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One thing had escaped my notice in the words of the Prophet — that great people and strong nations would come. We have said that “great” rather than “many” ought to be adopted. The latter meaning may indeed be allowed that the worshipers of God would come from various cities; but as the word עצומים, otsumim properly signifies strong, and as it is certain that the Prophet means the same thing by the two words, it is more probable that he speaks of strong and valiant people, as they are not so easily subdued; for the more any one excels in prowess, the more stiff is his neck to undertake the yoke. As then the strong and the brave, and such as are eminent in the world, are not so easily brought to submit to God, the Prophet expressly says, that they shall become teachable, and be made willing, so that pride, as it is usually the case, shall not be a hindrance to them. (93)
I come now to the passage in which the Prophet announces a heavy burden, or a severe and fearful prophecy respecting Syria and other neighboring nations. I prefer to retain the word “burden,” rather than to render it prophecy, as many expositors have done; for though משא, mesha, is sometimes taken simply for prophecy, yet there is here, as it appears to me, something particular intended; for the Prophet denounces God’s judgment both on Syria and on the surrounding countries, and the word prophecy is not suitable; for to say “the prophecy of the word,” would be strange and without meaning. But when he says, The burden of the word of God, the sentence is full, and flows well; for he reminds us that his word would not be ineffectual, but full of effect, as it would lie as a burden on Syria and on other countries, which they should not be able to shake off. The burden then of the word of Jehovah; that is, “I have now a prediction which will be grievous and severe to those heathens who now disturb the Jews, the chosen people.”
But this doctrine contains consolation to the godly; for they may hence know that they are safe under God’s protection, as he carries on war with their enemies; nay, his vengeance was now prepared against all those who harassed the Jews. As then he had before promised that incredible favor of God which we have noticed, so now he declares that the Church would be safe under the protection of God, inasmuch as vengeance was in readiness for all the ungodly.
But the Prophet mentions here only the cities known to the Jews, for it was enough to refer to them as an example, that the Jews might hence conclude that God would be always the protector of his Church, so that no enemies shall escape unpunished. The Prophet then no doubt mentioned these few cities to the Jews, that they might feel assured that nothing is so strong and impetuous in the world which God cannot easily subdue and lay prostrate. Now as we apprehend the Prophet’s object, we shall come to the words.
Some think that the word חדרך, chedrak, includes the whole of Syria, which seems to me probable. Others suppose that some notable city is meant, as Damascus is immediately subjoined. But as the matter is uncertain, and as there is no doubt but that the Prophet speaks of the kingdom of Syria, I will not contest the point. Be it then the name of a city or of a country, (94) it is all the same, for the Prophet means that the vengeance of God was impending over the Syrians, and impending in such a manner, that it would not depart from them until they were wholly destroyed. For when he adds that its rest would be Damascus, he intimates that God’s judgment would not be like a storm, which soon passes away, but that it would be a heavy and burdensome mass, which could not be dissipated, according to what Isaiah says —“
The word came on Jacob and fell on Israel;” (Isaiah 8:9;)
that is, what God pronounced against Jacob fell on Israel. He indeed changes the name, but it is the same as though he had said — “When God shall punish Jacob, can the Israelites escape?” for they were the same. The sentence then shall fall, that is, it shall find its own place: in vain will they run here and there to escape. The Jews then will gain nothing by their flight; for the vengeance now denounced by the Lord shall lay hold on them. So also in this place he says, the burden of the word of Jehovah on the land of Chadrak and Damascus, the royal city, the metropolis, shall be its rest, its dwelling; for the Lord’s vengeance will fix its station there, and it cannot be thence removed. In vain then will the Syrians try in various ways to escape, for they must be pressed down by God’s hand, until they be laid prostrate. We now then understand in what sense the Prophet says that Damascus would be the rest, the habitation, or the abode of God’s vengeance.
He afterwards adds, For to Jehovah the eye of man. The particle כי, ki is to be taken here, I think, as an adverb of time, “When”. There is indeed in reality but little difference, except that the common rendering of it greatly obscures the meaning of the Prophet. But if it be taken as an adverb of time, the passage will read better, When the eye of man shall be to Jehovah, and of all the tribes of Israel; that is, when the Jews shall begin to turn to God without any dissimulation, but with real sincerity; then he says, God will in every way bless them, and raise up his hand against their enemies. The Prophet had before exhorted the Jews to repentance; for they had been too much given to sacrifices and fastings, while no integrity existed among them. So also he shows again that their hypocrisy was an hindrance, which prevented God to manifest his favor to them; and thus he reminds them, that the gate would be opened, and the way made plain and even for God’s favor and blessings, whenever they raised their eyes to him, that is, whenever they derived their hopes from him, and fixed on him their dependence. For to direct the eyes to God is nothing else than to look to him so as to fix on him all our thoughts. Some understand by “man” all mortals, but of this I approve not; nor do I doubt but that the Prophet refers to the Jews alone; and doubtless it is not consistent with the context to regard any but the Jews. It is indeed true, that the Prophet speaks here of the calling of the Gentiles, but so as to begin with the Jews; for as they were the first-born, so it was necessary for them to have the precedence. The Prophet then here declares that God would be glorious in his chosen people, and would lay prostrate all the bordering enemies. Then the eye of man signifies the same as the eye of the whole people; as though he had said, that after the Jews had begun to lay aside all dissimulation and devoted themselves to God, and cast all their hopes on him, they would then find God sufficiently powerful to lay in the dust all their enemies.
But he afterwards adds, by way of explanation, and of all the tribes of Israel. Some give this rendering, “How much more,” as though the Prophet reasoned here from the less to the greater. But, as I have already said, this cannot be maintained. First, this explanation is strained, “The eye of man, and especially of all the tribes of Israel;” for the Jews ought to have had the first place: and secondly, the particle waw has no amplifying sense. In short, he intended by a small particle to show that precedence belonged to the Jews. I do not then understand what they mean, who would include all nations in the word “man,” and then regard the Prophet as proceeding to mention the tribes of Israel. Now what I have stated, that the true servants of God were then few, is probable enough; hence the Prophet here exhorts the whole people to a union in religion. Whenever then the whole tribes of Israel directed their eyes to God, the burden of his word would then come upon Damascus and all the Syrians. (95)
(93) There seems to be no good reason for considering the two adjectives as describing the same thing. On the contrary, the reverse is most probable. Their number as well as their character is evidently here set forth; they were “many,” and “strong,” or mighty or powerful. The Septuagint and Jerome render the word “many,” and so do most interpreters. — Ed.
(94) Blayney thinks it to be the name of a Syrian king, and so does Henderson. The former quotes Josephus, who calls Rehob, in 2 Samuel 8:3, [ Λραχος ]. This prince reigned over a part of Syria called Zobah. If this be admitted, then the three chief kingdoms of Syria are here named — Zobah, Damascus, and Hamath. But Henderson is disposed to think that it is a corruption of the word [ חרר ], the common name of the kings of Syria. — Ed.
(95) This sentence is one of some difficulty. The Septuagint, the Targum, the Syriac, and the Arabic versions, give this meaning, — that Jehovah sees, i.e., observes, and therefore judges, all men, as well as the ten tribes of Israel: and this is the view taken by Grotius, Piscator, Marckius, Dathius, and Newcome. The version of the last is, —
For the eye of Jehovah over man, And over all the tribes of Israel.
Literally it is,
For to Jehovah (belongs) the eye ( i.e. the seeing) of man And of all the tribes of Israel.
The “eye” here is supposed to be put for the capacity of seeing, and is rendered by some “spectator — the beholder,” or judge,—”For it belongs to Jehovah to be the beholder or the eyer of man,” or of mankind, “and of all the tribes of Israel.”
But Kimchi, Blayney, and Henderson agree in the view of Calvin and of our version. The former meaning seems most suitable to the context, as a reason is given for God’s judgments on the surrounding Gentiles, for he observes the conduct of man in general as well as of the tribes of Israel: it is a declaration that his providence extends over all mankind. The paraphrase of Dathius is, “For Jehovah by his providence governs all men as well as the tribes of Israel.” — Ed.
Zechariah goes on with the same subject: for he says now, that destruction was nigh all the nations who, being neighbors, harassed the people of God. Yesterday I briefly referred to what he had in view, which was to show, that God would so defend his Church as to execute vengeance on all the ungodly who had unjustly persecuted it; and he spoke of the kingdom of Syria, which was contiguous to Judea. But he now goes farther, — that the wrath of God would extend to the remoter parts of Syria: for Hamath is Antioch the great, and it gave a name to a part of Syria. Damascus was the metropolis of the Syrian empire. But as we have said elsewhere, this word is variously taken in Scripture, but generally for the whole country extending from Judea to the Euphrates and even beyond it. We now then see why Zechariah adds Antioch to Syria, as though he had said, that God would now be the avenger of his people, not only by rewarding bordering cities, but also those afar off. He then passes on to Tyrus and Simon, which were, as it is well known, cities on the sea-side, and were also nigh to the Jews; for there was no great distance between Galilee and Phoenicia. But as we said yesterday, destruction is denounced on all the nations who had been inimical to the chosen people.
He says that Hamath, or Antioch, would be in its border. All nearly with one consent apply this to Judea or to Jerusalem, but they are mistaken; and this whole chapter is misunderstood by all expositors, Jews and others. I indeed feel ashamed when I see how widely they have departed from the meaning of the Prophet, and it will be almost a trial to me wholly to reject their mistakes. But it will become plainly evident that none of them have understood what the Prophet means.
They thus explain the passage, that Antioch would be within the borders of Judea, as God would consecrate to himself the lands which were before heathen. But the Prophet no doubt says, as I have already stated, that Antioch would be within the borders of Syria whenever God should visit them all for their wickedness, as though he had said, “God will involve in the same punishment that part of Syria which derives its name from Antioch, because with united forces had all the Syrians assailed his chosen people; though then they are far distant from Judea, they shall yet partake of the same punishment, because they took up arms against his Church.” Hamath then, or Antioch, shall be in the borders of Damascus; that is, it shall not be exempt from the punishment which God will inflict on the bordering kingdom of and. And as we advance this view will become more clear. (96)
He adds, Tyrus and Sidon, though it be very wise. The particle כי, ki, is used, which is properly causal; but we may gather from many parts of Scripture that it is taken as an adversative. Either meaning would not, however, be unsuitable, that God would take vengeance on the Sidonians and Syrians, because they were very crafty, or though they were cautious, and seemed skillful and cunning in managing their affairs: they were not however to escape God’s judgment. If the former meaning be approved, it was the Prophet’s object to show, that when men are extremely provident and labor to fortify themselves by crafty means, God is opposed to them; for it is his peculiar office to take the crafty by their own craftiness. As then too much cunning and craftiness displease God, it may suitably be said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were now summoned before God’s tribunal, because they were extremely crafty, as is commonly the case with merchants in wealthy and maritime cities; for they learn much cunning by the many frauds which they are almost compelled to use. Since then the Sidonians and Syrians were such, it was right to denounce vengeance on them. But the other view is equally suitable, that all the craft of Tyrus and Simon would not prevent God from executing his judgment. As to myself, I think that a reason is here given why God threatens ruin to the Syrians and Sidonians, even because they were given to crafty artifices, and thus circumvented all their neighbors.
But he uses a good word by way of concession; for all who intend to deceive cover their craft with the name of wisdom or prudence. “They wish to be cautious,” when yet they wickedly deceive others by their intrigues and frauds. A concession then is made as to the word wise: but the Prophet at the same time teaches us, that this kind of wisdom is hateful to God, when by the loss of others we increase our own wealth: for an explanation immediately follows —
(96) And also on Hamath, which bordereth thereby. — Newcome. The construction of the whole passage, as given in our version by Newcome and Henderson, is not satisfactory. The resting-place of the burdens was to be Damascus, Hamath, Tyre, and Sidon. The following then would be its grammatical rendering —
1. The burden of the word of Jehovah on the land of Hadrach; And Damascus shall be its resting-place, (For Jehovah has an eye to see men And all the tribes of Israel,)
2. And also Hamath, which borders on it, Tyre and Zidon also: for she is very wise;
3. And built hath Tyre a fortress for herself, And has heaped up silver as dust, And fine gold as the mire of the streets.
4. Behold, the Lord will disposess her, And smite in the sea her strength, And with fire shall she be devoured.
As to “Tyre and Zidon,” the expression “very wise” belongs to the latter, and not to the former, as Henderson suggests; and then the character or state of Tyre is described in the following lines. This exactly corresponds with the usual style of the Prophets; when two things are mentioned, the last is first explained, and then the first. The boast of wisdom was the character of Zidon; confidence in its strength and riches is what is ascribed to Tyre. — Ed.
For Tyrus has for herself built a fortress. The Prophet shows by these words how very cautious or prudent the Syrians had been; for they fortified themselves by strongholds, and thought themselves to be beyond the reach of danger. He then adds, and heaped to herself silver as dust, and gold as the mire of the streets, that is, accumulated wealth above measure; for he mentions “dust” and “mire” as signifying an immense heap; as though he had said, “They have worthless heaps of silver and gold for their vast abundance”. He no doubt includes silver and gold in the fortress which he mentions; for I do not confine the word fortress only to towers and strongholds; but the Prophet, as I think, states generally, that Tyrus was so furnished and fortified with wealth, forces, and all kinds of defences, that it thought itself impregnable.
There is a striking correspondence between צור, tsur, and מצור, metsur צור, Tsur, he says, has built מצור, metsur, a fortress. It is a paronomasia worthy of notice, but cannot be retained in Latin.
He now declares that God would be an avenger. Behold, he says, Jehovah will possess, or cause to possess, as some read, but they are mistaken, owing to the two meanings of the verb ירש, iresh, which means to possess and also to expel or impoverish; (97) for interpreters think that a hope of favor and of salvation is here given to these cities, and say that they are now chosen by God as a possession. But this is wholly contrary to the intention of the Prophet, as it appears more clearly from a view of each clause.
Jehovah then will expel her, and smite her strength. The Prophet no doubt alludes to what he had already said — that Tyrus had heaped silver and gold; now on the other hand he declares that Tyrus would be exposed to a scattering; for the heap of gold and silver it had laid up would be dissipated by God: he will then dissipate; or if one chooses to take the verb as meaning to reduce to want, the contrast would thus be suitable — God will then impoverish, or expel her. Afterwards he adds, In the sea will he smite her strength. As Tyrus, we know, was surrounded by the sea, the Prophet by this reference shows God’s power in taking vengeance on her; for the sea would be no restraint or hindrance to God, when he resolved to enter there. The Syrians, indeed, thought themselves safe from every hostile attack, for they had the sea on every side as a triple wall and a triple rampart. Nor was Tyrus altogether like Venice; for Venice is situated in a stagnant sea, while the situation of Tyrus was in a very deep sea, as historians plainly show who relate its assault by Alexander the Great. It had indeed been before taken and plundered; but he did what none had ever thought of — he filled up a part of the sea, so that Tyrus was no longer an island.
We now see what Zechariah had in view, when he threatened ruin to Tyrus, though its strength was in the midst of the sea, beyond the reach of fortune, as it is commonly said. And she shall be consumed by fire. He means that Tyrus would not only be plundered, but wholly demolished; for we know that even the strongest things are consumed by fire. It follows —
(97) This verb is here confounded with [ רש ], which means to impoverish in Hiphil. But the Hiphil of [ יוש ] has the idea of expelling or driving out; it means literally to cause one to be inherited or heired, that is, by making another to succeed in his place. To dispossess, according to Henderson, rather than to cast out, according to our version and Newcome, is the idea of the original. The explanation here disapproved by Calvin, which is wholly inconsistent with the whole passage, has been derived from the Septuagint, who have rendered the verb as though it were in Kal, [ κληρονομησει ]. The Targum gives it the idea of driving or casting out. The Greek fathers, Theodoret and Cyril, not knowing Hebrew, could give no other explanation. Similar has been the source of not a few interpretations given by the fathers. — Ed.
In this verse also is described the devastation of those cities which the Prophet names; as though he had said, that all those cities which had risen up against God’s people were devoted to extreme vengeance. Zechariah says that none would be exempt from punishment, since the hand of God would be stretched forth, and extend everywhere, so that it might be easily concluded, that all those who had unjustly harassed the Church would be thus rewarded for their cruelty. This is the import of what is here said.
He says that Ascalon would see and fear; for at that time the Ascalonites were hostile to the Jews. He speaks the same of Aza, which the Greeks called Gaza; but they were deceived in thinking it was a name given to it by Cambyses, for the reason that Gaza means a treasure in the Persian language. This is childish. It is indeed certain that it has been owing to a change in the pronunciation of one letter; for ע, oin, is guttural among the Hebrews, and was formerly so pronounced, like our g: as they called Amorrah, Gomorrah, so Aza is Gaza. We have spoken of this elsewhere.
Now it appears from geography that these cities were near the sea, or not far from the sea, and having this advantage they gathered much wealth. But as wealth commonly generates pride and cruelty, all these nations were very troublesome to the Jews. This is the reason why the Prophet says that grief would come on Gaza, and then on Ekron and on other cities. He adds, Because ashamed shall be her expectation. There is no doubt but they had placed their trust in Tyrus, which was thought to be impregnable; for though enemies might have subdued the whole land, there a secure station remained. Since they all looked to Tyrus, the Prophet says that their hope would be confounded, when Tyrus was overthrown and destroyed. The sum of the whole is, that the beginning of the vengeance would be at Tyrus, which was situated as it were beyond the world, so as not to be exposed to any evils. He says then that the beginning of the calamity would be in that city, to which no misfortunes, as it was thought, could find an access. And then he mentions that other cities, on seeing Tyrus visited with ruin, would be terrified, as their confidence would be thus subverted. He afterwards adds, Perish shall the king from Gaza, and Ascalon shall not be inhabited; that is, such a change will take place as will almost obliterate the appearance of these cities. It follows —
In this verse the Prophet denounces a similar ruin on Azotus, and the whole land of the Philistines, or on the whole land of Palestine. For what interpreters say, that the Jews would dwell at Azotus as strangers, that is, though they had previously been counted aliens, is to reach neither heaven nor earth. The Prophet on the contrary means, that after the destruction of these cities, if any inhabitants remained, they would be like strangers, without any certain habitation. The Prophet then mentions the effect, in order to show that the country would be waste and desolate, so as to contain no safe or fixed dwellings for its inhabitants. Some render it spurious, as it is rendered in some other places; and they understand it of the Jews, because they had been before in a mean condition, as though they were like a spurious race. But their opinion is probable, who derive ממזר, memezar, from זור, zur, which means to peregrinate; and they quote other instances, in which the double ממ, mem, is used in the formations of a noun; and it is easy to prove, from many passages of scripture, that ממזר, memezar, means a stranger. (98) And if any one carefully considers the design of the Prophet, he will see the truth of what I have said — that is, that his object is to show, that all the inhabitants of Azotus, and of the land of the Philistine, would be like lodgers, because all places would be desolate through the slaughter and devastations of enemies. As then Ashdod and Palestine had been before noted for the number of their people, the Prophet says that all the cities of Palestine, and the city Ashdod, would be deserted, except that there would be there a few scattered and wandering inhabitants, like those who sojourn in a strange land. It follows —
(98) That this is its meaning is generally admitted, as given by the Septuagint, the Targum, and the Syriac version, and adopted by Grotius, Newcome, Blayney, and Henderson. Lee accounts for the double [ מ ] by deriving the word from [ מן ], from, [ עם ], people, and [ זר ], a foreigner, or stranger. The poetical singular is used for the plural, as is the case in the following verse. The whole passage may be thus rendered —
6. And dwell shall a stranger in Ashdod; (For I will cut off the pride of the Philistines;)
7. And I will remove his blood from his mouth, And his abominations from between his teeth, And left shall he be, even he, for our God; So that he shall be as a chief in Judah, And Ekron as a Jebusite.
The “his” and “he” in this last verse is the “stranger” in verse 6; and that is used in a collective sense, properly rendered strangers, or foreigners, [ ἀλλογενεις ] by the Septuagint; so that the plural, in all these instances, might suitably be adopted in a translation — The “pride of the Philistines” was cut off by introducing strangers into their cities; and this line may be considered as parenthetic. — Ed.
Interpreters do also pervert the whole of this verse; and as to the following verse, that is, the next, they do nothing else but lead the readers far astray from its real meaning. God says now, that he will take away blood from the mouth of enemies; as though he had said, “I will check their savage disposition, that they may not thus swallow down the blood of my people.” For here is not described any change, as though they were to become a different people, as though the Syrians, the Sidonians, the Philistine, and other nations, who had been given to plunders, and raged cruelly against the miserable Jews, were to assume the gentleness of lambs: this the Prophet does not mean; but he introduces God here as armed with power to repress the barbarity of their enemies, and to prevent them from cruelly assaulting the Church.
I will take away blood, he says, from their mouth; and he says, from their mouth, because they had been inured in cruelty. I will cause, then, that they may not as hitherto satiate their own lust for blood. He adds, and abominations, that is, I will take from the midst of their teeth their abominable plunders; for he calls all those things abominations which had been taken by robbery and violence. (99) And he compares them to wild beasts, who not only devour the flesh, but drink also the blood and tear asunder the raw carcass. In short, he shows here, under the similitude of wolves and leopards and wild boars, how great had been the inhumanity of enemies to the Church; for they devoured the miserable Jews, as wild and savage beasts are wont to devour their prey.
It afterwards follows, and he who shall be a remnant. Some translate, “and he shall be left,” and explain it of the Philistine and other nations of whom mention is made. But the Prophet doubtless means the Jews; for though few only had returned to their country as remnants from their exile, he yet says that this small number would be sacred to God, and that all who remained would be, as it were, leaders in Judah, however despised they might have been. For there was no superiority even in the chief men among them; only they spontaneously paid reverence to Zerubbabel, who was of the royal seed, and to Joshua on account of the priesthood; while yet all of them were in a low and mean condition. But the Prophet says, that the most despised of them would be leaders and chiefs in Judah. We now perceive the Prophet’s meaning; for after having predicted the ruin that was nigh all the enemies of the Church, he now sets forth the end and use of his prophecy; for God would provide for the good of the miserable Jews, who had been long exiles, and who, though now restored to their country, were yet exposed to the ill treatment of all, and also despised and made even the objects of scorn to their enemies. He then who shall be a remnant, even he shall be for our God, as though he had said, “Though the Lord had for a time repudiated you as well as your fathers, when he drove you here and there and scattered you, yet now God has gathered you, and for this end — that you may be his people: ye shall then be the peculiar people of God, though ye are small in number and contemptible in your condition.” (100)
Then he adds, these remnants shall be as leaders in Judah, that is, God will raise them to the highest honor; though they are now without any dignity, they shall yet be made by God almost all of them princes. It then follows, And Ekron shall be as a Jebusite. Some explain thus — that the citizens of Ekron would dwell in Jerusalem, which the Jebusites had formerly possessed; and others give another view, but nothing to the purpose. The Prophet speaks not here of God’s favor to the citizens of Ekron, but on the contrary shows the difference between God’s chosen people and heathen nations, who gloried in their own good fortune: hence he says, that they should be like the Jebusites, for they at length would have to endure a similar destruction. We indeed know, that the Jebusites had been driven out of that town, when Jerusalem was afterwards built; but it was done late, even under David. As then they had long held that place and were at length dislodged, this is the reason why the Prophet says, that though the citizens of Ekron seemed now to be in the very middle of the holy land, they would be made like the Jebusites, for the Lord would drive away and destroy them all. He afterwards adds —
(99) Kimchi, Drusius, Grotius, and others, have given the same view; but Jerome, Marckius, Newcome, Blayney, Henderson, and Hengstenberg, regard idolatry as intended here, the “blood” being that of the victims which the heathens drank, and the “abominations” being the things sacrificed to idols. What seems strongly to favor the view taken by Calvin is the phraseology; the metaphor being that of a wild beast devouring his prey, and of the prey being taken from him: this certainly ill comports with the notion of putting an end to idolatrous practices. — Ed.
(100) The explanation of this clause, though countenanced by some others, cannot yet be admitted. There is nothing in the text to justify the translation from the “stranger” in verse 6, and who is spoken of in this verse, to the Jewish nation. The foreigners or strangers inhabiting Ashdod are no doubt intended. So thought Theodoret, Drusius, Grotius, Blayney, and Newcome; and such is the view of Henderson, only that he applies the passage to the Philistines generally, and not to the strangers in Ashdod. To consider the foreigner or stranger as a “ruler,” seems not right. This prophecy was fulfilled, says Grotius, in the time of the Maccabees, and he refers to Josephus, 12:12, and to Genesis 5:66; and also in the time of Alexander, when many of the cities of the Philistines, especially Ashdod and Gaza, were conquered by the Jews, when many of them became proselytes to Judaism.
The explanation of Blayney as to the latter part of the verse is as follows: that the stranger or strangers in Ashdod should be on the same footing as a privileged citizen in Judah, but that the Ekronite, the natural born Philistine should be as a Jebusite in Jerusalem, deprived of the privileges which he had when the country was his own. This would be to “cut off the pride of the Philistines.” — Ed.
He concludes what he had been speaking of, — that God would be the guardian of his chosen people, so as to repel on every side the violent assaults of enemies. It is then the same as though he had said, “though the Church is not strongly fortified, it shall yet be impregnable, for God’s protection is of more value than all human strength, than all aids and helps.” God then compares himself here to a moat and a bulwark, and other kinds of fortresses, I will be, he says, a camp to my house. He mentions here house rather than city, that the Jews might feel confident that there was sufficient help in God alone, though they might dwell in a private house or in a cottage. “My Church, though it be a small house, will I yet surround with my defences, so as to render it safe from all harm.”
He says, from the army; and then, from him that passes through, and from him that returns. He places the army in opposition to the house; and thus he exhorts the Jews, not to regard their own strength, but to know that God alone is far better shall all armies. Though then the whole world united together and collected all its forces, he still bids them to be calmly confident, for God alone would be sufficient to put to flight all armies. And according to the same meaning he refers to him that passes through and who returns; as though he had said, “Though enemies may wander through the whole earth and occupy it from one end to the other, yet I will cause my house to remain safe.” By him that returns, he intimates, that though enemies renewed their armies the second and the third time, yet God’s strength would be always sufficient to check their assaults. In a word, what is here taught is the perpetuity of the safety of God’s people, for he will never be wearied in defending them, nor will his power be ever lessened. It often happens that those who with the best intention succor their neighbors, by degrees grow wearied, or they may have their efforts prevented by various events; but the Prophet tells us, that God is not like men, wearied or unable, after having once helped his people and repelled their enemies; for he will be always ready to aid his people, were enemies to renew the battle a hundred times.
By enemy then he means forces; by passing through, the obstinate cruelty of enemies; and by returning, new wars, which one undertakes, when disappointed of his hope, by collecting a new army and repairing his strength. (101)
At length he adds, And pass shall no more the extortioner through them. This sentence explains what he had figuratively expressed, — that though the Jews had been exposed to the will of their enemies, yet God would not hereafter suffer them to be unjustly treated and to be plundered as they had been: for under the name of extortioner he includes all plunderers who had spoiled the miserable Jews of their goods. Then he says, For I have seen with mine eyes. It would be frigid, nay insipid, to explain this clause as some do, that is, as though the Prophet had said, — that he related what had been made known to him from above: for on the contrary God testifies here, that he had seen with his eyes how cruelly and disgracefully the Jews had been treated. And some, while they regard God as the speaker, very unwisely give this explanation, — that God already foresaw what he would do. But evidently God assigns here, as I have said, a reason why he purposed to deliver the Jews from injuries, and for the future to keep them safe and defend them; and the reason given is, because he saw what grievous wrongs they were suffering. And the Prophet speaks according to the usual manner adopted in Scripture; for though nothing is hid from God’s eyes, yet he is rightly said to see what he takes notice of, and what he declares must be accounted for before his tribunal. Though then God saw even before the creation of the world what was to take place afterward in all ages, yet he is rightly said to see what he begins to call to judgment. The Jews indeed thought they were neglected by him; for the Scripture everywhere says, that God closes his eyes, is asleep, lies down, forgets, cares not, when he hides himself and appears not as the avenger of wrongs. Hence, on the other hand, the Lord declares here, that he saw with his eyes those things which were not to be tolerated, inasmuch as enemies had passed all bounds, and had so far advanced and indulged in wantonness, that their pride and cruelty were become intolerable.
(101) Perhaps this is too great a refinement. Marckius gives this meaning, that the “army” is a marshalled force, and that the passer through and the returner are individual enemies. But our version is very literal, only that passing through and returning may be applied to the army, —
And I will be a camp to mine house from an host, From it when passing through and from it when returning.
From the passing through and from the returning ( i.e. host.)
Newcome’s version is,
And I will encamp about mine house with an army. So that none shall pass through or return.
This is neither grammatically correct, nor consistent with posterior facts; for armies did pass through the land, though the house or temple of God was not invaded. Henderson’s version is in substance the same with what I have given,
And I will encamp about my house because of the army, Both when it passeth through and when it returneth.
The following line may be thus rendered—
And come upon them shall no more the oppressor.
The Septuagint give for oppressor [ ἐξελαύνων ], the driver away or banisher; the Targum has “tyrant,” which Grotius adopts. “Oppressor” is the word used by Drusius, Newcome, and Henderson. It has been said that no foreign oppressor, like the Babylonians, had invaded the land from this time to the advent of Christ, though the Jews had suffered much both from the Eygptian and Syrian kings; but the language here is so strong, that the promise must be considered as conditional, as all those promises were which were connected with their national covenant. “No more” has no limit: hence the promise must be viewed as conditional.“
This promise,” says Dr. M‘Caul, “is of the same nature as most of the others made to Israel; that is, conditional upon their obedience. Moses has repeatedly laid down this as the general principle of God’s dealings with the Jews, especially in reference to the possession of blessing and prosperity in the land. (Deuteronomy 30:15.)” — Ed.
The Prophet here briefly shows the manner in which the Church was to be restored; for a king from the tribe and family of David would again arise, to restore all things to their ancient state. And this is the view given everywhere by the Prophets; for the hope of the ancient people, as our hope, was founded on Christ. Inasmuch then as things were as yet in a decayed state among the Jews, Zechariah here testifies that God had not in vain formerly spoken so often by his servants concerning the advent of a Redeemer, but that a firm hope was to be entertained, until the prophecies were in due time fulfilled. As then Zechariah has been hitherto speaking of the prosperous and happy state of the Church, he now confirms what he had said; and this was especially necessary, for they could not, as I have already said, have raised up their minds so as to feel confidence as to their salvation, without having a Mediator set before them. But as the faithful were then in great grief and sorrow, Zechariah here exhorts them to perseverance: for by bidding them to rejoice greatly, and even to shout for joy, he no doubt intimates, that though grief and sorrow took fast hold on their hearts, they ought yet to strive manfully, so as to receive the favor of God; for they must have a hundred times succumbed under their evils, had they not Christ before their eyes; not indeed in a carnal manner, but in the mirror of the word; as the faithful see in that what is far distant and even hidden from them.
We now then understand, first, why the Prophet here makes such a sudden reference to Christ; and secondly, why he does not simply exhort the faithful to rejoice, but encourages them greatly to exult as though they were already in a safe and most happy condition.
By the word king, the Prophet intimates, that except they thought God unfaithful in his promises, they were to entertain hope, until the kingdom of David, then apparently fallen, arose again. As God then would have himself acknowledged faithful, and his adoption counted fixed and ratified in the Messiah, it is no wonder that the Prophet now briefly refers to a king; for this mode of speaking was well known by the people. And we have also seen elsewhere, that when the Prophets speak of the safety of the Church, they mention a king, because the Lord designed to gather again the dispersed Church under one head, even Christ. And no doubt there would ever remain a dreadful dispersion, were not Christ the bond of union. He then says that a king would come. But he speaks not as of a king unknown; he only reminds them that God would be true and faithful to his promises. Now since the whole law, and adoption, must have vanished away, except Christ came, his coming ought to have been patiently waited for.
Further, that God’s children might be more confirmed, he says also that this king would come to the people, the daughter of Sion, as though he had said, that God, for the sake of the whole Church, had fixed the royal throne in the family of David: for if the king was to come, that he might indulge in his own triumphs, and be contented with pomps and pleasures, it would have been but a small and wholly barren consolation: but as God in determining to send the Messiah, provided for the safety of the whole Church, which he had promised to do, the people might here derive solid confidence. It is not then a matter of small moment, when the Prophet teaches us, that the king would come to Sion and to Jerusalem; as though he had said, “This king shall not come for his own sake like earthly kings, who rule according to their own caprice, or for their own advantage:” but he reminds us, that his kingdom would be for the common benefit of the whole people, for he would introduce a happy state.
He afterwards states what sort of king he was to be. He first names him just, and then preserved or saved. As to the word, just, it ought, I think, to be taken in an active sense, and so the word which follows: Just then and saved is called the king of the chosen people, for he would bring to them righteousness and salvation. Both words depend on this clause, — that there would come a king to Sion. If he came privately for himself, he might have been for himself just and saved, that is, his righteousness and salvation might have belonged to himself or to his own person: but as he came for the sake of others, and has been for them endued with righteousness and salvation; then the righteousness and salvation of which mention is made here, belong to the whole body of the Church, and ought not to be confined to the person of the king. Thus is removed every contention, with which many have foolishly, or at least, very inconsiderately, wearied themselves; for they have thought that the Jews cannot be otherwise overcome, and that their perverseness cannot be otherwise checked, than by maintaining, that נושע, nusho, must be taken actively; and they have quoted some passages of Scripture, in which a verb in Niphal is taken in an active sense. (102) But what need there is of undertaking such disputes, when we may well agree on the subject? I then concede to the Jews, that Christ is saved or preserved, and that he is said to be so by Zechariah.
But we must see what this salvation is which belongs to Christ. This we may gather from what is said by the Prophet. We are not then to contend here about words, but to consider what the subject is, that is, that a just and saved king comes to his chosen: and we know that Christ had no need of salvation himself. As then he was sent by the Father to gather a chosen people, so he is said to be saved because he was endued with power to preserve or save them. We then see that all controversy is at an end, if we refer those two words to Christ’s kingdom, and it would be absurd to confine them to the person of one man, for the discourse is here concerning a royal person; yea, concerning the public condition of the Church, and the salvation of the whole body. And certainly when we speak of men, we say not that a king is safe and secure, when he is expelled from his kingdom, or when his subjects are disturbed by enemies, or when they are wholly destroyed. When therefore a king, deprived of all authority, sees his subjects miserably oppressed, he is not said to be saved or preserved. But the case of Christ, as I have said, is special; for he does not exercise dominion for his own sake, but for the preservation of his whole people. Hence with regard to grammar, I can easily allow that Christ is called just and saved, passively; but as to the matter itself, he is just with reference to his people, and also saved or preserved, for he brings with him salvation to the lost; for we know that the Jews were then almost in a hopeless state.
He however at the same time adds, that the king would be saved, not because he would be furnished with arms and forces, or that he would defend his people after the manner of men; for he says, that he would be poor (103) He must then be otherwise preserved safe than earthly princes are wont to be, who fill their enemies with fear, who fortify their borders, prepare an army, and set up every defense to ward off assaults. Zechariah teaches us, that Christ would be otherwise preserved, as he would prove superior to his enemies through a divine power. As then he is poor, he must be exposed to all kinds of injuries; for we see, that when there is no earthly fortress, all the wicked immediately fly together as it were to the prey. If Christ then is poor, he cannot preserve his own people, nor can he prosper in his kingdom. It hence follows, that he must be furnished with celestial power, in order to continue himself safe, and in order to prevent harm to his Church; and this is what Zechariah will presently tell us, and more clearly express. It is now sufficient briefly to state his object.
He afterwards adds, Riding on an ass, the colt, the foal of an ass (104) Some think that the ass is not mentioned here to denote poverty, for they who excelled in power among the people were then in the habit of riding on asses. But it seems to me certain, that the Prophet added this clause to explain the word עני, oni, poor; as though he had said, that the king of whom he spoke would not be distinguished by a magnificent and splendid appearance like earthly princes, but would appear in a sordid or at least in an ordinary condition, so as not to differ from the humblest and lowest of the people. (105) He then bids the faithful to raise up their eyes to heaven, in order to come to the true knowledge of Christ’s kingdom, and to feel assured that righteousness and salvation are to be expected from him. How so? Because he will be accompanied with nothing that may strike men with fear, but will serve as an humble and obscure individual. We may also here add, that righteousness and salvation must be understood according to the character of Christ’s kingdom; for as the kingdom of Christ is not temporal or what passes away, we conclude that the righteousness he possesses is to be perpetual, together with the salvation which he brings. But I am not disposed ingeniously to speak here of the righteousness of faith; for I think, on the contrary, that by the word is meant here a right order of things, as all things were then among the people in a state of confusion; and this might be easily proved by many passages of Scripture.
The sum of the whole is, that the predictions by which God gave to his chosen people a hope of redemption were not vain or void; for at length in due time Christ, the son of David, would come forth, — secondly, that this king would be just, and saved or preserved; for he would restore things into order which were in a disgraceful state of confusion, — and thirdly, he adds, that this king would be poor; for he would ride on an ass, and would not appear in great eminence, nor be distinguished for arms, or for riches, or for splendor, or for number of soldiers, or even for royal trappings which dazzle the eyes of the vulgar: he shall ride on an ass
This prophecy we know was fulfilled in Christ; and even some of the Jews are constrained to confess that the Prophet’s words can be justly applied to none else. Yet they do not acknowledge as the Christ of God the Son of Mary; but they think that the Prophet speaks of their imaginary Messiah. Now we, who are fully persuaded and firmly maintain that the Christ promised has appeared and performed his work, do see that it has not been said without reason that he would come poor and riding on an ass. It was indeed designed that there should be a visible symbol of this very thing; for he mounted an ass while ascending into Jerusalem a short time before his death. It is indeed true, that the Prophet’s words are metaphorical: when he says, Come shall a king, riding on an ass, the words are figurative; for the Prophet means, that Christ would be as it were an obscure person, who would not make an appearance above that of the common people. That this is the real meaning is no doubt true. But yet there is no reason why Christ should not afford an example of this in mounting an ass.
I will adduce a similar instance: it is said in the twenty second Psalm, ‘They have cast lots on my garments.’ The metaphor there is no doubt apparent, which means that David’s enemies divided his spoils. He therefore complains that those robbers, by whom he had been unjustly treated, had deprived him of all that he had: and fulfilled has this been in a literal manner, so that the most ignorant must acknowledge that it has not in vain been foretold. We now then understand how well do these things agree — that the Prophet speaks metaphorically of the humble appearance of Christ; and yet that the visible symbol is so suitable, that the most ignorant must acknowledge that no other Christ but he who has already appeared is to be expected.
I omit many frivolous things, which in no degree tend to explain the Prophet’s meaning, but even pervert it, and destroy faith in prophecy: for some think that Christ rode on an ass, and also on a colt, because he was to govern the Jews, who had been previously accustomed to bear the yoke of the law, and that he was also to bring the Gentiles to obedience, who had been hitherto unnameable. But these things are very frivolous. It is enough for us to know what the Prophet means. It afterwards follows —
(102) The Septuagint, the Targum, and the Vulgate, render the word actively [ σωζων ] — Savior. It is so taken by Bochart, Grotius, Marckius, Dathius, Newcome, and Henderson. The reason given is, that there are instances of several verbs in Niphal having an active meaning. This is true; but this verb is found nineteen times in Niphal besides here, and invariably in a passive sense. This is quite sufficient to settle its meaning. Kimchi, Glassius, and Cocceius take this view. The last says that the reference is to his deliverance from his sufferings and his death. It is singular that this verse, at least a part of it, is quoted, and applied to Christ shortly before his crucifixion. Matthew 21:4. The two verses, 9 and 10, are in a striking manner connected; there is a contrast between the end of the 9 and the beginning of the 10, and a correspondence between the end of the 10 and the beginning of the 9. The king shall ride lowly on an ass, — and the chariot and the horse shall be cut off; he shall be saved or preserved, — and the battle-bow shall be destroyed; then the correspondence, — he is righteous, i.e., just and faithful to his gracious promises, — and he shall speak peace to the nations; he is King, — and his dominion shall be from sea to sea. The two first lines are not to be included in the comparison, —
9. Exult thou greatly, daughter of Zion; Shout thou daughter of Jerusalem: Behold thy King, he shall come to thee; Just, and saved shall he be; Lowly, and he shall ride on an ass, Even on a colt, the foal of an ass:
10. And cut off shall I the chariot from Ephraim, And the horse from Jerusalem; And cut off shall be the bow of war; And he will speak peace to the nations; And his dominion shall be from sea to sea, And from the river to the extremities of the land.—
(103) Pauper, [ עני ], rendered “[ πραυς ], meek” by the Septuagint; “humble,” by Newcome; and “lowly,” by Blayney and Henderson, and also by Kimchi, and the Targum. It may either mean a depressed and poor condition, or, as Blayney says, “the humility of his temper.” Both were true as to the king mentioned here. He was poor in condition, riding on a colt, and lowly also in mind, of which his procession was an evidence. — Ed.
(104) Literally it is, “the foal of she-asses,” which Kimchi explains, “the foal of one of the she-asses,” and adduces Jude 12:7, as an instance, where “in the cities of Gilead” means “in one of the cities of Gilead.” It is singular in the Septuagint, the Targum, and the Syriac. Th word is regarded by Grotius as including both sexes, “the foal of asses,” a pure foal, not a mule, its father and mother being of the asinine kind. So Newcome renders the phrase, “the foal of asses.” The probability is, that as the early versions give the singular, and as there seems to be no reason for the plural, it is a typographical mistake. — Ed.
(105) Newcome suggests another reason, “As horses are used in war, Christ may be supposed by this action to have shown the humble and peacable nature of his kingdom.” — Ed.
The Prophet here expresses more clearly what he had briefly referred to by the word poor, and by the metaphor which we have explained. Hence he says, that there would be no horses, no chariots, no bows, no warlike instruments in Christ’s kingdom; for tranquillity would prevail in it. The sum of the whole is, that Christ and his people would not be kept safe and secure by human defences, by means of many soldiers and of similar helps being at hand; but that God would restrain, and even compose and allay all warlike commotions, so that there would be no need of such aids. We now understand the Prophet’s design.
But we must notice the language here used. God declares here that he would be the giver of peace, so that the Messiah would continue safe in his kingdom; I will cut off, he says; for it might have been objected — “If he is to be poor, what hope can there be of safety?” The answer is, because it will be God’s work to restrain all the assaults of enemies. He means, in short, that the Messiah’s kingdom would be safe, because God from heaven would check all the rage of enemies, so that however disposed they might be to do harm, they would yet find themselves held captive by the hidden bridle of God, so as not to be able to move a finger.
But after having said that the Jews and Israelites would be safe, though stripped naked of all defences, he adds, He will speak peace to the nations; that is, though he will not use threats or terrors, nor bring forth great armies, yet the nations will obey him; for there will be no need of employing any force. To speak peace then to the nations means, that they will calmly hear, though not terrified nor threatened. Some with more ingenuity make the meaning to be that Christ, who reconciles the Father to us, will proclaim this favor of reconciliation; but the Prophet, as I think, with more simplicity, says, that Christ would be content with his own word, inasmuch as the Gentiles would become obedient, and quietly submit to his authority. (106) The import of the whole is, that Christ would so rule far and wide, that the farthest would live contentedly under his protection, and not cast off the yoke laid on them.
He states in the last place, that his dominion would be from sea to sea, that is, from the Red sea to the Syrian sea, towards Cilicia, and from the river, that is, Euphrates, to the extreme borders of the earth. By the earth we are not to understand the whole world, as some interpreters have unwisely said; for the Prophet no doubt mentioned those places already known to the Jews. For we know that remarkable oracle —“
He shall reign from sea to sea.” (Psalms 72:8.)
But God speaks of David only, and the words are the same as here; and there was no oracle more commonly known among the Jews. (107) The Prophet, then, who adduces here nothing new, only reminds the Jews of what they had long ago heard, and repeats, as it were, word for word, what was familiar to them all. For we must bear in mind what I said at the beginning — that the Prophet here strengthens the minds of the godly, and on this account, because the Messiah, on whose coming was founded the gratuitous adoption of the people, as well as their hope of salvation, had not yet appeared. We now then understand the real meaning of this passage. He then adds —
(106) To “speak peace” is to anounce or proclaim peace, and not to produce peace. It is not to render people peaceable, but to declare the message of peace to them. It it the promulgation of the gospel. — Ed.
(107) The reference as to the “sea” may be also made to Exodus 23:31; and as to the “river” to Deuteronomy 11:24. The land promised to the Israelites is no doubt what is here described,” and Newcome renders the last clause “to the uttermost part of the land.” Though Henderson admits that the words are originally “descriptive of the utmost bound of the Hebrew kingdom,” yet he thinks that they are to be taken here in their widest meaning, as including the whole earth. — Ed.
Here he applies his former doctrine to its right use, so that the faithful might emerge from their sorrow, and come to that joy which he had before encouraged them to entertain. He then addresses Jerusalem, as though he had said, “There is no reason for thee to torment thyself with perplexed and anxious thoughts, for I will accomplish what I have promised — that I would become a deliverer to my people.” For this doubt might have occurred to them — “Why does he exhort us to rejoice, while the Church of God is still in part captive, and while those who have returned to their country are miserably and cruelly harassed by their enemies?” To this objection Zechariah answers in the person of God — that God would be able to deliver them, though they were sunk in the deepest gulf. We hence see how this verse harmonises with the other verses: he had before spoken of the happy state of the Church under Christ as its king; but as the condition of the people then was very hard and miserable, he adds, that deliverance was to be expected from God.
But we must observe, that a pronoun feminine is here used, when he says, even thou, or, thou also. Both the Latins and Greeks have been deceived by the ambiguity of the language used, (108) and have thought that the words are addressed to Christ, as though he was to draw his captives from a deep pit; but God here addresses his Church, as though he had said, “Hear thou.” And the particle גם, gam, is emphatical, meaning this — “I see that I do not prevail much with you, for ye are in a manner overwhelmed by your calamities, and no hope refreshes you, as you think yourselves visited, as it were, with a thousand deaths; but still, though a mass of evils disheartens you, or at least so far oppresses you as to render inefficacious what I say — though, in short, ye be of all men the most miserable, I will yet redeem your captives.” But God addresses the whole Church, as in many other places under the character of a wife.
He says, By the blood of thy covenant. This seems not to belong properly to the Church, for there is no other author of the covenant but God himself; but the relation, we know, between God and his people, as to the covenant, is mutual. It is God’s covenant, because it flows from him; it is the covenant of the Church, because it is made for its sake, and laid up as it were in its bosom. And the truth penetrated more fully into the hearts of the godly, when they heard that it was not only a divine covenant, but that it was also the covenant of the people themselves: Then by the blood of thy covenant, etc. Some refer this, but very unwisely, to circumcision, for the Prophet no doubt had regard to the sacrifices. It was then the same as though he had said — “Why do ye offer victims daily in the temple? If ye think that you thus worship God, it is a very gross and insane superstition. Call then to mind the end designed, or the model given you from above; for God has already promised that he will be propitious to you, by expiating your sins by the only true sacrifice: And for this end offer your sacrifices, and that blood will bring expiation with it. Now since God has not in vain appointed your sacrifices, and ye observe them not in vain, no doubt the benefit will come at length to light, for I have sent forth thy captives. For God does not reconcile himself to men, that he may destroy or reduce them to nothing, or that he may suffer them to pine away and die; for why does God pardon men, but that he may deliver them from destruction?” (109)
We now perceive why the Prophet thus speaks of the blood of the covenant in connection with the salvation of the whole people. “Ye daily offer victims,” he says, “and the blood is poured on the altar: God has not appointed this in vain.” Now since God receives you into favor, that ye may be safe, he will therefore deliver the captives of his Church; I will send forth, he says, or, have sent forth thy captives: for he expresses here in the past tense what he would do in future.
I will send forth thy captives from the pit in which there is no water. He means a deep gulf, where thirst itself would destroy miserable men without being drawn forth by a power from above. In short, he means, first, that the Jews were sunk in the deep; and secondly, that thirst would consume them, so that death was nigh at hand, except they were miraculously delivered by God: but he reminds them, that no impediment would prevent God from raising them to light from the deepest darkness. We then see that this was added, that the Jews might learn to struggle against all things that might strengthen unbelief, and feel assured that they would be preserved safe, for it is God’s peculiar work to raise the dead. This is the meaning. He now adds —
(108) Rather by following the Septuagint who changed the person of the verb “[ ἐξαπέστειλας ], though hast sent forth.” The pronoun “[ συ ], thou,” in Greek, has no gender, as in Hebrew. It was in this way that Theodoret, Cyril, and Augustine were led astray as to the sense of this passage. The Targum retains the reading of the Hebrew. — Ed.
(109) “The words,” says Newcome, “allude to the Jewish custom of ratifying covenants by the blood of victims.” It was called “thy” covenant, because it was a covenant made with the daughter of Sion. The meaning is, “the covenant ratified with thee by blood,” that is, of victims. see Exodus 24:6. The [ ב ] here means for, or on account of. The verse may be thus rendered —
As to thee also, on account of the blood of thy covenant Have I sent forth thy prisoners From a pit without water in it.
It was thought by Drusius and Newcome that the deliverance of the people from Babylon is here referred to, which is the most probable opinion, as the next verse seems to have been addressed to them. But Marckius and Henderson agree with Calvin, that the past tense is used for the future. — Ed.
Zechariah proceeds with the same subject. He bids the Jews suddenly to retake themselves to their fortress. There is no doubt but that he means by that term the holy land; nor do I oppose the opinion of those who think the temple to be intended: for Jerusalem and the whole of Judea is called a fortress, and for this reason, because God had chosen his sanctuary there. It is then the same, as though one wishing to collect a dispersed and straggling band of soldiers were to say, “To the standard, to the standard;” or, “To the troop, to the troop.” For though Judea was not then fortified, nay, Jerusalem itself had no high wall or strong towers, yet they had God as their stronghold, and this was impregnable; for he had promised that the Jews would be safe under the shadow of his wings, though exposed to the caprices of all around them. Nor does he here address them only who had returned, or the exiles who still remained scattered in the East; but by this declaration he encourages the whole Church, that they might be fully persuaded that when assembled under the protection of God, they were as fortified as though they were on every side surrounded by the strongest citadels, and that there would be no access open to enemies.
Return ye then to the stronghold. This could not have appeared unreasonable; for we know that when they were building the city their work was often interrupted; and we know also that the temple was not then fortified by a wall. But Zechariah teaches them, that in that state of things there was sufficient defense in God alone. Though then the Jews were not made safe by moats, or by walls, or by mounds, he yet reminds them, that God would be sufficient to defend them, and that he would be to them, as it is said in another place, a wall and a rampart. (Isaiah 26:1.)
But it is not without reason that he calls them the captives of hope; for many had wholly alienated themselves from God and altogether fallen away, so as to be unworthy of any promise. By this mark then he distinguishes between the faithful captives and those who had wholly degenerated and separated themselves from the family of God, so as no more to be counted among his people. And this ought to be carefully noticed, which interpreters have coldly passed by. They have indeed said, that they are called captives of hope, because they hoped to be saved; but they have not observed the distinction, by which Zechariah intended to convey reproof to the unbelieving Jews. It was therefore not without meaning that he directed his word to the faithful only, who were not only captives, but also captives having hope. I cannot finish today.
God declares here that the Jews would be the conquerors of all nations, though they were then despised. That people, we know, were hated by all; and they were at the same time weak, and had hardly any strength, so as to be able to resist the wrongs done them on every side. As then this trial might have terrified weak minds, the Prophet says that the Jews would be as it were the bow and the quiver of God, so that they would be able to pierce all nations with their arrow; and that they would also be like a sword, which would wound and lay prostrate the strongest.
We now perceive the meaning of the words, and see also the reason why the Prophet made this addition, even because the Jews were filled with terror on seeing themselves surrounded on every side by violent and strong enemies, to whom they were very unequal in strength. Now, these similitudes we know occur elsewhere in Scripture, and their meaning seems to be this — that the Jews would be the conquerors of all nations, not by their own prowess, as they say, but because the Lord would guide and direct them by his own hand. For what is a bow except it be bent? and the bow itself is useless, except the arrow be discharged. The Prophet then teaches us, that though the Jews could do nothing of themselves, yet there was strength enough in God’s hand alone.
I have bent for me, he says, Judah as a bow. The Lord reminds the Jews of his own power, that they might not regard their own strength, but acknowledge that they were made strong from above, and that strength to overcome their enemies would be given them. Hence he compares Ephraim to a quiver. But we have seen yesterday, that Judah and Ephraim are to be taken as the same; for as it had been a divided body, God intimates here, that when the Jews became again united and joined together, and when the ten tribes showed brotherly kindness towards the kingdom of Judah, then the people would be to him like a bow well furnished, being fully supplied with arrows. (111)
He afterwards adds, I will rouse thy sons, O Sion, against thy sons, O Javan. This apostrophe is more emphatical than if the third person had been adopted; for by addressing first Sion, and then Greece, he shows that he possesses power over all nations, so that he raises up the one and casts down the other, as he pleases.
As to the word יון, Ivan, we have elsewhere seen that it is to be taken for Greece, and now for all the countries beyond sea. Yet many think that the word Jonah is derived from this Hebrew word, and, as it often happens, is corruptly pronounced. But we may gather from many instances that יון, Ivan, is put for Greece, or for distant countries, and specifically for Macedonia. It is then the same as though he had said — That the Jews would be superior to all heathen nations, even were they to unite together and bring vast forces from distant lands. For the Greeks could not have waged war in Judea with a small force; they must have brought with them large armies, to fight in a strange country and unknown to them. Nor could the Jews have attacked the Grecians or other remote nations, except they were favored with aid from heaven. For this reason also he adds, that they would be like a sword, by which a strong man can destroy others of less power. Let us now go on —
(111) Kimchi says that a remnant of the ten tribes were among the Jews who returned from Babylon, being those who had been left in the land by Shalmanezer, as it appears from 2 Chronicles 34:6. “These went,” he says, “into captivity with the tribe of Judah and of Benjamin to Babylon, and returned with them when they returned.” Abarbanel gives the same opinion, and also Cyril and Bochart. The latter informs their return from Ezra 6:17.
This prophecy is viewed by Henderson as having been fulfilled in the wars of the Maccabees. See Genesis 1:62. This was also the view of Theodoret, Jerome, Grotius, and Marckius. Newcome thought that “the language of this prophecy is too strong for these events, and may remain to be fulfilled against the present possessors of the countries called Javan, which were Greec, Macedonia and part of Asia Minor.” With this view Adam Clarke concurs, though Scott demurs. But there seems to be nothing here, and especially in the following verses, that does not well comport with the wars of the Maccabees. — Ed.
He goes on with the same subject, but explains what I have said — that victory is promised to the Jews, not that which they could gain by their own power, but that which should happen to them beyond their expectation; for this is what is meant when he says, that God would be seen over them. For though the events of all wars depend on God, yet he is said to be seen where there is a remarkable victory, which cannot be accounted for by men. When unequal armies engage, it is no wonder when one becomes victorious; and it may sometimes be that a less number overcomes a greater, even because it exceeded the other in courage, in counsel, in skill, or in some other way, or because the larger army fought from a disadvantageous position, or trusting in its own strength rushed on inconsiderately. But when consternation alone dejects one party and renders the other victorious, in this case the power of God becomes evident. And even heathens have thought that men are confounded from above when courage fails them; and this is most true. We now then understand why the Prophet says, that God would be seen over the Jews, even because they would conquer their enemies, not by usual means, not after an earthly manner, but in a wonderful way, so that it would appear evident to be the work of God.
He then adds, Go forth shall his arrow as lightning. He again repeats and confirms what we have already observed that there would be no movement among the Jews, no celerity, but what would be like the sword, which lies quiet on the ground, except it be taken up by the hand of man, and what also would be like the arrow, which can do no harm except it be thrown by some one. We then see that the victory mentioned before is ascribed to God alone. And for the same reason he adds what follows, that Jehovah would come with the shout of a trumpet, and also, with the whirlwind of the south. In a word, he means that the work of God would be evident when the Jews went forth against the enemies by whom they had been oppressed and would still be oppressed. That they might not then compare their own with their enemies’ strength, the Prophet here brings God before them, by whose authority, guidance, and power this war was to be carried on. And then, that he might extol God’s power, he says, that he would come with the shout of a trumpet, and with the whirlwind of the south
Interpreters take the whirlwinds of the south simply for violent storms; for we know that the most impetuous whirlwinds arise from the south. But as the Prophet joins the whirlwinds of the south to the shout of a trumpet, he seems to me to allude to those miracles by which God showed to the Jews in a terrific manner his power on Mount Sinai, for the desert of Teman and Mount Paran were in that vicinity. We have seen a similar passage in the third chapter of Habakkuk Habakkuk 3:1, “God,” he said, “shall come from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran.” The Prophet’s object was to encourage the Jews to entertain hope; for God, who had long concealed himself and refrained from helping them, would at length come forth to their aid. How? He reminded them in that passage of the records of ancient history, for God had made known his power on Mount Sinai, in the desert of Teman, and it was the south region with regard to Judea; and we also know that trumpets sounded in the air, and that all this was done that the Jews might reverently receive the law, and also that they might feel certain that they would be always safe under God’s hand, since he thus shook the elements by his nod, and filled the air with lightnings and storms and whirlwinds, and also made the air to ring with the shouts of trumpets. It is for the same reason that the Prophet speaks in this passage, when he says, that God would make himself known as formerly, when he astonished the people by the shouts of trumpets, and also when he appeared in whirlwinds on Mount Sinai. (112) He then adds —
(112) The two preceding verses, the 13th and 14, are capable of being rendered more correctly. Junius and Tremelius render [ כי ], at the beginning of verse 13th, when, and connect it with the preceding verse. But if the particle be so rendered, and [ ו ], at the beginning of verse 14, be rendered them, the meaning will be more evident. All the verbs in verse 13 are in the past tense, and may be rendered as future perfects according to what is done by the preceding authors. Then the two verses will be as follows—
13. When I shall have bent Judah for myself, And the bow filled with Ephraim, And roused up thy sons, O Sion, Against thy sons, O Javan, And made thee as the sword of a mighty man;
14. Then Jehovah shall be seen (a leader) over them, And go forth like lightning shall his arrow; Yes, the Lord Jehovah with a trumpet shall blow, And march in (or, accompanied with) the whirlwinds of the south.
The “whirlwinds,” or storms, as rendered by Henderson, “of the south,” were impetuous and violent. See Job 37:9; Isaiah 21:1. The images here, as Newcome justly observes, are very sublime. The change of the person, as in verse 14, is very common in the Prophets and in other parts of Scripture. See Genesis 3:22. — Ed.
He expresses again the same thing in other words — that God would be like a shadow to his people, so that he would with an extended hand protect them from their enemies. Since the Jews might have justly felt a distrust in their own strength, the Prophet continually teaches them that their safety depended not on earthly aids, but that God alone was sufficient, for he could easily render them safe and secure. He also adds, that there would be to them plenty of bread and wine to satisfy them. He seems here indeed to promise too great an abundance, as by its abuse luxury came, for he says, that they would be satiated and be like the drunken; they shall drink, he says, and shall make a noise as through wine. Certainly those who drink wine moderately, do not make noise, but they are as composed and quiet after dinner as those who fast. Zechariah then seems here to make an unreasonable promise, even that of excess in meat and drink. But we have elsewhere seen that wherever the Holy Spirit promises abundance of good things he does not give loose reigns to men’s lusts, but his object is only to show that God will be so bountiful to his children that they shall stand in need of nothing, that they shall labor under no want. Nay, the affluence of blessings is to try our frugality, for when God pours forth as it were with a liberal hand more than what is needful, he thus tries the temperance of each of us; for when in the enjoyment of great abundance, we of our own accord restrain ourselves, we then really show that we are grateful to God. (113)
It is indeed true, that cheerfulness for abundance of blessings is allowed us, for it is often said in the law, “Thou shalt rejoice before thy God,” (Deuteronomy 12:18;) but we must bear in mind, that frugal use of blessings is required, in order that the gifts of God may not be converted to a sinful purpose.
Then the Prophet does not here excite or stimulate the Jews to intemperance, that they might fill themselves with too much food, or inebriate themselves with too much wine; but he only promises that there would be no want of either food or drink when God blessed them as in former days. And this seems also to be specified at the end of the verse, when he mentions the horns of the altar. He had previously said, that they would be full as the bowls were; but when he adds, “the horns of the altar,” he no doubt reminds them of temperance, that they were to feast as though they were in God’s presence. They were indeed accustomed to pour out the wine and the oil on the horns of the altar; but, at the same time, since they professed that they offered from their abundance of wine and oil some first-fruits to God, it behaved them to remember that their wine was sacred, that their oil was sacred, as both proceeded from God. The Prophet then declares, that the Jews would be thus enriched and replenished with all good things, and that they were yet to remember, that they were to live as in God’s presence, lest they should by luxury pollute what he had consecrated to a legitimate end. He then adds —
(113) Another view is taken of this view. The destruction of enemies, and not abundance of blessings, is what is said to be set forth in this verse, according to the rendering both of the Septuagint and the Targum, followed by Jerome, Kimchi, Drusius, Grotius, Newcome, Blayney, and Henderson. “The bowl or basin,” says Blayney, “and the corners of the altar, all seem to bespeak blood; for the blood of the sacrificed beasts was part of it received in bowls for the purpose of sprinkling, and the rest poured out at the foot of the altar, Leviticus 4:5.” Henry states this view as his own, and also mentions that given by Calvin, which both Scott and Adam Clarke have taken.
The latter part of the verse is rendered by the Septuagint as though the meaning were, that the Jews would offer abundant sacrifices to express their gratitude. “And they shall fill the bowls as well as the altar.” Junius and Tremelius, and Piscator, have rendered the Hebrew according to this meaning, taking the two caphs as signifying both and and, or as well as, “And they shall fill both the bowl and the corners of the altar,” that is, by offering sacrifices in token of their gratitude for victory. But the explanation of Grotius is, “They shall be filled with the blood of their enemies as the corners of the altar are with the blood of victims. Leviticus 4:25.
It is difficult to know which view to take. The authorities, and perhaps the context, are in favor of the revenge that would be taken on the Grecians. In this case the metaphors, as Newcome observes, are taken from beasts of prey, not an uncommon thing in Scripture. See Numbers 23:24. — Ed.
He continues the same subject, but uses various figures, that he might more fully confirm what then was incredible. He indeed reminds them that God would not save his people in an ordinary way, such as is common to men. He compares them to sheep, that they might know, as I have said already, that their salvation would come from heaven, as they were themselves weak, and had no strength and no power; for to show this was the object of this comparison. He declares then that the Jews would be saved, because God would supply them with every thing necessary to conquer their enemies; but that he would in a wonderful manner help their weakness, even like a shepherd when he rescues his sheep from the jaws of a wolf. For the sheep, which escapes death by the coming of the shepherd, have no reason to boast of victory, but all the praise is due to the shepherd. So also God says, that it will be his work to deliver the Jews from their enemies.
By saying, his own people, he seems to confine to his elect what appeared too general; for he had said save then will God. It is however certain that the people who were then small, had been cut off, so that the greater part had perished; but at the same time it was true that God was a faithful guardian of his people, for there were then many Israelites, naturally descended from their common father Abraham, who were only in name Israelites.
He then adds another similitude, — that they would be elevated high, like precious stones in a crown, which are borne on the head of a king, as though he had said, that they would be a royal priesthood according to what is said in the law. He had said before, They shall subdue the stones, or, with the stones, of a sling. More correct seems to be the opinion of those who read with the stones of a sling, (114) that is, that the Jews would conquer their enemies, not with swords, nor with arrows, but only with stones, in the same manner as Goliath was slain by David. Though not given to warlike arts, nor exercised in the use of arms, they would yet, as the Prophet shows, be conquerors; for their slings would be sufficient for the purpose of slaying their enemies. But some think that heathens and the unbelieving are compared to the stones of the sling, because they are worthless and of no account; which at the first sight seems ingenious, but it is a strained view. It is not at the same time improper to consider that there is here an implied contrast between the stones of the sling, and the stones of a crown; the Jews would cast stones from their slings to destroy their enemies, and they themselves would be precious stones. The Prophet seems here to represent the holy land as the chief part of the whole world. Elevated, he says, shall be the stones of crown over the land of God. Had he said over Egypt or over Assyria, the connection of the clauses would not have been so appropriate; but he names Judea, as the head of the world, and that the Jews, when prosperous and happy in it, would be like the stones of a crown, all the parts set in due order. In short, he shows, that the favor of God alone and his blessing, would be sufficient to render the Jews happy, as they would then excel in honor, enjoy the abundance of all good things, and possess invisible courage to resist all their adversaries.
Let us now enquire when all these things were fulfilled. We have said that Zechariah, by promising fullness to the Jews, gave them no unbridled license to indulge themselves in eating and drinking, but only expressed and extolled, in hyperbolical terms, the immense kindness and bounty of God to them. This is one thing.
But at the same time we must by the way consider another question: He says, that they would be like arrows and swords. Now as they were too much inclined to shed blood, he seems here to excite them in a manner to take vengeance fully on their enemies, which was by no means reasonable. The answer to this is plain — that the Jews were not to forget what God prescribed in his law: for as when God promised large abundance of wine, and a plentiful provision, he did not recall what he had already commanded — that they were to practice temperance in eating and drinking; so now when he promises victory over their enemies, he is not inconsistent with himself, nor does he condemn what he had once approved, nor abrogate the precept by which he commanded them, not to exercise cruelty towards their enemies, but to restrain themselves, and to show mercy and kindness. We hence see that we are not to judge from these words what is right for us to do, or how far we may go in taking revenge on enemies; nor to determine what liberty we have in eating and drinking. Such things are not to be learnt from this passage, or from similar passages; for the Prophet here does only set forth the power of God and his bounty towards his people.
Now again it may be asked, when has God fulfilled this, when has he made the Jews far and wide victorious and the destroyers of their enemies? All Christian expositors give us an allegorical explanation, — that God sent forth his armies when he sent forth Apostles into all parts of the world, who pierced the hearts of men, — and that he slew with his sword the wicked whom he destroyed. All this is true; but a simpler meaning must in the first place be drawn from the words of the Prophet, and that is, — that God will render his Church victorious against the whole world. And most true is this; for though the faithful are not furnished with swords or with any military weapons, yet we see that they are kept safe in a wonderful manner under the shadow of God’s hand. When adversaries exercise cruelty towards them, we see how God returns their wicked devices on their own heads. In this way is really fulfilled what we read here, — even that the children of God are like arrows and swords, and that they are also preserved as a flock; for they are too weak to stand their ground, were not the Lord to put forth his power, when he sees them violently assailed by the wicked. There is then no need to turn the Prophet’s words to an allegorical meaning, when this fact is evident that God’s Church has been kept safe, because God has ever blunted all the weapons of enemies; yea, he has often by a strong hand discharged his arrows and vibrated his sword. For when Alexander the Great had passed over the sea, when he had marched through the whole circuit of the Mediterranean sea, when he had filled all the country with blood, he came at length to Judea; how was it that he left it without committing any slaughter, without exercising any cruelty, except that God restrained him? It will not weary you, if I relate what we read in Josephus; and it is true I have no doubt. He says, that when Alexander came, he was full of wrath, and breathing threats against those Jews by whom he had not been assisted, and who seemed to have despised his authority: after having thus given vent to his rage, he at length came into the presence of Jadeus the high-priest, and seeing him adorned with a mitre, he fell down and humbly asked pardon; and while all were amazed his answer was — that God had appeared to him in that form while he was yet in Greece, and encouraged him to undertake that expedition. When therefore he saw the image or figure of the God of heaven in that sacerdotal dress, he was constrained to give glory to God. Thus far Josephus, whose testimony in this instance has never been suspected.
There is then no reason for any one to weary himself in finding out the meaning of the Prophet, since this fact is clear enough — that God’s elect have been victorious, because God has ever sent forth his arrows and vibrated his sword. At the same time there is another view of this victory; for alien and remote people were subdued by the sword of the Spirit, even by the truth of the gospel: but this is a sense deduced from the other; for when we apprehend the literal meaning of the Prophet, an easy passage is then open to us, by which we may come to the kingdom of Christ. These remarks refer to the abundance of provisions, as well as to the victory over enemies. It now follows —
(114) This rendering is supported by the Septuagint, the Targum, the Vulgate, and adopted by Grotius, Marckius, and Newcome. But to “subdue” or tread down, “the sling-stones” is the version of Kimchi, Piscator, Dathius, and Henderson; who have thought that the Greeks are here called “sling-stones,” by way of contempt, as the Jews are called “crown-stones” in verse 16, by way of honor; the first were common and worthless; the second rare and precious. What seems unfavorable to this metaphor is the expression, “lifted up as ensign,” as applied to “the stones of a crown.” The words [ אבני נזר ], have been rendered, “stones of separation,” that is, stones separated, set apart and consecrated to a particular use. See Genesis 28:18; Joshua 4:5. Hence Blayney’s version is, “consecrated stones,” in accordance with the Septuagint, “[ λιθοι ἁγιοι ] — sacred or holy stones,” and also with the Syriac and Arabic versions. They were stones, as it seems, set up as memorials of victory. Suitable then is the expression, that they were raised, erected or lifted up as banners or ensigns over the land. “Crowned trophies” is the rendering of Newcome, — stones encircled by a crown as monuments of victory. But whether we render the words, consecrated or crowned stones, the same thing is meant: and the propriety of the principle which follows becomes evident. — Ed.
The Prophet here exclaims at the incredible kindness of God, that the Jews might learn to raise up their thoughts above the world, as they were to look for that felicity which he had before mentioned. We then see that by this exclamation a fuller confirmation is given to what had been said by the Prophet, as though his words were, — “No one ought to judge of God’s favor, of which I have spoken, according to his own doings, or conduct, or experience; but on the contrary, every one of you ought to be filled with amazement at God’s incredible kindness, and at his incredible beauty.” But by the last word he understands the brightness or splendor, which appears in all God’s favors and gifts. (115)
He then concludes by saying, that the abundance of corn and wine would be so great, that young men and young women would eat and drink together, and be fully satisfied. Here a frivolous question may be asked, whether Zechariah allowed the use of wine to young women. But he speaks not here, as I have said before, of God’s blessing, as though it were an incentive to luxury; but what he means is, that the abundance of provisions would be so great as to be fully sufficient, not only for the old, but also for young men and young women. We know that when there is but a small supply of wine, it ought by right of age to be reserved for the old, but when wine so overflows that young men and young women may freely drink of it, it is a proof of great abundance. This then is simply the meaning of the Prophet: but something more shall be said tomorrow on the subject.
(115) Goodness and beauty are said to be God’s, because conferred by him. Some refer “his” to the people and others to the land. The meaning is the same, though the form of the expression would be different. As the future time is referred to, the question here may be better expressed in the future tense, —
For what will be his goodness! And what will be his beauty! The corn shall cause the young men to thrive, And new wine the maids.
But were the [ ו ] after “land” in the preceding verse to be referred to “people” in the same verse, the [ ו ] added here to “goodness” might be applied to the same antecedent: and this would be the most natural rendering,—
16. And save them will Jehovah their God, In that day, even as sheep, his people: Therefore consecrated stones Shall be raised as banners over their land. For how great will be their good (or prosperity!) And how great their comeliness! Corn shall cause the young men to thrive, And new wine the maids.
We use “they,” and “their,” when we speak of “people,” though in Hebrew the singular pronoun is used. — Ed.
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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 9". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany