Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 30: Zechariah, Malachai, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.
1. Et sustuli oculos meos et vidi; et ecce vir in ejus manu funiculus mensurae.
2. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.
2. Et dixi, Quo tu vadis? et dixit mihi, Ad metiendum Ierusalem, ut videam quanta latitudo ejus, et quanta longitudo ejus.
3. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him,
3. Et ecce angelus qui loquebatur mecum egressus est, et alter angelus egressus est in occursum ejus;
4. And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein:
4. Et dixit ad eum, Curre, dic puero huic, dicendo, In villis (vel, pagis) habitabitur Ierusalem prae multitudine hominis et pecoris (id est, honinum et pecorum) in medio ejus.
Added now is another vision for the same end; not that the former was difficult to be understood, but because there was need of confirmation in a state of things so disturbed; for though the return of the people was no common evidence of the goodness and favor of God yet as Jerusalem was not flourishing as formerly, as the temple was like a cottage as there was no form of a kingdom and no grandeur, it was difficult to believe what had been already exhibited. This is the reason why God confirms by many proofs the same thing; for we know how difficult the contest is, owing to the infirmity of the flesh, when grievous and sharp trials assail us.
Hence Zechariah says, that he saw in the hand of a man a measuring line. He calls him a man, who appeared in the form of man; and it is well known, and a common thing, that angels are called men. For though they put on a human form only for a time, yet as it was the Lord’s will that they should be seen in that form, they are called men, though with no propriety. If it be asked, whether angels did really put on human nature? the obvious answer is, that they never, strictly speaking, became really men. But we know that God treats us as children; and there is the same reason for the expression as for the thing itself. How was it that angels appeared in human form? even that their access to men might be easier. Hence God calls them men as in this place. Zechariah then says, that an angel appeared to him in the form of a man, having in his hand a measuring line.
He then asks him where he was going; the answer given is, to measure Jerusalem, to see what was its breadth and its length. The design of the prophecy is then stated, Behold, inhabited shall be Jerusalem throughout all its villages, 29 as it could not contain within its walls so large a multitude of men. God then would so increase his people, that they could not be contained within its walls, but that the limits of the Church would be spacious. Inhabited then shall be Jerusalem throughout all its villages, that is, through the whole country around. This is the meaning.
We now see the design of the Holy Spirit. As a small portion only had returned from exile, the faithful might have become disheartened when they found that the restoration of the Church was very far from being so splendid as what had been so often predicted and promised. It was therefore necessary that they should be encouraged, in order that they might patiently wait while God was performing by degrees, and step by step, what he had testified. That they might not then confine God’s favor to a short period, or to a few days, the Prophet says here, that the measure of Jerusalem was different in the sight of God from what it was in the sight of men. With regard to the “line”, it was according to the ancient custom; for we know that they did not then use a ten foot pole or some such measure, but a line.
The Prophet, by saying that he raised up his eyes and saw this man, reminds us that Jerusalem was to be regarded prospectively: for they could hardly be induced then to build the city as a small and obscure town. We hence see that a difference is to be here noticed between the external aspect of Jerusalem, such as it was then, and its future condition, for which they were to look though not then visible. This then is the design of the prophecy, when it is said, that when Zechariah raised up his eyes, he saw a measure or a line in the hand of a man. He further reminds us that he was attentive to these visions, for by asking he proves that he was not asleep or indifferent, as many are who extinguish every light by their sloth; and I wish there was no such torpor prevailing among us in the present day! for we justly suffer punishment for our contempt, whenever we heedlessly and negligently attend to what God sets before us. Let us then learn greater attention and diligence from the Prophet’s example.
He asks where he was going, the answer given is, to measure: and then he shows what would be the measure of Jerusalem, that it would hereafter extend beyond the walls, as that compass would not contain the vast number of the people. “God will extend,” he says, “far and wide the holy city; it will no longer be confined as before to its own walls, but will be inhabited through all its villages.” There is then no doubt but that God intended here to bear witness respecting the propagation of his Church, which was to follow a long time afterwards, even after the coming of Christ. For though Jerusalem became wealthy and also large in its compass, and, as it is well known, a triple city, and heathen writers say that it was among the first of the cities of the East when Babylon was still existing, yet this prophecy was not verified in the state of Jerusalem, for it was not inhabited without its walls, nor did it spread through the whole of Judea. We hence conclude, that the spiritual Jerusalem is here described, which differs from all earthly cities.
It is said, that the angel went forth, and that another angel met him. It hence appears as from the whole of what the Prophet says, how carefully God provides for the safety of his Church; for he has ever angels as his emissaries, who hasten at his nod, and aid the Church in its necessities. Since then angels thus unite to secure the well-being of the Church, we hence perceive how dear to God are the faithful, in whose favor he thus employs all his angels; and we also see, that it was the Lord’s will that this prophecy should be clear and manifest to all the godly: go, and run to that young man, he says, and tell him. Zechariah had indeed asked for an explanation of the measure in the man’s hand, but from the fact that another angel met him, it appears, as I have already said, that God does not neglect the request and prayers of his people, provided only that they are desirous of learning; he will then perform the part of a true and faithful teacher towards them. But the word “run,” ought especially to be noticed: “go,” he says, “and even hasten, lest the youth should longer doubt, and explain the purpose of this prophecy.” He calls the Prophet a youth, because he was then among angels. He would not call him a man of full age, because he had before called an angel man. What rank could the Prophet hold among angels except that of a youth? This circumstance ought therefore to be observed as the reason why Zechariah spoke disparagingly or humbly of himself.
Now as to the import of the prophecy, we have already said, that here is described the heavenly Jerusalem, which is surrounded by no walls, but is open to the whole world, and which depends not on its own strength, but dwells safely though exposed on all sides to enemies; for the Prophet says not without reason, “through the villages shall Jerusalem be inhabited;” that is, it shall everywhere be inhabited, so that it will have no need of defense to restrain or hinder enemies to come near; for a safe rest shall be given to it, when every one shall quietly occupy his own place. It follows —
5. For I, saith the LORD, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.
5. Et ego illi, dicit Iehova, murus ignis (vel, igneus) in circuitu, et in gloriam ero in medio ejus.
He confirms in this verse what I have just mentioned — that Jerusalem would be safe, though without any fortifications; for God alone would be sufficient for walls, for towers, for fortresses, according to what is said by other Prophets: “God will be to thee a wall and a fortress”, (Isa 26:1), again, “he will be to thee a stronghold”. It is, therefore, a sentence in accordance with other prophecies when Jehovah testifies, that he would be a wall of fire. We indeed know, that though walls may be high and thick, they may be scaled by enemies; but who will dare to throw himself into the fire? It is then the same as though God had spoken thus — “Though there will be no watchmen to defend Jerusalem, no soldiers to protect it, in short, no guardians whatever, yet I alone shall be sufficient; for I shall not only be a wall to keep off enemies, but I shall be also a fire to fill them with terror.”
He then adds, I will be for glory in the midst of her: as though he had said, “the real happiness of Jerusalem, within and without, will be in me alone and in my favor: within, in the midst of her I will be for glory; I will adorn her with every thing praiseworthy; and when there shall be any fear from the assault of enemies, I will be to her a wall of fire. For though she will not excel in strongholds and towers, and be without walls and fortresses, and shall be thus exposed to many evils, I shall yet strike all enemies with terror, so that they shall be kept afar off; and my Church shall be thus preserved safe, though destitute of all human aids, and without any defense.”
We now then perceive the meaning of the Prophet to be this — that though the Jews saw that they were but few in number, weak in strength, wretched and despised, they had yet reason to entertain hope; for though few returned from exile God was yet able to increase the Church and to make it a vast multitude, and that this was certain and decreed, for it was shown by the vision, that however unequal they were to their enemies, God was still sufficiently strong and powerful to defend them; and that however destitute they were of all blessings, God was still rich enough to enrich them, provided they relied on the blessing which he had promised; for he had engaged to render them happy and blessed within, and safe from enemies from without.
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are on every side surrounded by many enemies, and as Satan never ceases to kindle the fury of many, not only to be hostile to us, but also to destroy and consume us, — O grant that we may learn to raise up our eyes to heaven, and trusting in thy protection may boldly fight in patience, until that shall appear which thou hast once testified in this remarkable prophesy, that there are many smiths in thine hall, and many hammers, by which thou breakest in pieces those horns which rise up to scatter us, and until at length, after having overcome all the devices of Satan, we shall reach that blessed rest which has been provided for us by the blood of thine only begotten Son. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-eighth
6. Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the LORD: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the LORD.
6. Heus! Heus! et fugite e terra Aquilonis, dicit Iehova; quia in quatuor ventos coelorum dispersi vos, dicit Iehova.
That the design of the Prophet may be more clear, we must especially bear in mind the history of the case. When it was allowed the Jews, by the edict of Cyrus and of Darius, to return to their own land, that kindness was suspected by many, as though the two kings had a wish suddenly to oppress them when they had pained their object in their return. Some who dwelt comfortably among the Chaldeans and in other places, preferred to enjoy their rest rather than to return with so much trouble to their own country, where there were no houses prepared, and where there were only dreary desolations. As then the greater part of the people thus slighted the singular favor of God, of which the Prophets had so often spoken, it was necessary that this sloth, connected as it was with great impiety, should be reproved. For if any religion had touched their hearts, they must have preferred Jerusalem to the whole world, and the service of God to all earthly advantages and pleasures. Hence the self-indulgence in which the Jews had become torpid, deserved a sharp and severe reproof. This is the reason why the Prophet treats them here with so much sharpness, for otherwise they could not have been roused.
Ho! Ho! he says, as though he had said, “What means this delay? for when God has opened the door for you, ye still take your rest, as though Judea were not your inheritance, as though there were no difference between you and the profane heathens.” We now understand the object of the Prophet.
The particle הוי, eui, is used for stimulating them; and by it the Prophet reprehends their indifference, which was a proof, as I have said, of ingratitude; for the Jews in this way showed their contempt of that favor, which ought to have been preferred far before all the wealth and the pleasures of the world.
But the reason which is added seems far-fetched, or even unsuitable — For to the four winds of heaven have I scattered you; for this could not have served to rouse the Jews to leave Babylon, and to return to the holy land promised to them by God. Yet it was very efficacious towards producing an impression on their minds; for the Lord shows, in these words, that it was in his power to restore them in safety, inasmuch as they had not been scattered here and there, except through his just vengeance. Had their enemies prevailed against them, or had they without reason been expelled from their country, a doubt might have crept in whether the promise could be relied on; but when it appeared evident that their exile was a punishment inflicted by God, they might safely conclude that he would become the author of their restoration; for he who had inflicted the wound was able to heal it.
We now then see what the Prophet had in view: he intimates that the Jews had hitherto suffered punishment from God, because they obeyed not his word, but provoked by their obstinacy his extreme vengeance; they ought then now to entertain hope, because God was pacified towards them and ready to forgive them. As then their exile was from God, the Prophet intimates that their return would not be difficult when God became reconciled to them, because the Jews had to do only with the heavenly Judge himself. In short, the Prophet designs to show that the Jews acted foolishly by continuing in exile, when liberty was given them to return; and therefore he exhorts them to hasten in time, lest the season of God’s favor should pass away, and thus the door be again closed against them. That they might not hesitate whether this was possible, he shows that it was in God’s power, for he had driven them from their country; it would not therefore be difficult for him to open a way for their return whenever he pleased. 30 He now adds —
7. Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
7. Heus Sion! Servare, quae habitas apud filiam Babylonis.
The Prophet repeats the same thing, though briefly, and in other words: but while he briefly touches on what he meant to say, he confirms and renders more plain the contents of the former verse. He shows that it was a very great disgrace that Babylon should become as it were the grave of Sion; for God had chosen that mount as the place where he was to be worshipped. Babylon, we know, was a filthy cavern, accursed by God. It was therefore to subvert, as it were, the order of nature, for the Jews to bury, so to speak, the holy mount of God in that infernal region. This mode of speaking appears on the first view somewhat harsh, but it is yet most suitable; for by Sion the Prophet means the Jews, who were still dispersed in Chaldea. The temple had not indeed been moved from its place, but only burnt and destroyed by the Chaldeans, and there was no other temple built among the Babylonians. What then does the Prophet mean by saying, O Sion, who dwellest with the daughter of Babylon, return to thine own place? He even reminds the Jews that they were bound, as it were, to the temple; for it was a sacred and an indissoluble bond of mutual union between God and them. (1Ki 6:13.) For when God proposed that a temple should be built for him on mount Sion, he at the same time added,
“I will dwell among you; this is my rest.” (Ps 132:14.)
Since the Jews, then, became united to their God, the temple ass introduced as a pledge of this sacred union. Thus justly and fitly does the Prophet give the name of Sion to the Jews; for they were, as it has been said, tied as it were to the temple, except they meant to deny God. Hence he says, “Is it right that you should dwell among the Chaldeans? for ye are as it were the stones of God’s temple. There is therefore for you no fixed and permanent abode except on mount Sion, as you are in a sense that very mount itself.” Therefore he says, “Sion, hasten and return to thine own place; for it is strange and preposterous that thou shouldest dwell with the daughter of Babylon.”
In short, the Prophet shows that God’s favor ought not to have been rejected, when he stretched forth his hand, and gave them a free liberty to return. As then God thus appeared as the deliverer of his people, the Jews ought not to have remained exiles, but immediately to ascend to Jerusalem, that they might again worship God. And why did the Prophet mention this? that the Jews might know that they had nothing to fear, though surrounded with dangers; that though Satan suggested many perils, many difficulties, many troubles, yet the grace of God would not be defective, or evanescent, or fallacious, but that he would complete his work, and not disappoint those to whom he had once testified, that there would be to them again a quiet habitation in the land of Judah. It now follows —
8. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.
8. Quia sic dicit Iehova excercituum, Post gloriam misit me ad gentes quae spoliant vos; quia qui tangit vos tangit pupillam oculi sui (vel, ejus.)
The Prophet pursues the same subject; for he shows that the way was not opened to the Jews that they might soon after repent of their return, but that the Lord might be with them, as their deliverance was a signal proof of his kindness, and an evidence that he would commence what he had begun. He then says, that by God’s order the Gentiles would be restrained from effecting any thing in opposition to the Jews; as though he had said, “Your liberty has been granted by Cyrus and by Darius; many rise up to hinder your return, but whatever they may attempt they shall effect nothing; for God shall check all their efforts, and frustrate all their attempts.” But God’s herald does here publicly testify, that he was commissioned to prevent the nations from doing any injury, and to declare that the people brought back to Judea were holy to the Lord, and that it was not permitted that they should be injured by any. This is the import of the whole.
But a difficulty occurs here, for the context seems not consistent: Thus saith Jehovah, Jehovah sent me; for it is not the Prophet who receives here the office of a herald; but it seems to be ascribed to God, which appears inconsistent; for whose herald can God be? and by whose order or command could he promulgate what the Prophet here relates? It seems not then suitable to ascribe this to God, though the words seem to do so — Thus saith Jehovah, After the glory he sent me to the nations: Who is the sender? or who is he who orders or commands God? We hence conclude that Christ is here introduced, who is Jehovah, and yet the Angel or the messenger of the Father. Though then the being of God is one, expressed by the word Jehovah, it is not improper to apply it both to the Father and to the Son. Hence God is one eternal being; but God in the person of the Father commands the Son, who also is Jehovah, to restrain the nations from injuring the Jews by any unjust violence. The rabbis give this explanation — that the Prophet says that he himself was God’s herald, and thus recites his words; but this is forced and unnatural. I indeed wish not on this point to contend with them; for being inclined to be contentious, they are disposed to think that we insist on proofs which are not conclusive. But there are other passages of Scripture which more clearly prove the divinity and the eternal existence of Christ, and also the distinction of persons. If however any one closely examines the words of the Prophet, he will find that this passage must be forcibly wrested, except it be understood of Christ. We then consider that Christ is here set forth as the Father’s herald; and he says that he was sent to the nations.
What he adds — After the glory, is understood by some to mean, that after the glory had ceased, in which the Jews had hitherto boasted, the message of Christ would then be directed to the Gentiles. The meaning, then, according to them is this — that shortly after the glory of the chosen people should depart, Christ, by the Father’s command, would pass over to the nations to gather a Church among them. But this passage may be also applied to the nations, who had cruelly distressed the Church of God; as though he had said — “Though your enemies have had for a time their triumphs, yet their glory being brought to an end, God will send his messenger, so that they who have spoiled you may become your prey.” It still seems probable to me that the Prophet speaks of the glory which he had shortly before mentioned. We may then view him as saying, that as God had begun to exercise his power, and had in a wonderful manner restored his people, there would be no intermission until he had fully established his Church, so as to make the priesthood and the kingdom to flourish again. Then after the glory, imports as much as this — “Ye see the beginning of God’s favor, by which his power shines forth.” For doubtless it was no common instance of the Lord’s glory, which he had manifested in restoring his people; and thus the Prophet encourages their confidence, inasmuch as God had already in part dealt in a glorious manner with them. He then takes an argument from what had been commenced, that the Jews might hope to the end, and fully expect the completion of their deliverance. “The Lord,” as it is said elsewhere, “will not forsake the work of his own hands.” (Ps 138:8.) So the Prophet says now, After the glory, that is, “since God has once shone upon you in no common manner, ought you not to entertain hope; for he intended not to disappoint you of a full return to your country, but to fulfill what he had promised by his Prophets?”
As God had spoken of the restoration of his Church, and also of its perpetual condition, the Prophet here indirectly reproves the ingratitude of those who were not convinced that God would be faithful to the end, by seeing performed the commencement of his work. For as God had included both the return of his people and their continued preservation, so also his people ought to have included both favors: “The Lord, who has already begun to restore his people, will defend to the end those whom he has gathered, until their full and perfect redemption will be secured.” As then the Jews did not look for the end, though God led them as it were by the hand to the land of hope, the Prophet says to them, After the glory
We may farther observe, that the glory mentioned here was not as yet fully conspicuous; it had begun, so to speak, to glimmer, but it did not shine forth in full splendor until Christ came. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “God has already emitted some sparks of his glory, it will increase until it attains a perfect brightness. The Lord in the meantime will cause, not only that the nations may restrain themselves from doing and wrong, but also that they may become a prey to you”. 31
The reason for the order follows, Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his own eye, or, of his eye; for the pronoun may be applied to any one of the heathen nations as well as to God himself; and the greater part of interpreters prefer taking it as referring to any one of the nations. Whosoever touches you touches the apple of his own eye; we say in French, Ils se donnent en l’oeil; that is, “Whosoever will assail my people will strike out his own eyes; for whatever your enemies may devise against you, shall fall on their own heads”. It will be the same as though one by his own sword should pierce his own heart. When therefore the nations shall consider you to be in their poser, the Lord shall cause that they shall pierce their own eyes, or wound their own breasts, for the import is the same. Whosoever then touches you, touches the apple of his own eye; there is no reason why you should fear, for however powerful your enemies may be, yet their fury shall not be allowed to rage against you; for God shall cause them to kill themselves by their own swords, or to pull out their eyes by their own fingers. This is the meaning, if we understand the passage of the enemies of the Church.
But it may also be suitably applied to God: Whosoever touches you, touches the apple of his eye; and to this view I certainly am more inclined; for this idea once occurs in Scripture,
“He will protect us as the apple of his eye.” (Ps 17:8.)
As then the Holy Spirit has elsewhere used this similitude, so I am disposed to regard this passage as intimating, that the love of God towards the faithful is so tender that when they are hurt he burns with so much displeasure, as though one attempted to pierce his eyes. For God cannot otherwise set forth how much and how ardently he loves us, and how careful he is of our salvation, than by comparing us to the apple of his eye. There is nothing, as we know, more delicate, or more tender, then this is in the body of man; for were one to bite my finger, or prick my arm or my legs, or even severely to would me, I should feel no such pain as by having my eye or the pupil of my eye injured. God then by this solemn message declares, that the Church is to him like the apple of his eye, so that he can by no means bear it to be hurt or touched. It afterwards follows: —
9. For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me.
9. Quia ecce ego agitans (vel, agito) manum meam super eos; et erunt praeda servis suis; et scietis quod Iehova exercituum miserit me.
Christ continues to relate the commands of the Father: for he speaks in his person, when he says, Behold, I shake my hand over them, that is, enemies; and they shall be a prey to their own servants. He means, that however numerous and strong the enemies would be who would seek to injure the Jews, they would yet be safe; for they would be protected by the hand of God, and not only so, but that whatever their enemies would attempt to do would be in vain, for the Lord would degrade them, and render them a prey to the Jews themselves: for by servants 32 he doubtless means the Jews, who, for a time, had been oppressed by the tyranny of their enemies.
It is certain that this prophecy was not fulfilled at the time when the Jews thought that they were in a flourishing state, and enjoying prosperity; for their condition was even then very wretched and degrading. For whence had they their kings? Certainly not from the tribe of Judah; and we all know how tyrannically they were governed, and also that the kingdom was filled with many abominable sins and cruelties. They were become parricides almost all; and whosoever will read their history will find, that brethren were oppressed by brethren, and that even parents were cruelly and wickedly treated. In short, not to say of other things, nothing could have been more abominable than the family of Herod. We cannot then apply this prophecy to that time which intervened between the return from the Babylonian exile, and the coming of Christ. It is then only under the kingdom of Christ that God accomplished what is here said, — that enemies became a prey to his spiritual people, that is, when they were subdued and brought under the yoke of Christ, for as we have said elsewhere, the government of the Church is vested in its Head. Hence where Christ shines, there the Church, which is his body, is said to reign; for Christ’s will is, that he should have nothing apart from his members.
We now see the intention of the Prophet: he wished to dispel the fear of the Jews, that they might not hesitate to return to their country; for not only a way was opened for them, but confirmed also and certain was their happiness under God’s protection; as he had not in vain begun a glorious work, but fully purposed to carry it on to the end.
He says, Behold, I shake my hand. The shaking of the hand shows that God has no need of many forces to put to flight his enemies, nor of a large expedition; for as soon as he raises up his hand, he lays them all prostrate. In short, the Prophet reminds us, that God has hands which extend far, for he can by mere shaking conquer all enemies, however distant they may be. And then we see that the facility with which God executes his purpose was mentioned, in order that the Jews might feel assured, that as soon as it would please God to put forth his strength, he would have no difficulty; for by the single motion of his finger he could destroy all the enemies who might rise up against them.
He afterwards adds, And ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me. To consider this as an address to the faithful, may not seem suitable; for faith is connected with knowledge, as we are taught by John,
“We know that we are the children of God,” (1Jo 3:2;)
for the certainty which rests on God’s word exceeds all knowledge. Why then does the Prophet say, And we shall know that Jehovah has sent me? for the faithful ought to have been previously certain respecting the mission of Christ; otherwise an approach to God was closed up; for an access, we know, to his favor is opened by faith. The Jews must have then been assured from the beginning respecting the mission of Christ. But it is to be observed, that there are two kinds of knowledge, — the knowledge of faith, and what they call experimental knowledge. The knowledge of faith is that by which the godly feel assured that God is true — that what he has promised is indubitable; and this knowledge at the same time penetrates beyond the world, and goes far above the heavens, that it may know hidden things; for our salvation is concealed; things seen, says the Apostle, are not hoped for. (Ro 8:24.) It is then no wonder that the Prophet says, that the faithful shall then know that Christ has been sent by the Father, that is, by actual experience, or in reality: Ye shall then know that Jehovah has sent me. He afterwards adds —
10. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.
10. Exulta et laetare filia Sion, quia ecce ego venio, et habitabo in medio tui, dicit Iehova.
He continues the same subject. The meaning is, that God begins nothing which he does not determine to bring to its end. Since then he had already begun to gather his people, that they might dwell in the Holy Land, it was a work in progress, at length to be completed; for the Lord’s will was not to be a half Redeemer. This is the purport of what the Prophet says.
But he now exhorts Sion to rejoice, as though the happiness which he predicts was already enjoyed. This mode of speaking, as we have seen elsewhere, is common among the Prophets. When they intended to animate God’s servants to a greater confidence, they brought them as it were into the midst of what was promised, and dictated a song of thanksgiving. We are not wont to congratulate ourselves before the time. When, therefore, the Prophets bade the Church to sing to God and to give thanks, they thus confirmed the promises made to them; as though the Prophet had said, that as yet indeed the brightness and glory of God was in a great measure laid, but that the faithful were beyond the reach of danger, and that therefore they could boldly join in a song of thanks to God, as though they were already enjoying full redemption; for the Lord will perfect what he begins.
Rejoice then and exult, thou daughter of Sion, — Why? For I come. God had already come; but here he expresses the progress of his favor, by declaring that he would come; as though he had said, “I have already given you obscure tokens of my presence; but you shall find another coming which will be much more effectual to confirm your faith.” Though then God had already appeared to the Jews, yet he says that he would come, that is, when Christ would come forth, in whom dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily, and in whom God’s perfect glory and majesty shines forth. And hence also does it more evidently appear what I have already said, that this address cannot be applied without perversion to the Prophet, nor be suitably applied to the person of the Father. It then follows that Christ speaks here: but he does not speak as a man or an angel; he speaks as God the Redeemer. We hence see that the name Jehovah is appropriated to Christ, and that there is no difference between the Father and the Son as to essence, but that they are only to be distinguished as to their persons. Whenever then Christ announces his own divinity, he takes the name Jehovah; but he also shows, that there is something peculiar and distinct belonging to him as the messenger of the Father. For this reason, and in this respect, he is inferior to the Father; that is, because he is sent as a messenger, and executes what has been entrusted to him. These things do not militate the one against the other, as many unlearned and turbulent men think, who entangle themselves in many vain imaginations, or rather in mere ravings, and say, “How can it be, that there is one eternal God, and yet that Christ, who is distinct from the Father, and is called his angel, is a true God?” So they imagine that the origin of divinity is God the Father, as though the one true God had begotten, and thus produced another God from himself, as by propagation. But these are diabolical figments, by which the unity of the Divine essence is destroyed. Let us then bear in mind what the Prophet teaches here clearly and plainly, — that Christ is Jehovah, the only true God, and yet that he is sent by God as a Mediator.
Behold I come, he says, and I will dwell in the midst of thee. God dwelt then among the Jews, for the building of the temple had been begun, and sacrifices had been already offered; but this dwelling was typical only. It hence follows, that some new kind of presence is here pointed out, when God was to reveal himself to his people, not under ceremonial figures and symbols, but by dwelling, at the fullness of time, substantially among them; for Christ is the temple of the Godhead, and so perfectly unites us to God the Father, that we are one with him. And it ought further to be carefully borne in mind, that the Prophet does here also make a distinction between the ancient types of the law and the reality, which was at length exhibited in Christ; for there is no need now of shadows, when we enjoy the reality, and possess the completion of all those things which God only shadowed forth under the law.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou sees that we continually tremble in the midst of dangers, and often stumble and fall through the infirmity of our flesh, — O grant, that we may learn so to rely on the strength and help which thou promisest to us, that we may not hesitate to pass through all kinds of dangers, and boldly and firmly to fight under thy banner; and may we be thus gathered more and more into the unity of thy Church, until having, finished all our troubles and contests, we shall at length reach that blessed and celestial rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-ninth
11. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.
11. Et adjungent se gentes multae, (vel, magnae) ad Iehovam in die illa; et erunt illi in populum, et habitabo in medio tui; et scies quod Iehova exercituum miserit me ad te.
The Prophet describes here the voluntary surrender of the nations, who would so join themselves to the Church of God, as to disown their own name and to count themselves Jews: and this is what the Prophet borrowed from those who had predicted the same thing; but he confirms their testimony, that the Jews might know that the propagation of the Church had not been promised to them in vain by so many witnesses. That what is said here refers to the calling of the nations who would willingly surrender themselves to God, is quite evident; for it is said that they would be a people to God. This could not be, except the nations surrendered their own name, so as to become one body with the Jews. He then repeats what he had said, that God would dwell in the midst of Judea. Of this dwelling something was said yesterday; for as they had already begun to offer sacrifices in the temple, it follows that God was already dwelling among them. We must then necessarily come to another kind of dwelling, even that which God, who had before testified by many proofs that he was nigh the Jews, had at length accomplished through Christ; for Christ is really Emmanuel, and in him God is present with us in the fullness of his power, justice, goodness, and glory.
He at last adds, Thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me to thee. Something has also been said on this sentence: the Prophet means, that it would be evident by what would really take place, that these things had not been in vain foretold, as the prophecy would be openly fulfilled before the eyes of all. Then shalt thou know, not by the assurance of faith, which is grounded on the word, but by actual experience. But he expresses more than before, for he says, “Thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me to thee.” The particle אליך, alik, “to thee,” is not superfluous; for he said a little while before, that he was sent to the nations. As he now says, that he would be the guardian of the chosen people, he also declares that his mission was to them; and he gives to God the name of Jehovah of hosts, that the Jews might feel assured that there would be no difficulty sufficient to hinder or delay the word of God, as he possessed supreme power, so that he could easily execute whatever he had decreed. I will not repeat now what I said yesterday of Christ; but we ought nevertheless to remember this, that he who declares that he was sent, is often called Jehovah. It hence appears that one and the same divine eternal essence is in more persons than one. Let us go on -
12. And the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
12. Et haereditario accipiet Iehova Iehudah partem suam in terra sancta; et eliget adhuc Ierusalem.
The Prophet confirms the former doctrine, but removes offenses, which might have occurred to the Jews and prevented them from believing this prophecy: for they had been for a time rejected, so that there was no difference between them and other nations. The land of Canaan had been given them as a pledge of their heirship; but they had been thence expelled, and there had been no temple, no public worship, no kingdom. The Jews then might have concluded from all these reasons, that they were rejected by God. Hence the Prophet here promises that they were to be restored again to their former state and to their own place. Jehovah, he says, will take Judah as his hereditary portion; that is, God will really show that he has not forgotten the election by which he had separated the Jews for himself; for he intended them to be to him a peculiar people. They were now mixed with the nations; their dispersion seemed an evidence of repudiation; but it was to be at length manifest that God was mindful of that adoption, by which he once purposed to gather the Jews to himself, that their condition might be different from that of other nations. When therefore he says, that Judah would be to God for an heritage or for an hereditary portion, he brings forward nothing new, but only reminds them that the covenant by which God chose Judah as his people would not be void, for it would be made evident in its time.
And the following clause is to the same purpose, And he will again choose Jerusalem; for it was not then for the first time that Jerusalem became the city of God when restoration took place, but the election, which existed before, was now in a manner renewed conspicuously in the sight of men. It is then the same as though the Prophet had said, “The course of God’s favor has indeed been interrupted, yet he will again show that you have not been in vain chosen as his people, and that Jerusalem, which was his sanctuary, has not been chosen without purpose.” The renovation of the Church, then, is what the Prophet means by these words.
What we have said elsewhere ought at the same time to be noticed, that the word choose is not to be taken here in its strict sense; for God does not repeatedly choose those whom he regards as his Church. God’s election is one single act, for it is eternal and immutable. But as Jerusalem had been apparently rejected, the word choose imports here that God would make it evident, that the first elections had ever been unchangeable, however hidden it may have been to the eyes of men. He then adds —
13. Be silent, O all flesh, before the LORD: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation.
13. Sile (vel, sileat) omnis caro a facie Iehovae; quia excitatus est ex habitaculo sanctitatis suae (hoc est, ex loco suo sancto.)
Here is a sealing of the whole prophecy. The Prophet highly extols the power of God, that the Jews might not still doubt or fear as with regard to things uncertain. He says that whatever he had hitherto declared was indubitable; for God would put forth his power to succor his Church and to remove whatever hindrance there might be. We have seen similar expressions elsewhere, that is, in the second chapter of Habakkuk and in the first of Zephaniah; (Hab 2:1 Zep 1:1) and these Prophets had nearly the same object in view; for Habakkuk, after having spoken of the restoration of the people, thus concludes, — that God was coming forth to bid silence to all nations, that no one might dare to oppose when it was his will to redeem his Church. So also Zephaniah, after having, described the slaughter of God’s enemies, when God ordered sacrifices to be made to him as it were from the whole world, uses the same mode of expression, as though he had said, that there would be nothing to resist the power of God. It is the same here, Silent, he says, let all flesh be before Jehovah. It is, in short, the shout of triumph, by which Zechariah exults over all the enemies of the Church, and shows that they would rage in vain, as they could effect nothing, however clamorous they might be.
By silence we are to understand, as elsewhere observed, submission. The ungodly are not indeed silent before God, so as willingly to obey his word, or reverently to receive what he may bid or command, or humbly to submit under his powerful hand; for these things are done only by the faithful. Silence, then, is what especially belongs to the elect and the faithful; for they willingly close their mouth to hear God speaking. But the ungodly are also said to be silent, when God restrains their madness: and how much soever they may inwardly murmur and rage, they yet cannot openly resist; so that he completes his work, and they are at length made ashamed of the swelling, words they have vomited forth, when they pass off in smoke. This is the sense in which the Prophet says now, silent be all flesh. He means, in short, by these words, That when God shall go forth to deliver his Church, he will be terrible; so that all who had before furiously assailed his chosen people, shall be constrained to tremble.
With regard to the habitation of holiness, I explain it of the temple rather than of heaven. I indeed allow that heaven is often thus called in Scripture: and it is called the palace or temple of God, for we cannot think as we ought of God’s infinite glory, except we are carried above the world. This is the reason why God says that he dwells in heaven. But as the Church is spoken of here, Zechariah, I doubt not, means the temple. It is indeed certain that there was no temple when God began to rise as one awakened from sleep, to restore his people: but as the faithful are said in Psalm 102 to pity the dust of Sion, because the place continued sacred even in its degradation and ruin; so also in this passage Zechariah says, that God was roused — Whence? from Sion, from that despised place, exposed to the derision of the ungodly: yet there God continued to dwell, that he might build again the temple, where his name was to be invoked until Christ appeared. We now see that the temple or Sion is intended rather than heaven, when all circumstances are duly weighed. Now follows —
Literally it is, “villages shall Jerusalem inhabit;” Jerusalem is to be taken, as “land” in Zec 1:21, for its inhabitants. [פרזות] were villages, open, unwalled, not fortified. — Ed.
Provided we adopt [ב], countenanced by several MSS., and the Syriac, instead of [כ] in the received text, that is before the number “four,” this explanation is the most satisfactory. But if we take the received text, countenanced by a greater number of MSS., there will be another meaning to the sentence. Henderson’s version is —
For as the four winds of heaven
Have I spread you abroad, saith Jehovah.
But its connection with the foregoing he does not clearly print. The view taken by Drusius, followed by Grotius and Marckius, seems most satisfactory. They take the verb [פרש] in the sense of expanding, enlarging, setting at liberty, and that the reference is to the previous liberty granted to the Jews; and thus the connection with the foregoing line is obvious and natural —
Flee now from the land of the north, saith Jehovah;
For as the four winds of heaven
Have I expounded you, (or set you free,) saith Jehovah.
They had been allowed liberty to go to any part of the world, which is signified by the four winds. The next verse is —
He! Sion, escape,
Thou who dwellest with the daughter of Babylon.
The two nations are compared to two women, dwelling one with another. — Ed.
It would be almost endless to give the expositions which have been offered on the phrase. “After the glory,” [אחר כבוד]. Henderson very justly rejects what has been proposed by Newcome, Blayney, and Gesenius, and other German divines, who, following Castalio and Cocceius, render the line — After glory (i.e. to obtain glory) hath he sent me.
Some of the fathers, such as Eusebius, Jerome, Cyril, and Theodoret, viewed the “glory” here as that which the Son enjoyed with the Father before he became incarnate; but this view in no degree comports with the context, though most divines, ancient and modern, consider that Christ is the Jehovah of hosts in this area. The paraphrase of the Targum is the following — “After the glory which he has said he would bring to you;” and this is substantially the meaning given by Calvin, and adopted by Henderson. Without altering the general meaning, another construction may be given —
For thus saith Jehovah of hosts,
“Another glory!” — he has sent me to the nations,
Who have plundered you;
For he who touched you
Touched the apple of his eye.
“Another glory” is an allusion to the glory mentioned in verse 5: he would not only be a glory in the midst of them, but would confer on them another glory by destroying their enemies.
Blayney seemed “certain” that the eye refers to every enemy of the Jews, and not to God; but the greater certainty seems to be on the other side; it is the most natural and obvious construction of the passage. See De 32:10. Not only Calvin give the preference to this view, but also Grotius, Marckius, and Henderson. — Ed.
[עבדיהם], “their slaves,” Henderson. The Jews had been held in a state of slavery by the nations. Newcome considers that the nations who oppressed the Jews are meant, that they were to be reduced by other nations to the condition of slaves, as the Babylonians were to the Meds and Persians, and he refers to Hag 2:23. But as the Jews are especially addressed in the next line, it is obvious to consider them as here intended. And Grotius refer the literal fulfillment of what is here said to the time of the Maccabees. — Ed.