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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 2:1-4

1. I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.

1. Et sustuli oculos meos et vidi; et ecce vir in ejus manu funiculus mensurae.

2. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.

2. Et dixi, Quo tu vadis? et dixit mihi, Ad metiendum Ierusalem, ut videam quanta latitudo ejus, et quanta longitudo ejus.

3. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him,

3. Et ecce angelus qui loquebatur mecum egressus est, et alter angelus egressus est in occursum ejus;

4. And said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein:

4. Et dixit ad eum, Curre, dic puero huic, dicendo, In villis (vel, pagis) habitabitur Ierusalem prae multitudine hominis et pecoris (id est, honinum et pecorum) in medio ejus.

Added now is another vision for the same end; not that the former was difficult to be understood, but because there was need of confirmation in a state of things so disturbed; for though the return of the people was no common evidence of the goodness and favor of God yet as Jerusalem was not flourishing as formerly, as the temple was like a cottage as there was no form of a kingdom and no grandeur, it was difficult to believe what had been already exhibited. This is the reason why God confirms by many proofs the same thing; for we know how difficult the contest is, owing to the infirmity of the flesh, when grievous and sharp trials assail us.

Hence Zechariah says, that he saw in the hand of a man a measuring line. He calls him a man, who appeared in the form of man; and it is well known, and a common thing, that angels are called men. For though they put on a human form only for a time, yet as it was the Lord's will that they should be seen in that form, they are called men, though with no propriety. If it be asked, whether angels did really put on human nature? the obvious answer is, that they never, strictly speaking, became really men. But we know that God treats us as children; and there is the same reason for the expression as for the thing itself. How was it that angels appeared in human form? even that their access to men might be easier. Hence God calls them men as in this place. Zechariah then says, that an angel appeared to him in the form of a man, having in his hand a measuring line.

He then asks him where he was going; the answer given is, to measure Jerusalem, to see what was its breadth and its length. The design of the prophecy is then stated, Behold, inhabited shall be Jerusalem throughout all its villages, as it could not contain within its walls so large a multitude of men. God then would so increase his people, that they could not be contained within its walls, but that the limits of the Church would be spacious. Inhabited then shall be Jerusalem throughout all its villages, that is, through the whole country around. This is the meaning.

We now see the design of the Holy Spirit. As a small portion only had returned from exile, the faithful might have become disheartened when they found that the restoration of the Church was very far from being so splendid as what had been so often predicted and promised. It was therefore necessary that they should be encouraged, in order that they might patiently wait while God was performing by degrees, and step by step, what he had testified. That they might not then confine God's favor to a short period, or to a few days, the Prophet says here, that the measure of Jerusalem was different in the sight of God from what it was in the sight of men. With regard to the |line|, it was according to the ancient custom; for we know that they did not then use a ten foot pole or some such measure, but a line.

The Prophet, by saying that he raised up his eyes and saw this man, reminds us that Jerusalem was to be regarded prospectively: for they could hardly be induced then to build the city as a small and obscure town. We hence see that a difference is to be here noticed between the external aspect of Jerusalem, such as it was then, and its future condition, for which they were to look though not then visible. This then is the design of the prophecy, when it is said, that when Zechariah raised up his eyes, he saw a measure or a line in the hand of a man. He further reminds us that he was attentive to these visions, for by asking he proves that he was not asleep or indifferent, as many are who extinguish every light by their sloth; and I wish there was no such torpor prevailing among us in the present day! for we justly suffer punishment for our contempt, whenever we heedlessly and negligently attend to what God sets before us. Let us then learn greater attention and diligence from the Prophet's example.

He asks where he was going, the answer given is, to measure: and then he shows what would be the measure of Jerusalem, that it would hereafter extend beyond the walls, as that compass would not contain the vast number of the people. |God will extend,| he says, |far and wide the holy city; it will no longer be confined as before to its own walls, but will be inhabited through all its villages.| There is then no doubt but that God intended here to bear witness respecting the propagation of his Church, which was to follow a long time afterwards, even after the coming of Christ. For though Jerusalem became wealthy and also large in its compass, and, as it is well known, a triple city, and heathen writers say that it was among the first of the cities of the East when Babylon was still existing, yet this prophecy was not verified in the state of Jerusalem, for it was not inhabited without its walls, nor did it spread through the whole of Judea. We hence conclude, that the spiritual Jerusalem is here described, which differs from all earthly cities.

It is said, that the angel went forth, and that another angel met him. It hence appears as from the whole of what the Prophet says, how carefully God provides for the safety of his Church; for he has ever angels as his emissaries, who hasten at his nod, and aid the Church in its necessities. Since then angels thus unite to secure the well-being of the Church, we hence perceive how dear to God are the faithful, in whose favor he thus employs all his angels; and we also see, that it was the Lord's will that this prophecy should be clear and manifest to all the godly: go, and run to that young man, he says, and tell him. Zechariah had indeed asked for an explanation of the measure in the man's hand, but from the fact that another angel met him, it appears, as I have already said, that God does not neglect the request and prayers of his people, provided only that they are desirous of learning; he will then perform the part of a true and faithful teacher towards them. But the word |run,| ought especially to be noticed: |go,| he says, |and even hasten, lest the youth should longer doubt, and explain the purpose of this prophecy.| He calls the Prophet a youth, because he was then among angels. He would not call him a man of full age, because he had before called an angel man. What rank could the Prophet hold among angels except that of a youth? This circumstance ought therefore to be observed as the reason why Zechariah spoke disparagingly or humbly of himself.

Now as to the import of the prophecy, we have already said, that here is described the heavenly Jerusalem, which is surrounded by no walls, but is open to the whole world, and which depends not on its own strength, but dwells safely though exposed on all sides to enemies; for the Prophet says not without reason, |through the villages shall Jerusalem be inhabited;| that is, it shall everywhere be inhabited, so that it will have no need of defense to restrain or hinder enemies to come near; for a safe rest shall be given to it, when every one shall quietly occupy his own place. It follows --

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