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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 14:13

13. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.

13. Et accidet, die illo erit tumultus Iehovae magnus in illis; et apprehendet quisque manum socii sui; et ascendet manus ejus contra manum proximi sui (vel, evanescet; alii vertunt, excidetur manus ejus, quia [lh] etiam significat excidere.)

The Prophet seems again to be inconsistent with himself; for after having declared that God would be the defender of his people, so as to destroy and consume all people for their sake, he now adds that there would be intestine discords, by which the Jews would wilfully consume one another; while yet there is nothing more improbable than that the people, who live under God's protection, should so divide themselves into factions, as to perish miserably without any outward enemy. But these things do not ill accord, provided we bear in mind what I have already said -- that these things are to be taken in a different sense; for the Prophet at one time warns the faithful of the evils which were impending, lest being shaken by their suddenness, they should despond; at another time he promises them a happy condition, for they would ever be the objects of God's care. So then we may explain the matter thus -- |Though enemies on every side should unite and conspire against you, though they should hasten with great fury and rage to destroy you, and though a vast member at home, and domestic enemies from the bosom of your city, should rise up against you, yet God will prevail against them, and all your enemies shall at length be for your good and benefit.|

This then is the reason why Zechariah blends together what seems to be wholly inconsistent. It was necessary to know both these things -- that the faithful might be fully persuaded that God watched over their safety, for it was his purpose to defend the holy city, and to be its perpetual guardian -- and then, that they might also be prepared in their minds to bear many trials and troubles, lest they should promise to themselves a joyful state, and thus indulge in carnal security. Having now explained the Prophet's intention, we must briefly notice the words.

He says that there would be a great tumult from Jehovah among them. This no doubt refers to the Jews; for the Prophet shows that they would be not only exposed to external injuries, but also to another evil -- that they would arm themselves against one another, as though they would tear out their own bowels. A tumult, he says, shall be among them, which is the extreme of evils that can happen to a city or people; for no danger is nearer than when they who ought as one man to unite strength and courage to repel an enemy, rage internally against themselves.

But this passage deserves special notice, as here is described to us the condition of the Church, such as it is to be until the end of the world; for though the Prophet speaks here of the intermediate time between the return of the people and the coming of Christ, yet he paints for us a living representation, by which we can see that the Church is never to be free or exempt from this evil -- that it cannot drive away or put to flight domestic enemies. And we must also observe, that this tumult, as he says, would be from Jehovah He means that whenever the Church is rent, and sects burst forth, and many hypocrites and ungodly men, who for a time pretend to be God's true servants, furiously assail true religion -- whenever these things arise, the Prophet means that they do not happen by chance, but that they are God's judgments, in order to prove the faith of his people, and to humble his Church, and also to give to his people a victory and a crown. However this may be, though their own ambition rouses heretics, and all the ungodly, to disturb the Church, and though the devil excites them by his own fans, yet God sits in the chief place, and whatever commotions rage in the Church proceed from him. Hence Paul says that heresies must be, that those who are approved may become manifest. (1 Corinthians 11:19.) Certainly this is not the object of the devil; but Paul shows that it is the high purpose of God, so that he may distinguish by severe trial between his sincere servants and hypocrites; for he not only permits tumults to arise, but even stirs them up. And hence also we learn, that nothing is better than to flee to him when ungodly men race and distort our peace; for he can easily by a nod silence those commotions which he excites.

He adds, Every one shall lay hold on the hand of his companion, and rise up (or perish) shall his hand against the hand of his neighbor. This passage may admit of a twofold meaning. The first is, that every one for the sake of obtaining help will lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, and yet without any advantage, for his own hand would perish, that is, he who sought aid for his friend could not support himself: and this is the meaning given by many interpreters; as though the Prophet had said, that the state of things would be so desperate, that every one would be constrained to seek help from his friend, and yet could not obtain what he desired, for while attempting to lay hold on the hand of his friend, he would find that he could not grasp it. But a different meaning would better correspond with the next verse, -- that every one would violently lay hold on the hand of his neighbor, and his hand would rise up against the hand of his neighbor. I think then that this part is added as explanatory, -- that when God raised tumults among the Jews, every one would start forward to act violently against his neighbor, and raise up his hand to hurt him: for it follows --

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