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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Zechariah 9:2-4

Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 9:2-4

2. And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.

2. Etiam Chemath terminabit in ea; Tyrus et Sidon, quia (vel quamvis) sapiens sit valde.

3. And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets.

3. Et aedificavit Tyrus munitionem sibi, et coacervavit argentum quasi pulverem, et aurum quasi lutum platearum.

4. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.

4. Ecce Dominus expellet (vel, ad inopiam rediget) eam, et percutiet in mari potentiam ejus, et ipsa igne devorabitur.

Zechariah goes on with the same subject: for he says now, that destruction was nigh all the nations who, being neighbors, harassed the people of God. Yesterday I briefly referred to what he had in view, which was to show, that God would so defend his Church as to execute vengeance on all the ungodly who had unjustly persecuted it; and he spoke of the kingdom of Syria, which was contiguous to Judea. But he now goes farther, -- that the wrath of God would extend to the remoter parts of Syria: for Hamath is Antioch the great, and it gave a name to a part of Syria. Damascus was the metropolis of the Syrian empire. But as we have said elsewhere, this word is variously taken in Scripture, but generally for the whole country extending from Judea to the Euphrates and even beyond it. We now then see why Zechariah adds Antioch to Syria, as though he had said, that God would now be the avenger of his people, not only by rewarding bordering cities, but also those afar off. He then passes on to Tyrus and Simon, which were, as it is well known, cities on the sea-side, and were also nigh to the Jews; for there was no great distance between Galilee and Phoenicia. But as we said yesterday, destruction is denounced on all the nations who had been inimical to the chosen people.

He says that Hamath, or Antioch, would be in its border. All nearly with one consent apply this to Judea or to Jerusalem, but they are mistaken; and this whole chapter is misunderstood by all expositors, Jews and others. I indeed feel ashamed when I see how widely they have departed from the meaning of the Prophet, and it will be almost a trial to me wholly to reject their mistakes. But it will become plainly evident that none of them have understood what the Prophet means.

They thus explain the passage, that Antioch would be within the borders of Judea, as God would consecrate to himself the lands which were before heathen. But the Prophet no doubt says, as I have already stated, that Antioch would be within the borders of Syria whenever God should visit them all for their wickedness, as though he had said, |God will involve in the same punishment that part of Syria which derives its name from Antioch, because with united forces had all the Syrians assailed his chosen people; though then they are far distant from Judea, they shall yet partake of the same punishment, because they took up arms against his Church.| Hamath then, or Antioch, shall be in the borders of Damascus; that is, it shall not be exempt from the punishment which God will inflict on the bordering kingdom of and. And as we advance this view will become more clear.

He adds, Tyrus and Sidon, though it be very wise. The particle ky, ki, is used, which is properly causal; but we may gather from many parts of Scripture that it is taken as an adversative. Either meaning would not, however, be unsuitable, that God would take vengeance on the Sidonians and Syrians, because they were very crafty, or though they were cautious, and seemed skillful and cunning in managing their affairs: they were not however to escape God's judgment. If the former meaning be approved, it was the Prophet's object to show, that when men are extremely provident and labor to fortify themselves by crafty means, God is opposed to them; for it is his peculiar office to take the crafty by their own craftiness. As then too much cunning and craftiness displease God, it may suitably be said, that the Syrians and Sidonians were now summoned before God's tribunal, because they were extremely crafty, as is commonly the case with merchants in wealthy and maritime cities; for they learn much cunning by the many frauds which they are almost compelled to use. Since then the Sidonians and Syrians were such, it was right to denounce vengeance on them. But the other view is equally suitable, that all the craft of Tyrus and Simon would not prevent God from executing his judgment. As to myself, I think that a reason is here given why God threatens ruin to the Syrians and Sidonians, even because they were given to crafty artifices, and thus circumvented all their neighbors.

But he uses a good word by way of concession; for all who intend to deceive cover their craft with the name of wisdom or prudence. |They wish to be cautious,| when yet they wickedly deceive others by their intrigues and frauds. A concession then is made as to the word wise: but the Prophet at the same time teaches us, that this kind of wisdom is hateful to God, when by the loss of others we increase our own wealth: for an explanation immediately follows --

For Tyrus has for herself built a fortress. The Prophet shows by these words how very cautious or prudent the Syrians had been; for they fortified themselves by strongholds, and thought themselves to be beyond the reach of danger. He then adds, and heaped to herself silver as dust, and gold as the mire of the streets, that is, accumulated wealth above measure; for he mentions |dust| and |mire| as signifying an immense heap; as though he had said, |They have worthless heaps of silver and gold for their vast abundance|. He no doubt includes silver and gold in the fortress which he mentions; for I do not confine the word fortress only to towers and strongholds; but the Prophet, as I think, states generally, that Tyrus was so furnished and fortified with wealth, forces, and all kinds of defences, that it thought itself impregnable.

There is a striking correspondence between tsvr, tsur, and mtsvr, metsur tsvr, Tsur, he says, has built mtsvr, metsur, a fortress. It is a paronomasia worthy of notice, but cannot be retained in Latin.

He now declares that God would be an avenger. Behold, he says, Jehovah will possess, or cause to possess, as some read, but they are mistaken, owing to the two meanings of the verb yrs, iresh, which means to possess and also to expel or impoverish; for interpreters think that a hope of favor and of salvation is here given to these cities, and say that they are now chosen by God as a possession. But this is wholly contrary to the intention of the Prophet, as it appears more clearly from a view of each clause.

Jehovah then will expel her, and smite her strength. The Prophet no doubt alludes to what he had already said -- that Tyrus had heaped silver and gold; now on the other hand he declares that Tyrus would be exposed to a scattering; for the heap of gold and silver it had laid up would be dissipated by God: he will then dissipate; or if one chooses to take the verb as meaning to reduce to want, the contrast would thus be suitable -- God will then impoverish, or expel her. Afterwards he adds, In the sea will he smite her strength. As Tyrus, we know, was surrounded by the sea, the Prophet by this reference shows God's power in taking vengeance on her; for the sea would be no restraint or hindrance to God, when he resolved to enter there. The Syrians, indeed, thought themselves safe from every hostile attack, for they had the sea on every side as a triple wall and a triple rampart. Nor was Tyrus altogether like Venice; for Venice is situated in a stagnant sea, while the situation of Tyrus was in a very deep sea, as historians plainly show who relate its assault by Alexander the Great. It had indeed been before taken and plundered; but he did what none had ever thought of -- he filled up a part of the sea, so that Tyrus was no longer an island.

We now see what Zechariah had in view, when he threatened ruin to Tyrus, though its strength was in the midst of the sea, beyond the reach of fortune, as it is commonly said. And she shall be consumed by fire. He means that Tyrus would not only be plundered, but wholly demolished; for we know that even the strongest things are consumed by fire. It follows --

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