5. And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee.
5. Et fugietis in vallem montium (vel, per vallem,) quia pertinget vallis montium ad Azal (alii vertunt, ad proximum; alii ad excelsum;) et fugietis sicuti fugistis a facie motus diebus Uziae regis Iehudah; et veniet Iehova, Deus meus; omnes sancti tecum.
The Prophet says again, that God's presence would be terrible, so that it would put to flight all the Jews; for though God promises to be the deliverer of his chosen people, yet as there were still mixed with them hypocrites, his language varies. But we must further observe, that though the Lord may appear for our deliverance, it yet cannot be but that his majesty will strike us with fear; for the flesh must be humbled before God. What the Prophet then says is the same as though he had said, that the coming of God, which he had just mentioned, would be fearful to all, not only to open enemies whom he would come to destroy, but also to the faithful, though they knew that he would put forth his power to save them. And thus the Prophet seems to reason from the less to the greater; for if the faithful, who look anxiously for God, yet tremble and quake at his presence, what must happen to his enemies, who know that he is against them? As then the Prophet bids here the faithful to be prepared reverently to look for God, so also he shows that he will be dreadful to all the ungodly, in order that the elect might not hesitate to flee to his aid and to rely on him.
Flee, he says, shall ye through the valley of the mountains. Some imagine this to have been a valley so called, because it was of long extent, stretching through chains of mountains; but we read nothing of this in scripture. It seems to me probable, that valleys of the mountains were all those places called, which were rough, impassable, and intricate. Since then there was much wood, and no easy passage through these countries, the Prophet says that there would be a long valley, which never was before, but which the rending, of which he had spoken, would produce. And for the same purpose he adds, Reach shall the valley of the mountains to Azal. This I think is a proper name of a place; yet some render it, next; but I see not for what reason. The meaning then is, -- that where there were previously many hills which were not passable, or even mountains through which it was difficult to penetrate, there would be one continuous and even valley to a place very remote.
And he says, that flight would be hasty, as in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah; for it appears from sacred history that Judah was then shaken with a terrible earthquake. The Jews, as they are bold in their conjectures, suppose that this happened when Uzziah approached the altar to burn incense to God; and Jerome has followed them. But at what time that earthquake happened is not certain. Amos says that he began to prophecy two years after an earthquake, (Amos 1:1;) but for what cause the earth was then shaken we nowhere read: and yet we learn from this as well as from other passages, that it was an awful sign and presage of God's vengeance. God then intended to announce to the Jews a dreadful calamity, when he thus shook the earth. And for the same purpose also does Zechariah now say, that the flight would be precipitous, as when the Jews retook themselves to flight, as it were in extreme despair, in the time of Uzziah. As then ye fled from the earthquake, so shall ye flee now. A long time had indeed intervened from the death of Uzziah to the return of the people; hence the Prophet intimates that it would be an unusual calamity, for the like had not happened which had caused so much terror to the Jews for many ages.
But we must remember what I have said -- that this coming of God is not described as fearful for the purpose of threatening the Jews; but rather in order to show that the ungodly would not be able to stand in the presence of God, as he would terrify even those for whose aid he would come forth. And we must also observe what has been stated that God varies his address by his Prophets; for now he speaks to the whole Church, in which hypocrites are mingled with the sincere, and so threatening must be blended with promises, and then, he directs his words especially to the elect alone, to whom he manifests his favor.
He says at length, And come shall Jehovah, my God. The Prophet repeats what he had said shortly before -- that God's power would be made evident to the Jews, as though they saw it with their eyes. There is indeed no necessity to suppose that God would actually descend from heaven; but he teaches us, as I have said, that though God's power would be for a time hidden, it would at length appear in the deliverance of his elect, as though God descended for the purpose from heaven. He calls him his God, in order to gain more credit to his prophecy. He no doubt thus courageously assailed all the ungodly, to whom promises as well as threatening were a mockery; and he also intended to support the minds of the godly, that they might not doubt but that this was promised them from above, though they heard but the voice of a mortal man. The Prophet then with great confidence claims God here as his God, as though he had said -- that there was no reason for them to judge of what he said by any worldly circumstance or by his person; in short, he declares here that he was sent from above, that he did not rashly intrude himself, so as to promise anything which he himself had invented, but that he was favored with a divine mission, so that he represented God himself.
And this also is the object of the conclusion, which has been overlooked by some. All the saints with thee. There seems to be here a kind of indignation, as though the Prophet turned himself away from his hearers, whom he observed to be in a measure prepared obstinately to reject his heavenly doctrine; for he turns his discourse to God. The sentence seems indeed to lose a portion of its gracefulness, when the Prophet speaks so abruptly, Come shall Jehovah my God, all the saints with thee He might have said |all the saints with him:| but as I have said, he addresses God, as though he could not, on account of disgust, speak to malignant and perverse men, and this serves much to confirm the authority of his prophecy; for he not only declares boldly to men what was to be, but also appeals to God as his witness; nay, he seems as though he had derived by a secret and familiar colloquy what he certainly knew was committed to him by God. But by saints, as I think, he understands the angels; for to include the holy patriarchs and kings, would seem unnatural and far-fetched: and angels, we know, are called saints or holy in other places, as we have seen in the third chapter of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3:1); and they are called sometimes elect angels. In short, the Prophet shows, that the coming of God would be magnificent; he would descend, as it were, in a visible manner together with his angels, that men's minds might be roused into admiration and wonder. This is the meaning.