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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 11:10, 11

10. And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people.

10. Et accepi virgam meam, nempe Pulchritudinem, et confregi eam, ut irritum facerem foedus quod pepigeram cum omnibus gentibus (vel, populis.)

11. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the LORD.

11. Et irritum fuit die illo; et cognoverunt sic paupers gregis qui me observabant, quod sermo Iehovae hic esset.

He confirms the same truth, but a metaphor is introduced: for he says, that when he freed himself from the office of a shepherd, he broke the two rods, even Beauty and Gathering. He speaks of the first staff, because things were in a confusion in Judea, before the people were wholly cut off; for the dispersion did not immediately take place, so that there was no sort of social state among the Jews; but social order was so deranged, that it was sufficiently evident that they were not ruled by God. By degrees the purity of doctrine was corrupted, and a flood of errors crept in; superstition gained great strength. When things were in this state of confusion, the pastoral staff was broken, which is called, Beauty. This verse then contains no more than an explanation of the last: and hence also he says, That broken might be the covenant which I had made, that is, that it might be now quite evident that this people are not ruled by my hand and authority.

Some interpreters extend to the whole world what is here said of nations, and think that the same thing is meant by Zechariah as that which is said in Hosea 2:1, -that the Lord made a covenant with the beasts of the earth and the birds of heaven, that no harm should happen to his people; but the comparison is not suitable. It is then probable, that God here speaks only of the posterity of Abraham; nor is it to be wondered at that they are called nations, for even so Moses says,

|Nations from thee shall be born,| (Genesis 17:6.)

and this was done for the purpose of setting forth the greatness of God's favor; for the ten tribes were as so many nations among whom God reigned. It seemed incredible, that from one man, not only a numerous family, but many nations should proceed. The real meaning then seems to be, that God testified that he would no longer be the leader of that people; for when order was trodden under foot, the covenant of God was made void. Why indeed was that covenant continued, and what was its design, except to keep things aright, in a fit and suitable condition? Thus in the church, God regards order, so that nothing should be done rashly, according to every man's humor. This then was the beginning of that dispersion, which at length followed when the people had fallen off from the order which God had appointed.

He concludes by saying, that in that day the covenant was broken. By which words he intimates that it was not by chance that the law was destroyed, and that the Jews departed from the just government of God, but that it was through the dreadful vengeance of God. In that day then: this is emphatical, as though the Prophet had said, |It ought not to be ascribed to chance that things have changed for the worse, for God has thus executed his judgment, after having with extreme patience borne with the wickedness of the people.| And hence he adds, that the poor of the flock saw that this was the word of Jehovah. Here the Prophet briefly points out two things -- that this was not commonly known as God's judgment, but that almost all with closed eyes overlooked what had happened; for the world contracts as it were hardness, and becomes wilfully obdurate under the scourges of God. All cry out that they are miserable, but no one regards the hand of the striker, as it is said elsewhere. (Isaiah 9:13.) So also Zechariah charges here the Jews with stupidity; for though the greater part saw all things in confusion, yet they did not consider, but regarded almost as nothing the dreadful judgment of God. It must then be that men are extremely refractory, when they perceive not that they are chastised by God; yet the Prophet charges the Jews with this sottishness; for they regarded not this as the word of Jehovah, they did not believe that this was God's hand. But he says further, that the poor of the flock perceived this: and thus he shows, that while the body of the people followed the way to ruin, a few derived benefit from God's scourges; and thus it never happens, that God chastises without some advantage. Though then the reprobate obstinately resist God, and hesitate not to tread under foot his judgments, and as far as they can, render them void, there are yet some few who receive benefit and acknowledge God's hand so as to humble themselves and repent.

The Prophet, then, after having complained that the chief men, even those who were in honor and in wealth among the Jews, heedlessly despised God's dreadful judgment, makes this addition, that there were a few very poor and humble men, who regarded this judgment as not having come by chance, but through God, who became a just avenger, because his favor had been wantonly despised: The poor then of the flock knew this to be the word of Jehovah

As this happened in the time of the Prophet, it is no wonder that at this day, even when God thunders from heaven and makes known his judgments by manifest proofs, the world should yet rush headlong into perdition, and become as it were stupefied in their calamities. In the meantime we ought to strive to connect ourselves with the miserable poor, who are deemed as the offscourings of the world, and so attentively to consider God's vengeance, that we may seriously fear and not provoke his extreme judgments, and thus perish with the wicked.

We must observe also the expression which Zechariah introduced before the last words, Who attend to me. He mentions it as a singular and a rare thing, that even a few deigned to consider the works of God. The chief wisdom of men, we know, is attentively to consider the hand of God; but almost all seem to be immersed in a state of stupor: when the Lord smites them, they stand as it were amazed, and never, as we have already said, regard the hand of the smiter; and when the Lord freely and kindly cherishes them, they exult in their own wantonness. Thus under every kind of treatment, they are untractable; for they attend not to God, but close their eyes, harden their hearts, and cover themselves with many veils; in short, we find the blindness of the world ever connected with perverseness, so that they in vain pretend ignorance, for they attend not to God, but on the contrary turn their backs on him and darken the clear light by their wickedness.

We now then see why this sentence is introduced, that the poor of the flock understand, because they apply their minds and devote their attention for the purpose of considering the works of God. It hence follows that the bulls, who with their horns fearlessly assail God, and that he-goats, who by their stench fill the air, continue in their brutishness, and derive no benefit from God's judgments, because they are wilfully and through their own wickedness wholly blind. It follows --

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