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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 14:20

20. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness Unto The Lord; and the pots in the Lord's house shall be like the bowls before the altar.

20. Die illo erit super fraena (aut, phaleras; alii vertunt, frontalia; alii, collaria; dicemus postea de hac voce; vel, stabula, hoc meum est, et postea dicam rationem; super stabula ignitur) equi (hoc est, equorum, est mutatio numeri) sanctitas Iehovae; et erit (hoc est, erunt; iterum est mutatio numeri) lebetes in domo Iehovae sicuti phialae (sic vertit Hieronymus, alii vertunt, pelves) coram altari.

Zechariah teaches us in this verse, that God would become the king of the world, so that all things would be applied to his service, and that nothing would be so profane as not to change its nature, so as to be sanctified for the service of God. This is the import of the whole. There is some obscurity in the words; but interpreters for the most part have been led astray, because they have not sufficiently attended to the design of the Prophet; and thus they have wrested the words to their own views, while they did not understand the subject.

There will be, he says, an inscription on the shades or head coverings of horses, Holiness to Jehovah. No interpreters have perceived that there is here an implied comparison between the mitre of the high priest and all profane things; for since the high priest was a type of Christ, there was inscribed on his tiara, Holiness to Jehovah, qds lyhvh, kodash la-Ieve, and as the holiness of the temple, and of everything belonging to the service under the law, depended on the priesthood, this inscription must be viewed as extending to everything in the temple, to the altar, to the sanctuary, to the sacrifices, to the offerings, to the candlestick, to the incense, and in short, to all sacred things.

What now does the Prophet mean? There shall be, he says, that inscription which the high priest bears on his head, Holiness to Jehovah; there shall be, he says, this inscription on the stables of the horses

As to the word mtslvt, metsalut, it is only found here. Some derive it from tsvl, tsul, and others from tsl, tsale; but the more received opinion is that it comes from tsll, tsalal, in which the l, lamed, is doubled. And some render it trappings; others, reins; others, bells; and all only conjecture, for there is no certainty. Some also render it the deep; and this sense may be also suitable. But what I have already stated seems to me more probable -- that the shades or blinkers of horses are meant, and are here metaphorically called stables. Though then the stable of a horse is a mean and sordid place, and often filthy, yet the Prophet says that it would become holy to the Lord.

The meaning then is, that no place was so profane which would not be made holy when God reigned through the whole world. But if any one prefers trappings, or warlike harness, I do not object; for this view also is not unsuitable. Nothing is less holy than to shed human blood; and hence the Scripture says, that their hands are polluted who justly slay an enemy in war; not because slaughter is of itself sinful, but because the Lord intended to strike men with terror, that they might not rashly commit slaughter. It would not then ill suit this place to say, that the Lord would make holy the trappings of horses, so that nothing disorderly would hereafter be done in war, but that every one putting on arms would acknowledge God to be a judge in heaven, and would not dare, without a just cause, to engage with his enemy.

Ridiculous and puerile is what Theodore says in the first book of his Ecclesiastical history. He quotes this passage, and says that it was fulfilled when Helena, the mother of Constantine, adorned the trappings of a horse with a nail of the cross; for her purpose was to give this to her son as a sort of charm. One of those nails by which she thought Christ was crucified, she put in the royal diadem; of the other she caused the bit of a bridle to be made, or according to Eusebius, to be partly made; but Theodore says that the whole was made of it. These are indeed rank trifles; but yet I thought proper to refer to them, that you might know how foolish that age was. Jerome indeed rejects the fable; but as it was believed by many, we see how shamefully deluded at that time were many of those who were accounted the luminaries of the Church. I now return to the words of the Prophet.

He says, that upon the stables, or upon the trappings of the horses, there would be this inscription -- Holiness to Jehovah -- qds lyhvh, kodash la-Ieve: then he adds, All the pots in the house of Jehovah shall be as the vessels before the altar; that is, whatever was before only applied to profane uses, would be invested with holiness. I then give this interpretation -- that pots or kettles would be like the vessels of the altar, as the whole apparatus for cooking would be converted to the service of God; as though he had said that there would be no profane luxuries, as before, but that common food would be made holy, inasmuch as men themselves would become holy to the Lord, and would be holy in their whole life and in all their actions.

But most go astray in supposing that the trappings would be made into pots; for the Prophet meant another things that holiness would exist among men in peace as well as in war, so that whether they carried on war, or rested at home, whether they ate or drank, they would still offer a pure sacrifice to God, both in eating and drinking, and even in warfare. Such then is the view we ought to take of the Prophet's words -- that all the pots in the house of Jehovah shall be like the vessels before the altar; that is, |whatever has hitherto been profaned by the intemperance and luxuries of men, shall hereafter become holy, and be like the vessels of the temple itself.|

Jerome philosophises here with great acuteness, as the Prophet intimated that the sacrifices offered under the law would be of no account, because God would no longer require the fat of beasts, nor any of the ritual observations, but would desire only prayers, which are the sacrifices approved by him; and hence he renders mzrqym, mesarekim, bowls, and not vessels, a word of wider meaning; but it signifies the latter.

We now see that what Zechariah meant was this -- that God would so claim the whole world as his own, as to consecrate men and all their possessions wholly to his own service, so that there would be no longer any uncleanness, that whether they ate or drank, or engaged in war, or undertook any other work, all things would be pure and holy, for God would always be before their eyes. Let us proceed -

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