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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Zechariah 1

 

 

Verse 1

Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

Ver. 1. In the eight month, in the second year of Darius] Two months after Haggai began to prophesy. {See Trapp on "Haggai 1:1"} These two prophets did jointly together reprove the Jews for their sloth in rebuilding the temple, and incite them to set forward the work, Ezra 5:1, contributing their utmost help thereunto, Zechariah 1:2. They were also a singular help the one to the other, in the execution of their office. For "two are better than one"; and why, see Ecclesiastes 4:9. {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 4:9"} For which cause also Christ sent out first the twelve, and then the seventy, by two and two, Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1. So Paul and Barnabas were sent abroad; the two faithful witnesses, Revelation 11:8. Sυν τε δυ ερχομενω, as the poet speaks of Ulysses, and Diomedes sent to fetch in the palladium. (a) One good man may be an angel to another (as Bradford was to his fellow martyr, Dr Taylor), nay, a god to another, as Moses was to Aaron, Exodus 4:16. And for others; in the mouth of two or three witnesses a truth is better believed by them; and a twisted cord not easily broken. Haggai lays down the mind of God to the people more plainly in direct and downright terms; Zechariah flies a higher pitch, abounding with types and visions; and is therefore worthily reckoned among the abstrusest and profoundest penmen of Holy Scripture, Prae caeteris obscurus est, profundas, varius, prolixus, et aenigmaticus (Cor. a Lapide). For it must be understood (and let it here be prefaced) that albeit all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable to instruct, 2 Timothy 3:16, pure, precious, and profitable, every leaf, line, and letter of it, Psalms 12:6, Proverbs 30:5; yet, between Scripture and Scripture there is no small difference; some pieces of God’s Book for their antiquity, and some other for their obscurity, do justly challenge our greater attention and industry. Of the former sort, famous for their antiquity, are the five Books of Moses, whom Theodoret fitly calleth the great Ocean of divinity ( τον της Yεολογιας ωκεανον), the fountain of the following Scriptures. Of the second sort, noted for their difficulty, and that will not be acquainted with us but upon further suit, some are hard through their fulness of matter in fewness of words, as the poetical books, wherein (no doubt) the verse also hath caused some cloud: and others again, by the sublimity of the subject they handle; such as are the Books of Ezekiel, and Daniel, and this of Zechariah, who is totus fere symbolicus, the whole is to take symbolically and is much followed by St John in his Revelation. Hence Jerome in his prologue to this prophet saith, Ab obscuris ad obscuriora transimus, et cum Mose ingredimur ad nubem et caliginem. Abyssus abyssum invocat. We pass from dark prophecies to that which is much more dark; and with Moses we are entering into the cloud and thick darkness. Here one deep calleth upon another. And, being in a labyrinth, we hope to get out by Christ’s golden clue; concerning whose passion, resurrection, and glory, he speaketh more like an evangelist than a prophet, and may therefore be rightly styled, The evangelical prophet.

Came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah] Therefore the same that our Saviour speaketh of Matthew 23:35, Luke 11:51, though I once thought otherwise, after Jerome, Luther, Calvin, Beza, Glassius, Grotius. But, 1. the name of his father, Berechiah; 2. the manner of Christ’s account (reckoning from Abel, the first martyr, to this, penultimus prophetarum, last, save one, of the prophets, and last of all that was slain by the Jews, after the rebuilding of the temple, whither, being assaulted, he ran for sanctuary), easily persuades me to alter mine opinion. As for those that hold that our Saviour there speaketh of Zacharias, the father of John Baptist, Luke 1:59, slain by the Jews, because he preached Virginis partum et Christi ortum, Christ born of a virgin, Baronius, Tolet, and others, as they affirm it without reason, so they may be dismissed without refutation. Hoc, quia de scripturis non habet authoritatem, eadem facilitate contemnitur, qua probatur, saith Jerome.

The son of Iddo the prophet] Whether the word prophet be to be referred to Zechariah or to Iddo is uncertain. That there was a prophet Iddo we read, and Zechariah might well be of his line, after many descents, 2 Chronicles 12:15. He is here mentioned (as also Ezra 5:1) ut nepoti suo Zachariae nomen et decus conciliet, for an honour to his ab-nephew, Zechariah; according to that of Solomon, "The glory of children are their fathers," to wit, if they be godly and religious, Proverbs 17:6. What an honour was it to Jacob that he could swear by the fear of his father Isaac! to David, that he could say, "Truly, Lord, I am thy servant, I am thy servant, the son of thine handmaid!" Psalms 116:16; to Timothy, that he had such a mother as Lois, such a grandmother as Eunice! 2 Timothy 1:5; to the children of the elect lady, to the posterity of Latimer, Bradford, Ridley, and other of those men of God, who suffered for the truth! If the degenerate Jews so boasted of Abraham, their father, John 8:33, Matthew 3:9, how much more might Zechariah (no degenerate plant, no bastardly brood, as they were, Matthew 12:39, γενεα μοιχαλις) boast and bear himself bold on his lather, Berechiah (the blessing of God), and his grandfather, Iddo (God’s witness, confessor, or ornament), since he trod in their holy steps, and was adorned with their gifts and virtues! The Papists brag much of Peter, and other apostles, their founders and predecessors; but this is but an empty title, to talk of personal succession (which yet cannot be proven), unless they could also show us their gifts and graces, as all the world may see they cannot. We read of a painter who, being blamed by a cardinal for colouring the visages of Peter and Paul too red, tartly replied that he painted them so, as blushing at the lives of their successors.


Verse 2

Zechariah 1:2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.

Ver. 2. The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers] Heb. He hath boiled against your fathers with foaming anger, with height of heat. There are degrees of anger, see Matthew 5:22, Deuteronomy 29:28. The Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation. Surgit hic oratio: and the last of those three words is the same here used in the text; noting a higher degree than the two former, even such a fervour and fierceness of God’s wrath as maketh him ready to kill and cut off, {see 2 Kings 6:6, and note the affinity of that word with this} like as he had much ado to forbear killing of Moses, when he met him in the inn, Exodus 4:24, and as Nebuchadnezzar was not only angry, but very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon, Daniel 2:12. Now if the wrath of a king be as many messengers of death, Proverbs 16:14, what shall we think of the foaming and frothing wrath of God, which burns unto the lowest hell, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains, Deuteronomy 32:22. After which followeth, in the next verse, "I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them," Deuteronomy 32:23. He had done so upon the ancestors of these refractory Jews, who had been saepius puncti et repuncti, minime tamen ad resipiscentiam compuncti, often punished, but could never be reclaimed; so incorrigibly flagitious, so shamelessly, so prodigiously wicked were they, till there was no remedy. This their vile stubbornness made him sore displeased with them; and put thunderbolts into his hands to destroy them; for though fury be not in God, Isaiah 27:5, to speak properly, he is free from any such passions as we are subject to, yet if briars and thorns set against him in battle, if a rabble of rebels conspire to cast him out of his throne, saying, "We will not have this man to rule over us," &c., "I would go through them, I would burn them together," saith he, in the same breath. Abused mercy turneth into fury. Nothing so cold as lead, and yet nothing so scalding, if molten. Nothing more blunt than iron; and yet nothing so keen, if sharpened. The air is soft and tender; yet out of it are engendered thunder and lightnings. The sea is calm and smooth; but if tossed with tempests, it is rough above measure. The Lord, as he is Father of mercies, so he is God of recompences: and it is a fearful thing to fall into his punishing hands, Hebrews 10:31. If his wrath be kindled, yea, but a little, woe be to all those upon whom it lights, Psalms 2:12 : how much more when he is sore displeased with a people or person, as here! For "who knoweth the power of thine anger?" saith Moses; "even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath," Psalms 90:11; that is, let a man fear thee never so much, he is sure to feel thee much more, if once he fall into thy fingers. And this is here urged by the prophet as a motive to true repentance; since by their fathers’ example they might see there was no way to escape the dint of the Divine displeasure but to submit to God’s justice, and to implore his mercy: men must either turn or burn, "For even our God is a consuming fire," Hebrews 12:29.


Verse 3

Zechariah 1:3 Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.

Ver. 3. Therefore say thou unto them] These Jews, saith Cyrill, had neither seen their fathers’ wickedness, nor heeded their calamities. Mittitur ergo ad cos Zacharias quasi paedagogus, Zechariah therefore is sent unto them as a schoolmaster or monitor; that by considering what had been, they might prevent what otherwise would be, and redeem their own sorrows.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts] A far greater Lord and potentate than that great King of Persia, who was now their sovereign. True it is that they had been commanded by a former king to desist from building the city, Ezra 4:12; Ezra 4:21. But there was no one word in that letter to forbid the building of the temple. There was also now another king set up, and of another family. They are therefore by this prophet and by Haggai called upon again and again to turn to the Lord, and to return afresh to their work, Ezra 5:1. Wherein, because they were sure to meet with many enemies, therefore here and elsewhere (eighteen several times in that eighth chapter) there is frequent mention made of the Lord of hosts, for their better encouragement. {See Trapp on "Malachi 3:17"}

Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts] This is the great doctrine of the Old Testament; as "Repent ye" is of the New. And this he purposely prefixeth as a preface and preparative to the other prophecies both of mercies and judgments, whereof the whole is fitly made up. Sour and sweet make the best sauce. Promises and menaces mixed make the most fruitful discourse; and serve to keep the heart in the best temper. Hence David’s ditty was composed of discords, Psalms 101:1 "I will sing of mercy and judgment," and so be both merry and wise. But, to the words of the text:

Turn ye unto me, &c.] By sin men run away from God (whereby it appeareth that sin is the greatest evil, because it sets us furthest off from the greatest good), and by repentance they return unto him, Deuteronomy 30:2; Deuteronomy 30:8-10, Malachi 3:7, Jeremiah 4:1, Hosea 14:1, Acts 26:18. Hence, Acts 3:19 "Repent, and be converted." Contrition is repentance for sin, 2 Corinthians 12:21, Revelation 9:20. Conversion is repentance for sin, Acts 8:22, Hebrews 6:1. Hereunto is required first a serious search of our ways (for it is a metaphor taken from a traveller), "Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord," Lamentations 3:40. I considered my ways, and then (seeing myself far wide) I turned my feet to thy testimonies, Psalms 119:59. Satius est recurrere, quam male currere, said that emperor in his symbol; It is better to stop or step back, than run on when out of the way; for here he that hasteth with his feet sinneth, Proverbs 19:2, the faster he runs the farther he is out. But as the deceived traveller (when once he finds his error) in his judgment he disliketh it, in his will he turneth from it, in his affections he grieveth at it, and is angry with his false guides, with his utmost endeavour he not only turns again to the right way, but makes the more haste that he be not benighted; so is it here, David not only turned his feet to God’s testimonies, from which he had swerved, but he thenceforth made haste and delayed not to keep his commandments, Psalms 119:59-60. For this true conversion we are speaking of, this repentance never to be repented of, is an upright, earnest, and constant endeavour of an entire change of the whole man from all that is evil to all which is good. This is the doctrine of the gospel, Titus 2:11, and this is all the fruit, Isaiah 27:9. To turn from one sin to another is but to be tossed from one hand of the devil to the other; it is but with Benhadad to recover of one disease and die of another; it is but to take pains to go to hell. See this in Saul, John, Herod, Agrippa, and others, who gave but the half turn; turned not from east to west, but from east to north only; their change was not essential, but only gradual; it is not a thorough change for subject and object, but partial and temporal, as being but moral, or formal, or merely mental. It proceeds from conviction of judgment only, and not from aversion of will; from horror of punishment, not from hatred of sin; which they leave (haply) but loathe not; leave it, I say, for the inconveniences that follow it, for the fire that is in it, not for the filthiness that is in it. Now all these seeming converts, because they cast not away all their transgressions (all is a little word, but of large extent), are therefore to be reckoned among those fools of the people that pass on and are punished, Proverbs 22:8, those enemies of God, that instead of turning again (turning short again upon themselves with the prodigal, and returning to the Lord with Ephraim), go on still in their trespasses till their hairy scalp be wounded, Psalms 68:21, till evident and inevitable judgments be incurred, till iniquity prove to be their utter ruin, Ezekiel 18:30. Wherefore now "Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts." Add not to all your other sins that of impenitence, for which there remains no more sacrifice (as Herod added to all his former abominations the beheading of the Baptist), but "Turn you, turn you, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" And for this, consider these ensuing particulars. 1. Who you are that are required to return; weak and worthless creatures, the slime of your fathers’ loins, dust and ashes, altogether unable to avert or avoid God’s judgments; beaten rebels you are; and have therefore no help left, but to fall down before God and implore his mercy. Turn and live; except ye repent ye shall all perish. 2. Next, see who it is to whom ye are required to return: not to some tyrant, or implacable enemy, that having gotten us into his hands, will deal cruelly with us (as the Duke of Alva roasted some to death, starved others, and that even after quarter), but to "the Lord your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and quickly repenteth him of the evil," Joel 2:13. He will surely both assist such as have but a mind to return (why else doth he bid us turn, which he knows we cannot do without him? and why doth he bid us pray to him to turn us? when we bid our children ask us for this or that, it is because we mean to give it them). He will also accept us with all sweetness, as he did Ephraim, Jeremiah 31:19-20, and the prodigal, Luke 15:20-24 The father met him, Luke 15:20, so he will do us, Isaiah 65:24. The prodigal came, the father ran, Tantum velis, et Deus tibi praeoccurret (Basil); he fell on his neck, as Jacob did on his dear Joseph’s, he kissed him, when one would have thought he should have kicked him, or killed him rather, for his former riotousness. He calleth for the best robe, and for the gold ring, and for the fatted calf Filius timet convitium, Pater adornat convivium (Ambrose), "Let us eat, and be merry," saith he, "For this my son was dead" (given up for dead, "free among the dead," Psalms 88:5, free of that company), "and is alive again: he was lost, and is found." Of himself he left his father and ran riot; and yet he is called the lost son, in the best sense. Hunger drove the wolf out of the wood; and yet he is accepted, as if not necessitated. 3. Thirdly, take notice from what you are required to turn. "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, ye house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11. It is your sin only that you are to part with, and why should ye be so fond of it? if you look upon it, either in the author of it, the devil, John 8:44, or in the nature of it, as it is an offence against God (your rightful Lord, your bountiful benefactor), and a breach of his law, which is holy and just and good; or in the horrid effects of it (as upon other creatures for man’s sake, so especially) upon man himself, whom sin hath excluded from the possession of the lower paradise, and the possibility of the higher, into an eternity of all extremities, after many a little hell here beforehand; or (lastly) in the ransom of it, Christ’s blood and bitter sufferings, that soul of sufferings which his soul then suffered when God made our sins to meet upon him, Isaiah 53:6. Oh think on these things sadly, seriously, fixedly, and copiously, and you will soon see cause enough to turn to him from whom these children of Israel had deeply revolted, and were therefore grievously plagued, they and their fathers, that they might return to him that smote them, Isaiah 31:6. Which because they did not, but stood stouting it out with God (which was their manner from their youth), therefore were the Syrians before, and the Philistines behind, to devour Israel with open mouth: and for all this his anger was not turned away, but his hand was stretehed out still, Isaiah 9:12-13. Besides the hindrance and hurt they did to others by standing out: "For if ye turn again to the Lord, your brethren shall find compassion," said Hezekiah to his people, moving them to repent, 2 Chronicles 30:9. And should not we lend them this friendly help.

And I will turn to you, saith the Lord of hosts] And should not such a favour from such a Lord melt them and make them malleable? Should not the goodness of God lead them to repentance? Romans 2:4. Should they not rend their hearts because God is gracious? return unto him because he will multiply pardon? repent because his kingdom is now at hand? fear him the rather, because with him there is mercy? draw nigh to him, who thus draws nigh to them? make haste home, with the prodigal, where there is bread enough? Surely nothing worketh so much as kindness upon those that are ingenuous, Isaiah 55:7, Matthew 3:3, Psalms 130:4, James 4:4. Those Israelites at Mizpeh drew water, and poured it forth before the Lord, upon the return of the ark. There is no mention of their lamenting after the Lord, while he was gone; but when he was returned and settled in Kirjathjearim, 1 Samuel 7:6, David argues from mercy to duty, Psalms 116:8-9; Ezra, from deliverance to obedience, Ezra 9:13-14 "The love of Christ constraineth us," saith Paul; his grace that bringeth salvation teacheth us to deny ungodliness, and to live up to our principles, 2 Corinthians 5:14, Titus 2:14 "I beseech you, by the mercies of God," saith the same apostle, as not having any more prevailing, more heart-attaching, attracting argument in the world to press them with, Romans 12:1. I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with mercy have I drawn thee, Jeremiah 31:8. And again, I drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love, Hosea 11:4, that is, with reasons and motives of mercy befitting the nature of a man, with rational motives; to neglect mercy is to sin against humanity; not to convert by kindness, is to receive the grace of God in vain; nay, it is to heap up wrath against the day of wrath. A son, feeling his father’s love, creeps nearer under his wing. A Saul, sensible of David’s courtesy in sparing him, when he might have spilt his blood, was strangely mollified and melted into tears. Shall God offer to turn to us, and we refuse to turn to him? Shall he beseech us to be reconciled, and we go on in our animosities and hostilities? Doth he offer to pour out his Spirit even upon scorners, and to make known his words unto them, and all this that they may turn at his reproof, Proverbs 1:23; and shall they yet turn their backs upon such blessed and bleeding embracements? Had God given us but one prophet, and forty days’ time only to turn unto him (as he dealt by Nineveh, that great city), surely we should have repented long ago, in sackcloth and ashes. But how justly, alas, may he complain of us, as he did once of Jezebel, Revelation 2:21. I gave them time to repent, but they repented not. I have striven with them by my Spirit, and wooed them by my word. I have heaped upon them mercies without measure; and all to bring them back into mine own bosom. I have also smitten them with blasting and mildew, with judgments public and personal; and yet they have not turned unto me, saith the Lord, Amos 4:9. Ah sinful nation, &c. If any ask, What can we do toward the turning of ourselves to God? I answer:

First, you must be sensible of your own utter inability to do anything at all toward it, Jeremiah 10:23, John 15:5, Philippians 2:12. Non minus difficile est nobis velle credere, quam cadaveri volare (Beza). It is no less hard for us to be willing to believe than for a dead carcase to fly upwards.

Secondly, know that yet it is possible, feasible, by the use of these means that God hath appointed; who also hath promised to make it both possible and easy to us. He bade Moses fetch his people out of Egypt; but himself effected it. He bade the Israelites go and blow down the walls of Jericho; they obeyed him, and it was done; so here.

Thirdly, as our liberty in external acts is still some (as to come to the public ordinances, to set ourselves under the droppings of a powerful ministry, and there to lie, as he did at the pool of Bethesda, waiting the good hour), so must our endeavours be answerable. The Bereans brought their bodies to the assembly, took the heads of St Paul’s sermon, compared them with the Scriptures, Acts 17:11-12, and yet they were unconverted.

Fourthly, make much of the least beginnings of grace, even those they call repressing; since they prepare the heart for conversion. See Luke 11:32.

Fifthly, pray, Turn us, O God, and we shall be turned; draw us, and we shall run after thee. And here remember to be earnest. Ask, seek, knock, as the importunate neighbour that came to borrow two loaves, or as the widow that came for justice, and would not away without it, Luke 18:1. He that beareth the young ravens that cry only by implication, will he be wanting to his weak but willing servants?

Lastly, wait for the first act of conversion, the infusion of the sap of grace, which is wholly from God; our will prevents it not, but follows it; and whensoever the Spirit breathes into you, turn about, like the mill; when God hath tuned and doth touch you, do you move and make melody; resigning up yourselves wholly to him, and putting yourselves out, God into possession. Thus if you turn to him he will turn to you. "The Lord is with you while ye be with him; if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you," 2 Chronicles 15:2. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh in this text with so much affection and earnestness; see that ye slight him not, that ye shift him not off (as the word signifieth, παραιτησησθε, Hebrews 12:25); for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that thus speaketh from heaven, sc. by his blood, word, sacraments, mercies, motions of his Spirit, crosses. When physic, that should remove the disease, doth co-operate with it, then death comes with the more pain and speed. The stronger the conviction of sin is the deeper will be the wrath against it, if it be not by repentance avoided. No surfeit more dangerous than that of bread; no judgment more terrible than that which grows out of mercy offered and despised.


Verse 4

Zechariah 1:4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and [from] your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.

Ver. 4. Be ye not as your fathers] Man is a creature apt to imitate, to be led more by his eyes than by his ears; and children think they may lawfully be as their fathers. St Peter’s converts had received their vain conversation from their fathers, as it were, ex traduce, or by tradition, 1 Peter 1:18. And St Stephen tells his perverse hearers that they were as good at resisting the Holy Ghost as their fathers had been before them, Acts 7:51. They used to boast much of their ancestors, John 8:33, and to bind much upon their example and authority, Jeremiah 44:17, Matthew 5:21. They thought they were not much to be blamed, because they did but as their fathers had done before them. The prophet therefore dehorts or rather deters them from that folly; setting forth both the crime and doom of their forefathers, whom they so much admired, and so stiffly imitated, and this he often repeateth that they might once consider it, and be wrought upon by those domestic examples.

Have cried] Loudly and lustily; according to that, "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet," Isaiah 58:1 : sic clames ut stentora vineas, A minister should be a Simon Zelotes, a son of thunder; as Basil was said to thunder in his preaching, lightning in his life; as Jerome for his vehemence was called Fulmen Ecclesiasticum, the Church’s light bolt; as Harding, before his shameful apostasy, wished he could cry out against Popery as loud as the bells of Oseney; and as Farellus (that notable French preacher), whose voice when the envious monks sought to drown by ringing the bells as he was preaching at Metis, he lifted up his voice ad ravim usque; and would not suffer himself to be outroared. The saint’s bell (as they called it) Pierius useth for a hieroglyphic of a preacher, who must not speak the word only, but sound it out into all the earth, Romans 10:18, not preach it only, but cry it, as the apostle’s word signifieth, 2 Timothy 4:2, clangite, clamate, Jeremiah 4:5. Boate, vociferate, Matthew 3:3 ( Bοωντος, boantis, vociferantis). Ministers have to do with deaf men, dead men, living carcases, walking sepulchres of themselves. Now therefore as our Saviour lifted up his voice when he said, "Lazarus, come forth"; so must they stand over men and cry aloud, "Awake, thou that sleepest, and stand up from the dead, that Christ may give thee light," Ephesians 5:14.

Turn you now from your evil ways, &c.] This was the constant cry of the prophets, as here, and apostles, as Acts 26:18, to open men’s eyes (naturally closed up that they cannot see the evil of their ways, Jeremiah 2:35, Revelation 3:15), to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God.

And from your evil doings] Heb. Designs, gests, or exercises, enterprised advisedly, and prosecuted studiously, of natural disposition and inclination, as Proverbs 20:11, 1 Samuel 25:3. This St John usually calleth committing of sin, 1 John 3:4; 1 John 3:8-9, John 8:34; this is to add rebellion to sin, Job 34:37, impudence to impotence, brows of brass to iron sinews, Isaiah 48:4. This is wickedness with a witness, which if men could but see in its native colours and cursed consequents, they would soon be persuaded to turn from it. As the eye cannot but be offended with a loathsome object, so neither can the understanding. Take rat poison, it looketh not evil; but when a man feels it boil, burn, torture him, &c., he hates it extremely. So he should do sin; he will do else at length, when it is too late. For prevention: take the counsel of a martyr, get thee God’s law, as a glass to look in. So shall you see your faces foul arrayed, and so shameful, mangy, pocky, and scabbed, that you cannot but be sorry at the contemplation thereof, and seek out for cure; especially if you look to the tag tied to God’s law, the malediction; which is such, as cannot but make us to cast our currish tails between our legs, if we believe it. But O faithless hard hearts! O Jezebel’s guests, rocked and laid asleep in her bed! O wicked wretches! &c.

But they did not hear] Though the prophets cried, and spake loud enough to be heard and heeded. A heavy ear is a singular judgment, Isaiah 6:10; a hearing ear, a precious mercy, Proverbs 20:12. God must be entreated to bore our ear, Psalms 40:6, and to make the bore so big that the word may enter; to say as Isaiah 42:18, Hear, ye deaf, and look, ye blind, that ye may see.


Verse 5

Zechariah 1:5 Your fathers, where [are] they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?

Ver. 5. Your fathers, where are they?] Is not the grave their house? have they not made their beds in the dark? are not they gone down to the congregation of all living? Job 30:23. Every man should die the same day as he is born; as being born a child of death; the wages of sin is death, and this wages should be paid him down presently. But Christ begs their lives for a season, 1 Timothy 4:10; he is the Saviour of all men, not of eternal preservation, but of temporal reservation. But what a sad thing is it for men to die in their sins, as these in the text and their nephews did, John 8:21; John 8:24. How may such men, on their deathbeds, say to their sins, as Charles V did of his honours, victories, riches, Abite hinc, abite longe, Go, go, get you out of my sight (Mornaeus); or as Cornelius Agrippa, the conjuror, did to his familiar that used to accompany him in the shape of a dog, Abi a me perdita bestia, quae me perdidisti, Begone, thou wretched beast that hast wrought my ruin (Joh. Manl.). Petrius Sutorius speaks of one that, preaching a funeral sermon on a religious man (as he calls him), and giving him large commendations, heard at the same time a voice in the church, mortuus sum, iudicatus sum, damnatus sum, I am dead, judged, and damned. The devil preached Saul’s funeral, 1 Samuel 28:19, though David made his epitaph, 2 Samuel 1:19-27.

And do the prophets live for ever?] Those false prophets (so Jerome senseth it) that cried peace, peace, to your fathers, and made all fair weather before them, when the fierce wrath of God was even ready to burst out upon them as an overflowing scourge. But they do better that understand it of God’s true prophets, who are dead indeed (for wise men die as well as fools, Psalms 44:10, good men die as well as bad, Ezekiel 21:4, yea, good men often before the bad, Isaiah 57:1), but their words died not with them; the truth of their prophecies not only lived for ever (for ever, O Lord, thy word is stablished in heaven, Psalms 119:89), but struck in the hearts and flesh of their perverse hearers like the envenomed arrows of the Almighty throughout all eternity. Wicked men may, as the wounded hart, frisk and skip up and down when the deadly arrow sticks in their ribs, but not so easily shake it off, Haeret lateri lethalis arundo.


Verse 6

Zechariah 1:6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.

Ver. 6. Did they not take hold of your fathers] Overtake and catch them (as huntsmen their prey, or as one enemy doth another in flight, 1 Kings 18:27, 2 Kings 25:5), to drag them down to the bottom of hell. A godly man, as he hath peace with God, with himself, and with the creatures; so he hath also with the ordinances, and may say, as Hezekiah, Good is the word of the Lord which thou hast spoken. Are not my words always good, saith God, to them that walk uprightly? Micah 2:7. Excellently Augustine, Adversarius est nobis, quamdiu sumus et ipsi nobis: quamdiu tu tibi inimicus es, inimicum habebis sermonem Dei. God’s word is adversary to none but such as are adversaries to themselves; neither doth it condemn any but such as shall be assuredly condemned by the Lord; for what is the word but the heart and soul of God ( cor et anima Dei), as Gregory saith. And what saith the essential Word of God, who came out of the bosom of his Father and knew all his counsel? "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day," John 12:48. Oh consider this, ye that forget God, that slight his word as if it were but wind, that belie the Lord, and say, "It is not he; neither shall the evil" (foretold) "come upon us; neither shall we see sword nor famine. And the prophets shall become wind, and the word is not in them: thus shall it be done unto them. Wherefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, Because ye speak this word" (and is there not such language of many men’s hearts today?) "behold, I will make my words" (not wind, but) "fire, and this people wood, and it shall devour them," Jeremiah 5:12-14. The word of God in the mouths of his ministers may well be likened to Moses’ rod; which, while he held it in his hand, it flourished, and brought forth almonds; but, being cast upon the ground, it became a serpent. Semblably, God’s words and statutes, if laid to heart, they yield fruit and comfort; but if slighted or snuffed at, {as Malachi 1:13} serpent-like they will sting the soul, and become a savour of death, &c. This contempt will also call for a sword, to revenge the quarrel of the covenant; as it did upon these men’s fathers for their instance and admonition. It is reckoned by Daniel as a great aggravation of Belshazzar’s sin, Daniel 5:22, that he was not sensible of his father Nebuchadnezzar’s pride and fall "And thou, his son, Belshazzar, hast not humbled thine heart, though thou knewest all this." The sin of these Jews in the text was the greater because their fathers and elders (either out of sound conversion, or at least out of clear conviction of conscience) had confessed and remonstrated the truth and justice of God in threatening and executing his judgments upon themselves, saying, as Lamentations 1:18 "The Lord is righteous; for we have rebelled against his commandments"; and as Lamentations 2:17 "The Lord hath done that which he had devised; he hath fulfilled his word; he hath thrown down and hath not pitied," &c. Hear them in their own words here: "Like as the Lord of hosts," whose power is irresistible, "thought" (devised, determined with himself, and accordingly denounced by his prophets) "to do unto us," who did not the words which he commanded us, Jeremiah 11:8 "according to our ways," which were always grievous, Psalms 10:5 "and according to our doings," that were not good, Ezekiel 36:31 "so hath he dealt with us"; for he loves to retaliate, and to render to every transgression and disobedience a just recompence of reward, Hebrews 2:2.


Verse 7

Zechariah 1:7 Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which [is] the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

Ver. 7. Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month] The third month after the former prophecy, when the Jews probably had practised the doctrine of repentance, so earnestly pressed upon them; and had humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God, who was now ready to lift them up by this and the seven following most comfortable visions touching the restoration and reformation of the Church and State. The devil and his imps love to bring men into the briars, and there to leave them, as familiars forsake their witches when they have brought them once into fetters; as the priests left Judas the traitor, to look to himself, Matthew 27:4; and as the Papists cast off Cranmer, after that, by subscribing their articles, he had cast himself into such a wretched condition, that there was neither hope of a better nor place for a worse; ut iam nec honeste mori nec vivere inhoneste liceret (Melch. Ad. in Vita). But such is not God’s manner of dealing with those that tremble at his word, and humble at his feet. Deiecit ut relevet, premit ut solatia praestet. He comforteth those that are cast down, 2 Corinthians 7:6, commandeth others to comfort the feebleminded, 1 Thessalonians 5:14, and noteth those that do not with a black-coal, Job 6:14, Nigro carbone notari. See the workings of his bowels, the rollings of his compassions, kindled into repentance toward his penitentiaries, Jeremiah 31:20, Hosea 11:8, Isaiah 40:1-2. See how he comforts them with cordials according to the time wherein he had afflicted them, Psalms 90:15, and in the very thing wherein he had abased them; as he once dealt with their head, Philippians 2:7-8.


Verse 8

Zechariah 1:8 I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that [were] in the bottom; and behind him [were there] red horses, speckled, and white.

Ver. 8. I saw by night] The usual time for such revelations. It may note, moreover, the obscurity of the prophecy; hence also the mention of myrtle trees, low and shady, and that in a bottom, as Calvin conceiveth; and all this that he might give a taste of good hope to the Jews by little and little.

And behold a man riding upon a red horse] Not Alexander the Great, riding upon his horse Bucephalus, and translating the empire from the Persians to the Grecians, as Arias Montanus conceited it; but the man Christ Jesus, 1 Timothy 2:5, the Captain of the Lord’s host, Joshua 4:14, and of our salvation, Heb. ii. 0.

Riding upon a red horse] In the same sense, saith one, that this colour is given to his garments, Isaiah 63:1-3, and to the angel’s horse, Revelation 6:4. The wild bull, saith another, of all things, cannot abide any red colour. Therefore the hunter for the nonce, standing before a tree, puts on a red garment; whom when the bull seeth, he runneth at him as hard as he can drive; but the hunter, stepping aside, the bull’s horns stick fast in the tree; as, when David slipped aside, Saul’s spear stuck fast in the wall. Such a hunter is Christ; he, lifted up upon the tree of his cross, had his garment dipped and dyed in his own blood, as one that cometh with red garments from Bozrah. Therefore the devil and his angels (like wild bulls of Bashan) ran at him with all their force (in that three-hours’ darkness especially), but he, delivering himself as a mighty conqueror, their horns stick fast, as it were, in his cross; as Abraham’s ram, by his horns, stuck fast in the brier.

And he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom] Myrrh trees some render it. Here Christ, that horseman and head of his Church, keepeth himself, as touched with the feeling of our infirmities, Hebrews 4:15, as suffering and sorrowing with his people, who are fitly compared to myrtles, that grow in a shady grove, in valleys and bottoms, and by waters’ sides, et amantes littora myrtos (Virg. Georg.). "Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters," Isaiah 32:20. Myrtles also are odoriferous, and precious, Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 55:13; so are the saints, Isaiah 43:4, Colossians 4:6, they cast a good scent wherever they go, by the grace of God that is in them; as Alexander the Great is said to do, by the excellent temperament of his body. Lastly, Leviticus 23:40 cf. Nehemiah 8:15, the Jews, at their joyful feast of tabernacles, used myrtle branches among others, to testify their thankfulness for a settlement in the promised land, after so long wandering in the wilderness. The Gentiles also in their solemn feasts, interludes, and - cingebant tempera myrto, wore garlands made of myrtles. Let us keep the feast; let us keep holy day ( εορταζωμεν), saith the apostle, 1 Corinthians 5:8, who himself did over abound exceedingly with joy, had an exuberance of it, at that constant feast of a good conscience, 2 Corinthians 7:4. Diogenes could say that a good man keeps holy day all the year about. Christ crowneth the calendar of his people’s lives with continual, festivals here how much more in heaven! Pliny tells us that ex myrto facta est ovantium corona, subinde et triumphantium; of myrtle was made, among the Romans, the crown or garland of those that did shout for victory, or ride in triumph.

And behind him were there red horses] i.e. Horsemen: Nam nimis crassum est illud commentum, fuisse locatos equos, saith Calvin here. These horsemen are angels, as Zechariah 1:10, deputed to several offices and executions, for judgment, for mercy, or both; shadowed by the various colours of their horses.


Verse 9

Zechariah 1:9 Then said I, O my lord, what [are] these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these [be].

Ver. 9. Then said I, O my Lord, what are these?] Thus the prophets inquired and searched diligently (as saith St Peter ( ερευνωντες), 1 Peter 1:11), for the truth of things, as hunters seek for game, and as men seek for gold in the very mines of the earth; who, not content with the first ore that offered itself to their view, dig deeper and deeper till they are owners of the whole treasure. See Proverbs 2:4; and rest not till ye see that blissful sight, Ephesians 1:18-19.

And the angel that talked with me] Or, in me, as the Vulgate rendereth it. This was some created angel, who might reveal things to the prophet by working on the phantasy and spirit, by way of information and instruction, as Daniel 9:21, Luke 1:11, Revelation 1:1.

I will show thee what these be] How ready are the holy angels to serve the saints, Hebrews 1:14, rejoicing more in their names of office than of honour, of employment than preferment, to be called angels, that is, messengers, or internuncios, than principalities, thrones, dominions, Ephesians 1:20; accounting it better to do good than to be great, to dispense God’s benefits than to enjoy them. Hence they are with and about the saints, as their companions, guides, protectors, monitors, and rulers of their actions, as here.


Verse 10

Zechariah 1:10 And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These [are they] whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.

Ver. 10. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees] The man Christ Jesus, that is ever with the Church, and in the midst of his people, that feedeth among the lilies, and walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. He, being asked by the foresaid angel, answered him (in Zechariah’s hearing), for he is Palmoni hammedabber, that excellent speaker, as Daniel calleth him, and therefore asketh him of the vision, Daniel 8:13.

These are they whom the Lord hath sent] As his εποπται, or overseers and intelligencers. Not that God needeth them, as princes need the counsel and aid of their subjects. The holy angels receive more from God than they perform or bring to him. But he maketh use of their service about us. 1. For the honour of his majesty, and comfort of our infirmity. 2. To make out his love unto us, by employing such noble creatures for our good. 3. To make and maintain love and correspondence between us and angels, till we come to walk arm in arm with angels, as Zechariah 3:7, and to be like unto them, yea, their equals ( ισαγγελοι), Luke 20:36, if not more, Ephesians 1:23.


Verse 11

Zechariah 1:11 And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.

Ver. 11. We have walked to and fro through the earth] Itavimus, we have coursed up and down with incredible swiftness. Hence they are called the chariots of God, Psalms 68:17 (Heb. God’s chariot, to note out their joint service, as of one), as here his horsemen, ready pressed to do his pleasure.

And behold all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest] Excepting the Church alone, which, like Noah’s ark, is ever tossed up and down till it rest at last on the everlasting mountain; then she shall have her happy halcyons; then she shall see her enemies afar off, as Lazarus did Dives, or as the Israelites at the Red Sea did their persecutors, dead upon the shore. Meanwhile, she must not expect to be calm and quiet for any continuance. In the world ye shall have trouble, and ye shall weep and lament; but the world shall rejoice; they shall revel, and laugh themselves fat, John 16:20; John 16:23 "The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed," Esther 3:15. The Church is called God’s threshing floor, because threshed with continual crosses; and God’s husbandry, because he will be sure to plough his own ground, and to make long furrows upon their backs, whatsoever become of the waste, Isaiah 21:10, 1 Corinthians 3:9; and to weed his own garden, though the rest of the world be let alone, and grow wild. Moab is not poured from vessel to vessel, but settleth upon the lees, Jeremiah 48:11; when the Israel of God is poured out as milk, and curdled like cheese, as Job speaketh in another case, Job 10:10.


Verse 12

Zechariah 1:12 Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?

Ver. 12. Then the angel of the Lord] That advocate with the Father, Jesus, the just one, 1 John 2:1, who appeareth to his afflicted people, and feelingly pleads for them, as being afflicted in all their afflictions, even the angel of his presence that saveth them, Isaiah 63:9. It much moved him to hear that God’s enemies were in better case than his people; and this puts him upon the following passionate expostulation.

O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem, &c.] Usquequo Domine. Calvin had these words much in his mouth; thereby breathing out his holy desires in the behalf of the afflicted Churches, with whose sufferings he was more affected than with anything that befell himself. It is said of Melancthon that the miseries of the Church made him almost neglect the death of his dearest children; and put him upon many prayers and tears; which, like music upon the water, made a most melodious noise in the ears of God. When Luther in a certain epistle checked him, and chided him for his exceeding great care of the Church’s welfare, calling him pertinacissimam curarum hirudinem, &c., he meekly replied, Si nihil curarem, nihil orarem; If I should not care so, I should not pray so. God seemeth sometimes to have lost his mercy (as here, How long wilt thou be unmerciful to Jerusalem?), and then we must find it for him. He seems to have forgotten his people; we must remind him. He seems to sleep, delay; we must waken, quicken him, with "How long, Lord?" "Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come," saith Daniel, who is probably held to be the penman of that excellent Psalm [Psalms 102:13 cf. Daniel 9:2] and he speaks it with as much confidence as if he had been in God’s blessed bosom the while. This also he spake, not now by a spirit of prophecy, or special revelation; but by way of argumentation, or necessary demonstration: "For thy servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour the dust thereof"; they pity her, and melt over her, therefore thou, Lord, much more; since all their tenderness is but a spark of thy flame, a drop of thine ocean.

Against which thou hast had indignation, these threescore and ten years] There is much ado among interpreters about Jeremiah’s seventy years and Zechariah’s seventy years, whether one and the same, or different one from another. That of Scaliger is most unlikely, who reckoneth these years of the captivity from the first year of Xerxes with his father Darius, unto the fourth year of Darius Nothus. How much better our countryman, Lydiat (whom yet Scaliger so much scorned, saying, Quis est ille ex ultima Britannia Canis, qui Ios. Scaligerum audeat allatrare?), who concludes it to be 70 years from the last destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldees to this second year of Darius Hystaspes, wherein Zechariah prophesied. That of a Lapide upon this text I cannot pass by, Moraliter idipsum dicamus, idipsum oremus et obsecremus pro Anglia. Let us say the same, pray the same, for England, Scotland, &c., that the angel here doth for Jerusalem; How long, Lord, wilt thou not have mercy upon England, where heresy hath prevailed now these hundred years and upwards? The English fugitives beyond seas write upon their college and church doors, in great golden letters, Iesu, Iesu, converte Angliam: Fiat, Fiat. Iesu, convert England: Amen, Amen. Why, yet this is somewhat better than that of Pererius, the Jesuit, upon Genesis 15:16. If any man marvel, saith he, why England continueth to flourish, notwithstanding the overflow of heresy, and cruel persecution of Catholics (just execution of Catholics, he should have said), we answer, because their iniquity is not yet full (God grant it, Jeremiah 28:6), Sed veniet tandem iniquitatis complementum. But the time is not far off; and forbearance is no quittance.


Verse 13

Zechariah 1:13 And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me [with] good words [and] comfortable words.

Ver. 13. And the Lord answered the angel] How should God do otherwise than answer his well beloved Son with good and comfortable words, since he is all in all with the Father, and can do anything with him? Father, saith he, I know thou hearest me always, John 11:42. Did God hear Abraham for Ishmael, nay, for Sodom? Did David hear Joab, interceding for Absalom? Did Herod hearken to Blastus, making request for those of Tyre and Sidon, with whom he was highly displeased? Acts 12:20. And shall not God give ear to his Son, praying for his people, that are as dear to him as the apple of his eye? Good and comfortable words he doth surely answer him; such as were once those, John 12:27-28, when Christ had thus prayed, "Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I to this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven" (Bath-col the Rabbis call it), "saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again." So, when he shall say in his daily intercession (for he ever liveth to make request for us, at the right hand of the majesty on high), It irketh me, that the whole earth is at rest, and my Church at so much unrest: "Return, O Lord, how long? and let it repent thee concerning thy servants," Psalms 90:13 "Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity," Psalms 118:25. How can God do less than answer, as Isaiah 33:10 "Now will I arise, now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself"; or as in the words next following here (which indeed are all good along words and comfortable words), I am jealous for Jerusalem. The Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem; yet for all the sorrow he shall do for it, and for all that others call her an outcast, saying, "This is Zion, whom no man seeketh after," Jeremiah 30:17; and she herself concludeth her doleful ditty with, "Thou hast utterly rejected us; thou art very wroth against us." Lamentations 4:22


Verse 14

Zechariah 1:14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.

Ver. 14. So the angel that communed with me] See the note on Zechariah 1:10.

Cry thou, saying] q.d. Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God, speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, speak ye to her heart and cry unto her, saying, that her appointed time is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned, and so the quarrel is ended; for she hath received of the Lord’s hands double for her sins. Nothing so much as I have deserved, saith she, Ezra 9:13; twice so much as she hath deserved, saith he. O sweet contradiction! O beautiful contention! The same Hebrew word signifieth to repent and to comfort, 1 Samuel 15:35, Isaiah 60:1. God’s care is to comfort those that are cast down. His command to his prophet is, to cry comfort to the penitent with an extraordinary earnestness, from the God of all consolation.

I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy] Love is strong as death, zeal, or jealousy (for the same word signifieth both), is hard as hell, Song of Solomon 8:6. Non amat qui non zelat, saith Augustine. He loves not that zeals not. And Basil, venturing himself very far from his friend, and by some blamed for it, answered, Ego aliter amare non didici, I cannot love a man, but I must do mine utmost for him. When one desired to know what manner of man Basil was, it is said there was presented in a dream to him a pillar of fire with this motto, Talis est Basilius, Lo, such a one is Basil. It is certain that our God is a consuming fire. "Who would set the briers and the thorns," saith he, that is, the Church’s enemies, "against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together," Isaiah 27:4. And yet he saith in the same place, "Fury is not in me." What will he do then when jealousy is in him as here? "Jealousy is the rage of a man," Proverbs 6:34, and hath these three properties:

First, it is exceeding watchful and quick sighted; hardly shall the paramour escape the husband’s eye, and a wanton glance is soon noted and noticed. God is no less sensible and observant of the least indignity done to his dear spouse, his Hephzibah, be it but in a frown or a frump. Why is thy countenance cast down? saith God to that dog-bolt Cain, Genesis 4:6. Why dost lower upon my righteous Abel? What, will he force the queen also before me in the house? Esther 7:8. If David’s enemies mow and make mouths at him, if they cry, Aha, aha, so would we have it, God will reckon with them for it, Psalms 40:15. If Edom say jeeringly to the prophet, Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night? If Ammon clap but his hands at God’s Israel, if he stamp with the feet, and rejoice in heart only, when it goes ill with the Church, "God will stretch out his hand upon him, and cut him off out of his country, and he shall know that he is Jehovah," Ezekiel 25:6-7; yea, that the Lord God of Israel is a jealous God. He will be jealous for his land, and pity his people, Joel 2:18.

Secondly, jealousy is violent, it is cruel as the grave, the coals thereof are coals of fire, Song of Solomon 8:6. The same word is elsewhere put for fiery thunderbolts, Psalms 78:48; also for a carbuncle or burning fever, Deuteronomy 32:24. Jealousy puts a man into a fever fit of outrage; arms him with fiery darts, yea, with lightbolts; makes him cast firebrands, be ready to take any revenge. Think the same of God in a way of justice. He will spit in the face of a Miriam, that shall but mutter against his Moses, Numbers 12:14; what, then, will he do (or rather, what will he not do) against Jezebel, Athaliah, Herodias.

Thirdly, jealousy is irreconcilable, implacable: Proverbs 6:34-35 "He will not spare in the day of vengeance, He will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content though thou give many gifts." What would not Balak have given to have had his will upon Israel? What large offers made Haman! he would pay ten thousand talents of silver to those that had the charge of the business to destroy the Jews. Ahasuerus yielded; but so did not God. "We are sold (said Esther), I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain and to perish." But God never consented to the bargain, Esther 3:9; Esther 7:4. He had war with Amalek for ever, and laid his hand upon his own throne, as swearing to root him out, Exodus 17:16. And this proud Agagite Haman shall feel the force of his curse in his very bowels. Let the labouring Church but cry out, Help, O King, hear, O husband, give ear, O shepherd of Israel, the enemy is come into thy land, O Immanuel, and the stretching out of his wings filleth the whole breadth of it. Where is thy zeal (or jealousy) and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels, and of thy mercies towards me? are they restrained? Doubtless thou art our Father, our Redeemer, or near kinsman, nay, our husband, Isaiah 8:8; Isaiah 63:15. Thy Church is unto thee a sister, a spouse; and canst thou hide thine eyes from thine own flesh? Isaiah 58:7, from her that is joined to the Lord, and is one spirit? 1 Corinthians 6:17; shall Abraham venture for the rescue of his kinsman, David of his two wives, and wilt thou do nothing for the dearly beloved of thy soul? shall she be given up into the hand of her enemies? shall the sword reach unto the soul? Genesis 14:14, 1 Samuel 30:18, Jeremiah 12:7; Jeremiah 4:10. Let Christ but hear such words from the mouth of his spouse; and he will soon gird his sword upon his thigh, he will act Phineas’ part and execute judgment; he will smite his enemies in the hinder parts (whip them, as men used to do boys), and so put them to a perpetual reproach; shame them for ever, as a company of punies or zanies, Psalms 78:66.


Verse 15

Zechariah 1:15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen [that are] at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.

Ver. 15. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease] Heb. I am in such a heat as causeth fuming and foaming. I am boiling hot, and even ready to burst out upon them to destroy them; for the word here used hath great affinity with another word that signifieth to cut down and to destroy, 2 Kings 6:6, and importeth a higher degree of displeasure, a greater height of heat, than either anger or wrath, as may be seen in that signal gradation, Deuteronomy 29:28 "The Lord rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation." The last of these three is this word in the text, Fervore maximo ferveo, I am as hot as may be against those heathens that are at ease, at heart’s ease, that come not in trouble, like other men, neither are they plagued as better men, Psalms 73:5, and are therefore secure and insolent above measure, Job 21:23, haughty and haunty, so that the Church cannot rest for them; they thrust with the shoulder and push with the horn (as afterwards, Zechariah 1:18-19 cf. Daniel 8:4), yea, they push the diseased, Ezekiel 34:21, which is a singular cruelty.

They help forward the addiction] They fall like dogs upon the wounded deer. This David complains of as an unsufferable grievance, Psalms 69:26. For they persecute him whom thou hast smitten: and they talk to the grief of those whom thou bast wounded. God smiteth his in mercy and in measure, in the branches only, Isaiah 27:10, and not at the root, neque ad exitium sed ad exercitium neither for destruction but for training. (Aug.). Displeased he may be with his own, and make bloody wales upon their backs, if need be; but then he looks that others should pity them, and not lay on more load, and seek to bring them to utmost extremity. God puts his people sometimes into the hands of his enemies for correction sake. Now they commonly being enraged with haughty, revengeful, and malicious desires, exceed their commission, and so derive the mischief upon themselves, {see Proverbs 24:17-18} they cannot do but they must overdo (as Nebuchadnezzar, the rod in God’s hand, Isaiah 10:5), and thereby utterly undo themselves for ever: for their cruelty comes up to heaven, 2 Chronicles 28:9, and God soon heareth the cry of his oppressed (for he is gracious), and avengeth himself on their pitiless enemies; standing over them and saying, as Isaiah 47:6 "I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst show them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou heavily laid thy yoke." And again, "Because these Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred: therefore I will execute great vengeances upon them with furious rebukes; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I shall lay my vengeance upon them," Ezekiel 25:15; Ezekiel 25:17; Ezekiel 26:2. Joab never pleased David better than when he made intercession for banished Absalom, for the soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom, 2 Samuel 13:39, whom yet he had very just cause to be greatly displeased with. God, in a heat, as it were, against Israel, offereth Moses a great fortune, Exodus 32:10, but would have taken it very ill that Moses should have taken him at his word.

He is but a little angry with his people] And soon repenteth him of the evil; but woe be to those that help forward the indignation, that deal by God’s afflicted as the herd of deer do; which, when any of the herd is shot, the rest push him out of their company. It is said of Queen Elizabeth, that she hated, no less than did Mithridates, such as maliciously persecuted virtue forsaken of fortune. Think the same of God. He weareth his rod to the stumps, and then throws it into the fire. He sets his horseleeches to his people (when he finds them sick of a plethory of pride, when fulness hath bred forgetfulness, saturity security), and suffereth them to suck till they burst; and then treads them under his feet, and puts them away as dross, Psalms 119:118-119.


Verse 16

Zechariah 1:16 Therefore thus saith the LORD I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.

Ver. 16. Therefore thus saith the Lord] Thus, one deep calleth another, Psalms 42:7; the lower deep of our misery, the higher deep of God’s mercy. As Croesus’ dumb son burst out into, Kill not King Croesus; so, when enemies are ready to devour the Church, God’s bowels work; he can hold no longer, but cries, Save my child, handle the young man gently for my sake: see Jeremiah 31:20, Isaiah 57:16 "I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me," &c.; when the child swoons in the whipping God lets fall the rod, and falls a kissing it, to fetch life into it again. A physician, in some cases, purgeth his patient till nothing be left almost but skin and bone; or bloodeth him, ad deliquium animae, till he faint and sink, but yet his care is still to maintain nature; so this heavenly Father and Physician is careful to keep up the spirits of his suffering saints by comforts and cordials, as here:

I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies] Miserationibus visceralibus, with multitudes of tender mercies that flow from the inwards, from the bowels, from the bosom and bottom of the heart; and that of a parent, nay, of a mother toward her child in an extremity, as 1 Kings 3:26. And here observe how fully and sweetly the angel’s prayer [Zechariah 1:12] is answered, even ad cardinem desiderii. God not only grants him according to his own heart, but fulfils all his counsel, as it is, Psalms 20:4. Let it be to him even as he will, nay, gives him an enlarged answer, presseth upon him, as Naaman did upon Gehazi two talents when he desired but one. How long wilt thou not be merciful to Jerusalem? saith he.

Behold, I am returned to Jerusalem with many mercies, saith God] I went away and hid me from it in my anger, Hosea 5:15, but am come again with many comforts to relieve it. As all light is from the sun, and all waters from the sea; so is all comfort from God. In thy light shall we see light; but "thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled," Psalms 30:7 : as when the sun is eclipsed all creatures here flag and hang the head, there is a drooping in the whole frame of nature; and when the extracting force of the sun leaves the vapours that are drawn up, they fall down again to the earth; so fares it with the Church: if God withdraw she lies all amort, yea, she lieth open to all sorts of evils and enemies; for her shadow is departed from her. But he cannot be long absent, such is his love; he will repent for his people when he seeth their power is gone, Deuteronomy 32:36, when there is a dignus vindice nodus, an extremity fit for Divine power to interpose; when misery weighs down, and nothing but mercy turns the scale, then at furthest in the very turning and critical point. He will return to Jerusalem with mercies. He will return to her, not as the winter sun, that casts a goodly countenance when it shines, but gives little comfort and heat; but with a cornucopia of all manner of blessings will he come.

My house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem] That is, both Church and State shall flourish. God will both do good in his good pleasure unto Zion; he will also build the walls of Jerusalem, Psalms 51:18; but mark that he saith in his good pleasure, as here in tender mercies; to teach us that all the good we enjoy is merely of mercy, it is all of free grace; for otherwise there should not be so much as any face of Church or commonwealth, as we see in the Jews at this day; a miserable dejected people, because Loruhamah, such as have not obtained mercy, Hosea 1:8. Their ancestors acknowledged, with all thankfulness for so undeserved a favour, that except the Lord of hosts had left unto them a very small remnant, they should have been as Sodom, and like unto Gomorrah, Isaiah 1:9. Had not the angels laid hold upon Lot’s hand and the good Lord been merciful unto him, Genesis 19:16, he also had perished among those sinners against their own souls. Joshua was "a brand plucked out of the fire," Zechariah 3:2. And when one said to Mr Bradford the martyr, God hath done much for you since I first knew you, and hath wrought wondrously in you to his glory; he thus answered, Truth it is, for he hath dealt favourably with me, in that he hath not punished me according to my sins, but hath suffered me to live that I might seek repentance (Acts and Mon. 1473). "Thou hast punished us less than our iniquities deserve," saith Ezra, Ezra 9:13. And "it is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed," saith the Church, "because his compassions fail not," Lamentations 3:22.


Verse 17

Zechariah 1:17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.

Ver. 17. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts; My cities] Here are four "yets" in this one verse, and all very gracious ones; to break their hard hearts, and to raise their faith in his promised mercies. For it is as if God should say, Though I was sore displeased with your fathers, and ye are risen up in their rooms a very race of rebels, so that I have had indignation against you full seventy years, Zechariah 1:12, yet I do you to know, and by my prophet I proclaim, with great earnestness and evidence of truth, that I do yet own you my cities, so that ye are not discovenanted, and will yet prosper you (so that it shall no more be said, This is Zion whom no man careth for, Jeremiah 30:17; for you shall have plentiful increase of men, cattle, and all manner of fruits of the earth, as Zechariah 2:4), yea, you shall have a fulness of all things, not only repletive, but diffusive, not only of abundance, but of redundance too; your cup shall overflow into the lesser vessals of others.

My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad] Diffundentur, diffiuent nut effluent. You shall have not for necessity only, but for lawful delight and honest affluence.

And the Lord shall yet comfort Zion] sc. With spiritual comforts, taking her into his winecellar, Cant. ii., yea, into the wilderness, and there speaking to her heart, Hosea 2:13.

And shall yet choose Jerusalem] That is, settle her in the sound assurance of her election and adoption, whereof those outward blessings are both fruits and pledges. Hence David doubts not to conclude his spiritual good estate and hopes of eternal happiness frown his external enjoyments, Psalms 23:5-6 "Thou preparest a table before me, thou anointest mine head, my cup runneth over." Hence he infers, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever." In all that is here said we may see that Scripture fully made good, Jeremiah 51:5 "Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the Lord of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel." And herein God dealt with his people according to his prerogative, and not according to his ordinary course. When the cursed Canaanites had filled their land from corner to corner with their uncleaunesses they were devoted to destruction, Ezra 9:11. When the Edomites grew insolent and ripe for ruin they were called the border of wickedness, and the people against whom the Lord had indignation for ever, Malachi 1:4. {See Trapp on "Malachi 1:4"}


Verse 18

Zechariah 1:18 Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.

Ver. 18. Then I lift up mine eyes, and saw] That is, I gave good heed to this second vision also; which was added purposely for confirmation of the former promises; which should be certainly accomplished to the Church, notwithstanding her many and mighty enemies. Horns they are called for their might and mischievousness; by a metaphor, a feris cornupetis, from fierce beasts, whose strength and wrath lie in their horns; or else from warriors, who wore iron horns upon their helmets.

And behold four horns] Not the four monarchies, for the Grecians and Romans were not yet; and this is spoken here for the present comfort of the afflicted Church, but the enemies of Israel from all the four parts of the world, see Psalms 107:2-3, for they were surrounded: on the north were the Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. ( Ab Aquilone nihil boni, Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 6:1). On the east the Ammonites and Moabites. On the south the Edomites and Egyptians. On the west the Philistines, as may be gathered out of Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Geneva is at this day a small people, environed with enemies, French, Spanish, Savoy, Pope; and barred out from all aid of neighbours, cities, and churches; yet, by the mighty arm of God, strangely and strongly upheld and defended. This Mr Beza represented in a most elegant emblem of a city depainted as hanged by a twined thread; sustained and maintained by the mighty hand of God alone. Would any man take the Church’s picture? saith Luther; then let him paint a silly poor maid, sitting in a wood or wilderness, compassed about with hungry wolves, lions, boars, and bears, and with all manner of cruel and hurtful beasts; and in the midst of a great many furious men assaulting her every moment and minute; for this is her condition in the world.


Verse 19

Zechariah 1:19 And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What [be] these? And he answered me, These [are] the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

Ver. 19. And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these?] Though the vision be dark and mysterious, yet the prophet despaireth not of a right understanding, neither doth he waywardly reject it with a Quod non vult intelligi, vult negligi; but wanting wisdom, he asketh it of God, as St James also adviseth us to do, James 1:5, and as David practised: "Teach me good judgment and knowledge," saith he, "give me understanding and I shall observe thy law." Thus Daniel prayed, and had an angel sent to inform him not once, but often, in friendly and familiar manner, Daniel 9:21; Daniel 10:11; Daniel 11:2-3. So had Joseph, Cornelius, Paul, &c. And although angels are not so ready now, or appear not, at least, so visibly to tell us the mind of God; yet he will not be wanting to his willing servants; but in the use of means they shall be all taught of God; as David was by repairing to the sanctuary, Psalms 73:13, and as the eunuch was by Philip, Acts 8:26-30.

These are the horns which have scattered] Heb. tossed them up in the air, as furious beasts do with their horns, and sorely bruised them. Nam non modo dispersionem significat quae sit per modum ventilationis, sed etiam quae sit per modum allisionis et contritionis (Lud. de Dieu in Matthew 22:44). See Hosea 10:14; Hosea 13:16.


Verse 20

Zechariah 1:20 And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.

Ver. 20. And the Lord showed me four carpenters] He that before was called an angel is here called Jehovah, this shows him to be Christ, who is God blessed for ever. In respect of his eternal essence he is called the Lord; in respect of his office or mediatorship, an angel.

Four carpenters] Or smiths; so many horns, so many artificers to batter and break them. God wants not ways and means to help his own at a dead lift; he knows how to deliver, saith Peter, 2 Peter 2:9, and herein usually he goeth a way by himself. Many times he setteth the enemies together by the ears among themselves; while that I withal escape, saith David, Psalms 141:9. Thus by Nebuchadnezzar, as by a club or beetle, he brake the rest of those horrible horns; as at this day the Pope by the Turk, and Spaniard by the French, and that the Church may have her halcyons. No marvel I slept so soundly seeing Antipater was by and watched, said Philip of Macedon. We may better say of Antipater, our gracious Father and guardian, the keeper of his Israel.


Verse 21

Zechariah 1:21 Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, These [are] the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up [their] horn over the land of Judah to scatter it.

Ver. 21. What come these to do?] He asketh not what they were? for by their tools or weapons he perceived they were carpenters or smiths (as some think), with iron instruments to break these iron horns; confer 1 Kings 22:11. He inquireth, therefore, of their employment only. Futilous and foolish questions should be avoided, Titus 3:9.

So that no man did lift up his head] Turn head, or look cheerfully, as Luke 21:28.

But these are come to fray them] Deterere, saith the Vulgate; better deterrere, to frighten them, now that they had pushed Israel to the Lord.

To cast out, &c.] Thus Omne sub regno graviore regnum est. See Ecclesiastes 5:7. {See Trapp on "Ecclesiastes 5:7"}

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 1:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/zechariah-1.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, June 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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