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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 14:12

12. And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth.

12. Et haec erit plaga qua percutiet (vel, plagabit) Iehova omnes populos, qui pugnaverint contra Ierusalem, -- liquescet (alii vertunt, tabescet) caro ejus, dum ipse stabit super pedes suos; et oculi ejus liquescent in foraminibus suis; et lingua ejus liquescet in ore ipsorum.

The Prophet adds, that though there would not be wanting many ungodly men, who should distress the Church, and attempt many things for its destruction, yet God would be a defender and would inflict punishment, which would exhibit a clear and decided proof of that paternal favor which he manifests towards his Church. But these things do not seem to harmonise -- that the people should dwell safely at Jerusalem, and yet that there would be enemies violently disturbing the city: but by saying, that they should dwell safely, he means not that there would be none anxious to do them harm; but that trusting in God's protection they would continue safe in the greatest dangers, as they would feel persuaded that God, who promised to stand on their side, would be stronger than all. The habitation of the godly would then be secure, not because they dreaded no attacks of enemies, but because they firmly believed that they would be preserved by a power from above, though the devil excited many people on all sides against them, and also prepared and suborned many wicked men to contrive their ruin.

And to this power it behaves us to raise up our thoughts when various enemies rage against us, so that we may dwell in safety and wait with quiet minds until God shall deliver us; for our safety is concealed under the faithful protection of God, which is only made known to us by the word and promises. Let us, however, bear in mind what the Prophet teaches us here -- that when God gives loose reins to enemies, his vengeance is near, so that he will visit with punishment all those wrongs and injuries which we patiently endure.

This, he says, shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people. He mentions all people again, lest a multitude of enemies should terrify the faithful, when they found themselves unequal to them, and almost overwhelmed by their vast number; they were not to doubt but that the hand of God would prevail. Then he adds, His flesh shall consume away, or melt away: there is a change of number, but the sense is not obscured; for he says, This shall be the plague with which Jehovah shall smite all people; his flesh shall melt away, as though he was speaking of one man; and then he immediately adds, while he shall stand on his feet; and his eyes shall melt away, and his tongue in their mouth We see how the Prophet changes the number three times; but there is in the subject itself nothing ambiguous. He means that it would be nothing to God, when resolved to punish the adversaries of his Church, whether they were many or few; for he can easily destroy them all, as though he had to do only with one man. But it seems also that Zechariah had another thing in view -- that as God's vengeance would regard each individual, no one of them would be safe, and that thus the vengeance of God would be universal, without any exception, and executed on all armies and on each individual.

We must now notice the kind of punishment which is here described -- that God would destroy them all without the hand or the aid of men: his flesh, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve. In this case divine vengeance is more clearly seen, that is, then enemies, though no one fights with them, yet of themselves consume away: and then he adds, when they shall stand on their feet; and yet their flesh shall melt away. The Prophet no doubt alludes to the curses of the law, among which this is especially to be observed -- that God in various ways consumes the wicked, so that they melt away when no cause appears. (Deuteronomy 28:21,22.)

The meaning then is, that God has various means by which he can reduce to nothing our enemies, though they may seek aid on every side. We are therefore taught by these words to cast all our cares on God; for when our enemies seem to be placed beyond the chance of danger, and confidently boast that nothing adverse can happen to them, yet in God's hand is their death and life, so that they can be consumed by his breath only. There is then no reason for us to depend on earthly means, when we seek to be certain respecting the destruction of our enemies; for God can inwardly consume them; though they may seem to stand whole and sound, yet they will be dissolved, so that even their eyes shall melt away in their cavities, that is, they shall fail without any external force. We indeed know that eyes are well protected; being covered with their defences, they seem to be beyond the reach of harm. But the Prophet intimates that the hidden vengeance of God can penetrate into the bowels and marrow; in short, that there is nothing so safe that it can escape the vengeance of God. The tongue also, he says, shall melt away, or dissolve (it is the same verb) in their mouth. He afterwards adds --

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