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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Zechariah 11:1-3

Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 11:1-3

1. Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars.

1. Aperi, Libane, protas tuas, et vorabit ignis cedros tuas:

2. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.

2. Ulula abies, quia cecidit cedrus, quia fortes (vel, praestantes) vastati sunt; ululate quercus Bashan, quia descendit (hoc est, excisa est, vel, prostrate) sylva munita.

3. There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled.

3. Vox ululatus pastorum, quia vastata est praestantia eorum (vel, fortitudo;) vox rugitus leonum, quia vastata est superbia Iordanis.

This Chapter contains severe threatenings, by which God designed in time to warn the Jews, that if there was any hope of repentance, they might be restored by fear to the right way, and that others, the wicked and the reprobate, might be rendered inexcusable, and also that the faithful might fortify themselves against the strong temptation to despond on seeing so dreadful a calamity awaiting that nation.

This prophecy does not indeed seem consistent with the preceding prophecies; for the Prophet has been hitherto not only encouraging the people to entertain hope, but has also declared that their condition would be so happy that nothing would be wanting to render them really blessed: but now he denounces ruin, and begins with reprobation; for he says, that God had been long the shepherd of that nation, but that now he renounced all care of them; for being wearied he would no longer bear with that perverse wickedness, which he had found in them all. These things seem to be inconsistent: but we may observe, that it was needful in the first place to set before the Jews the benefits of God, that they might with more alacrity proceed with the work of building the temple, and know that their labor would not be in vain; and now it was necessary to change the strain, lest hypocrites, vainly confiding in these promises, should become hardened, as it is commonly the case; and also, lest the faithful should not entertain due fear, and thus go heedlessly before God; for nothing is more ruinous than security, inasmuch as when a license is taken to sin, God's judgment impends over us. We hence see how useful and reasonable was this warnings of the Prophet, as he made the Jews to understand, that God would not be propitious to his people without punishing their wickedness and obstinacy.

In order to render his prophecy impressive, Zechariah addresses Libanon; as though he was God's herald, he bids it to open its gates, for the whole wood was now given up to the fire. Had he spoken without a figure, his denunciation would not have had so much force: he therefore denounces near ruin on Lebanon and on other places. Almost all think that by Lebanon is to be understood the temple, because it was built with timber from that mountain; but this view seems to me frigid, though it is approved by the common consent of interpreters. For why should we think the temple to be metaphorically called Lebanon rather than Bashan? And they think so such thing of Bashan, though there is equally the same reason. I therefore regard it simply as the Mount Lebanon; and I shall merely refer to what Joseph us declares, that the temple was opened before the city was destroyed by Titus. But though that history may be true, and it seems to me probable, it does not hence follow that this prophecy was then fulfilled, according to what is said of Rabbi Jonathan, who then exclaimed, |Lo! the prophecy of Zechariah; for he foretold that the temple would be burnt, and that the gates would be previously opened.| These things seem plausible, and at the first view gain our approbation. But I think that we must understand something more solid, and less refined: for I doubt not but that the Prophet denounces complete ruin on Mount Lebanon, and on Bashan and other places.

But why does he bid Lebanon to open its gates? The reason is given, for shortly after he calls it a fortified forest, which was yet without walls and gates. Lebanon, we know, was nigh to Jerusalem, though far enough to be free from any hostile attack. As then the place was by nature sufficiently safe from being assailed, the Prophet speaks, as though Lebanon was surrounded by fortresses; for it was not exposed to the attacks of enemies. The meaning is, -- that though on account of its situation the Jews thought that Lebanon was not exposed to any evils, yet the wantonness of enemies would lead them even there. We have already said why the Prophet bids Lebanon to open its gates, even because he puts on the character of a herald, who threatens and declares, that God's extreme vengeance was already nigh at hand.

He then adds, Howl thou, fir-tree, for the cedar has fallen. No doubt the Prophet by naming Lebanon, mentioning a part for the whole, meant the whole of Judea: and it appears evident from the context that the most remarkable places are here mentioned; but yet the Prophet's design was to show, that God would punish the whole people, so as not to spare Jerusalem or any other place. And then by the fir-trees and cedars he meant whatever then excelled in Judea or in other places; and for this reason he compares them to the cedars of Lebanon, as though he had said, |There is no reason for the fir-trees to regard themselves as beyond the reach of danger; for if he spares not the cedars what will become of the fir-trees, which possess no such stateliness and grandeur?|

We now then perceive the Prophet's meaning as to the trees: but he includes, as I have said, under one kind, whatever was valuable in Judea; and this we learn more clearly from what follows: for he adds, Fallen have, or laid waste have been, the strong Some read in the neuter gender, |Laid waste have been splendid things;| but I am inclined to regard persons as intended. The Prophet then now simply declares, that the vengeance of God was nigh all the great ones, whom dignity sheltered, so that they thought themselves in no danger. And for the same purpose he adds, Howl, ye oaks of Bashan. He joins, as we see, Bashan to Lebanon; there is then no reason for allegorising only one of the words, when they are both connected. And he says, For fallen has the fortified forest. Either this may be applied to Lebanon, or the Prophet may be viewed as saying in general, that there was no place so difficult of access, which would not be penetrated into, when the Lord should give liberty to enemies to destroy all things. Though then the density of trees protected these mountains, yet the Prophet says that nothing would obstruct God's vengeance from penetrating into the inmost recesses of strongholds.

He then adds, The voice of the howling of shepherds; for their excellency, or their courage, is laid waste. Here he has 'dr, ader, and before 'dyrym, adirim, in the masculine gender. We see then that the Prophet confirms the same thing in other words, |Howl now,| he says, |shall the shepherds.| He intimates that the beginning of this dreadful judgment would be with the chief men, as they were especially the cause of the public ruin. He then says, that the dignity of the great was now approaching its fall, and hence he bids them to howl. He does not in these words exhort them to repentance, but follows the same strain of doctrine. By God's command he here declares, that the shepherds who took pride in their power, could not escape the judgment which they had deserved: and as this is a mode of speaking usually adopted by the Prophets, I shall no longer dwell on the subject.

He afterwards adds, The voice of the roaring of lions. He no doubt gives here the name of lions, by way of metaphor, to those who cruelly exercised their power over the people. But he also alludes to the banks of Jordan, where there were lions, as it is well known. Since then lions were found along the whole course of Jordan, as it is evident from many passages, he compares shepherds to lions, even the governors who had abused their authority by exercising tyranny over the people: Fallen then has the pride or the excellency of Jordan. In short, it is now sufficiently evident, that the Prophet threatens final destruction both to the kingdom of Judah and to the kingdom of Israel. Both kingdoms were indeed then abolished; but I speak of the countries themselves. The meaning is -- that neither Judea nor the land of the ten tribes would be free from God's vengeance. He afterwards adds --

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