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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 9:13

13. When I have bent Judah for me, filled the bow with Ephraim, and raised up thy sons, O Zion, against thy sons, O Greece, and made thee as the sword of a mighty man.

13. Quia tetendi mihi Iehudah arcum, implevi Ephraim, et excitavi filios tuos, Sion, contra filios tuos, Graecia; et posui te quasi gladium gigantis (vel, robusti.)

God declares here that the Jews would be the conquerors of all nations, though they were then despised. That people, we know, were hated by all; and they were at the same time weak, and had hardly any strength, so as to be able to resist the wrongs done them on every side. As then this trial might have terrified weak minds, the Prophet says that the Jews would be as it were the bow and the quiver of God, so that they would be able to pierce all nations with their arrow; and that they would also be like a sword, which would wound and lay prostrate the strongest.

We now perceive the meaning of the words, and see also the reason why the Prophet made this addition, even because the Jews were filled with terror on seeing themselves surrounded on every side by violent and strong enemies, to whom they were very unequal in strength. Now, these similitudes we know occur elsewhere in Scripture, and their meaning seems to be this -- that the Jews would be the conquerors of all nations, not by their own prowess, as they say, but because the Lord would guide and direct them by his own hand. For what is a bow except it be bent? and the bow itself is useless, except the arrow be discharged. The Prophet then teaches us, that though the Jews could do nothing of themselves, yet there was strength enough in God's hand alone.

I have bent for me, he says, Judah as a bow. The Lord reminds the Jews of his own power, that they might not regard their own strength, but acknowledge that they were made strong from above, and that strength to overcome their enemies would be given them. Hence he compares Ephraim to a quiver. But we have seen yesterday, that Judah and Ephraim are to be taken as the same; for as it had been a divided body, God intimates here, that when the Jews became again united and joined together, and when the ten tribes showed brotherly kindness towards the kingdom of Judah, then the people would be to him like a bow well furnished, being fully supplied with arrows.

He afterwards adds, I will rouse thy sons, O Sion, against thy sons, O Javan. This apostrophe is more emphatical than if the third person had been adopted; for by addressing first Sion, and then Greece, he shows that he possesses power over all nations, so that he raises up the one and casts down the other, as he pleases.

As to the word yvn, Ivan, we have elsewhere seen that it is to be taken for Greece, and now for all the countries beyond sea. Yet many think that the word Jonah is derived from this Hebrew word, and, as it often happens, is corruptly pronounced. But we may gather from many instances that yvn, Ivan, is put for Greece, or for distant countries, and specifically for Macedonia. It is then the same as though he had said -- That the Jews would be superior to all heathen nations, even were they to unite together and bring vast forces from distant lands. For the Greeks could not have waged war in Judea with a small force; they must have brought with them large armies, to fight in a strange country and unknown to them. Nor could the Jews have attacked the Grecians or other remote nations, except they were favored with aid from heaven. For this reason also he adds, that they would be like a sword, by which a strong man can destroy others of less power. Let us now go on --

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