23. Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first month
23. Et filii Sion exultate, et gaudete in Jehova Deo vestro, quia dedit vobis pluviam ad justitiam (alii vertunt, doctorem justitiae; sed de eo paulo post dicemus) et descendere faciet vobis imbrem pluviam (vel, pluviam tempestivam, ut vertunt: dicemus etiam de hac voce) et pluviam in mense primo.
He now exhorts the Jews also to rejoice, but in a way different from that of the land and of the beasts. Rejoice, he says, in your God. For the beasts and the sheep, while rejoicing, cannot raise their thoughts higher than to their food: hence, the joy of brute animals, as they say, terminates in its object. But the Prophet sets forth God before the Jews as the ground of their joy. We then see how he distinguishes them from brute animals from the land and other elements; for he not only bids them to rejoice in meat and drink, in the abundance of provisions, but he also bids them to rejoice in the Lord their God; and he says no more, |The land will yield its strength, or the vines and fig-trees, or the trees, will produce their fruit, and the pastures will grow;| no, he speaks not now in this manner, but he says |God himself will give you rain:| for he had to do with men, endued with understanding, yea, with those very Jews who had been from their childhood taught in the law of God: he speaks, not only of the land, not only of bread and wine, but of the Giver himself.
He then reminds them of God's blessing, and declares that God would be so propitious to them as to pour down his grace upon them, and act the part of a father and a guardian towards them. God then, he says, will bring forth or give to you rain according to what is necessary. Some translate hmvrh emure a teacher; and the meaning of the word, we know, is doubtful. At the same time mvrh mure is very often taken for rain, and sometimes generally, and sometimes for a particular kind of rain, as we shall presently see. Though then mvrh mure signifies a teacher, yet the context here seems not to allow that sense. They who have thus taken it seem to have been led by this one reason, -- that it is absurd to set in the first place, and as it were on a higher grade, those fading blessings which belong only to the support and nourishment of the body. But this reason is very foolish; for the Prophets, we know, lead children as it were by initial principles to a higher doctrine. No wonder then that the Prophet here affords them a taste of God's favor in blessings belonging to the body; he afterwards ascends higher, as we shall see: and this view is certainly what the context demands; for the Prophet says at last, |I will hereafter pour my Spirit on all flesh,| etc. In these words the Prophet commends the favor of God, which ought to be held as the most valuable: but he begins now with temporal benefits, that he might lead by degrees, and by various steps, a people, rude and weak, to something higher.
Then the word, teacher, by no means suits this place; and we must mark also what immediately follows. He introduces a word derived from mvrh mure; he afterwards adds mvrh mure the second time, which no doubt, means rain; all confess this, and confess it to be taken for rain in the same verse. When all agree then on this point, it seems somewhat strained to render it in the same verse a teacher and also rain; especially since we find that the Prophet's object is this, -- to make the people to recognize God's blessing in outward things. There is also another thing which has lead astray these interpreters. There follows immediately the word ltsdqh latsadke, according to what is just. When they join together these word, hmvrh ltsdqh emure latsadke, they ask, What is the rain of righteousness? They have hence thought that a teacher is here meant. But we know that mspht and tsdqh meshapheth and tsadke are often taken in Scripture for a just measure, for equity. |God then will not deal with you unequally as hitherto; but having been reconciled to you, he will reassume the part of a father, and will also observe towards you a legitimate order; for things have been on both sides in confusion, inasmuch as ye have been carrying on war against God, and your wickedness has subverted the whole order of nature. But now, God being pacified towards you, there will be on both sides an equable state of things, everything will be in a fitting condition; he will not deal with you any more in an irregular manner.| We now then perceive the real meaning of the Prophets and see how frivolous are the reasons which influenced these interpreters, who have rendered the words, |Teacher of righteousness.| I do not love strained expositions.
Let us now return to the words of the Prophet: He will give to you, he says, rain according is what is fit; then he adds, He will make to descend on you showering rain, (using another word;) and he adds again the word mvrh mure, which, no doubt, means rain, and no one denies this. But yet it seems that the word gsm geshem has here a specific meaning, and some think it to be a violent shower, occasioned by a storm or tempest; and yet we may gather from many parts of Scripture that the word means rain in general. Now mvrh mure seems here to be taken for the rain of September, which the Greeks call txoimon, proimon; and so they call mlqvs melkush opsimon, opsimon, or the latter rain, as a common interpreter has rendered it. And the cultivated land, we know, needs these two rains, that is, after sowing, and when the fruit is ripening, -- after sowing, that the ground by receiving moisture may make the seed to grow; for it then wants moisture to nourish the roots. Hence, the rain of September or October, which is after sowing, is rightly called seasonable rain; and the Greeks, as I have already said, call it proimon proimon; and James, following them, so calls it in James 5, He will give you rain,' he says, both of the first time and the late rain,' that is, of the month of March. For in those warm climates the harvests we know, is earlier than with us. We here gather the corn in July but they gather it there in May. The fruit then ripens with them in March, when they need the late rain. And in Jeremiah 5 it appears quite evident, that mvrh mure, as in this place, is called the rain, which comes down after sowing; for God says there, I will give you,' etc., and first he uses the general word gsm geshem, and then he adds the two kinds of rain, which are also mentioned here; and afterwards he adds, In their time,' that is, each rain in its time and season. -- Then mvrh mure has its time, and mlqvs melkush also has its time; otherwise the words of the prophet would not be consistent.
We now see what the Prophet means. Of the word mlqvm melkush we have said something in Hosea. Then the Prophet says now, that God would be so propitious to the Jews, as to neglect no means of testifying his favor towards them; for he would give them rain in the month of October and in the month of March, to fertilize the ground after sowing, and before the harvest or before the fruit came to maturity. Here then is promised to the Jews that the land would be made fertile by natural means. It now follows --