(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 33)
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-sixth. 
    We explained shortly yesterday why the Prophet says, that there 
would be for some time no difference between day and night; it was 
to prepare the faithful for all changes, and to show that they are 
not to promise themselves anything certain or sure in this world. 
Days and nights revolve throughout all seasons of the year, but the 
Prophet shows that there would be an uncertain time, as though it 
were twilight, or that there would not be constant light, but light 
mixed with darkness. The two verses ought to be connected together, 
when he says, In that day there shall not be precious light and 
mingled light, or, on the contrary, thick darkness. What he says 
afterwards, in that day there shall not be day or night, is 
disjoined by some, but not rightly, as we shall presently see. 
    But with regard to the words, light of preciousnesses, it is 
agreed among all writers that the word "yekarot" means what is 
excellent. As to this word then there is no ambiguity; for the 
Prophet means that it shall not be a light day, such as is wont to 
be during a clear sky. But as to the second word, interpreters 
differ. It is written "kippa'ot": "kapha" means to coagulate, to 
become thick: hence "kippa'ot" signifies density or dense darkness. 
Some think it to be in construction; and others, that "waw" is to be 
put in; and this is probable, as we may see from the context, though 
yet it may have a twofold meaning. If indeed we join these two 
words, the Prophet may understand that the light would not be very 
clear, and that there would not be thick darkness. But we may take 
the light of densities for that which is steady and fixed, which 
gains such strength, that it cannot be darkened. But I prefer a 
different view: we know that the copulative in Hebrew is often taken 
adversatively; and this exposition is the most suitable, - that 
there would not be clear light, but on the contrary, a density, that 
is, thick darkness, which would obscure the light of the sun, or 
hinder the eyes of men from enjoying clear light. This seems to be 
the meaning of our Prophet, In that day there shall not be light, 
that is, that day shall not be clear, that is, so far that it can be 
numbered among fair and bright, or clear days; but on the contrary, 
there will be densities, that is, it will be a cloudy time, for much 
darkness will fill the sky, and prevent men to see the sun. 
    As to the subject itself, it is sufficiently apparent what the 
Prophet meant; for as I said yesterday, and have again reminded you, 
it was to be a perilous time, so that the miserable Jews would 
hourly and every moment be filled with fear, as they should see many 
dangers around them; and there would ever be some appearance of a 
sudden change. As when we find the south wind blowing, and the 
heavens covered with clouds, a shower is expected, and every one 
keeps within floors, and they who travel dare not proceed lest a 
storm overtakes them; so also the Prophet says, that this time would 
be like cloudy and dark days. 
    The same is the meaning of what he adds, It shall be one day, 
when it shall not be day and night; as though he had said, that 
there would not be any settled state of weather. Interpreters have 
given a very different view - that it would be neither day nor 
night. Some give this reason, because the Lord will rule his Church 
by faith; and we indeed know that our salvation is hid under the 
safe keeping of faith. Others give an entirely different meaning, - 
that the Lord will so fill heaven and earth by his own brightness, 
that there will be no need for the sun and the moon, according to 
what is said by Isaiah, "Shine to thee shall not the sun by day nor 
the moon by night; but to thee shall Jehovah be an eternal light." 
(Isa. 60: 19.) But these are mere refinements. The real meaning of 
the Prophet, I doubt not, is, - that men would be in continual 
trepidation, as wile the air is in various ways agitated, when 
clouds arise, when the thunder is heard, and when the light of the 
sun disappears. When such is the state of the sky, men we know fear, 
for there is hardly a distinction between day and night. Thus our 
Prophet warns the faithful as to future events, and prepares them 
for patience, lest any storm should overwhelm them, and they should 
despond when overtaken by it, but that they might look for what had 
been foretold, even for darkness mixed with light, which would be a 
continual twilight: and the word, twilight, the ancients have said, 
is derived from one signifying what is doubtful (crepusculum a 
    But we must also notice what he afterwards says, that this day 
would towards evening be light. He here intimates, that there will 
ever be a joyful end to the troubles of the faithful. Though then 
they were tossed by many cares, and troubled with various kinds of 
fear, as though they were in darkness, yet he says, that the evening 
would be clear. And this ought to be carefully observed, for with 
this solace alone is the Spirit wont to ease the sorrows of the 
godly, that is, that after God has for a while tried them, there 
will come shortly an end, and that a joyful one, to all their evils, 
so that God will shine on them like the sun in its meridian 
splendour. He calls, in short, the attention of the faithful to this 
end, because God makes thus a distinction between the elect and the 
reprobate; for though he afflicts both alike, and overwhelms them as 
with darkness, there is yet light prepared for his elect; and after 
having suffered them for a time to lie in darkness, he will make 
them at length to emerge into clear light; but he deprives the 
reprobate of every hope. 
    This is the subject which the Prophet now handles; as though he 
had said, - "There is no reason for the faithful to be disheartened 
by adversities, when darkness on all sides surrounds them; for the 
Lord will at length restore light to them, of which it was needful 
for them to be deprived for a time." But Zechariah speaks not here 
of one day, but of a period which would be like a dark day, even 
until Christ by his coming restored the full light, as the Sun of 
Righteousness, according to what he is called by Malachi. 
    Then he says, that this day is known to Jehovah, in order that 
the faithful night depend on his good pleasure, and not too 
anxiously enquire about an event hidden from them and the whole 
world. The day then is known, says Zechariah, only to God, though he 
speaks of things well known, and which the Jews had at length to 
know by experience. But his object must be regarded, for his purpose 
was to restrain the godly, that they might not unnecessarily torment 
themselves, for we are wont to be too curious to know things: when 
God's design is to calm us, and to make us rely on his providence, 
then many thoughts come across our minds, and toss us here and 
there, and thus we torment ourselves with anxiety. As then it is 
disease is innate in human nature, the Prophet supplies a seasonable 
remedy, - that the faithful are to allow themselves to be ruled by 
God, and to follow the example of their father Abraham, "The Lord 
will provide:" when he was in extremity and no escape was open he 
committed himself to God's providence. So also Zechariah says, that 
it would be entirely dependent on the will of God alone, now to 
cover the heavens with darkness, and then to restore the sun, and 
also to blend darkness with light; and nothing is better for men 
than to check themselves, and not to enquire more than what is 
right, nor take away anything from God's power, for whenever men 
murmur against God's judgements, it is the same thing as though they 
wished to penetrate into heaven, and concede nothing to him except 
what they themselves think right. Then, in order to check this 
presumption, the Prophet says, that this day is known to Jehovah, so 
that the faithful might patiently wait until the ripened end should 
come, for our curiosity drives us here and there, so that we always 
wish to be certain about the end, "How long is this to endure?" and 
thus we complain against God; but when we are not able to 
subordinate our minds to his will, then we break forth as it were 
into a furious temper. 
    We hence see how useful a doctrine this clause contains, where 
the Prophet sets God as the judge and the arbitrator of all events, 
so that he afflicts the Church as long as it pleases him, sets 
bounds to adversities, and regulates all things as it seemeth good 
to him; and he also covers the heavens with thick clouds, and takes 
away the sight of the sun. All this then is what the Prophet would 
have us to know is in God's power, and directed by his counsel. It 
now follows - 
Zechariah 14:8 
And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from 
Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them 
toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. 
    Here is subjoined a more cheering prophecy, - that the grace of 
God would yet prevail. Whatever evils, and troubles, and dangers, 
and fears, and diseases awaited the faithful, he yet says that in 
such miseries they would still be made happy. And this ought to be 
carefully observed, for nothing can be more suitably found to 
alleviate our sorrows than to put in the balance God's benefits on 
one side, and on the other the punishments and chastisements which 
he brings on us; for as God's mercy and kindness always greatly 
preponderate, it cannot be but that we shall be able to say with 
holy Job, "If good things have we received from the Lord's hand, why 
should we refuse evil things?" (Job 2: 10.) This then is what 
Zechariah sets before us, - that though the Church may be harassed 
by many cares, and subject to many fears, and terrified by many 
dangers, and be as it were in trepidation, yet the grace of God, if 
rightly viewed, is sufficient to administer invaluable comfort, for 
go forth shall living waters from Jerusalem. 
    This prophecy no doubt refers to the kingdom of Christ, and 
this may be sufficiently proved by other passages. The Prophet then 
has hitherto spoken of the many afflictions, which were nigh at 
hand, in order that the Jews might not faint or entirely fail; but 
he now directs their minds to the kingdom of Christ, from whence 
they were to look for not only a deliverance from all evils, but 
also the full restitution of the Church, and as it were the 
renovation of the world. 
    There is here no doubt an implied contrast between living 
waters and those which soon dry up: hence he says, that they would 
flow continually summer and winter. Judea, we know, was subject to 
want of water, and there were no waters around Jerusalem, except the 
spring of Siloam, which had waters in abundance, and supplied the 
wants of the citizens. But the Prophet promises living waters, which 
would not be like occasional streams, but flow continually. At the 
same time he seems to regard something higher. As by living waters 
he understands those which are spiritual, so he compares these 
waters with all those streams which are earthly; as though he had 
said, "the fountain from which the two streams arise is 
inexhaustible, so that its exuberance shall never fail, but shall 
send forth streams from one sea to the opposite sea, and shall water 
the farthest regions of the earth." 
    By the eastern sea many understand the Lake Asphaltes, but it 
seems to me more probable that the Prophet speaks of the Persian 
Sea; for if he had said that the waters would go forth to that lake, 
the distance would be very short; but he meant on the contrary to 
show, that the copiousness of the waters would be so large and 
abundant that though they would pass through the whole earth, yet 
their flow would never cease. By the hinder sea he no doubt meant 
the Mediterranean. The import of the whole is, - that thong the 
earth were previously dry, yet such would be the abundance of waters 
as to be sufficient for all, not only as in former times to the 
inhabitants of Jerusalem, but also to all the Jews in whatever part 
of the country they might dwell. 
    Now, since the language is metaphorical, we must bear in mind 
what I have lately said, - that here is set forth the spiritual 
grace of God; nor is it a new thing to apply the word waters to the 
Spirit of God: "I will pour forth waters on the dry land and rivers 
on the thirsty land" (Is. 44: 3;) and again, "I will give clean 
waters." (Ezek. 36: 25.) There is a twofold reason why Scripture 
gives the name of waters to the Holy Spirit, - because he performs 
the two offices of cleansing and of watering: for we are like barren 
and dry land, except the Lord by his Spirit from heaven gives us new 
vigour and conveys moisture to us. As then the earth derives 
moisture from heaven, that it may produce fruit, so also we must 
have conferred on us by the hidden power of the Spirit whatever 
vigour we may possess. Since then Zechariah promises a fountain of 
living waters, he understands that God's grace would be offered to 
all the Jews, so that they might drink and be satisfied, and no more 
be exposed as formerly to the want of water. 
    If any one objects and says, that this interpretation seems 
forced, the answer is ready at hand, which is this, - that as it is 
certain that the prophet here speaks of the kingdom of Christ, this 
rule is to be remembered, - That whatever is foretold of Christ's 
kingdom, must correspond with its nature and character. Since then 
the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, there is no doubt but that when 
Scripture, as we have seen, promises a large produce of corn and 
wine, an abundance of all good things, tranquillity and peace, and 
bright days, it intends by all these things to set forth the 
character of Christ's kingdom. We hence see what the prophet means 
by living waters; and then, why he says that they would go forth to 
the east and to the west; and lastly, why he adds, that they would 
flow in winter as well as in summer. It now follows - 
Zechariah 14:9 
And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall 
there be one LORD, and his name one. 
    Here the prophet shows more clearly, and without using a 
figurative language, what might otherwise be more obscure: he says, 
that Jehovah would be king. Here Zechariah compares the kingdom of 
Christ with those periods of misery and calamities which had 
preceded, and which had continued till the coming of Christ. We 
indeed know that there had been the most dreadful scattering through 
the whole land, since the time the ten tribes separated from the 
family of David; for since the body of the people ceased to be one, 
they wilfully contrived ruin for themselves. When therefore the 
Israelites fought against Judah, the wrath of God appeared, the 
fruit of their defection. We indeed know that David was not made 
king by the suffrages of men, but was chosen by the decree of God. 
Hence when the kingdom of Israel departed from the son of David, it 
was the same as though they had refused to bear the authority of God 
himself, according to what he said to Samuel, "Thee have they not 
despised, but me, that I should not reign over them." (1 Sam. 8: 7.) 
And yet Samuel was only a governor for a time over the people; but 
when the people through a foolish zeal wished a king to be given 
then, God complains that he was despised in not being allowed to 
reign over them alone. This was more fully completed, when the ten 
tribes separated themselves from the lawful kingdom which God 
himself had established and had commanded to be inviolable. From 
that time then God was not their king. This is one thing. 
    Afterwards we know that the kings of Israel joined themselves 
with the kings of Syria to overthrow the kingdom of Judah, and that 
the Jews also sent for aid to the Assyrians, and afterwards had 
recourse to the Egyptians. At length the kingdom of Israel was cut 
off; then the kingdom of Judah, and the city was destroyed and the 
temple burnt, so that the worship of God for a time ceased. They 
afterwards returned; but we know they were ever oppressed by hard 
and cruel tyranny: when they perceived that they were unprotected, 
because they had refused to take shelter under the wings of God. 
Though he had so often told them that they would be safe and secure 
under his protection, they yet refused that favour. Therefore the 
Jews then found to their great loss that God was not their king. 
    Hence when Zechariah now speaks of the restoration of the 
Church, he rightly says, that Jehovah would be king; that is, though 
the Jews had been torn asunder and pillaged by tyrants, though they 
had suffered many reproaches and wrongs, yet God would become again 
their king, that He might defend them against all unjust violence 
and keep them under His protection. Nothing indeed can be more 
blessed than to live under the reigns of God; and this highest 
happiness is ever promised to the faithful. 
    We now understand the Prophet's meaning as to this part; but he 
shows immediately after that this cannot be hoped for, except the 
Jews really attended to true religion and worshipped God aright and 
cast away their superstitions. Hence he joins together these two 
things, - that the condition of the people would be a happy one, 
because God would undertake the care of them and perform the office 
of a king, - and then, that God would be their king, in order that 
he might be rightly and sincerely worshipped by them: there shall 
be, he says, one Jehovah. Here the Prophet briefly shows that the 
legitimate worship of God cannot be set up, unless superstition be 
abolished. We indeed know that God is jealous, as he calls himself, 
so that he cannot bear rivals: for when we devise for ourselves any 
sort of deity, we instantly take from God what is his own. The 
Prophet then teaches us, that God cannot be truly worshipped, except 
he shines alone as the supreme, so that our religion may be pure and 
sound. In short, he indirectly condemns here those superstitions by 
which the earth had been corrupted and polluted, and also the 
superstitions by which true religion had been adulterated and the 
worship under the law had been violated. For this reason he says, 
that Jehovah would be one. 
    He expresses this still clearer by saying, that his name would 
be one. This second clause may indeed appear useless; for whatever 
can be said of God is comprehended in his oneness. But as we are 
wont by various artifices to cover superstitions, and ever devise 
new excuses and new disguises, by which our impiety may seem 
specious and plausible, the Prophet expressly adds here, that God's 
name is one; as though he had said, "It is not enough for men to 
declare that they acknowledge one true God or one supreme deity, 
except also they agree in some true and simple faith, so that the 
name of this one true God may be celebrated on the earth." But the 
idea of the Prophet will become more clear if we notice the 
difference between the one true God and the name of the only true 
God, or the one name of God. All the philosophers with one mouth 
teach, that there are not many gods, but some supreme deity, who is 
the source of divinity: and this is what has been believed by all 
heathen nations. But in course of time they began to imagine that 
from this source many gods have emanated; and hence has come a 
multitude of false gods, so that some worshipped Jupiter, others 
Mercury, others Apollo; not because they thought that there are many 
gods partaking of original divinity; but because they imagined that 
gods have proceeded from the supreme fountain. As then the Jews 
might have sought subterfuges, and excused themselves by saying that 
they did not in heart worship many gods, the Prophet adds the second 
clause, - that the name of God is one; which means, that there is a 
certain way in which God is to be worshipped, that there is a 
certain fixed rule, so that no one is to follow what he himself may 
imagine to be right, and that the majesty of God ought not to be 
profaned by various errors, nor should men be lost each in his own 
notion, but that all ought to attend to the voice of God, and to 
hear what he testifies of himself. 
    We now then understand what the Prophet means: he says first, 
that things would be in a happy state in Judea, when God would be 
regarded as one, that is, when the whole land had been cleansed from 
its defilements, and when true religion again prevailed: but as this 
purity would not easily obtain footing in the world, and as men 
easily decline from it, he adds, that the name of God would be one, 
in order that the Jews might understand that God cannot be rightly 
worshipped except he be alone worshipped; and that it cannot be one, 
unless there be one faith, prescribed and certain, and not 
alternating between diverse opinions, like that of the heathens, 
whose religion is no other than to follow what they themselves 
imagine or what they have derived from their ancestors. 
    Now this is a remarkable passage: God distinguishes himself 
from all idols and his worship from all superstitions; and the more 
attentively we ought to consider what the Prophet teaches us, 
because our inclinations, as I have said, to vanity, is so great, 
and this is what experience itself sufficiently shows, and we also 
see how easily superstition, like a whirlwind, carries us away, and 
not only one superstition, but innumerable kinds of superstition. 
The more then it behaves us to notice this truth, so that the one 
name of God may prevail among us, and that no one may allow himself 
the liberty of imagining anything he pleases; but that we may know 
what God ought to be worshipped by us. And Christ also condemns for 
this reason all the forms of worship which prevailed in the world, 
by saying to the woman of Samaria, "Ye know not what ye worship, we 
Jews alone," he says, "know this." (John 4: 22.) We hence see that 
this one thing is sufficient to condemn all superstitions, that is, 
when men follow their own fancies, and observe not a fixed and 
unchangeable rule, which cannot deceive. It follows - 
Zechariah 14:10 
All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of 
Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, 
from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the 
corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's 
    The Prophet in this verse promises two things, - that the city 
would be in a very prominent place, so as to be seen at a distance, 
and also, that it would be a secure and peaceable habitation. 
    With regard to the former part he says, Turned shall be the 
whole land into a plain. We indeed know that Jerusalem was situated 
with mountains around it, its foundations, as it is said in Ps. 87: 
1, were on the holy mountains. As then the country was uneven on 
account of its many hills, the Prophet says, that it would become a 
wide plain, so that travelling would not be rough and difficult as 
before; and further, that Jerusalem would not be low in a deep 
place, but would be on a plain, which would not prevent it from 
being seen from whatever quarter the visitants might come. 
    The whole land, he says, shall be a plain from Geba to Rimmon. 
As we do not fully know what sort of country that was, nor where 
Geba and Rimmon were, I shall not speak here particularly on every 
word; but it is enough for us to understand the design of what is 
said, which was to show - that steep places would become level 
ground, so that Jerusalem might be seen from far, and that the 
surface being level there would be no mountains to impede a distant 
    Then follows the second clause, Inhabited shall be Jerusalem in 
its own place; that is, though it was formerly pulled down, and now 
lies as it were dilapidated, and the buildings already begun are 
very imperfect, yet it shall on itself be inhabited, it shall have 
the same limits, the same boundaries: in short, the Prophet means, 
that the size of the city would be the same as it was formerly. 
    Zechariah, we know, performed the office of a teacher, when the 
Jews began, not without great hindrances, to build the city. They 
were not able at first to take in the whole compass; indeed they 
thought this impracticable, until they were encouraged by Ezra and 
Nehemiah, as we learn from the books of both. Since then the city 
they began to build was confined in its limits, Zechariah says, that 
there was no reason to despair, for in a short time it would again 
attain its ancient splendour, and be extended to all its gates, as 
it is afterwards stated. And a description of the ancient city, when 
destroyed, is no doubt given here when he says, 
    From the gate of Benjamin to the place of the first gate, (he 
mentions the place of the gate, for there was then no gate, as that 
part of the city remained as yet desolate,) to the gate of the 
corners, from the citadel of Hananeel to the wine-vats of the king. 
Though we know not fully now how far the ancient Jerusalem extended, 
or what was its exact situation, it is yet certain that the Prophet 
meant that such would be the greatness and magnificence of the city, 
that its condition would fully equal its ancient splendour which 
then had disappeared. The city, as it is well known, had been very 
large; though writers do not agree on the subject, yet it is 
commonly admitted, that it included 30 stadia. This was certainly no 
common size; and hence the Prophet states what all thought to be 
incredible, that though the extent of the city was small, it would 
yet become a new Jerusalem, not inferior to the former either in 
largeness or in magnificence, or in any other respect. But we must 
defer what remains till to-morrow. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou gatherest us for this end, 
that we may be to thee a peculiar people, and as thou hast separated 
us from profane men, that thy legitimate worship may prevail among 
us, - O grant, that we may all attend to thy word, and surrender 
ourselves wholly to thee, and never thorn aside either to the right 
hand or to the left, but continue to observe the rule which thou 
hast prescribed, so that we may know by the continual flowing of thy 
favour that thou rulest in the midst of us; and may we by this 
enjoyment be stimulated more and more to love, worship, and fear 
thee, so that consecrating ourselves, body and soul, truly and from 
the heart, to thee, we may make continual advances in true religion, 
until having at length put off all the filth of our flesh we shall 
come to that blessed inheritance, which has been purchased for us by 
the blood of thy only begotten Son - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 34...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-33.txt