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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Lecture One Hundred and Seventy-fourth

We began in the last lecture to explain what the Prophet says here of the priesthood, and we have said that the sum of the whole is -- that wicked priests in vain lay claim to the title of honor, who do not faithfully perform their office; for the compact between God and them is mutual, inasmuch as God did not institute priests under the law in order to allow them unbridled liberty, or to deprive himself of every power; but, on the contrary, he set them over the Church in order to retain the people in true religion. As then the obligation is, as they say, reciprocal, there is no reason for the priests to arrogate supreme power and to deprive God of it. The Prophet then had said, that God's compact with Levi was that of life and peace, because God, who is faithful in his promises, had promised to be propitious to the Levites. Our Prophet therefore calls it the compact of life and peace, because the Levites had found that God was in every respect kind and bountiful, whenever they performed their parts.

He now adds, I gave to him fear, and he feared me. The interpreters who consider the preposition for, or, on account of (propter), to be understood, pervert the whole sense; for fear here is to be taken for the rule of worshipping God, as though he had said, |I have prescribed how he is rightly to perform his office.| He means then that God gave to the Levites a knowledge of the way in which he was to be served, because he would not have them to wander according to their own notions, but he prescribed to them the duties of their office, as though he had said, |Ye are indeed endued with no common honor, for ye are the teachers of the Church; but yet I have laid a restraint upon you, as I have commanded the people to obey you, so have I commanded you what to do. Since then I have given my fear to Levi, since I have prescribed how he is to worship me, is it not now most shameless and most impious, to boast of the honorable name of priesthood, and at the same time to be no priests? for what is it to be God's priest, except to govern the Church as God has commanded? I have then given him my fear.|

And he feared me; that is, he observed the law laid down for him; and he was contrite before my name; that is, |he conducted himself in a humble manner, he did not exalt himself by vain pride, that he might oppress my Church, rule tyrannically, and subvert all due order; but he was an example of humility, for he owned himself the more bound to me, because I honored him with so much dignity as to make him the ruler of my Church.| It afterwards follows --

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