(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 
    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 
    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. 
    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