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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 5:1-4

1. Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.

1. Et reversus sum et extuli oculos meos, et aspexi, et ecce volumen volans.

2. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.

2. Et dixit mihi, Quid tu vides? Et dixit, ego video volumen volans; longitudo ejus viginti in cubito (hoc est, ad viginti cubitos,) et latitudo ejus decem in cubito (hoc est, ad decem cubitos.)

3. Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.

3. Et dixit mihi, Haec est maledictio, quiae egreditur super faciem universae terrae; quia quisquis furatur, ex hac sicut illa punietur; et quisquis pejerat, ex hac sicut illa punietur.

4. I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.

4. Emittam (vel, producam) eam, dicit Iehova exercituum; et veniet ad domum furantis, et ad domum jurantis in nomine meo fallaciter; et residebit in medio domus ejus, et consumet eam et ligna et lapides ejus.

The angel shows in this chapter, that whatever evils the Jews had suffered, proceeded from the righteous judgment Of God; and then he adds a consolation -- that the Lord would at length alleviate or put an end to their evils, when he had removed afar off their iniquity. Interpreters have touched neither heaven nor earth in their explanation of this prophecy, for they have not regarded the design of the Holy Spirit. Some think that by the volume are to be understood false and perverted glosses, by which the purity of doctrine had been vitiated; but this view can by no means be received. There is no doubt but that God intended to show to Zechariah, that the Jews were justly punished, because the whole land was full of thefts and perjuries. As then religion had been despised, as well as equity and justice, he shows that it was no wonder that a curse had prevailed through the whole land, the Jews leaving by their impiety and other sins extremely provoked the wrath of God. This is the import of the first part. And, then, as this vision was terrible, there is added some alleviation by representing iniquity in a measure, and the mouth of the measure closed, and afterwards carried to the land of Shinar, that is, into Chaldea, that it might not remain in Judea. Thus in the former part the Prophet's design was to humble the Jews, and to encourage them to repent, so that they might own God to have been justly angry; and then he gives them reason to entertain hope, and fully to expect an end to their evils, for the Lord would remove to a distance and transfer their iniquity to Chaldea, so that Judea might be pure and free from every wickedness, both from thefts and acts of injustice, by which it had been previously polluted. But every sentence must be in order explained, that the meaning of the Prophet may be more clearly seen.

He says, that he had returned; and by this word this vision is separated front the preceding visions, and those also of which we have hitherto spoken, were not at the same time exhibited to the Prophet, but he saw them at different times. We may hence learn that some time intervened before the Lord presented to him the vision narrated in this chapter. He adds, that he raised up his eyes and looked; and this is said that we may know that what he narrates was shown to him by the prophetic Spirit. Zechariah very often raised up his eyes though God did not immediately appear to him; but it behaved God's servants, whenever they girded themselves for the purpose of teaching, to withdraw themselves as it were from the society of men, and to rise up above the world. The raising up of the eyes then, mentioned by Zechariah, signified something special, as though he had said, that he was prepared, for the Lord had inwardly roused him. The Prophets also, no doubt, were in this manner by degrees prepared, when the Lord made himself known to them. There was then the raising up of the eyes as a preparation to receive the celestial oracle.

He afterwards adds, that he was asked by the angel what he saw. He might indeed have said, that a roll flying in the air appeared to him, but he did not as yet understand what it meant; hence the angel performed the office of an interpreter. But he says, that the roll was twenty cubits long, and ten broad. The Rabbis think that the figure of the court of the temple is here represented, for the length of the court was twenty cubits and its breadth was ten; and hence they suppose, that the roll had come forth from the temple, that there might be fuller reason to believe that God had sent forth the roll. And this allusion, though not sufficiently grounded, is yet more probable than the allegory of the puerile Jerome, who thinks that this ought to be applied to Christ, because he began to preach the gospel in his thirtieth year. Thus he meant to apply this number to the age of Christ, when he commenced his office as a teacher. But this is extreme trifling. I do not feel anxious to know why the length or the breadth is mentioned; for it seems not to be much connected with the main subject. But if it be proper to follow a probable conjecture, what I have already referred to is more admissible -- that the length and breadth of the roll are stated, that the Jews might fully understand that nothing was set before them but what God himself sanctioned, as they clearly perceived a figure of the court of the temple.

The angel then says, that it was the curse which went forth over the face of the whole land. We must remember what I have just said, that God's judgment is here set forth before the Jews, that they might know how justly both their fathers and themselves have been with so much severity chastised by God, inasmuch as they had procured for themselves such punishments by their sins. From the saying of the angel, that the roll went through the whole land, we learn, that not only a few were guilty, or that some corner of the land only had been polluted, but that the wrath of God raged everywhere, as no part of the land was pure or free from wickedness. As then Judea was full of pollutions, it was no wonder that the Lord poured forth his wrath and overwhelmed, as it were with a deluge, the whole land.

It afterwards follows, for every thief, or every one that steals, shall on this as on that side, be punished, or receive his own reward; and every one who swears, shall on this as on that side be punished. As to the words, interpreters differ with regard to the particles, mzh kmvh, mese camue; some take the meaning to be, |by this roll, as it is written;| others, |on this side of the roll, as on the other;| for they think that the roll was written on both sides, and that God denounced punishment on thieves as well as on perjurers. But I rather apply the words to the land, and doubt not but that this is the real meaning of the Prophet. As then there is no respect of persons with God, the Prophet, after having spoken of the whole land, says, that no one who had sinned could anywhere escape unpunished, for God would from one part to the other summon all to judgment without any exception.

Now the Prophet says, that all perjurers, as well as thieves, shall be punished; and there is nothing strange in this, for God, who has forbidden to steal, has also forbidden to forswear. He is therefore the punisher of all transgressions. Those who think that this roll was disapproved, as though it contained false and degenerate doctrine, bring this reason to prove its injustice, that the thief is as grievously punished as the perjurer: but this is extremely frivolous. For, as I have said already, God shows here that he will be the defender of his law in whatever respect men may have transgressed it. We must therefore remember that saying of James,

|he who forbids to commit adultery, forbids also to steal: whosoever then offends in one thing is a transgressor of the whole law:| (James 2:11)

for we ought not simply to regard what God either commands or forbids, but we ought ever to fix our eyes on his majesty, as there is nothing so minute in the law which all ought not reverently to receive; for the laws themselves are not only to be regarded, but especially the lawgiver. As then the majesty of God is dishonored, when any one steals, and when any one transgresses in the least point, he clearly shows that the word of God is not much regarded by him. It is hence right that thieves and perjurers should be alike punished: yet the Scripture while it thus speaks, does not teach that sins are equal in enormity, as the Stoics in former times foolishly and falsely taught. But the equality of punishment is not what is here referred to; the angel means only, that neither thieves nor perjurers shall go unpunished, as they have transgressed the law of God.

We must also observe, that the mode of speaking adopted here is that of stating a part for the whole; for under the word theft is comprehended whatever is opposed to the duties of love; so that it is to be referred to the second table at the law. And the Prophet calls all those perjurers who profane the worship of God; and so perjury includes whatever is contrary to the first table of the law, and tends to pollute the service due to God. The meaning is, -- that God, as I have said, will be the punisher of all kinds of wickedness, for he has not in vain given his law. Much deceived then are those who flatter themselves, as though by evasions they can elude the judgment of God, for both thieves and perjurers shall be brought before God's tribunal, so that no one can escape, that is, no wickedness shall remain unpunished; for not in vain has he once declared by his own mouth, that cursed are all who fulfill not whatever has been written. (Deuteronomy 27:26.)

And the same thing the Prophet more clearly expresses in the following verse, where God himself declares what he would do, that he would cause the curse to go forth over the whole land; as though he had said, |I will really show, that I have not given the law that it may be despised; for what the law teaches shall be so efficacious, that every one who violates it shall find that he has to do, not with a mortal man, nor with sounds of words, but with the heavenly judge; I will bring forth the curse over the whole land.|

I have said, that the Prophet was instructed in the import of this vision, that all the Jews might know that it was nothing strange that they had been so severely chastised, inasmuch as they had polluted the whole land by their sins, so that no part of the law was observed by them; for on the one hand they had corrupted the worship of God and departed from true religion; and on the other, they distressed one another by many wrongs, and oppressed them by frauds. As then no equity prevailed among the people, nor any true religion, God shows that he would punish them all, as none were guiltless.

He afterwards adds, It shall come into the house of the thief, and into the house of him who swears in my name falsely; and there will it reside, and it shall consume the hoarse, both the wood and the stones. Here the Prophet further stimulates the Jews to repentance, by showing that the curse would so fly as to enter into all their houses; as though he had said, |In vain shall they, who deserve punishment, fortify or shut up themselves; for this curse, which I send forth, shall come to each individual, and with him it shall remain.| We know that hypocrites so flatter themselves, as though they could escape for the moment while God is angry and displeased; but the Prophet shows here that vain is such a hope, for the curse would overtake all the ungodly, and wholly overthrow them; yea, it would consume their houses, both the wood and the stones. In short, he intimates, that punishment ends not until men are reconciled to God. And by these words he reminds us how terrible it is to fall into the hands of God, for he will punish the ungodly and the wicked until he reduces them to nothing. We now then comprehend the design of the Prophet and the meaning of the words. It now follows --

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