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Israel Urged to Repent


In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the L ord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo, saying: 2The L ord was very angry with your ancestors. 3Therefore say to them, Thus says the L ord of hosts: Return to me, says the L ord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the L ord of hosts. 4Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, “Thus says the L ord of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.” But they did not hear or heed me, says the L ord. 5Your ancestors, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your ancestors? So they repented and said, “The L ord of hosts has dealt with us according to our ways and deeds, just as he planned to do.”

First Vision: The Horsemen

7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the L ord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo; and Zechariah said, 8In the night I saw a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen; and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9Then I said, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who talked with me said to me, “I will show you what they are.” 10So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, “They are those whom the L ord has sent to patrol the earth.” 11Then they spoke to the angel of the L ord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have patrolled the earth, and lo, the whole earth remains at peace.” 12Then the angel of the L ord said, “O L ord of hosts, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which you have been angry these seventy years?” 13Then the L ord replied with gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. 14So the angel who talked with me said to me, Proclaim this message: Thus says the L ord of hosts; I am very jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. 15And I am extremely angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they made the disaster worse. 16Therefore, thus says the L ord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the L ord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. 17Proclaim further: Thus says the L ord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the L ord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.

Second Vision: The Horns and the Smiths

18 And I looked up and saw four horns. 19I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” And he answered me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” 20Then the L ord showed me four blacksmiths. 21And I asked, “What are they coming to do?” He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no head could be raised; but these have come to terrify them, to strike down the horns of the nations that lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.”

In what we considered yesterday Zechariah reminded the Jews of the conduct of their fathers, in order that they might not, by their continued sins, bring on themselves new punishments. Many interpreters think that the sentiment contained at the beginning of the fourth verse is now confirmed, your fathers, where are they? for it seems t them that God is here exulting over the Jews — “Think now what has happened to your fathers; are they not all gone and destroyed?” They suppose also that the Jews answer, taking the latter clause as spoken by them, “The Prophets also, have they not perished? Why do you mention to us the fathers? There is no difference between them and the Prophets; it is not therefore a suitable argument.” And then in the third place, they consider that God refutes the answer given by the Jews, “But my word and my statutes, what I had entrusted to the Prophets, have not been without their effect.” This view of the passage has been adopted by many, and by all of the most ancient interpreters; and those who followed them have been disposed to subscribe to it. 1414     This notion was originated by the Targum. The second was adopted by Cyril and others, as well as by Jerome; but Drusius, Grotius, Mede, Marckius, Newcome, and Henderson agree with the view given by Calvin. — Ed. But more probable is the opinion of Jerome, who understands the latter clause of false Prophets, — “Your fathers and your Prophets, where are they?” as though God thus reproved the Jews: “See now, have not your fathers miserably perished, and also the Prophets by whom they were deceived?” Thus Jerome thinks that the object in both clauses is to shake off the delusions of the Jews, that they might not harden themselves against God’s judgments, or give ear to flatterers. This interpretation comes nearer to the design of the Prophet, though he seems to me to have something else in view.

I join the two clauses together, as they may be most fitly united — “Your fathers and my Prophets have both perished; but after their death, the memory of the doctrine, which has not only been published by my servants, but has also been fully confirmed, is to continue, so that it ought justly to terrify you; for it is very foolish in you to enquire whether or not the Prophets are still alive; they performed their office to the end of life, but the truth they declared is immortal. Though then the Prophets are dead, they have not yet carried away with them what they taught, for it never perishes, nor can it at any age be extinguished. The ungodly are also dead, but their death ought not to obliterate the memory of God’s judgments; but after their death these judgments ought to be known among men, and serve to teach them, in order that posterity may understand that they are not presumptuously to provoke God.” This seems to be the real meaning of the Prophet.

By saying, Your fathers where are they? and the Prophets do they live for ever? he makes a concession, as though he had said, “I allow that both your fathers and my Prophets are dead; but my words are they dead?” God, in a word, distinguishes between the character of his word and the condition of men, as though he had said, that the life of men is frail and limited to a few years, but that his truth never perishes. And rightly does he mention the ungodly as well as the Prophets; for we know that whenever God punishes the despisers of his word, he gives perpetual examples, which may keep men in all ages within the boundaries of duty. Hence, though many ages have passed away since God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, yet that example remains, and retains its use to this day; for the ruin of Sodom is a mirror in which we may see at this time that God is the perpetual judge of the world. Since then the ungodly have perished, the punishment with which God visited their sins ought not to be buried with them, but to be ever remembered by men. This is the reason why he says, “your fathers are dead: this you must admit; but as they had been severely chastised, ought ye not at this day to profit by such examples?” Then he says, “my Prophets also are dead; but it was my will that they should be the preachers of my truth, and for this end, that after their death posterity might know that I had once spoken through them.” To the same purpose are the words of Peter, who says, that he labored that the memory of what he taught might continue after he was removed from his tabernacle.

“As then,” he says, “the time of my dissolution is at hand, I endeavor as far as I can, that you may remember what I teach after my death.” (2 Peter 1:15.)

We now perceive the object of the Prophet.

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