14. But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.
14. Et affligar cum illis (vertunt quidam) super omnes gentes, (alii melius, dispellam illos ad omnes gentes,) quas non noverunt; (alii vertunt, quae non noverunt eos;) et terra desolata erit post eos, ne sit transiens, nec revertens; et posuerunt terram desiderabilem in vastitatem.
Here the Prophet concludes what he had been speaking of God's vengeance, by which he had fully proved, that the sins of that nation had arrived to such a pitch, that there was no room for pardon. Hence he says, that they had been dispersed; for so I prefer to render the word, and the context seems to require this. Interpreters vary as to its meaning; and, indeed, the Hebrews themselves say, that this is a difficult passage, for, according to the rules of grammar, the word can hardly be made suitable to the context. But let us first see what the Prophet treats of; and secondly, what meaning, as the word signifies various things, is the most suitable.
The Prophet no doubt refers here to God's vengeance, as evidenced by the dispersion of the Jews among many nations, not only when they were driven into exile, but also when scattered in various parts of the world. The verb, taken transitively, is by no means doubtful in its meaning, for sr, sor, means to move one from a place, or to expel, and that by force, inasmuch as it is derived from whirlwind. As it may therefore be here a transitive verb, I see no reason why we should seek other meanings at variance with the design and object of the Prophet. He then says, that the Jews had been dispersed -- how? among all nations, that is, through all parts of the world; and then among unknown nations. Now we know, that the farther the exile, the more severe it is, for neighbors for the most part are the most humane; and when one is removed far to a barbarous nation, he would rather a hundred times to die on his journey than to live at a great distance from his country, and among a people of new and strange habits. The meaning is, that the Jews had been severely visited by God, not only because they had departed from his true worship and holy fear, but because they had been perverse, had rejected all sound doctrine, and had been deaf and indifferent to all admonitions. It was then for this reason that they had been dispersed among all nations
He afterwards adds, that the land after them became desolate that no one passed through it. This circumstance also, that God devoted the land to desolation, proved more fully his wrath: for when God imprints marks of his vengeance on the land, and on other harmless things, necessary for man's support, it becomes evident that he is not lightly displeased with men. He then intimates, that God was not satisfied with the exile and dispersion of that people, but that he intended that there should be also visible marks of their wickedness in the sterility and desolation of the land itself: and that land, we know, was very fruitful, both by nature and by God's blessing; for he had promised to give to the Israelites a land flowing with milk and honey. When this fruitfulness was turned to sterility, such a change ought to have roused the minds of all to consider the dreadful judgment of God. We now then see why the Prophet says, that the land after them, that is, after their departure, became desolate; for they had polluted the land so far as to constrain it, though innocent, to bear the judgment of God.
And he says further, that the desirable land became a waste, even through their fault. God was indeed the author of that waste, but Zechariah imputes this calamity to the people, because they had provoked God's wrath, and procured this evil for themselves; yea, they had involved the land itself as it were in the same guilt, for it was cursed by God, though they had been driven hence to another country. Desirable land was a name often given to Judea, not only on account of its fruitfulness, and the abundance of its produce, but because God had chosen it for himself: for though that land excelled other lands in many respects, it is yet certain that its chief excellency consisted in this, -- that God honored it with peculiar favor.
Zechariah then condemns the Jews, not only because they had by their own fault extinguished the favor as to the produce of the land, but because they had corrupted the land itself, which had been so singularly favored as to have become the habitation of God. And hence we more fully learn how great was the enormity of their sins, which caused God to devote to desolation a land chosen by himself; for, as we have said, it was no common honor for that land, in which God designed to be worshipped by his chosen and holy people, to have been destined by him to be made like Paradise. But when such an honor was turned to shame and perpetual reproach, it was clearly a remarkable sign of God's wrath: and hence also becomes evident the impiety of that people who, as it had been said, turned aside God's favor from the land, that not only it did not bring forth its usual produce, but that it also became, as it were, a disgraceful spectacle, and filled all with horror on seeing it so desolate, where was previously seen the temple and the worship of God.