the Church would ever remain safe, and that how much soever God might lessen the number, yet a part of the Church, however small, would be kept safe. The object then of the Prophet is to comfort the faithful, that they might sustain whatever evils might be at hand, and look for what God promises, even that a Church would again emerge, and that God would really prove that Jerusalem was not in vain his sanctuary, where he would bless the remnant which escaped, and escaped through his wonderful favour. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 14:3 Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. Zechariah here amplifies the favour of God, - that he will go forth openly, and avowedly carry on war against all the enemies of Jerusalem. It was not indeed a small mitigation of their evils, that a part of the Church would be saved. But the Prophet declares here what is still far better, - that when God afflicted his Church, and suffered it to be violently assailed by enemies, he would become at length the avenger of all the wrongs they might have done. We know how we are wounded and tried, when God gives loose reins to the ungodly, and when they grow wanton in their wickedness and triumph, insult God, and almost spit as it were at the very clouds. When therefore the ungodly thus petulantly exult, and God in the meantime hides himself and is still, it is difficult to wait patiently for the issue. Hence the Prophet promises that God will become the avenger, after having allowed his Church to be for a time chastised by ungodly and wicked enemies. Go forth, he says, shall Jehovah. We know the meaning of this metaphorical expression. The Prophets sometimes extend the phrase, "Go forth shall God from his holy place," as though they said - that the Jews would find by experience that God's name is not invoked in vain in his temple, and that it has not been said in vain, that God is seated between the cherubim. But the Prophet seems here to speak of God generally, as going forth armed from his recesses to resist the enemies of his Church. Go forth then shall God; for he had for a time concealed his power. In a like manner, we know that God hides his face from us when he brings us no help, and when we also think that we are neglected by him. As then God, as long as he hides his power, seems to be without power, hence the Prophet says here, Go forth shall Jehovah, and he will fight against these nations. By these words he intimates, that there is no reason for the faithful to envy their enemies, even when all things go on prosperously with them; for they will at length find that they cannot injure the Church without God undertaking its cause, according to what he has promised, "I will be an enemy to thine enemies." (Ex. 23: 22.) But as this is a thing difficult to be believed, he calls to mind ancient history,_ As in the day, he says, in which he fought in the day of battle. Some confine this part to the passage through the Red Sea; but I think that Zechariah includes all the instances which God had given to the Jews to prove that they were the objects of his care. God then, not only once, not at one time, nor in one manner, had put forth his power, that the Jews might plainly see that they became conquerors through his aid. This is what Zechariah means. He in effect says, "Both you and your fathers have long ago found that God is wont to fight for his Church; for he has honoured you with innumerable victories; you have been often overwhelmed with despair, and his favour unexpectedly shone upon you, and delivered you beyond all that you hoped for: you had often to contend with the strongest enemies; they were put to flight, even when ye were wholly unequal to them in number, and yet God bestowed upon you easy victories. Since then God has so often and in such divers ways cast down your enemies, why should you not hope for the same aid still from him?" We hence see why the Prophet now refers to the ancient battles of God, even that he might by facts confirm the Jews in their hope, and that they might not doubt but that God was endued with power sufficiently strong to subdue all the ungodly, for he loses none. And he adds, in the day of battle, even when there is need of help from heaven. He indeed calls it the day of engagement or contest, for so the word "kerav" properly means. When therefore it was necessary for God to engage with enemies, then his power appeared: "There is hence no reason for you hereafter to doubt, but that he will still prevail against your enemies." We know that this mode of speaking is frequently and commonly used by the Prophets, that is, when they adduce examples of God's favour and power, by which he has proved that there is in him alone sufficient help for the deliverance of his Church. It behaves us now to apply to ourselves what is here said, for Zechariah did not only speak for the men of his age, or for those of the next generation, but he intended to furnish the Church with confidence till the end of the world, so that the faithful might not faint under any trials. Whenever then the ungodly prevail, and no hope shines on us, let us remember how often and by what various means God has wonderfully delivered his Church as it were from death; for it was not his purpose only once to help and aid his own people, but also to animate us, that we at this day may not despond, when we endure evils with which the fathers formerly struggled. He then adds - Zechariah 14:4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. He continues the same subject, that God's power would be then conspicuous in putting enemies to flight. He indeed illustrates here his discourse by figurative expressions, as though he wished to bring the Jews to see the scene itself; for the object of the personification is no other but that the faithful might set God before them as it were in a visible form; and thus he confirms their faith, as indeed it was necessary; for as we are dull and entangled in earthly thoughts, our minds can hardly rise up to heaven, though the Lord with a clear voice invites us to himself. The Prophet then, in order to aid our weakness, adds a vivid representation, as though God stood before their eyes. Stand, he says, shall his feet on the mount of Olives. He does not here promise a miracle, such as even the ignorant might conceive to be literal; nor does he do this in what follows, when he says, The mount shall be rent, and half of it shall thorn to the east and half to the west. This has never happened, that mount has never been rent: but as the Prophet could not, under those grievous trials, which might have overwhelmed the minds of the godly a hundred times, have extolled the power of God as much as the exigency of the case required without employing a highly figurative language, he therefore accommodates himself, as I have said, to the capacity of our flesh. The import of the whole is, - that God's power would be so remarkable in the deliverance of his Church, as though God manifested himself in a visible form and reviewed the battle from the top of the mountain, and gave orders how everything was to be done. He says first, Stand shall his feet on the mount of Olives. Why does he not rather say, "In the city itself?" Even because he meant by this mode of speaking to show, that God would watch, that he might see what would be necessary for the deliverance of his Church. All these things, I know, are explained allegorically, - that Christ appeared on the mount of Olives, when he ascended into heaven, and also, that the mount was divided, that it might be passable, and that the apostles might proceed into the various parts of the world, in order that they might assail all the nations: but these are refinements, which, though they please many, have yet nothing solid in them, when they are by any one properly considered. I then take a simpler view of what the Prophet says, - that God's hand would be sufficiently conspicuous, whenever his purpose was to aid his miserable and afflicted Church. The same view is to be taken of what follows, that a great valley would be in the middle, for the rent would be one half towards the north and the other half towards the south. It is the same thing as though he had said, that Jerusalem was as it were concealed under that mountain, so that it was hid, but that afterwards it would be on an elevated place, as it is said elsewhere, "Elevated shall be the mountain of the Lord," say both Isaiah and Micah, "above all mountains." (Is. 2: 2; Mic. 4: 1.) That hill, we know, was small; and yet Isaiah and Micah promise such a height as will surpass almost the very clouds. What does this mean? Even that the glory of the God of Jerusalem will be so great, that his temple will be visible above all other heights. So also in this place, Rent, he says, shall be the mount of Olives, so that Jerusalem may not be as before in a shaded valley, and have only a small hill on one side, but that it may be seen far and wide, so that all nations may behold it. This, as I think, is what the Prophet simply means. But those who delight in allegories must seek them from others. It now follows - Zechariah 14:5 And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. The Prophet says again, that God's presence would be terrible, so that it would put to flight all the Jews; for though God promises to be the deliverer of his chosen people, yet as there were still mixed with them hypocrites, his language varies. But we must further observe, that though the Lord may appear for our deliverance, it yet cannot be but that his majesty will strike us with fear; for the flesh must be humbled before God. What the Prophet then says is the same as though he had said, that the coming of God, which he had just mentioned, would be fearful to all, not only to open enemies whom he would come to destroy, but also to the faithful, though they knew that he would put forth his power to save them. And thus the Prophet seems to reason from the less to the greater; for if the faithful, who look anxiously for God, yet tremble and quake at his presence, what must happen to his enemies, who know that he is against them? As then the Prophet bids here the faithful to be prepared reverently to look for God, so also he shows that he will be dreadful to all the ungodly, in order that the elect might not hesitate to flee to his aid and to rely on him. Flee, he says, shall ye through the valley of the mountains. Some imagine this to have been a valley so called, because it was of long extent, stretching through chains of mountains; but we read nothing of this in scripture. It seems to me probable, that valleys of the mountains were all those places called, which were rough, impassable, and intricate. Since then there was much wood, and no easy passage through these countries, the Prophet says that there would be a long valley, which never was before, but which the rending, of which he had spoken, would produce. And for the same purpose he adds, Reach shall the valley of the mountains to Azal. This I think is a proper name of a place; yet some render it, next; but I see not for what reason. The meaning then is, - that where there were previously many hills which were not passable, or even mountains through which it was difficult to penetrate, there would be one continuous and even valley to a place very remote. And he says, that flight would be hasty, as in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; for it appears from sacred history that Judah was then shaken with a terrible earthquake. The Jews, as they are bold in their conjectures, suppose that this happened when Uzziah approached the altar to burn incense to God; and Jerome has followed them. But at what time that earthquake happened is not certain. Amos says that he began to prophecy two years after an earthquake, (Am. 1: 1;) but for what cause the earth was then shaken we nowhere read: and yet we learn from this as well as from other passages, that it was an awful sign and presage of God's vengeance. God then intended to announce to the Jews a dreadful calamity, when he thus shook the earth. And for the same purpose also does Zechariah now say, that the flight would be precipitous, as when the Jews retook themselves to flight, as it were in extreme despair, in the time of Uzziah. As then ye fled from the earthquake, so shall ye flee now. A long time had indeed intervened from the death of Uzziah to the return of the people; hence the Prophet intimates that it would be an unusual calamity, for the like had not happened which had caused so much terror to the Jews for many ages. But we must remember what I have said - that this coming of God is not described as fearful for the purpose of threatening the Jews; but rather in order to show that the ungodly would not be able to stand in the presence of God, as he would terrify even those for whose aid he would come forth. And we must also observe what has been stated that God varies his address by his Prophets; for now he speaks to the whole Church, in which hypocrites are mingled with the sincere, and so threatening must be blended with promises, and then, he directs his words especially to the elect alone, to whom he manifests his favour. He says at length, And come shall Jehovah, my God. The Prophet repeats what he had said shortly before - that God's power would be made evident to the Jews, as though they saw it with their eyes. There is indeed no necessity to suppose that God would actually descend from heaven; but he teaches us, as I have said, that though God's power would be for a time hidden, it would at length appear in the deliverance of his elect, as though God descended for the purpose from heaven. He calls him his God, in order to gain more credit to his prophecy. He no doubt thus courageously assailed all the ungodly, to whom promises as well as threatening were a mockery; and he also intended to support the minds of the godly, that they might not doubt but that this was promised them from above, though they heard but the voice of a mortal man. The Prophet then with great confidence claims God here as his God, as though he had said - that there was no reason for them to judge of what he said by any worldly circumstance or by his person; in short, he declares here that he was sent from above, that he did not rashly intrude himself, so as to promise anything which he himself had invented, but that he was favoured with a divine mission, so that he represented God himself. And this also is the object of the conclusion, which has been overlooked by some. All the saints with thee. There seems to be here a kind of indignation, as though the Prophet turned himself away from his hearers, whom he observed to be in a measure prepared obstinately to reject his heavenly doctrine; for he turns his discourse to God. The sentence seems indeed to lose a portion of its gracefulness, when the Prophet speaks so abruptly, Come shall Jehovah my God, all the saints with thee. He might have said "all the saints with him:" but as I have said, he addresses God, as though he could not, on account of disgust, speak to malignant and perverse men, and this serves much to confirm the authority of his prophecy; for he not only declares boldly to men what was to be, but also appeals to God as his witness; nay, he seems as though he had derived by a secret and familiar colloquy what he certainly knew was committed to him by God. But by saints, as I think, he understands the angels; for to include the holy patriarchs and kings, would seem unnatural and far-fetched: and angels, we know, are called saints or holy in other places, as we have seen in the third chapter of Habakkuk; and they are called sometimes elect angels. In short, the Prophet shows, that the coming of God would be magnificent; he would descend, as it were, in a visible manner together with his angels, that men's minds might be roused into admiration and wonder. This is the meaning. Zechariah 14:6,7 6 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: 7 But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. The Prophet confirms what we have already observed that the Church would be subject to many troubles and commotions, so that the faithful should not enjoy the common light, but be more miserable than men in general. And he has ever the same object in view, to prepare the faithful to exercise patience, and to remind them that they are not to promise themselves such enjoyments in the holy land, as though they were to be free from the trials of the cross. Lest then they should deceive themselves with vain hopes, he sets before them many evils and many calamities, that they might confidently wait for the aid, of which he had spoken, while immersed in thick darkness, and hardly able to distinguish between day and night. But the rest shall be considered to-morrow. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since thou hast deigned to separate us to be thy peculiar treasure, and leadest us daily under thy banner, and invites us so kindly and gently by the voice of thy gospel, - O grant, that we may not reject so great a kindness, nor render ourselves unworthy of our holy calling; and whatever evils must be borne by us, may we sustain them with resigned minds, until having at length finished the contests by which thou wouldst now exercise and prove our faith, we shall be received into that blessed rest, which is laid up for us in heaven, and has been purchased for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 33... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-32.txt .