14. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:
14. Quia sic dicit Iehovah exercituum, Quemadmodum cogitavi malum inferre vobis dum me inflammarunt (aut, provocarunt) patres vestri, dicit Iehova exercituum; et non poenituit me;
15. So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
15. Sic conversus sum, cogitavi diebus istis benefacere Ierosolymae et domui Iehudah, ne timeatis.
The Prophet confirms the truth in the preceding verse, when he said that there would be a wholly different lot to the Jews, as they would in every way be blessed. He shows the cause of the change; for God would begin to favor them, who had been before displeased with them. We indeed know that the Holy Spirit everywhere calls men before God's tribunal, that they may know that no adversity happens to them, except through their sins. So also in this place Zechariah reminds us, that God had been angry with the Jews, because they had provoked his wrath. But now a promise is added, that God had turned; not that he had changed his mind, but he meant to show that he was pacified. We indeed know that we are to judge of God's love or hatred to us by outward things; for when God treats us severely, manifest tokens of his wrath appear; but when he deals kindly with us, then the fruit of reconciliation seems evident. According to this view does he now say, that God was of another mind than formerly towards the Jews; for he designed to show them kindness, having before sharply and severely chastised them. But we must more particularly consider each part.
He says, that as God had previously resolved to punish the Jews, he was now inclined to show mercy, and that they would find him as it were changed and different from what he had been. These verses, as I have said, are explanatory; for the Prophet had briefly promised that the Jews would be a remarkable example of being a blessed people, but he now shows why God had previously inflicted on them so many evils and calamities, even because their fathers had provoked his wrath. And when he says that he had visited them on account of the crimes or sins of their fathers, we must understand this of the body of the people. Superfluous then is the question which some interpreters moot, Whether God punished the children for the sins of their fathers, when yet he declares in another place, that the soul that sins shall die: for in this place the Prophet does not distinguish the fathers from the children, but intimates that God had not been propitious to the Jews, because they had before greatly provoked his wrath. There is yet no doubt, but that every one justly suffered the punishment of his iniquity. The import of the whole is, that the Jews gained nothing by evasion, for God had not without reason visited them, but had rendered a just reward for their sins. This is one thing.
What he adds, that God repented not for being thus angry, means the same as though he had said, that the Jews through their perverseness had only rendered God's rigour inflexible. Zechariah then reminds us, that when men cease not to add evils to evils, and obstinately rush on as though they would make war with God, he then becomes as it were obstinate too, and according to what is said in the eighteenth Psalm, |deals perversely with the perverse.| The reason then why God declares that he had been implacable to his people, is, because the wickedness of those whom he had spared and long tolerated was become unhealable; for when he saw that they were wholly perverse, he armed himself for vengeance.
And hence we may gather a general truth, -- that God cannot be intreated by us, except when we begin to repent; not that our repentance anticipates God's mercy, for the question here is not, what man of himself and of his own inclination can do; as the object of Zechariah is only to teach us, that when God designs to forgive us, he changes our hearts and turns us to obedience by his Spirit; for when he leaves us in our hardness, we must necessarily be ever afflicted by his hand until we at last perish.
We must at the same time notice what I have also referred to, -- that God here closes the mouths of the Jews, that they might not murmur against his severity, as though he had dealt cruelly with them. He then shows that these punishments were just which the Jews had endured; for it had not been for one day only, but for a continued succession of time, that the fathers had excited his wrath. The reason why he speaks of the fathers rather than of themselves is, because they had for a long series of years hardened themselves in their wickedness, and corruption had become in them as it were hereditary. He now says that he had turned; not that he was of another mind, as we have already said, but this is to be understood of what the people experienced; for God seemed to be in a manner different, when he became kind to them and showed them favor, having before manifested many tokens of vengeance.
Now at the end of the verse the Prophet reminds us of the application of his doctrine, even to encourage the Jews, that they might go on with alacrity in the work of building the temple. But we have said that we ought to be armed with God's promises, so that we may with courageous hearts follow wherever he may call us; for we shall all presently faint except we find that the hand of God is present with us. Since then we are by nature slothful and tender, and since inconstancy often creeps in, this is our only remedy, -- that when we seek to go on in the course of our calling to the end, we know that God will be ever a help to us; and this is what the Prophet now teaches us. He then applies what he had before promised to its legitimate purpose, -- to encourage the Jews to lay aside their fear, courageously to undertake their work, and to expect what was not yet evident, even a complete restoration. It follows --