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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 11:12, 13

12. And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver.

12. Et dixi illis, Si bonum est in oculis vestris (hoc esst, si vobis placet,) date mercedem meam; quod si non, desistite: et appenderunt mercedem meam triginta argenteos.

13. And the Lord said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord

13. Et dixit Iehova ad me, Projice hoc ad figulum, magnificentiam pretii quo aestimatus sum ab illis: et sumpsi triginta argenteos, et projeci hoc ad templum Iehovae, ad figulum.

God now adds another crime, by which he discovers the wickedness of the people; for they estimated all the labor he had bestowed at a cry insignificant price. He had before complained of ingratitude; but more fully detected was the iniquity and baseness of the people, when they thus regarded as of no value the inestimable favor of God towards them. What the Prophet then says now is -- that God at last tried them so as to know whether his benefits were of any account among the Jews, and that it had been fully found out, that all the labor and toil employed in their behalf, had been ill-spent and wholly lost. That Zechariah now speaks in his own person, and then introduces God as the speaker, makes no difference, as we said yesterday, as to the main subject; for his object is to set forth how shamefully the Jews had abused the favor of God, and how unjustly they had despised it. And yet he speaks as God's minister; for God not only governed that people himself, but also endued with the power of his Spirit many ministers, who undertook the office of shepherds.

He then says, that he came (and what is said properly belongs to God) to the people and demanded a reward, Give me, he says, a reward; if not, forbear He expresses here the highest indignation, as though one upbraided the wickedness and ingratitude of his neighbor and said, |Own my kindness, if you please; if not, let it perish: I care not; I see that you are wholly worthless and altogether unworthy of being so liberally treated: I therefore make no account of thy compensations; but at the same time it behaves thee to consider how much thou art indebted to me.| So now does God in high displeasure speak here: |Give me at least a reward, that I may not have served you for nothing: you have misused my labor, I have borne with many wrongs and annoyances in ruling you; what is to be the compensation for my solicitude and care? I indeed make no account of a reward, for I am not a mercenary.| He then adds, that they gave him thirty silverings He mentions this no doubt as a mean price, intimating, that they wished by such a small sum to compensate for the many and inestimable favors of God; as when one hires a swineherd or a clown, he gives a paltry sum as his wages; so the Jews, as the Prophet says, acted towards God. At the same time by the mean price, a suitable reward only to a clown, he means those frivolous things by which the Jews thought to satisfy God: for we know how diligent they were in performing their ceremonies, as though indeed these were a compensation that was of any value with God! He requires integrity of heart, and he gives himself to us, that he may in return have us as his own. This then was the price of labor which the Lord had deserved. It would have been a suitable reward had the Jews devoted themselves wholly to him in obedience to his word. But what did they do? They sedulously performed ceremonies and other frivolous things. This then was a sordid reward, as though they sought to put him off with the reward of a swineherd.

Hence he adds, Jehovah said to me, throw it to the potter. |This truly is my reward! Cast it to the potter, that he may get some bricks or coverings to repair the temple; if there are any parts of the temple dilapidated, let the potter get thereby some bricks, or let any humble artisan have such a price for himself.| But he afterwards speaks ironically when he says, the magnificence and the glory of the price at which he had been estimated! |This is, forsooth! the magnificence of my price, though I had endured many toils! they now deal with me as with some mean swineherd, though I was their Lord and Shepherd: since then they seek thus craftily to satisfy me, and reproachfully offer me a paltry reward, and as it were degrade my glory and spit in my face, Cast, cast it, he says, to the potter;| that is, let them repair the temple, in which they delight so much as if they were in heaven: for the temple is their idol; but God will be never nigh them while they act thus hypocritically with him. |Let them then repair the breaches of the temple and pay the price to the potter, for I will not suffer a price so unworthy of my majesty to be obtruded so disgracefully on me.|

We now then apprehend the meaning of the Prophet: and first we must bear in mind what I have stated, that here is described how irreclaimable had been the wickedness of the people: though rejected by God, when he had broken his rod, they yet esteemed as nothing the favors which they had experienced. How so? because they thought that they performed an abundant service to God, when they worshipped him by external frivolities; for ceremonies without a real sense of religion are frivolous puerilities in God's presence. What then the Prophet now urges is, that the Jews wilfully buried God's benefits, by which he had nevertheless so bound them to himself that they could not be released. And to the same purpose is what follows, Cast it to the potter: for he testifies that the price was of no value, nay, that he abominated such a reward as men paid hint when they dealt with him in such a reproachful manner; for as he says in Isaiah, it was a weariness to him --

|I am disgusted with your festal days; why do you daily tread the pavement of my temple?| (Isaiah 1:12,13;)

and again he says,

|He who slays an ox is the same as he who kills a man.| (Isaiah 66:3.)

God in these places shows, as here by Zechariah, that these sacrifices which ungodly men and hypocrites offer to him, without a right feeling of religion, are the greatest abominations to him, -- why? Because it is the highest indignity which the wicked call offer, which is as it were to spit in his face, when they compare him to a potter or a swineherd, and think nothing of the reward which he deserves, and that is, to consecrate and really to devote themselves wholly to him without any dissimulation. When therefore men trifle with God and think that he is delighted with frivolous puerilities, they compare him, as I have said, to a swineherd, or to some low or common workman; and this is an indignity which he cannot bear, and for which he manifests hero by his Prophet his high displeasure.

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