17. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain.
17. Et erit, Qui non ascenderit e familiis terrae in Ierusalem ad supplicandum Regi, Iehovae exercituum, etiam non erit super eos pluvia.
18. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.
18. Et si familia Egypti non ascenderit et non venerit, etiam non super eos; erit autem plaga qua percutiet, (plagabit, ad verbum,) Iehova gentes quae non ascenderint ad celebrandam festivitatem Tabernaculorum.
Zechariah goes on here with the same subject, -- that the name of the only true God would be known throughout the whole world, so that all nations would unite in his worship, while the whole earth was before polluted with various superstitions, and every one followed his own god: but the more clearly expresses here than in the last lecture, that vengeance was prepared for all the despisers of the true God. He says then, that the curse of God is laid up for all those who would not come to Jerusalem humbly to worship God to there.
We have said that in these words is set forth the legitimate worship of God; for after the coming of Christ it was not necessary to ascend into Jerusalem according to what John says in John 4:21
|The time comes and now is, that the true worshippers of God shall worship God, neither in this mountains nor at Jerusalem;|
but in every part of the world. But the Prophets speak according to the state of things in their time, and always describe the spiritual worship of God according to the types of the law. To ascend then into Jerusalem amounts to the same thing as to embrace true religion and cordially to engage in the worship of the only true God, such as has been prescribed in his word. The meaning then is, -- that all who despised the God of Israel would be accursed.
Then what follows is mentioned by the Prophet as a part for the whole; he declares that there would be no rain on the despisers of God; as though he had said, that they would perceive God's vengeance, as he would take away from them all the necessaries of life; for by rain the Prophet means whatever is needful for the support of life. And we know that as to the blessings of God needful for the present life, the chief thing is, when he renders the heavens and the earth the servants as it were of his bounty to us: for how can we be supplied with food, except the earth by his command open its bowels and the heavens hear the earth, as it is said elsewhere, (Hosea 2:21;) so that rain may irrigate it, and render it fruitful, which must be otherwise barren?
We now then understand the design of the Prophet, -- that in order to invite all nations to the pure worship of God, he declares that all who refused to serve the only true God would be accursed. He further intended by this prophecy to animate the Jews, that they might firmly proceed in the course of true religion until the coming of Christ, and never doubt but that the God whom they worshipped would be the supreme king of the whole world, though before hidden as it were in a corner of the world, while worshipped in Judea alone. The Prophet then intimates that though God had been despised by all nations, his name would yet be sanctified and adored; and also, that if any deprived him of his legitimate worship they would be visited with punishment, because they were destined to perish through famine and want, inasmuch as the heavens would deny rain to them, and the earth would not give them food.
But Zechariah speaks expressly of the Egyptians: and we indeed know that they were most inveterate enemies to true religion; and he might have also mentioned the Assyrians and the Chaldeans; but as the Egyptians were nearer and more contiguous to the holy land, their hatred towards the Jews was more virulent. This is the reason why Zechariah speaks of them particularly. It may at the same time appear strange that he threatens them with want of rain; for we know that Egypt expects no rain from above, because of the peculiar condition of the country; for according as the Nile overflows, do the inhabitants look for a fruitful produce of corn and of all other things. The Prophet then ought not to have thus threatened the Egyptians, for they might have justly laughed at him for saying that there would be no rain for them, the want of which is not much felt there. But the Prophet's intention was simply what I have already explained, -- that God would be a Father to the Jews, and also to others who joined in his worship according to the law. Though then the Egyptians had no need of rain, yet by this metaphor Zechariah denounced on them sterility as the punishment of impiety.
And we may further observe, that though the overflowing of the Nile irrigated the whole land and made it fruitful, yet rain was by no means useless; and it is said in Psalm 105:32, |He turned their rain into hail,| Egypt being the place spoken of; for the Lord destroyed all its fruit, because the rain was turned into hail. It appears also evident from history, that rain is desirable in Egypt in order to render the produce more abundant. But the Lord has favored that country with a peculiar benefit by supplying the want of rain by the Nile.
There is then nothing doubtful in the meaning of the Prophet, as his object was to show, that the Lord would constrain all people to become obedient to true religion, not only those Jews who were far removed from Judea, but even the Egyptians themselves, who had been always most alienated from true and pure worship.
He adds, There shall be upon them the plague. He now speaks more generally; and what he before specifically mentioned, he now declares in general terms, -- that God would execute vengeance and destroy and reduce to nothing all those who took not on them the yoke, so as to worship him sincerely, together with the Jews, according to what the law prescribes. He again repeats the words, who ascended not into Jerusalem; not that he intended to confine the worship of God to ceremonies or rites under the law; but because it was necessary, until Christ abrogated all the ancient rites, that the worship of God should be thus described; nor could it then be separated from these external exercises.
But here it may be rightly inquired, why the Prophet speaks specifically of the feast of tabernacles, since the passover was deemed first among the festivals. The reason seems to me to have been this, -- because it was difficult to believe that the Jews would return to their own country, that God would become again their redeemer. Many interpreters say, that the Prophet speaks of the feast of tabernacles, because it behaved them to be sojourners in the world: but a similar reason might be given for other days. We must then inquire why he mentions the feast of tabernacles and not other feasts. Now we know that when the Prophets speak of the second restoration of the people, they often call attention to that wonderful deliverance from Egypt by which God had proved that he possessed sufficient power to redeem and save his own people. To this instance does Zechariah now allude, as I think, and says, that God would restore his people by his wonderful and inexpressibly great power, so that they might justly celebrate the feast of tabernacles as their fathers formerly did: for we know why God commanded the Jews to dwell every year under the branches of trees; it was, that they might be mindful of that deliverance which had been granted to their fathers; for they had continued forty years in the desert, where they had no buildings, but huts only, made of branches of trees. When therefore they went forth from their houses, and dwelt as it were in the open air in tents, they thus revived the memory of the wonderful manner by which their fathers were delivered. Hence God, in order to show that their return from the Babylonian exile was worthy of being remembered, says here that the feast of tabernacles would be celebrated
In short, the Prophet means that God would be such a deliverer of his people, that all the nations, even from the remotest parts, would acknowledge it as a remarkable miracle: it is the sense then as though he had said, that the deliverance of the people would be an evidence of divine power so manifest and illustrious, that all nations would acknowledge that the God of Israel is the creator of heaven and earth, and is so endued with supreme power, that he governs the whole world; and, in a word, that he is the only true God who ought to be worshipped. It afterwards follows --