7. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
7. Quis tu mons magne coram Zerubbabel? in planitiem; et educat lapidem capitis ejus, clamores, gratia, gratia ei.
Here the angel pursues the same subject which we have been already explaining -- that though the beginning was small and seemed hardly of any consequence and importance, yet God would act in a wonderful manner as to the building of the temple. But as this was not only arduous and difficult, but also in various ways impeded, the angel now says, that there would be no hindrance which God would not surmount or constrain to give way. He compares to a mountain either the Persian monarchy or all the hosts of enemies, which had then suddenly arisen in various parts, so that the Jews thought that their return was without advantage, and that they were deceived, as the event did not answer to their wishes and hopes.
We now then perceive the design of the Holy Spirit: as Satan attempted by various artifices to prevent the building of the temple, the angel declares here that no obstacle would be so great as to hinder the progress of the work, for God could suddenly reduce to a plain the highest mountains. What art thou, great mountain? The expression has more force than if the angel had simply said, that all the attempts of enemies would avail nothing; for he triumphs over the pride and presumption of those who then thought that they were superior to the Jews: |Ye are,| he says, |like a great mountain; your bulk is indeed terrible, and sufficient at the first view not only to weaken, but also to break down the spirits; but ye are nothing in all your altitude.|
But the text may be read in two ways, |What art thou, great mountain? A plain before Zerubbabel;| or, |What art thou, great mountain before Zerubbabel? A plain.| The latter rendering is the best, and it is also what has been universally received. And he says that this mountain was before Zerubbabel, that is, in his presence, for it stood in opposition to him.
Now this doctrine may be fitly applied to our age: for we see how Satan raises up great forces, we see how the whole world conspires against the Church, to prevent the increase or the progress of the kingdom of Christ. When we consider how great are the difficulties which meet us, we are ready to faint and to become wholly dejected. Let us then remember that it is no new thing for enemies to surpass great mountains in elevation; but that the Lord can at length reduce them to a plain. This, then, our shield can cast down and lay prostrate whatever greatness the devil may set up to terrify us: for as the Lord then reduced a great mountains to a plain, when Zerubbabel was able to do nothing, so at this day, however boldly may multiplied adversaries resist Christ in the work of building a spiritual temple to God the Father, yet all their efforts will be in vain.
He afterwards adds, He will bring forth the stone of its top. The relative is of the feminine gender, and must therefore be understood of the building. Zerubbabel shall then bring forth the stone, which was to be on the top of the temple. By the stone of the top, I understand the highest, which was to be placed on the very summit. The foundations of the temple had been already laid; the building was mean and almost contemptible: it could not however be advanced, since many enemies united to disturb the work, or at least to delay it. Nevertheless the angel promises what he afterwards explains more fully -- that the temple would come to its completion, for Zerubbabel was to bring forth and raise on high the stone of the top, which was to be on the very summit of the temple. And then he subjoins, shoutings, Grace, grace, to it; that is, God will grant a happy success to this stone or to the temple. The relative here again is feminine; it cannot then be applied to Zerubbabel, but to the temple or to the stone: it is however more probable that the angel speaks of the temple. And he says that there would be shoutings; for it was necessary to encourage the confidence of the faithful and to excite them to prayer, that they might seek, by constant entreaties, a happy and prosperous issue to the building of the temple. The angel, then, bids all the godly with one voice to pray for the temple; but as all prosperous events depend on the good pleasure of God, he uses the word chn, chen, grace, which he repeats, that he might more fully encourage the faithful to perseverance, and also that he might kindle their desire and zeal.
We now then see what this verse on the whole contains: first, the angel shows that however impetuously the ungodly might rage against the temple, yet their attempts would be frustrated, and that though they thought themselves to be like great mountains, it was yet in the power and will of God to reduce them to a plain, that is, suddenly to lay them prostrate. This is one thing. Then secondly, he adds, that a happy success would attend the building of the temple; for Zerubbabel would bring forth the top-stone, the highest. And lastly, he subjoins, that the faithful ought unanimously to pray, and so to persevere with the greatest ardor and zeal, that God might bless the temple, and cause the building of it to be completed. It now follows --