John Calvin, Commentary on Zechariah 
Commentaries on the Twelve Minor Prophets by John Calvin. 
Now first translated from the original Latin, by the Rev. John Owen, 
vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire. 
Volume Fifth. Zechariah and Malachi 
WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, 1950, Michigan. 
Printed in the United States of America. 
This volume completes Calvin's Commentaries on the Twelve Minor 
Prophets,--a Work which, had he written no other, would have been 
sufficient to have rendered him illustrious as a faithful, lucid, 
and practical expounder. In course of time, when his Comments shall 
be carefully read, his high merits will no doubt be duly 
acknowledged. The Translator can bear this testimony, that before he 
read Calvin on the Minor Prophets, it was to him one of the least 
interesting and the least instructive portions of the ancient 
Scriptures; but that he finds it now one of the most interesting. It 
practically exhibits to us especially two things, which it greatly 
concerns us all to know,--what God is, and what man is. It sets 
before us manifest facts which prove the wonderful mercy and 
forbearance of God, and also the amazing tendency of man to 
superstition, and his persistency in his course notwithstanding all 
the powerful means adopted for his restoration. 
    Zechariah began to prophesy two months after Haggai, as we find 
by comparing Hag. i. 15, with Zech. i. 1. Ezra mentions them as the 
two Prophets who encouraged the rebuilding of the Temple. Ezra v.1; 
vi. 14. 
    The greatest part of ZECHARIAH was written, according to LOWTH, 
in prose; but adds that "some parts about the end of his Prophecy 
(ch. ix. x. and the beginning of xi) are poetical and highly 
embellished, and that they are sufficiently perspicuous, though 
written by a Prophet, who of all is perhaps the most obscure." The 
testimony of JEROME, as to his obscurity, is the same; he says that 
he is "the most obscure as well as the longest of the Twelve Minor 
Prophets." MARCKIUS concedes a majestic elegance to his diction, and 
says, that "his enigmatical symbols may be fitly compared with those 
of AMOS, EZEKIEL, DANIEL, and of JOHN, the Prophet of the New 
Testament." "His prose," according to HENDERSON, "resembles most 
that of EZEKIEL; it is diffuse, uniform and repetitious. His 
prophetic poetry possesses much of the elevation and dignity to be 
found in the earlier Prophets, with whose writings he appears to 
have been familiar." 
    The Book contains FOUR parts: the FIRST is a short message to 
the Jews, ch. i. 1-6; the SECOND includes the rest of the first six 
chapters, which record a series of eight visions confined to one 
single night, and vouchsafed to the Prophet three months after the 
first message; the THIRD contains two chapters, the seventh and the 
eighth; and the FOURTH, the six remaining chapters. 
    Since the days of Calvin a dispute has arisen, originated by 
MEDE, respecting this last portion. Owing especially to a quotation 
in Matt. xxvii. 9, 10, where Jeremiah, and not Zechariah, is 
mentioned, many since the time of MEDE, such as HAMMOND, NEWCOME, 
and several German divines, have adopted the notion, that these 
chapters have somehow been misplaced, and that they belong to the 
book of Jeremiah. This view has been strongly opposed by BLAYNEY and 
others, who, together with SCOTT, ADAM CLARKE, and HENDERSON, 
consider that there is no sufficient ground for such a supposition, 
and who for various reasons think that there is a typographical 
mistake in Matthew. 
    "It is alleged," observes BLAYNEY, "that the Evangelist St. 
Matthew, ch. xxvii. 9, cites a passage found in Zech. xi. 13, as 
spoken, not by Zechariah, but by the Prophet Jeremiah. But is it not 
possible, nay, is it not much more probable, that the word ( ) may 
have been written by mistake by some transcribers of Matthew's 
Gospel, that that those of the Jewish Church, who settled the Canon 
of Scripture, of whom Zechariah himself is supposed to have been 
one, should have been so grossly ignorant of the right author of 
those chapters as to place them under a wrong name? It is not, I 
think, pretended that these chapters have been found in any copy of 
the Old Testament otherwise placed than as they now stand. But in 
the New Testament there are not wanting authorities for omitting the 
word Ieremiou." 
    The other arguments urged by MEDE and others are successfully 
combated by BLAYNEY as well as by HENDERSON. This first is, that 
many things are mentioned in these chapters which correspond not 
with Zechariah's time; the second, that the prophecy in ch. xi. 
concerning the destruction of the Temple and of the people, is not 
suitable to the scope of Zechariah's commission, which was to 
encourage the people to build the Temple; and the third, that the 
style of these chapters is different from that of the preceding 
ones. These reasons, especially the two last, are justly said to be 
easily accounted for by the supposition that Zechariah wrote the 
former portions while he was young, (Ch. ii. 4,) and these chapters 
in his advanced years. And BLAYNEY thinks that he is the ZECHARIAH 
mentioned by our Saviour in Matt. xxii. 35, and that he was slain by 
the Jews on account of these prophecies which he announced in his 
old age. 
    The last of the Old Testament Prophets, as admitted by all, was 
Malachi. Who and what he was, we are left without any knowledge. 
Some have supposed him to have been Ezra under another name, or 
under the name of his office, as Malachi means a messenger. But most 
think that he lived near a century after Haggai and Zechariah. USHER 
places him in the year 416 before Christ, and BLAIR in 436. It 
appears certain from ch. iii. 10, that his time was after the 
building of the Temple. It is most probable that he was contemporary 
with Nehemiah, especially after his second return from Persia, as 
the same things are condemned by both,--foreign marriages and the 
neglect of paying tithes. The Jews are wont to call him the seal 
(chotam) of the Prophets. 
    It is observed by LOWTH that Malachi wrote "in a middle sort of 
style, and evidently in such a style as seems to prove that Hebrew 
poetry had declined since the Babylonian exile, and that being now 
in advanced age it was somewhat verging towards senility." But 
HENDERSON speaks in a higher strain, "Considering the late age in 
which he lived, the language of Malachi is pure; his style possesses 
much in common with the old Prophets, but is distinguished more by 
its animation than by its rhythmus or grandeur." 
    The interesting character of the Commentary will be found to be 
in no degree diminished in the Volume, but on the contrary 
increased, though some of the subjects had been before discussed. 
The same thoughts, no doubt, sometimes occur, but their different 
connections ever introduce some variety. The Commentator follows his 
text, and very seldom deviates from what it strictly requires, and 
the application of it to present circumstances is generally natural 
and obvious, and for the most part confined to a few sentences; so 
the reader's attention is not diverted from the passage that is 
explained. The main object throughout seems to be to interpret God's 
Word and to impress it on the mind and heart, and so to apply it as 
to render it the rule of our life and support of our hopes. 
    The curious reader, fond of novelties, and enamoured with 
speculative and fanciful notions, or one whose chief delight is in 
dry criticisms, will not find much in Calvin to gratify him: but 
those who possess a taste for Divine Truth, who seek to understand 
what they read, and desire to be fed by "the sincere milk of the 
Word," will, through a blessing from above, be abundantly 
compensated by a careful perusal of his Comments. This is not said 
merely as a matter of inference from the character of their 
contents, but as the result of personal experience. The testimony 
which the Translator can fully bear is similar to that of Bishop 
Horne, when he finished his Commentary on Psalms, that the labour 
has been attended with so much pleasure and enjoyment, that the 
completion of his work occasions regret as well as joy; for the time 
during which he has been engaged in translating Calvin has been the 
happiest period of his life. 
    As to the Indices, added to the Volume, the most important is 
that to the subjects: and it is more useful than general readers may 
perhaps consider it to be. The very reading of it may convey no 
small measure of information. The variety of subjects handled in 
these Volumes is very great, so that they include almost everything 
in the wide range of Theology, not indeed discussed at large, but 
briefly touched upon and explained. 
    But as an illustration of the usefulness of this Index, let the 
word FAITH be taken; and almost everything connected with it will be 
found mentioned and referred to. Turn again to the word FAITHFUL, 
which some of my co-workers have rendered BELIEVERS, and perhaps in 
some instances more appropriately; and hardly anything belonging to 
the character, spirit, life, and trials of God's people, will be 
found wanting. If there be a wish to know what Popery is, what is 
found under the word PAPISTS will disclose almost the whole 
character of the system; and by referring to the Comment at all its 
main lineaments will be found clearly exhibited in the character of 
the superstitions and idolatries of the Jews. The real features of 
errors are the same in every age, only somewhat modified by a change 
of circumstances: but an enlightened observer can read Popery in the 
history of the ancient Jews as clearly as in its own history. This 
of course cannot be done by the spiritually blind and the deluded; 
and yet so striking and palpable is the likeness in not a few 
instances, that it is impossible for any not to see it, except they 
be totally blind, and their judgement wholly perverted. 
    There have been many Commentators before and after the time of 
Calvin, but it may be doubted whether any of them possessed his 
combined excellencies, especially the capacity of being so plain as 
to be understood by common readers, and of being at the same time so 
profound as to be interesting and instructive to the most learned; 
so that his Comments do in this respect retain, in a measure, the 
character of the book he interprets and explains. Of his superiority 
over his predecessors we have the striking testimony of the learned 
ARMINIUS, who, as he differed from him on several points of no small 
importance, may justly be considered to have been an impartial 
witness. His words are remarkable, --"Next to the reading of 
Scripture, which I strongly recommend, I advise you to read the 
Commentaries of Calvin, on whom I bestow higher eulogies than 
Helmichius did; for I consider that he is INCOMPARABLE in 
interpreting Scripture, and that his Commentaries are of more value 
than all that the library of the Fathers transmits to us; so that I 
concede to him even a spirit of prophecy superior to that of most, 
yea, of all others." 
    As to posterior Commentators, his comparative merits cannot 
indeed be rated so high, as there have been in later years Writers 
in this department of no ordinary character. Not to mention Foreign 
Divines, our own might with advantage be referred to, such as HENRY, 
LOWTH, DODDRIDGE, SCOTT, and ADAM CLARKE. And yet none of these can 
be regarded as in all respects equal to Calvin as a Commentator. 
Some of them excel him as Critics, and others in the number of their 
practical deductions; but he surpasses them all in pointing out and 
illustrating the main drift of a passage, in catching as it were its 
very spirit, and in the power he possessed of impressing on the mind 
in a few words both its meaning and its practical lessons. The 
Comment never diverts us from the Text, it never occupies as it were 
its place; but the Text itself, expounded and illustrated, is left 
fixed and riveted on the mind. 
Thrussington, July 1849. 
The Prophecies of Zechariah come next. He was a fellow-helper and 
colleague of Haggai, and also of Malachi, as it will presently 
appear. These three, then, were sent by God nearly at the same time, 
that they might assist one another, and that they might thus by one 
consent and one mouth confirm what God had committed to them. It was 
indeed of great service that several bore their testimony: their 
prophecies gained thus greater authority; and this was needful, for 
the people had to contend with various and most grievous trials. 
Satan had already raised up great opposition to them; but there were 
still greater evils at hand. Hence, to prevent them from despairing, 
it was necessary to encourage them by many testimonies. 
    But what our Prophet had especially in view was, to remind the 
Jews why it was that God dealt so severely with their fathers, and 
also to animate them with hope, provided they really repented, and 
elevated their minds to the hope of true and complete deliverance. 
He at the same time severely reproves them; for there was need of 
much cleansing, as they still continued in their filth. For though 
the recollection of their exile ought to have restrained them, and 
to have made them carefully to fear and obey God, yet it seemed to 
have been otherwise; and it will appear more fully as we proceed, 
that being not conscious of having been punished for their sins, 
they were so secure, that there was among them hardly any fear of 
God, or hardly any religion. It was therefore needful to blend 
strong and sharp reproofs with promises of favour, that they might 
thus be prepared to receive Christ. This is the substance of the 
whole. I shall now proceed to the words.

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 1...

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