(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 35)
Lecture One Hundred and Sixty-eighth. 
Zechariah 14:17,18 
17 And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families 
of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, 
even upon them shall be no rain. 
18 And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no 
rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the 
heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 
    Zechariah goes on here with the same subject, - that the name 
of the only true God would be known throughout the whole world, so 
that all nations would unite in his worship, while the whole earth 
was before polluted with various superstitions, and every one 
followed his own god: but the more clearly expresses here than in 
the last lecture, that vengeance was prepared for all the despisers 
of the true God. He says then, that the curse of God is laid up for 
all those who would not come to Jerusalem humbly to worship God to 
    We have said that in these words is set forth the legitimate 
worship of God; for after the coming of Christ it was not necessary 
to ascend into Jerusalem according to what John says in ch. 4:21 
"The time comes and now is, that the true worshippers of God shall 
worship God, neither in this mountains nor at Jerusalem;" but in 
every part of the world. But the Prophets speak according to the 
state of things in their time, and always describe the spiritual 
worship of God according to the types of the law. To ascend then 
into Jerusalem amounts to the same thing as to embrace true religion 
and cordially to engage in the worship of the only true God, such as 
has been prescribed in his word. The meaning then is, - that all who 
despised the God of Israel would be accursed. 
    Then what follows is mentioned by the Prophet as a part for the 
whole; he declares that there would be no rain on the despisers of 
God; as though he had said, that they would perceive God's 
vengeance, as he would take away from them all the necessaries of 
life; for by rain the Prophet means whatever is needful for the 
support of life. And we know that as to the blessings of God needful 
for the present life, the chief thing is, when he renders the 
heavens and the earth the servants as it were of his bounty to us: 
for how can we be supplied with food, except the earth by his 
command open its bowels and the heavens hear the earth, as it is 
said elsewhere, (Hos. 2: 21;) so that rain may irrigate it, and 
render it fruitful, which must be otherwise barren? 
    We now then understand the design of the Prophet, - that in 
order to invite all nations to the pure worship of God, he declares 
that all who refused to serve the only true God would be accursed. 
He further intended by this prophecy to animate the Jews, that they 
might firmly proceed in the course of true religion until the coming 
of Christ, and never doubt but that the God whom they worshipped 
would be the supreme king of the whole world, though before hidden 
as it were in a corner of the world, while worshipped in Judea 
alone. The Prophet then intimates that though God had been despised 
by all nations, his name would yet be sanctified and adored; and 
also, that if any deprived him of his legitimate worship they would 
be visited with punishment, because they were destined to perish 
through famine and want, inasmuch as the heavens would deny rain to 
them, and the earth would not give them food. 
    But Zechariah speaks expressly of the Egyptians: and we indeed 
know that they were most inveterate enemies to true religion; and he 
might have also mentioned the Assyrians and the Chaldeans; but as 
the Egyptians were nearer and more contiguous to the holy land, 
their hatred towards the Jews was more virulent. This is the reason 
why Zechariah speaks of them particularly. It may at the same time 
appear strange that he threatens them with want of rain; for we know 
that Egypt expects no rain from above, because of the peculiar 
condition of the country; for according as the Nile overflows, do 
the inhabitants look for a fruitful produce of corn and of all other 
things. The Prophet then ought not to have thus threatened the 
Egyptians, for they might have justly laughed at him for saying that 
there would be no rain for them, the want of which is not much felt 
there. But the Prophet's intention was simply what I have already 
explained, - that God would be a Father to the Jews, and also to 
others who joined in his worship according to the law. Though then 
the Egyptians had no need of rain, yet by this metaphor Zechariah 
denounced on them sterility as the punishment of impiety. 
    And we may further observe, that though the overflowing of the 
Nile irrigated the whole land and made it fruitful, yet rain was by 
no means useless; and it is said in Ps. 105: 32, "He turned their 
rain into hail," Egypt being the place spoken of; for the Lord 
destroyed all its fruit, because the rain was turned into hail. It 
appears also evident from history, that rain is desirable in Egypt 
in order to render the produce more abundant. But the Lord has 
favoured that country with a peculiar benefit by supplying the want 
of rain by the Nile. 
    There is then nothing doubtful in the meaning of the Prophet, 
as his object was to show, that the Lord would constrain all people 
to become obedient to true religion, not only those Jews who were 
far removed from Judea, but even the Egyptians themselves, who had 
been always most alienated from true and pure worship. 
    He adds, There shall be upon them the plague. He now speaks 
more generally; and what he before specifically mentioned, he now 
declares in general terms, - that God would execute vengeance and 
destroy and reduce to nothing all those who took not on them the 
yoke, so as to worship him sincerely, together with the Jews, 
according to what the law prescribes. He again repeats the words, 
who ascended not into Jerusalem; not that he intended to confine the 
worship of God to ceremonies or rites under the law; but because it 
was necessary, until Christ abrogated all the ancient rites, that 
the worship of God should be thus described; nor could it then be 
separated from these external exercises. 
    But here it may be rightly inquired, why the Prophet speaks 
specifically of the feast of tabernacles, since the passover was 
deemed first among the festivals. The reason seems to me to have 
been this, - because it was difficult to believe that the Jews would 
return to their own country, that God would become again their 
redeemer. Many interpreters say, that the Prophet speaks of the 
feast of tabernacles, because it behaved them to be sojourners in 
the world: but a similar reason might be given for other days. We 
must then inquire why he mentions the feast of tabernacles and not 
other feasts. Now we know that when the Prophets speak of the second 
restoration of the people, they often call attention to that 
wonderful deliverance from Egypt by which God had proved that he 
possessed sufficient power to redeem and save his own people. To 
this instance does Zechariah now allude, as I think, and says, that 
God would restore his people by his wonderful and inexpressibly 
great power, so that they might justly celebrate the feast of 
tabernacles as their fathers formerly did: for we know why God 
commanded the Jews to dwell every year under the branches of trees; 
it was, that they might be mindful of that deliverance which had 
been granted to their fathers; for they had continued forty years in 
the desert, where they had no buildings, but huts only, made of 
branches of trees. When therefore they went forth from their houses, 
and dwelt as it were in the open air in tents, they thus revived the 
memory of the wonderful manner by which their fathers were 
delivered. Hence God, in order to show that their return from the 
Babylonian exile was worthy of being remembered, says here that the 
feast of tabernacles would be celebrated. 
    In short, the Prophet means that God would be such a deliverer 
of his people, that all the nations, even from the remotest parts, 
would acknowledge it as a remarkable miracle: it is the sense then 
as though he had said, that the deliverance of the people would be 
an evidence of divine power so manifest and illustrious, that all 
nations would acknowledge that the God of Israel is the creator of 
heaven and earth, and is so endued with supreme power, that he 
governs the whole world; and, in a word, that he is the only true 
God who ought to be worshipped. It afterwards follows - 
Zechariah 14:19 
This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all 
nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. 
    He repeats the same thing, and almost in the same words; but 
yet it is not done without reason: for we ought to consider how 
difficult it was to believe what is said, as the Jews who had 
returned to their country were few in number, and unwarlike, and on 
every side opposed by their enemies. Since then the Church was 
almost every moment in danger, it was no wonder that the faithful 
had need of being strengthened under their trials, which often 
disturbed and harassed their minds. This then is the reason why the 
Prophet repeats often the same thing. 
    This, he says, shall be the sin of Egypt and of all nations, 
&c. The word "chatat" properly means wickedness, sin; but as 
piaculum in Latin sometimes means sin, and sometimes expiation, so 
"chatat" in Hebrew: it signifies at one time sin, at another the 
sacrifice by which sin is atoned: and hence Christ is said to have 
been made sin; for when he offered himself as an expiation, he 
sustained the curse which belonged to us all, by having it 
transferred on himself (Gal. 3: 13.) As Christ then was an 
expiation, he was on this account called sin. And the Greek 
translators did not change the name, because they saw that "chatat" 
in Hebrew, is taken for a sacrifice or punishment as well as for 
sin; hence they used the word "hamartia" indiscriminately. 
    So then the Prophet says that this would be the sin or the 
punishment of Egypt and of all nations, as though he had said, "If 
they despise the God of Israel and condemn his worship, such a 
contumacy shall not be unpunished; for God will show himself to be 
the vindicator of his own glory." And hence we conclude, that 
nothing ought to be more desired by us than that God should reveal 
himself to us, so that we may not presumptuously wander after 
superstitions, but purely worship him; for no one rightly worships 
God, except he who is taught by his word. It is then a singular 
favour, when the Lord prescribes to us the rule by which we may 
rightly worship him: but when we assent not to his true and 
legitimate worship, we here see that our whole life is accursed. It 
now follows - 
Zechariah 14:20 
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS 
UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the 
bowls before the altar. 
    Zechariah teaches us in this verse, that God would become the 
king of the world, so that all things would be applied to his 
service, and that nothing would be so profane as not to change its 
nature, so as to be sanctified for the service of God. This is the 
import of the whole. There is some obscurity in the words; but 
interpreters for the most part have been led astray, because they 
have not sufficiently attended to the design of the Prophet; and 
thus they have wrested the words to their own views, while they did 
not understand the subject. 
    There will be, he says, an inscription on the shades or head 
coverings of horses, holiness to Jehovah. No interpreters have 
perceived that there is here an implied comparison between the mitre 
of the high priest and all profane things; for since the high priest 
was a type of Christ, there was inscribed on his tiara, Holiness to 
Jehovah, "kodesh la'Adonai", and as the holiness of the temple, and 
of everything belonging to the service under the law, depended on 
the priesthood, this inscription must be viewed as extending to 
everything in the temple, to the altar, to the sanctuary, to the 
sacrifices, to the offerings, to the candlestick, to the incense, 
and in short, to all sacred things. 
    What now does the Prophet mean? There shall be, ho says, that 
inscription which the high priest bears on his head, holiness to 
Jehovah; there shall be, he says, this inscription on the stables of 
the horses. 
    As to the word "metzilot", it is only found here. Some derive 
it from "tzul", and others from "tzalah"; but the more received 
opinion is that it comes from "tzalal", in which the lamed is 
doubled. And some render it trappings; others, reins; others, bells; 
and all only conjecture, for there is no certainty. Some also render 
it the deep; and this sense may be also suitable. But what I have 
already stated seems to me more probable - that the shades or 
blinkers of horses are meant, and are here metaphorically called 
stables. Though then the stable of a horse is a mean and sordid 
place, and often filthy, yet the Prophet says that it would become 
holy to the Lord. 
    The meaning then is, that no place was so profane which would 
not be made holy when God reigned through the whole world. But if 
any one prefers trappings, or warlike harness, I do not object; for 
this view also is not unsuitable. Nothing is less holy than to shed 
human blood; and hence the Scripture says, that their hands are 
polluted who justly slay an enemy in war; not because slaughter is 
of itself sinful, but because the Lord intended to strike men with 
terror, that they might not rashly commit slaughter. It would not 
then ill suit this place to say, that the Lord would make holy the 
trappings of horses, so that nothing disorderly would hereafter be 
done in war, but that every one putting on arms would acknowledge 
God to be a judge in heaven, and would not dare, without a just 
cause, to engage with his enemy. 
    Ridiculous and puerile is what Theodore says in the first book 
of his Ecclesiastical history. He quotes this passage, and says that 
it was fulfilled when Helena, the mother of Constantine, adorned the 
trappings of a horse with a nail of the cross; for her purpose was 
to give this to her son as a sort of charm. One of those nails by 
which she thought Christ was crucified, she put in the royal diadem; 
of the other she caused the bit of a bridle to be made, or according 
to Eusebius, to be partly made; but Theodore says that the whole was 
made of it. These are indeed rank trifles; but yet I thought proper 
to refer to them, that you might know how foolish that age was. 
Jerome indeed rejects the fable; but as it was believed by many, we 
see how shamefully deluded at that time were many of those who were 
accounted the luminaries of the Church. I now return to the words of 
the Prophet. 
    He says, that upon the stables, or upon the trappings of the 
horses, there would be this inscription - Holiness to Jehovah - 
"kodesh la'Adonai": then he adds, All the pots in the house of 
Jehovah shall be as the vessels before the altar; that is, whatever 
was before only applied to profane uses, would be invested with 
holiness. I then give this interpretation - that pots or kettles 
would be like the vessels of the altar, as the whole apparatus for 
cooking would be converted to the service of God; as though he had 
said that there would be no profane luxuries, as before, but that 
common food would be made holy, inasmuch as men themselves would 
become holy to the Lord, and would be holy in their whole life and 
in all their actions. 
    But most go astray in supposing that the trappings would be 
made into pots; for the Prophet meant another things that holiness 
would exist among men in peace as well as in war, so that whether 
they carried on war, or rested at home, whether they ate or drank, 
they would still offer a pure sacrifice to God, both in eating and 
drinking, and even in warfare. Such then is the view we ought to 
take of the Prophet's words - that all the pots in the house of 
Jehovah shall be like the vessels before the altar; that is, 
"whatever has hitherto been profaned by the intemperance and 
luxuries of men, shall hereafter become holy, and be like the 
vessels of the temple itself." 
    Jerome philosophises here with great acuteness, as the Prophet 
intimated that the sacrifices offered under the law would be of no 
account, because God would no longer require the fat of beasts, nor 
any of the ritual observations, but would desire only prayers, which 
are the sacrifices approved by him; and hence he renders "mizrakim" 
bowls, and not vessels, a word of wider meaning; but it signifies 
the latter. 
    We now see that what Zechariah meant was this - that God would 
so claim the whole world as his own, as to consecrate men and all 
their possessions wholly to his own service, so that there would be 
no longer any uncleanness, that whether they ate or drank, or 
engaged in war, or undertook any other work, all things would be 
pure and holy, for God would always be before their eyes. Let us 
proceed - 
Zechariah 14:21 
Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the 
LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of 
them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the 
Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts. 
    The Prophet explains here more clearly what we have already 
considered - that such would be the reverence for God, and the fear 
of him through the whole world, that whatever men undertook would be 
a sacrifice to him: he therefore says, that all the kettles, or 
pots, or vessels, would be sacred to God. And this is fulfilled when 
men regard this end - to glorify God through their whole life, as 
Paul exhorts us to do. (1 Cor. 10: 31.) Our provisions and our beds, 
and all other things, become then holy to God, when we really devote 
ourselves to him, and regard in all the actions of our life the end 
which I have mentioned, even to testify in truth that he is our God, 
and that we are under his guidance. By such comparisons then does 
Zechariah teach us, that men will be sacred to God; for nothing they 
touch shall be unclean, but what was before profane shall be 
sanctified to his glory. 
    Come, he says, shall they who sacrifice, and shall boil flesh 
in pots; as though he had said, That such would be the multitude of 
men who would ascend to offer sacrifices to God, that the vessels of 
the temple before in use would not be sufficient. It would hence be 
necessary to apply for that purpose what was previously profane. The 
language of Isaiah is similar, for he says that they who were 
Levites would become priests of the first order, and that those of 
the common people would become Levites, so that they might all come 
nigh to God. (Isaiah 66: 20, 21.) The meaning then of the Prophet is 
now clear - that he wished to stir up the Jews to constancy and 
firmness, who regarded their small number as their reproach and were 
almost disheartened: as then they thought that they had in vain 
returned to their own country, as the Lord did not gather the whole 
people, he says that God's worship would become more celebrated than 
at the time when the state of things was most flourishing in Judea; 
for assemble they would, from the whole world, to offer sacrifices 
to God at Jerusalem, so that the whole city, with all its utensils, 
would be sacred to God, for the pots and the sacred vessels of the 
temple, used before under the law, would not be sufficient. 
    And he adds, And there shall be no Canaanite in the land: the 
meaning is, that the Church would become pure from all defilements: 
and this change ought to have given no small comfort to the Jews in 
their sad and calamitous state; for God had used no small severity, 
when all were driven into exile; and many tokens of this dreadful 
rigour still remained, since very few worshipped God, and were 
despised by all, so that true religion was exposed to the contempt 
and ridicule of all nations. This compensation then, that the Lord 
would by this remedy cleanse his Church from its filth, must have 
greatly allayed their sorrow: on this subject I have already said 
    Zechariah now briefly promises that the Church would become 
pure, so that all would from the heart and sincerely worship God, 
and that there would be no mixture of hypocrites to pollute the 
temple and holy things. But this seems strange, since the Church has 
ever been contaminated by many pollutions: and hence John the 
Baptist compares it to a floor, where the chaff is mixed with the 
wheat; and it is also compared to a net, into which are gathered 
many fishes, some good and some bad; and also at this day, in the 
kingdom of Christ, the Church is subject to this evils that it 
cannot cast out all corruptions: it seems then that the Prophet has 
spoken hyperbolically. But what we have elsewhere said ought to be 
borne in mind - that a comparison is made between the ancient state 
of the people and their second state, when the Church was renewed. 
As the religion had been in the most disgraceful manner corrupted, 
and as the Jews had impudently boasted that they were the holy 
people of God, while they were the most wicked of men, the Prophet 
justly says, that the Church when renewed would be purer; for the 
Lord would cleanse it by the cross, as gold and silver are cleansed, 
which are not only tried by the fire, but become also brighter, 
because the dross is removed. This is simply what the Prophet means 
when he says, that there will be no Canaanite among the people of 
God; that is, there will be no foreign or profane men, mingled with 
the faithful, to pollute the pure worship of God. 
    Some have wrested the passage and applied it to the last coming 
of Christ. But this is inconsistent with the subject in hand. At the 
same time I allow that the kingdom of Christ, according to the 
prophetic mode of writing, is here described from its commencement 
to its end. When God therefore purposed to renew his Church, he 
cleansed it from much filth, and still daily cleanses it, nor will 
he cease to do so, until, after all the defilements of the world 
having been removed, we shall be received into the celestial 
kingdom. Whenever then the Prophets speak of perfection under the 
reign of Christ, we ought not to confine what they say to one day or 
to a short time, but we ought to include the whole time from the 
beginning to the end. Hence when Christ appeared in the world, then 
began to shine the splendour of which Zechariah now speaks: but the 
Lord will go on until that shall be completed which now makes 
continual progress. 
    Some read, There shall be a merchant no more, &c.; and they 
have some reason for what they say, for the word is sometimes 
rendered merchant: but as in this case, we must have recourse to 
allegories, and take merchants for impious corrupters who make a 
merchandise of God's worship, or give this interpretation, that 
there shall be no merchant any more, because all would freely bring 
their offerings, - as these explanations are not appropriate, it is 
better to take the passage simply as it is - that the Lord will 
gather his elect, so that pure sacrifices will be offered by them 
all; and that there will be no hypocrites any more to contaminate 
and corrupt the Church, or to adulterate the worship of God. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast deigned to choose us as 
thy peculiar treasure, and to consecrate us to thyself in the person 
of thy only-begotten Son, - O grant, that we may so follow holiness 
through the whole course of our life, that thy glory may shine forth 
in all our works: and may we never undertake anything except for 
this end - that thy name may be more and more glorified, and may we 
be holy both in body and soul, and free from all the pollutions of 
the flesh and of the world, that we may be thus confirmed in the 
hope of our calling, and be encouraged to proceed during the 
remainder of our course, until we shall at length reach that glory 
which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten 
Son. - Amen. 
End of Calvin's Commentary on Zechariah. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 36...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-35.txt