We said yesterday that the word chvlym, chebelim, the name given by Zechariah to the second rod, could not be rendered |destroyers,| as all the Hebrews do; for God teaches us that he had fully and faithfully discharged the duties of a shepherd, so that the people perished through their own fault; and since God undertook the office of a shepherd, it could not have been said that he took a staff to destroy them: and there is also no doubt but that he connects this word with the other, nm, nom, |beauty.| And he says in the last place, that this rod called chvlym, chebelim, was broken, in order to show that the brotherhood between Judah and Israel was come to an end. Now what affinity can there be between destroying and uniting? It is then clear that the word chvlym, chebelim, is to be taken here for ropes, or cords.
Let us now see why the Prophet calls one |Beauty,| and the other |Ropes.| Some think that the law of nature is designated by nm, nom, and by chvlym, chebelim, the law of Moses, and those who render the word |Lines,| such as Jerome, who gives here the right version, think that as the law was a hard yoke on the ancients, the rod was so called because it bound them fast. Others, as Jerome also does, refer to this passage of Moses, |When the Lord cast his line, he chose a place for Israel, and when the Highest divided the nations,| etc. They then think that a line is taken for an inheritance. But the first interpretation is too remote and distorted; with regard to the second, as the Prophet puts the word in the plural number, it cannot be suitably taken for an inheritance, and, as we said yesterday, the following clause shows that the idea of union is included in it.
The meaning of the Prophet then is, that God had so performed his office of a shepherd towards his people, as to rule them in the best manner; this I understand by the word nm, nom, beauty, for nothing could have been more perfect in beauty than the government which God had exercised over the Israelites; and hence he compares here his pastoral staff to beauty, as though he had said, |The order of things was so arranged that nothing could be imagined better.| He then mentions unity or concord, and it was the highest favor that God gathered again the scattered Israelites so as to make them one body. It is indeed true, that few of the kingdom of Israel had returned to their own country, but it is yet evident that the remnant was not only from the tribe of Judah, from the half tribe of Benjamin, and from the Levites, but that there were others mingled with them. It was therefore a most appropriate representation, that not only a most beautiful order was established by God, but that was also added a brotherly concord, so that the children of Abraham were joined together in one spirit and in one soul. Since then they had so good a shepherd, the baser and less excusable was their ingratitude in shaking off his yoke, and in not suffering themselves to be ruled by his staff.
We now then see what the words of the Prophet mean, when he introduces God as furnished with two rods, even beauty and gathering. He then repeats what he had said before, I have fed, he says, the sheep, intimating, that it was not owing to him that he should not continue to rule them. It now follows --