(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 
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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 
    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...

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