13. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
13. Et erit, quemadmodum fuistis maledictio inter gentes, domus Iehudah, et domus Israel; sic servabo vos et eritis benedictio: ne timeatis, roborentur manus vestrae.
He goes on with the same subject, and in this verse he states two contrary things, in order to render more clear what he teaches here -- that while God was angry the earth was barren, and all things went on unhappily with the Jews; but that when God had begun to be reconciled, the earth had as it were changed its nature, and brought forth plentifully, and that they were in every way made blessed.
Hence he says, As ye have been a curse, etc. Here again he mentions and reminds them how miserable they were while they minded only their private interest, and by neglecting the temple manifested their impiety and ingratitude; for what ought they to have been more ready to do when they returned to their country than to build the temple, and to offer there sacrifices to God, in order to avow him as the author of their deliverance? But the temple was neglected; and the Prophet concludes that they must have been extremely forgetful, if they did not consider what their condition was as long as they had no care for the temple; and he says that they had been a curse among the nations; that is, that they were an example of a curse, according to the threatening of the law. For it is a mode of speaking frequent in Scripture, that the people were a curse; and the common formula of cursing was -- |Let the Lord curse thee as he does the Jews.| Zechariah then says that the Jews had been a curse, that they had not only been smitten by God's hand, but that they had been given up to calamities, in order that they might become to all detestable, and bear in a manner signs of God's wrath imprinted on them. Whoever then at that time looked on a Jew, he might see that he had the appearance of bearing a curse. In short, Zechariah means that the Jews had been punished in a manner not common or usual, but that God had executed on them dreadful judgments, which made it evident to all that he was grievously offended with them. Ye have been then a curse among all nations
He then adds, So I will save you, as ye shall be a blessing. The word save is introduced that God might more clearly set forth his favor, lest the Jews should think that the change had been effected by fortuitous change; for we know that men's thoughts soon change, and they feign this or that cause that they may obscure God's providence. God then, before he promises that they should be a blessing, says that he would save them. What it is to be a blessing may be easily learnt from the opposite clause. They are then said to be a blessing who bear evident tokens of God's favor and kindness. So the Prophet means, that when people wished to be prayed for, or when they wished well to one another, this would be the common form of their requests -- |May God bless us as he blesses his chosen people: as the Jews are dear to God, so may he favor us with the same or similar kindness.| Thus then we see that the Jews were a curse, when exposed to extreme reproaches; and that they became a blessing when God manifested towards them tokens of favor, and showed in reality, or by the effect, that he was pacified towards them.
He says, in the last place, Fear ye not; strengthened be your hands. He exhorts them to entertain hope, for fear stands opposed to confidence; and fear, proceeding from unbelief, cannot be otherwise dissipated but by God's promises made to us, which chase away all doubts. Rightly then does the Prophet teach us that the Jews had no reason to fear, for he declares that God was propitious to them. We indeed know that all fear cannot be wholly driven away from the hearts of men; for it would be necessary to deprive us of every feeling before we could regard dangers without fears. But though fear is natural to us, and occasions of fear ever occur to us, yet the fear of unbelief may be dispelled by faith; and hence it is no wonder that God condemns fear, when he promises salvation to his elect. But as I have said, we ought to observe that there is here a contrast between condemnable fear and that confidence which relies on God's word. We must also add, that the confidence of God's children is never so complete that they are free from all fear, even the fear of unbelief; but still we ought to struggle against it, so as not to be hindered in the course of our calling. And this we learn more fully from the end of the verse.
Strengthened be your hands. But why does the Prophet forbid the Jews to fear? even for this purpose, -- that they might arouse themselves for the work which the Lord had allotted to them, and not allow fear to retard them or to prevent them to persevere.
We now then perceive how the faithful become prepared and ready to render service to God: sloth must first be shaken off -- but how? even by having fear removed. What is the remedy for healing fear? even to recomb on the promises of God; for when our minds are composed, the hands and the feet and all the members will be ready to do their office. Alacrity both of mind and heart and of all the members follows, when fear is shaken off, and when men begin so to rely on God's word, as to know that his help is enough for them against all dangers, and to dread nothing, being convinced that the Lord will by his power remove all hindrances.