We explained shortly yesterday why the Prophet says, that there would be for some time no difference between day and night; it was to prepare the faithful for all changes, and to show that they are not to promise themselves anything certain or sure in this world. Days and nights revolve throughout all seasons of the year, but the Prophet shows that there would be an uncertain time, as though it were twilight, or that there would not be constant light, but light mixed with darkness. The two verses ought to be connected together, when he says, In that day there shall not be precious light and mingled light, or, on the contrary, thick darkness. What he says afterwards, In that day there shall not be day or night, is disjoined by some, but not rightly, as we shall presently see.
But with regard to the words, light of preciousnesses, it is agreed among all writers that the word yqrvt, ikarut, means what is excellent. As to this word then there is no ambiguity; for the Prophet means that it shall not be a light day, such as is wont to be during a clear sky. But as to the second word, interpreters differ. It is written yqph'vn, ikophaun: qph', kopha, means to coagulate, to become thick: hence yqph'vn, ikophaun, signifies density or dense darkness. Some think it to be in construction; and others, that v, vau, is to be put in; and this is probable, as we may see from the context, though yet it may have a twofold meaning. If indeed we join these two words, the Prophet may understand that the light would not be very clear, and that there would not be thick darkness. But we may take the light of densities for that which is steady and fixed, which gains such strength, that it cannot be darkened. But I prefer a different view: we know that the copulative in Hebrew is often taken adversatively; and this exposition is the most suitable, -- that there would not be clear light, but on the contrary, a density, that is, thick darkness, which would obscure the light of the sun, or hinder the eyes of men from enjoying clear light. This seems to be the meaning of our Prophet, In that day there shall not be light, that is, that day shall not be clear, that is, so far that it can be numbered among fair and bright, or clear days; but on the contrary, there will be densities, that is, it will be a cloudy time, for much darkness will fill the sky, and prevent men to see the sun.
As to the subject itself, it is sufficiently apparent what the Prophet meant; for as I said yesterday, and have again reminded you, it was to be a perilous time, so that the miserable Jews would hourly and every moment be filled with fear, as they should see many dangers around them; and there would ever be some appearance of a sudden change. As when we find the south wind blowing, and the heavens covered with clouds, a shower is expected, and every one keeps within floors, and they who travel dare not proceed lest a storm overtakes them; so also the Prophet says, that this time would be like cloudy and dark days.
The same is the meaning of what he adds, It shall be one day, when it shall not be day and night; as though he had said, that there would not be any settled state of weather. Interpreters have given a very different view -- that it would be neither day nor night. Some give this reason, because the Lord will rule his Church by faith; and we indeed know that our salvation is hid under the safe keeping of faith. Others give an entirely different meaning, -- that the Lord will so fill heaven and earth by his own brightness, that there will be no need for the sun and the moon, according to what is said by Isaiah,
|Shine to thee shall not the sun by day nor the moon by night; but to thee shall Jehovah be an eternal light.| (Isaiah 60:19.)
But these are mere refinements. The real meaning of the Prophet, I doubt not, is, -- that men would be in continual trepidation, as wile the air is in various ways agitated, when clouds arise, when the thunder is heard, and when the light of the sun disappears. When such is the state of the sky, men we know fear, for there is hardly a distinction between day and night. Thus our Prophet warns the faithful as to future events, and prepares them for patience, lest any storm should overwhelm them, and they should despond when overtaken by it, but that they might look for what had been foretold, even for darkness mixed with light, which would be a continual twilight: and the word, twilight, the ancients have said, is derived from one signifying what is doubtful (crepusculum a crepero.)
But we must also notice what he afterwards says, that this day would towards evening be light. He here intimates, that there will ever be a joyful end to the troubles of the faithful. Though then they were tossed by many cares, and troubled with various kinds of fear, as though they were in darkness, yet he says, that the evening would be clear. And this ought to be carefully observed, for with this solace alone is the Spirit wont to ease the sorrows of the godly, that is, that after God has for a while tried them, there will come shortly an end, and that a joyful one, to all their evils, so that God will shine on them like the sun in its meridian splendor. He calls, in short, the attention of the faithful to this end, because God makes thus a distinction between the elect and the reprobate; for though he afflicts both alike, and overwhelms them as with darkness, there is yet light prepared for his elect; and after having suffered them for a time to lie in darkness, he will make them at length to emerge into clear light; but he deprives the reprobate of every hope.
This is the subject which the Prophet now handles; as though he had said, -- |There is no reason for the faithful to be disheartened by adversities, when darkness on all sides surrounds them; for the Lord will at length restore light to them, of which it was needful for them to be deprived for a time.| But Zechariah speaks not here of one day, but of a period which would be like a dark day, even until Christ by his coming restored the full light, as the Sun of Righteousness, according to what he is called by Malachi.
Then he says, that this day is known to Jehovah, in order that the faithful night depend on his good pleasure, and not too anxiously enquire about an event hidden from them and the whole world. The day then is known, says Zechariah, only to God, though he speaks of things well known, and which the Jews had at length to know by experience. But his object must be regarded, for his purpose was to restrain the godly, that they might not unnecessarily torment themselves, for we are wont to be too curious to know things: when God's design is to calm us, and to make us rely on his providence, then many thoughts come across our minds, and toss us here and there, and thus we torment ourselves with anxiety. As then it is disease is innate in human nature, the Prophet supplies a seasonable remedy, -- that the faithful are to allow themselves to be ruled by God, and to follow the example of their father Abraham, |The Lord will provide:| when he was in extremity and no escape was open he committed himself to God's providence. So also Zechariah says, that it would be entirely dependent on the will of God alone, now to cover the heavens with darkness, and then to restore the sun, and also to blend darkness with light; and nothing is better for men than to check themselves, and not to enquire more than what is right, nor take away anything from God's power, for whenever men murmur against God's judgments, it is the same thing as though they wished to penetrate into heaven, and concede nothing to him except what they themselves think right. Then, in order to check this presumption, the Prophet says, that this day is known to Jehovah, so that the faithful might patiently wait until the ripened end should come, for our curiosity drives us here and there, so that we always wish to be certain about the end, |How long is this to endure?| and thus we complain against God; but when we are not able to subordinate our minds to his will, then we break forth as it were into a furious temper.
We hence see how useful a doctrine this clause contains, where the Prophet sets God as the judge and the arbitrator of all events, so that he afflicts the Church as long as it pleases him, sets bounds to adversities, and regulates all things as it seemeth good to him; and he also covers the heavens with thick clouds, and takes away the sight of the sun. All this then is what the Prophet would have us to know is in God's power, and directed by his counsel. It now follows-