(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 34) Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-seventh. Zechariah 14:11 And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. Zechariah concludes what he said in the last verse by saying, that Jerusalem when restored by God to its pristine state would be a populous city, for the indefinite verb here used means the same as though he had said, that the number of people would be as great as it had been before, though a small portion only had returned. We indeed know how difficult it is to fill a city with inhabitants when once deserted, especially after a long interval of time. But the Prophet here exhorts the Jews to entertain hope, for the Lord would gather again a large number of men, so as to fill the city with inhabitants. He adds, there shall be no more utter destruction. By the word "cherem" I have no doubt, the Prophet means all utter ruin, such as had happened when the people were driven into exile. And for this reason and in the same sense, Isaiah says, that God had sworn that the destruction of the city would be like the deluge of Noah, (Is. 54: 9;) for he should never again bring such a grievous and dreadful vengeance on his people. But we learn from the whole passage, that this prophecy extends to the kingdom of Christ; for though Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, it is yet true that God bad been the perpetual guardian of that city, inasmuch as the fulness of time had come when Christ was revealed. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, that such should be the moderation of God's anger, that the name of the city would wholly perish, nor the whole people be forced to migrate. This then is what he understands by "cherem". He now adds, that those who returned thither shall dwell safely in Jerusalem, for the Lord would protect them, and by an extended hand defend them against all enemies. We have elsewhere reminded you of the Prophet's object; for he wished to goad the tardiness and sloth of those who made so much of their pleasures in Chaldea, that to return to the inheritance promised them from above was unpleasant and grievous to them. Hence he shows of how great a benefit of God they had deprived themselves; for being dispersed among the heathen nation they knew not that God's aid was provided for them. They indeed deprived themselves of that promise which especially belonged to the remnant who dwelt at Jerusalem. The Prophet had also a particular regard to those miserable inhabitants of the land, who having been stimulated by God's promises, had despised all dangers and all difficulties, and then had undergone, not grudgingly, vast troubles that they might possess their own country. The Prophet then shows that they had no reason to repent, for the Lord would bless them, and make them to dwell safely in the midst of enemies, by whom we know they were on every side surrounded, and further, that the city would become populous, though they were not then many in number. It follows - Zechariah 14:12 And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. The Prophet adds, that though there would not be wanting many ungodly men, who should distress the Church, and attempt many things for its destruction, yet God would be a defender and would inflict punishment, which would exhibit a clear and decided proof of that paternal favour which he manifests towards his Church. But these things do not seem to harmonise - that the people should dwell safely at Jerusalem, and yet that there would be enemies violently disturbing the city: but by saying, that they should dwell safely, he means not that there would be none anxious to do them harm; but that trusting in God's protection they would continue safe in the greatest dangers, as they would feel persuaded that God, who promised to stand on their side, would be stronger than all. The habitation of the godly would then be secure, not because they dreaded no attacks of enemies, but because they firmly believed that they would be preserved by a power from above, though the devil excited many people on all sides against them, and also prepared and suborned many wicked men to contrive their ruin. And to this power it behaves us to raise up our thoughts when various enemies rage against us, so that we may dwell in safety and wait with quiet minds until God shall deliver us; for our safety is concealed under the faithful protection of God, which is only made known to us by the word and promises. Let us, however, bear in mind what the Prophet teaches us here - that when God gives loose reins to enemies, his vengeance is near, so that he will visit with punishment all those wrongs and injuries which we patiently endure. This, he says, shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people. He mentions all people again, lest a multitude of enemies should terrify the faithful, when they found themselves unequal to them, and almost overwhelmed by their vast number; they were not to doubt but that the hand of God would prevail. Then he adds, His flesh shall consume away, or melt away: there is a change of number, but the sense is not obscured; for he says, This shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people; his flesh shall melt away, as though he was speaking of one man; and then he immediately adds, while he shall stand on his feet; and his eyes shall melt away, and his tongue in their mouth. We see how the Prophet changes the number three times; but there is in the subject itself nothing ambiguous. He means that it would be nothing to God, when resolved to punish the adversaries of his Church, whether they were many or few; for he can easily destroy them all, as though he had to do only with one man. But it seems also that Zechariah had another thing in view - that as God's vengeance would regard each individual, no one of them would be safe, and that thus the vengeance of God would be universal, without any exception, and executed on all armies and on each individual. We must now notice the kind of punishment which is here described - that God would destroy them all without the hand or the aid of men: his flesh, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve. In this case divine vengeance is more clearly seen, that is, then enemies, though no one fights with them, yet of themselves consume away: and then he adds, when they shall stand on their feet; and yet their flesh shall melt away. The Prophet no doubt alludes to the curses of the law, among which this is especially to be observed - that God in various ways consumes the wicked, so that they melt away when no cause appears. (Deut. 28: 21, 22.) The meaning then is, that God has various means by which he can reduce to nothing our enemies, though they may seek aid on every side. We are therefore taught by these words to cast all our cares on God; for when our enemies seem to be placed beyond the chance of danger, and confidently boast that nothing adverse can happen to them, yet in God's hand is their death and life, so that they can be consumed by his breath only. There is then no reason for us to depend on earthly means, when we seek to be certain respecting the destruction of our enemies; for God can inwardly consume them; though they may seem to stand whole and sound, yet they will be dissolved, so that even their eyes shall melt away in their cavities, that is, they shall fail without any external force. We indeed know that eyes are well protected; being covered with their defences, they seem to be beyond the reach of harm. But the Prophet intimates that the hidden vengeance of God can penetrate into the bowels and marrow; in short, that there is nothing so safe that it can escape the vengeance of God. The tongue also, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve (it is the same verb) in their mouth. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 14:13 And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour. The Prophet seems again to be inconsistent with himself; for after having declared that God would be the defender of his people, so as to destroy and consume all people for their sake, he now adds that there would be intestine discords, by which the Jews would wilfully consume one another; while yet there is nothing more improbable than that the people, who live under God's protection, should so divide themselves into factions, as to perish miserably without any outward enemy. But these things do not ill accord, provided we bear in mind what I have already said - that these things are to be taken in a different sense; for the Prophet at one time warns the faithful of the evils which were impending, lest being shaken by their suddenness, they should despond; at another time he promises them a happy condition, for they would ever be the objects of God's care. So then we may explain the matter thus - "Though enemies on every side should unite and conspire against you, though they should hasten with great fury and rage to destroy you, and though a vast member at home, and domestic enemies from the bosom of your city, should rise up against you, yet God will prevail against them, and all your enemies shall at length be for your good and benefit." This then is the reason why Zechariah blends together what seems to be wholly inconsistent. It was necessary to know both these things - that the faithful might be fully persuaded that God watched over their safety, for it was his purpose to defend the holy city, and to be its perpetual guardian - and then, that they might also be prepared in their minds to bear many trials and troubles, lest they should promise to themselves a joyful state, and thus indulge in carnal security. Having now explained the Prophet's intention, we must briefly notice the words. He says that there would be a great tumult from Jehovah among them. This no doubt refers to the Jews; for the Prophet shows that they would be not only exposed to external injuries, but also to another evil - that they would arm themselves against one another, as though they would tear out their own bowels. A tumult, he says, shall be among them, which is the extreme of evils that can happen to a city or people; for no danger is nearer than when they who ought as one man to unite strength and courage to repel an enemy, rage internally against themselves. But this passage deserves special notice, as here is described to us the condition of the Church, such as it is to be until the end of the world; for though the Prophet speaks here of the intermediate time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, yet he paints for us a living representation, by which we can see that the Church is never to be free or exempt from this evil - that it cannot drive away or put to flight domestic enemies. And we must also observe, that this tumult, as he says, would be from Jehovah. He means that whenever the Church is rent, and sects burst forth, and many hypocrites and ungodly men, who for a time pretend to be God's true servants, furiously assail true religion - whenever these things arise, the Prophet means that they do not happen by chance, but that they are God's judgements, in order to prove the faith of his people, and to humble his Church, and also to give to his people a victory and a crown. However this may be, though their own ambition rouses heretics, and all the ungodly, to disturb the Church, and though the devil excites them by his own fans, yet God sits in the chief place, and whatever commotions rage in the Church proceed from him. Hence Paul says that heresies must be, that those who are approved may become manifest. (1 Cor. 11: 19.) Certainly this is not the object of the devil; but Paul shows that it is the high purpose of God, so that he may distinguish by severe trial between his sincere servants and hypocrites; for he not only permits tumults to arise, but even stirs them up. And hence also we learn, that nothing is better than to flee to him when ungodly men race and distort our peace; for he can easily by a nod silence those commotions which he excites. He adds, Every one shall lay hold on the hand of his companion, and rise up (or perish) shall his hand against the hand of his neighbour. This passage may admit of a twofold meaning. The first is, that every one for the sake of obtaining help will lay hold on the hand of his neighbour, and yet without any advantage, for his own hand would perish, that is, he who sought aid for his friend could not support himself: and this is the meaning given by many interpreters; as though the Prophet had said, that the state of things would be so desperate, that every one would be constrained to seek help from his friend, and yet could not obtain what he desired, for while attempting to lay hold on the hand of his friend, he would find that he could not grasp it. But a different meaning would better correspond with the next verse, - that every one would violently lay hold on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand would rise up against the hand of his neighbour. I think then that this part is added as explanatory, - that when God raised tumults among the Jews, every one would start forward to act violently against his neighbour, and raise up his hand to hurt him: for it follows - Zechariah 14:14 And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance. Zechariah speaks here no doubt on the same subject; for he adds, that there would be an intestine war between the country and the city, though they were but one body, and since their return they were under the same Divine banner: God had indeed been their leader in their journey, and was in short the only remaining glory of the people. It was then something horribly monstrous, that Judah should join himself to enemies in order to destroy the city: yet the Prophet says that this evil, as well as other evils, would soon be witnessed; so that they would have not only to sustain the assaults of enemies, who would come from far, but would also find their brethren hostile and hurtful to them: Fight then shall Judah against Jerusalem. At what time this happened, it is well known; for under Antiochus we know that both the city and the whole land were full of traitors; inasmuch as hardly one in a hundred continued to follow true religion. Thus it happened, that almost all were trodden under foot. It was not then without reason foretold by Zechariah, that the Jews would become cruel enemies to their own brethren. He then adds, collected shall be the armies of all nations. The word "cheyl" means forces, wealth and strength. I am disposed to follow what I have already said, - that the army or strength of all nations around would be collected to overthrow Jerusalem. The Prophet intimates in these words that the Jews would apparently be the most miserable of men, were their condition estimated by their state at that time; for there would be harassing traitors within, so that they had to fear intrigues and hidden dangers, and many people also from every part would unite to destroy them. Nothing can be imagined more miserable than to be assailed from within and from without by almost the whole of mankind. But there will presently follow a consolation; and hence we must bear in mind what I have said, that threatening are given by way of warning, that the faithful might courageously bear those ruinous attacks, relying on the hope of a better state of things, according to what God had promised. When afterwards he mentions gold, and silver, and garments, he intimates that the enemies, whom he speaks of, would not come, as though they were hungry, running to the prey; but that they would be so savage as to seek nothing but blood; for they would be furnished with necessaries, having an abundance of gold and silver. For what purpose then would they come? Not to satiate their avarice, but only to gorge human blood, and thus to extinguish the memory of the chosen people. Even to hear this was terrible; but it was necessary to warn the faithful, lest they should be surprised by any sudden event. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 14:15 And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague. Zechariah in this verse raises up the minds of the godly, so that they might know that their energies would effect nothing, but that after having tried every thing they would be put to flight by the power of God. And hence appears more evident what has been twice repeated, - that the Prophet does not simply denounce calamities to terrify the Jews, but to animate them to constancy, that they might boldly exult, even when nearly overwhelmed by a vast heap of evils. The meaning then is, - that after Satan had tried every thing to effect the ruin of the Church, and the ungodly had left nothing undone, there would yet be a successful issue to the faithful; for God would execute his vengeance, not only on men, but also on horses and camels, and on all cattle: and since God's wrath would burn against all animals, which are in themselves innocent, it may with certainty be concluded, that those enemies who had provoked him by their cruelty, could not escape his judgement, and the punishment described here by the Prophet. He then subjoins - Zechariah 14:16 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. Zechariah here advances farther, - that those who shall have escaped the ruin of which he had spoken shall be so humbled that they would of their own accord submit to God. He said before, that God would take vengeance and destroy all the enemies of his Church; but the promise here is still more valuable, - that he would turn the hearts of those who escaped punishment, so that without any constraint they would become obedient; for come, he says, shall they every year to worship God in his temple. Then the sum of what is said is this, that God would subdue all the enemies of his Church, and in two ways, for some he would destroy, and he would humble others, so as to make them willing servants and ready of themselves to obey his authority. It shall be then that every one who shall remain of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall ascend to supplicate God, or humbly to worship God. If the time be inquired, I answer, that whenever the Prophets speak of the conversion of the nations, they are wont to speak always in general terms; but that this is an hyperbolical language, and that still there is nothing unreasonable in this excess, for surely it was a wonderful work of God when a great number from the nations became subject to him. We indeed know, that the name of the people of Israel was universally hated, so that their religion was disliked by almost the whole world. It was then a thing incredible when Zechariah said, that men from all countries would be so changed as to worship the true God of Israel. But many Churches we know were everywhere formed in the world, and men without number professed God's name, and undertook his yoke, and embraced that religion which before had been despised by them, and which indeed they had persecuted with the greatest hatred. It is therefore no wonder that the Prophet should say, that the remnant who escaped the sword of vengeance would at length become the willing servants of God. But we ought to notice, as I have said, the mode of speaking commonly adopted by the Prophets, for, in order to amplify the grace of God, they speak in general terms, though what they say ought to be confined to the elect alone. Ascend, he says, shall every one from year to year. Zechariah speaks here also according to the apprehensions of the people. Festivals, we know, were appointed by God; the Israelites ascended at least three times a year unto the temple, but as this was too hard and difficult for the miserable exiles to do, who had been scattered through all countries, those influenced by zeal for religion were wont to descend unto Jerusalem once a year. To this custom of the law the Prophet now alludes, as though he had said, "God indeed spares some, yet they will at length come to his service without any constraint, and submit to the God of Israel." But he speaks, as I have said, according to the rites of the law; and of this mode of speaking we have often reminded you: I shall therefore pass by the subject, but some additional remarks shall be made at the end of this chapter. Ascend then shall every one to supplicate the king, Jehovah of hosts; that is, that they might confess the only true God to be king: for he has regard to the Prophecy which we considered yesterday, when he said that the only true God would be king. So also in this place, confirming the former truth he says, that they who had before furiously assailed the Church would become the worshipers of God, for they would understand him to be the king of the whole world. But the remainder shall be deferred to another time. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that thy Church at this day is miserably torn by many discords, and that there are so many traitorous ministers of Satan, who cease not to disturb it, - O grant, that we may find by experience what thou hast promised by thy Prophet, even that thou wilt be the perpetual guardian of those whom thou hast been pleased once to choose as thine own, and whom thou hast received into thine own embrace, so that they may courageously proceed amidst all discords, and come forth at length as conquerors: and may it please thee also to put forth thine hand, and to execute that vengeance which thou hast denounced by the same Prophet, so as to destroy and reduce to nothing not only those who openly oppose thee and thy servants and children, but also those serpents, who by intrigues and frauds and by other base means, harass and torment thy Church, until we shall at length attain a full victory and triumph in thy celestial kingdom, together with our head, even Christ Jesus our Lord. - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 35... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-34.txt .