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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 4:10

10. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.

10. Quia quis contempsit diem parvitatum (parvorum; sed hic acciptitur pro parvitate?) gaudabunt et videbunt (ad verbum) lapidem stanneum in manu Zerubbabel (sed ita resolvi debet oratio, certe gaudabunt ubi viderint lapidem in manu Zerubbabel:) septem hi, oculi Iehovae sunt, circumeuntes (vel, qui discurrunt) per totam terram.

Here the angel reproves the sloth and fear of the people, for the greater part were very faint-hearted; and he also blames the Jews, because they formed a judgment of God's work at the first view, Who is he, he says, that has despised the day of paucities? He does not ask who it was, as though he spoke only of one, or as though they were few in number or insignificant but he addresses the whole people, who were chargeable with entertaining this wrong feeling; for all were cast down in their minds, because they thought that the work begun would be a sport to the ungodly, and would come to nothing, according to what we read in Nehemiah 3:12, that the old men wept, so that nearly all threw down their tools, and left off the building of the temple. We hence see that not a few despised the small beginnings, and that the minds of all the people were dejected, for they thought that they labored in vain while building the temple, which made no approach to the glory and splendor of the former temple: |What are we doing here? we seek to build a temple for God; but what is it? does it correspond to the temple of Solomon? No, not in the tenth degree; yet God has promised that this temple would be most glorious.| While then they were considering these things, they thought either that the time was not come, or that they toiled in vain, because God would not dwell in a tent so mean. This is the reason why the Prophet now says, Who is he that has despised the day of paucities?

God then sets himself in opposition to an ungrateful and ill- disposed people, and shows that they all acted very foolishly, because they cast and fixed their eyes only on the beginning of things, as though God would not surpass by his power what human minds could conceive. As then God purposed in a wonderful manner to build the temple, the angel reproves here the clamors of the people.

He then adds, They shall rejoice when they shall see the workman's plummet in the hard of Zerubbabel Though he had adopted a severe and sharp reproof, he yet mitigates here its severity, and promises to the Jews that however unworthy they were of such kindness from God, they would yet see what they had by no means expected, even Zerubbabel furnished with everything necessary for the completion of the temple. Hence they shall see Zerubbabel with his tin-stone; that is, with his plummet. As builders in our day use a plumb-line, so he calls that in the hand of Zerubbabel a tin-stone, which he had when prepared to complete the temple.

This doctrine may be also applied to us: for God, to exhibit the more his power, begins with small things in building his spiritual temple; nothing grand is seen, which attracts the eyes and thoughts of men, but everything is almost contemptible. God indeed could put forth immediately his power, and thus rouse the attention of all men and fill them with wonder; he could indeed do so; but as I have already said, his purpose is to increase, by doing wonders, the brightness of his power; which he does, when from a small beginning he brings forth what no one would have thought; and besides, his purpose is to prove the faith of his people; for it behaves us ever to hope beyond hope. Now when the beginning promises something great and sublime, there is no proof and no trial of faith: but when we hope for what does not appear, we give due honor to God, for we depend only on his power and not on the proximate means. Thus we see that Christ is compared to a shoot, which arises from the stem of Jesse. (Isaiah 11:1.) God might have arranged that Christ should have been born when the house of David was in its splendor, and when the kingdom was in a flourishing state: yet his will was that he should come forth from the stem of Jesse, when the royal name was almost cut off. Again, he might have brought forth Christ as a full-grown tree; but he was born as an insignificant shoot. So also he is compared by Daniel to a rough and unpolished stone cut off from a mountain. (Daniel 2:45.) The same thing has also been accomplished in our age, and continues still at this day to be accomplished. If we consider what is and has been the beginning of the growing gospel, we shall find nothing illustrious according to the perceptions of the flesh; and on this account the adversaries confidently despise us; they regard us as the off-scourings of men, and hope to be able to cast us down and scatter us by a single breath.

There are many at this day who despise the day of paucity, who grow faint in their minds, or even deride our efforts, as though our labor were ridiculous, when they see us sedulously engaged in promoting the truth of the gospel; and we ourselves are also touched with this feeling: there is no one who becomes not sometimes frigid, when he sees the beginning of the Church so mean before the world, and so destitute of any dignity. We hence learn how useful it is for us at this day to be reminded, that we shall at length see what we can by no means conjecture or hope for according to present appearances; for though the Lord begins with little things, and as it were in weakness, yet the plummet will at length be seen in the hand of the Architect for the purpose of completing the work. There is at this day no Zerubbabel in the world, to whom the office of building the temple has been committed; but we know that Christ is the chief builder, and that ministers are workmen who labor under him. However then may Satan blind the unbelieving with pride and haughtiness, so that they disdain and ridicule the building in which we labor; yet the Lord himself will show that he is the chief builder, and will give to Christ the power to complete the work.

He afterwards adds, These seven are the eyes of Jehovah, going round through the whole earth. The angel calls the attention of Zechariah to what we have before observed; for the discourse was respecting the plummet, and Zechariah said, that there were shown to him seven eyes in that stone. The angel explains what those seven eyes meant, even that the Lord by his providence would conduct the work to its completion. But we have said that seven eyes are attributed to God, that we may be assured that nothing is hid from him; for no one among men or angels possesses so great a clear-sightedness but that he is ignorant of some things. Many of Gods mysteries, we allow, are hid from angels; but when they are sent forth, they receive as much revelation as their office requires. But the angel shows here, that we ought by no means to fear that anything will happen which God has not foreseen; for the seven eyes, he says, go around through the whole earth: not that God has need of seven eyes; but we know what the number seven means in Scripture; it signifies perfection.

The meaning then is -- that God would sufficiently provide that nothing should happen that might disturb him, or turn him aside, or delay him in the execution of his work. How so? because there were seven eyes; that is, he by his providence would surmount all difficulties, and his eyes went round through the whole earth, so that the devil could devise nothing behind or before, on the right hand or on the left, above or below, which he could not easily frustrate. We now then perceive the object of the Prophet.

With regard to the words, some render 'lh, ale, in the neuter gender, |These are seven, they are the eyes of God.| But as to the sense, there is no ambiguity: for the angel would have the faithful to recumb on God's providence, in order that they might be secure and fear no danger; as the Lord would remove whatever was contrary to his purpose. It now follows --

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