8. And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein.
8. Et erit in tota terra, dicit Iehova, portio duae (vel, duorum) in ea excidentur, morientur, et tertia residua erit in ea.
He goes on with the same subject; for he reminds the faithful, that though God had resolved to restore his Church, and though his blessing would be evident, yet very heavy afflictions were not far distant; as though he had said, |God will give you a serene heaven and a bland air, that the land may bring forth its fruit; but still there is a heavy tempest impelling, and ye shall not be exempt from storms and hail. But when God has laid waste a part of the land, he will bless you with corn and wine, so that you shall have sufficient support.| So also in this place he says, |God will protect his Church, and will also be propitious to it, for he will wash away all the filth of wickedness, and will give to you faithful pastors, when he has removed the impostures of Satan: but in the meantime most grievous afflictions await you, and a hard state of things, and difficult to be borne, must be expected; for God will appear as though he intended to destroy his people: such will be the scattering.|
For this reason he says, that there will be through the whole land the most grievous calamities: Two parts, he says, shall die; the third only shall remain
We now see how all these things agree, and how the Prophet's words harmonise. In short, he means, that what he had before promised respecting the future favor of God, does not belong indifferently to all, or to the whole body of the people, but to the faithful, whom God will in a wonderful manner deliver from ruin; for of the people God will only save the third part, as he had already resolved to destroy the other two parts. The intention of the Prophet is now by no means doubtful.
But we hence conclude, that what God daily promises to his Church is not to be extended indiscriminately to all, for many falsely profess his name: but he knows his own, as Paul says, and therefore exhorts them to depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:16.) Let us then know that promises of God's favor do not appertain to hypocrites: for though he has decreed to deal kindly and graciously with his Church, he yet continues to diminish it, so that the third part only remains safe. Whenever then we speak of God's mercy towards his Church, and of his aid and help, let us ever bear in mind the cleansing of which Zechariah now speaks, that God will reserve the third part, while the greater portion ever runs headlong into ruin. It is then enough that the third part should be delivered from destruction. But this verse, as it has already appeared, ought to be applied to the kingdom of Christ.
Literally we read, the mouth of the two; but phy, pi, is to be taken metaphorically for part or portion. A part then of the two in it, or two parts in it, (the plural is joined with the singular, as often is the case,) shall perish, shall be cut off. The verb krt, caret, means to cut off; and then gv, guo, signifies to die or to sink. Though he understands the same things by the two words, it is not yet an unmeaning repetition; for it might have seemed hard and unreasonable that only a third part of God's people should remain. This diminution of the Church might have disturbed the minds of many, and might have appeared incredible: hence the Prophet, in order to confirm what in itself seemed a paradox, says, they shall die, they shall perish; it has been so decreed, and you are not to contend with God; for given up to ruin shall the greater number be, while a few only shall remain: the third part then shall remain in it. It follows --