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Zec 12:1 The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
Ver. 1. The burden of the word of the Lord ] That is, a declaration of his mind and counsel for Israel’s comfort and his enemies’ confusion. To the Israel of God it is onus sine onere, such a burden as the wings are to the bird, a burdenless burden. To the enemies, a burdensome stone, Zechariah 12:3 , heavier than the sand of the sea, Job 6:3 .
For Israel ] Not against Israel, though Calvin so taketh it; and by Israel understandeth the ten tribes, and those other captives that, loth to leave those houses they had built and those gardens they had planted in Babylon, Jeremiah 29:5 , neglected to return to Jerusalem for fear of the Samaritans and other ill neighbours; whose ruin is therefore here foretold by three excellent similitudes, after a stately preamble, drawn, 1. From the power of God, whereby he stretcheth forth the heavens, Job 37:18 ; Job 26:7 , that huge expanse, as a curtain, or as a molten looking glass. 2. From the wisdom of God, in laying the foundation of the earth, and hanging it, by geometry, as we say, in the midst of heaven, like Archimedes’ pigeon, equally poised with its own weight.
“ Terra pilae similis, nullo fulcimine nixa,
Acre subiecto tam grave pendet onus. ”
(Ovid. Fast. l. 6.)
3. From the goodness of God,
who formeth the spirit of man within him ] Who hath made us these souls, Isaiah 57:16 , which he doth daily create and infuse into men’s bodies; yea, and that alone, without any help of their parents: hence he is called "the Father of spirits," Hebrews 12:9 , and the spirit of a dying man is said to return to God that gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7 . This last text convinced Augustine (who held sometime, with Origen, that the soul as well as the body was begotten by the parents) far more than the peremptory rashness of Vincentius Victor; who censured boldly the father’s unresolvedness (when he doubted concerning the original of a rational soul), and vaunted that he would prove by demonstration that souls are created de novo, by God. Aristotle, Nature’s chief secretary, was much puzzled about this point of the soul; which, indeed, cannot fully be conceived of nor defined by man. Only this we can say, that the soul, as it comes from God, so it is like him; viz. one immaterial, immortal, understanding spirit; distinguished into three powers, which all make up one spirit.
Zec 12:2 Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah [and] against Jerusalem.
Ver. 2. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling ] Or, slumber, or poison. A metaphor taken from a cup of generous wine, but empoisoned; so that those that drink of it do presently tremble, grow giddy, sleepy, sick as hear can hold. Poison in wine works more furiously. Thou hast made us to drink the wine of giddiness, saith the Church, Psalms 60:3 . In the hand of the Lord is a cup, and the wine is red, it is full mixed, &c. The prophet here seems to allude to Jer 25:15 Isa 29:8 Jeremiah 51:7 . Ovid saith of the river Gallus, that whoso drinketh of it runneth mad immediately. Jerome telleth of a lake, near Naples, whereinto, if a dog be thrown, he presently dieth. The like is reported, by Josephus, of the Lake Asphaltites. Jerusalem shall be a murdering morsel to those that swallow it. His meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him. He hath swallowed down her spoil, and he shall vomit it up again: God shall rake it out of his belly, Job 20:14-15 : he shall have as little joy of his tid bits, of his sweet draughts, as Jonathan had of his honey; whereof he had no sooner tasted but his head was forfeited. Pliny speaketh of a kind of honey that poisoneth; because it is sucked out of poisonous flowers. Our chronicler telleth us that at Alvelana, three miles from Lisbon, many of our English soldiers, under the Earl of Essex, perished by eating of honey, purposely left in the houses, and spiced with poison. The enemies of the Church make a dangerous adventure, they are even ambitious of destruction; they run to meet their bane, as did those Philistines at Mizpeh, 1 Samuel 7:7 . And had they but so much wit as Pilate’s wife, in a dream, they would take heed of having anything to do with those just men, of eating up God’s people as they eat bread, Psalms 14:4 , of boozing in the bowls of the sanctuary with Belshazzar, who fell thereupon into a trembling, so that his loins were loosed, and his knees knocked one against another, Daniel 5:6 .
When they shall be in the siege ] And so about to do their last and worst against the Church. The people of Rome was saepe praelio victus, nunquam bello, saith Florus; they lost many battles, but were never overcome in a set war; at the last, at the long run, as they say, they crushed all their enemies; so doth the Church. See Psalms 129:1-8 , throughout; and the story of the Maccabees.
Zec 12:3 And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.
Ver. 3. I will make Jerusalem a burdensome stone ] Such a stone as that wherewith the woman brake Abimelech’s brain pan, at the tower of Thebez, Judges 9:53 . He had slain all his brethren upon one stone, Judges 9:5 , he receives, therefore, his death’s wound by a stone; and that by the hand of a woman, which was his greatest grief. The like death befell Pyrrhus, King of Epirotes, slain at the siege of Argos, with a tile thrown by a woman from the wall. So was Earl Simon Mountfort, that bloody persecutor of the Albigenses in France. A woman discharged an engine at him from the walls of Toulouse, and by a stone parted his head from his shoulders. The virgin daughter of Zion shall do as much as all this comes to for her besiegers, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against her. For what reason? she hath a strong champion; that, in maintaining her quarrel, will dash them to pieces, and grind them to powder, Luke 20:18 . They are no more able to stand before him than a glass bottle before a cannon shot. Hence her confidence, her laughing and shaking her head by way of derision at her stoutest enemies, Isaiah 37:22 . She knows that all that burden themselves with her shall be cut in pieces. Haman’s wife could tell so much. If Mordecai, said she, be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him, Esther 6:13 . A Jew may fall before a Persian, and get up and prevail; but if a Persian, or whosoever of the Gentiles, begin to fall before a Jew, he can neither stay nor rise. There is an invisible hand of omnipotence that strikes in for his own, and confounds their opposites. That little stone, cut out without hands (Christ’s human nature is called a tabernacle not made with hands, not of this building, Hebrews 9:11 , that is, not by an ordinary course of generation), smiteth the four mighty monarchies, and crumbleth them to crattle, Daniel 2:34 . Jerome upon this text (and after him other interpreters, both ancient and modern) tell us that the Holy Ghost here alludeth to a certain exercise or game used much among the Jews, namely, to take up a great round stone for the trial of a man’s strength; lifting it up from the ground, sometimes to the knees, sometimes to their navels, sometimes to their breasts, and sometimes as high as their heads, or above their heads. At which sport many times they did grievously hurt themselves, or, at least, make cuts and scars in their flesh. See Leviticus 21:5 , where the same word is used. The Church’s enemies shall strive, and try who shall do her most harm; but the stoutest of them all shall be fooled and foiled in the end. The irreparable ruin of Rome is graphically described and even set forth to the eye Rev 18:21 by a notable gradation. An angel, a mighty angel, taketh a stone, a great stone, which he not only casteth, but thrusteth into the bottom of the sea, whence it cannot be buoyed up. This angel might well be Luther (with his book de Captivitate Babylonica; confer Jer 51:63 ), whom God strangely preserved from the rage of Rome and hell; like as he did from that deadly danger by the fall of a stone, whereof Mr Fox writeth thus: "Upon a time," saith he, "when Luther was sitting in a certain place upon a stool studying, a great stone there was in the vault over his head where he sat; which being staid miraculously so long as he was sitting, as soon as he was up immediately fell upon the place where he sat, able to have crushed him in pieces, if it had lit upon him." But no malice of man or devil could antedate his end a minute, while his Master had work for him to do; as the two witnesses could not be killed till their business was despatched, Revelation 11:7 .
Zec 12:4 In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness.
Ver. 4. I will smite every horse with astonishment ] Great is the strength of the horse and the rage of his rider: Jehu marched furiously; Bajazet, the Great Turk, of his fierce and furious riding was surnamed Gilderun, or Lightning; but God can make the Egyptians to appear men, and not gods, and their horses flesh, and not spirit; "When the Lord shall but stretch out his hand" (and that is no hard matter of motion), "both he that helpeth shall fall and he that is helped shall fall down, and they shall all fail together," Isaiah 31:8 . See Psalms 76:5-6 "An horse is a vain thing for safety," Psalms 33:17 , though a warlike creature full of terror; but safety or victory is of the Lord, Proverbs 21:31 "In nothing be terrified," saith the apostle, Philippians 1:28 . The Greek word is a metaphor from horses when they tremble and are sore frightened; as it happened in the Philistines’ army, when the angels made a bustle among the mulberry trees, 2 Samuel 5:24 ; in the Syrians’ army, when the angels likewise made a hurrying noise in the air, of chariots, of horses, and of a great host, 2 Kings 7:6 ; in the army of Sennacherib, when at God’s sole rebuke "both the chariot and horse were cast into a dead sleep," Psalms 76:6 . Lastly, in the German wars against Zisca and the Hussites in Bohemia, where God smote every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness; such a panic terror seized upon the enemies of the truth, though they came in with three potent armies at once, that they fled before ever they looked the enemy in the face. How this prophecy was literally fulfilled to the Maccabees, see 2Ma 10:30 .
And I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah ] Who before seemed to wink, or to be asleep. Now will I awake, saith the Lord, Now will I arise, now will I lift up myself, Isaiah 33:10 , for the relief and rescue of my poor people; and that because they called them outcasts, saying, "This is Zion, whom no man looketh after," Jeremiah 33:17 .
Zec 12:5 And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem [shall be] my strength in the LORD of hosts their God.
Ver. 5. And the governors of Judah ] The dukes or chieftains ( אלפי ); meaning the Maccabees, who wear not any kingly crown, but were only governors, rulers, commanders-in-chief, such as went before others; like as in the alphabet Aleph is the first letter; so,
“ Omega nostrorum Mors est, Mars Alpha malorum, ”
saith the poet wittily.
Shall say in their hearts ] i.e. Shall say heartily, from the root of the heart, and not from the roof of the mouth only. Profession of the truth and prayer (for so some make this verse to be) are not a labour of the lips, but a travail of the heart. The voice which is made in the mouth is nothing so sweet as that which comes from the depth of the breast. As in instrument music, the deeper and hollower the belly of the lute or viol, the pleasanter is the sound; the fleeter, the more grating and harsh in our ears.
The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength ] Though now there be few found in it; yet it shall be much repeopled and fortified; so that, under God, it shall be a fortress to the whole country; and the governors shall so take it to be: or thus,
There is strength to me and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the Lord of hosts their God ] Every governor shall say so for his own particular (and this seems to me to be the better reading). The Maccabees did so, as appeared by their posy (whereof before), their prayers, and their singular success, as appears by their history and by Josephus. Deo confisi, nunquam confusi, They that trust in God shall never be confounded. "Our fathers trusted in thee, and they were delivered. O trust ye in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." Look not down on the rushing and roaring streams, lest ye grow giddy; but look up to the heavens from whence comes your help, and fasten by faith on God’s power and promises. Faith unfeigned breeds hope unfailable, such as never miscarrieth. "O trust in him at all times, ye people," Psalms 62:8 , for with God is wisdom and strength, Job 12:13 . Plutarch saith of the Scythians that they have neither wine nor music; but they have gods. Say that the saints have neither power nor policy as their enemies, yet they have all in God, who is more than all.
Zec 12:6 In that day will I make the governors of Judah like an hearth of fire among the wood, and like a torch of fire in a sheaf; and they shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left: and Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, [even] in Jerusalem.
Ver. 6. In that day will I make the governors, &c. ] This is the third similitude, whereof the Scripture is full; according to that, I will open my mouth in parables. These are of excellent use to adorn and explain; and yet they are evermore inferior to the matter in hand. They are borrowed from things well known and easy to be conceived; as here from a hearth of fire among wood; now we can all tell how great a matter (or wood) a little fire kindleth, James 3:5 . When Nero, for his pleasure’s sake, set Rome on fire, among other stately buildings that were quickly burnt down, the circus or race yard was one, being about half a mile in length, of an oval form, with rows of seats one above another, capable of at least 150,000 spectators, without uncivil shoulderings. "As the fire burneth a wood; and as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; so persecute them with thy tempest, and make them afraid with thy storm," saith the Church, Psalms 83:14-15 . Thus they prayed, and thus it is here promised; and was accordingly performed in those first wars of the Maccabees; as appeareth in the first book of their story, and in Josephus. Diodati and others understand this text to be the apostles and evangelists, who should fill the world with wars and dissensions by preaching the gospel, Luke 12:49 , whereby the enemies should be ruined and the Church re-established, Obadiah 1:18 , through the spirit of judgment and of burning, Isaiah 4:4 . To which purpose Chrysostem saith, that Peter was a man made of fire walking among stubble. Basil was compared to a pillar of fire. John Baptist is by our Saviour said to be a burning and a shining lamp. And Elijah (in whose spirit the Baptist came) was a man of that transcendent zeal, that to heighten the expression thereof some have legended of him, that when he drew his mother’s breasts he was seen to suck in fire.
And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place ] sc. Where she was built at first, and not in another near place, as Tyre was; and Rome is at this day quite off her old seven hills; so that a man may look for Rome in Rome. And Jerusalem that now is hath Mount Calvary in the very midst of it (which was anciently without the city), and not one hundred families of Jews are therein to be found. That they shall one day cast out therehence Gog and Magog, inhabit it in the old place, and have excellent strength and valour ministered by God to them, all equally for their common defence, none lifting up themselves above another, but all alike ascribing the glory unto God, is concluded by some and those not inconsiderable divines out of this and the following verses.
Zec 12:7 The LORD also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify [themselves] against Judah.
Ver. 7. The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first ] Or, as at first, sc. when they came out of Egypt, and had no strongholds to take to for their defence. "Lord" (saith Moses), "thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations," Psalms 90:1 . He was so of old, and ever will be; the faith whereof made the fathers well content to dwell in tents, Hebrews 11:13 , and those holy Rochabites, Jeremiah 35:7-8 , till Nebuchadnezzar came up into the land, Zechariah 12:11 . But here God promiseth to deliver those Jews that dwelt in the open fields, without the city; and then afterwards to deliver Jerusalem itself from the rage of the Antiochi: and so he did (1 Maccab.) in a wonderful manner; they were helped indeed with a little help, Daniel 11:34 , to take away boasting; as it followeth.
That the glory of the house of David, &c. ] That is, the glorious house of David, and the glorious inhabitants of Jerusalem, by an hypallage. a Non est gloriosior populus sub caelo, quam Iudaicus. There is not a more vain glorious people under heaven than the Jews are, saith Alsted. They were so of old, Joh 8:33 Matthew 3:9 . Spaniards are said to be impudent braggers, and extremely proud in the lowest ebb of fortune; so are the Jews. But God will teach them better things, and make him that glorieth glory in the Lord, 1 Corinthians 1:31 .
a A figure of speech in which there is an interchange of two elements of a proposition, the natural relations of these being reversed. ŒD
Zec 12:8 In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David [shall be] as God, as the angel of the LORD before them.
Ver. 8. In that day shall the Lord defend, &c. ] Prosequitur eandem sententiam, saith Calvin. He proceeds in the former argument to assure the feeble Jews (as Sanballat, that proud haughty scorner, called them, Nehemiah 4:2 Pro 21:24 ) of safety and protection. God will bless the righteous; with favour will he compass them as with a shield, Psalms 5:12 . Now there is no coming at the body but through the shield, if well handled; no coming at the saints but through God’s own sides, as I may say. He beareth his people as on eagles’ wings, Exo 19:4 Deuteronomy 32:11 . Now the eagle carries her young upon her wings (and not between her talons, as other birds do), so that they cannot be shot but through the body of the old one. Oh the dignity and safety of a saint! Well might Moses sing, "Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places," Deuteronomy 33:29 . Let all that would be safe indeed, as in a tower of brass or town of war, labour to be found written among the living in Jerusalem, Isaiah 4:3 , to be of the Church of the firstborn which are enrolled in heaven, Hebrews 12:23 , like as in Jerusalem were records kept of the names of all the citizens, Psalms 48:3 . Get under God’s wing, and nothing can annoy thee. As if he be angry, where shall a man shelter? Brass and iron can fence him against a bullet or a sword; but if he be cast into a furnace of fire, it would help to torment him; if into a pit of water, to sink him. Now "our God is a consuming fire," Hebrews 12:29 , and his breath a stream of brimstone, Isaiah 30:33 . To run from him to other refuge is but for a man to run his head into a barrel of gunpowder for a shelter against the force of a fire kindled over him.
And he that is feeble among them ] So that he cannot stand, but stagger (as the word importeth), as did Miles Cobelite, a Christian soldier, sore wounded, so that he reeled like a drunken man, and fell down many times, for want of strength. This man, drawing nigh to Amurath, the third King of the Turks, as he was viewing the dead bodies after a bloody fight, making as if he would have craved his life of him, suddenly stabbed him in the bottom of his belly with a short dagger which he had under his soldier’s coat; of which wound that great king and conqueror presently died.
Shall be as David ] Who was a mighty man of valour (as Hushai told Absalom, and bid him beware, 2Sa 17:8 ), and had such a band of worthies about him as were not to be matched, 2 Samuel 23:8 . These had a house by themselves to dwell and exercise feats of arms; as Lyra gathereth out of Nehemiah 3:16 , where mention is made of the house of the mighty. The Maccabees, slighted as abjects, did greater exploits and got greater victories than David had done; and the condition of this poor people was to be shortly after ( sc. under the preaching of Christ’s gospel) far better and happier than ever it had been under the rich and flourishing kingdom of David; for then they should be able to say, God’s grace is sufficient for me; his strength is made perfect in my weakness. I will glory in mine infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me; for when I am weak, then I am strong. I can do all things, suffer all things, through Christ, that strengtheneth me. The weak shall say, I am strong, Joel 3:10 . And, indeed, how can they be otherwise, that have a mighty strong God, Isaiah 9:6 ; a strong word, the Lord’s own arm, the power of God to salvation, Rom 1:16 Acts 20:32 ; a strong spirit, 2 Timothy 1:7 ; strong consolations, Hebrews 6:18 ; strong armour, both offensive and defensive, Ephesians 6:18 ; and the name of the Lord as a strong tower, whereunto the righteous run and are safe, and where, waiting upon the Lord, they renew their strength, they mount up with wings as eagles, or rather as angels, Pro 18:10 Isaiah 40:31 .
For the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of the Lord before them ] i.e. As Christ, the angel of God’s presence, and that went before the people in the wilderness. Such were those of the blood royal, and that succeeded David in the government; but especially such were the apostles, Christ’s mighties, who should be endued with so many graces in majesty, authority, strength, and truth, that men should receive them, Cornelius-like, as so many angels of God, yea, even as Christ Jesus, Galatians 4:14 .
Zec 12:9 And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
Ver. 9. I will seek to destroy ] I will make inquisition and diligent scrutiny; I will draw them out of their lurking places to execution; as Saul went to seek David upon the rocks of the wild goats, 1 Samuel 24:2 ; those high, steep, and craggy rocks, which could not but be very tedious both to himself and to his soldiers to march in; but he was set upon it, and would leave no place unsearched. See his charge to the Ziphites to take knowledge of all the lurking holes where be hid himself, and to bring him word that he might seek him through all the thousands of Judah, 1 Samuel 23:23 . The Lord need not do so to find out his enemies; for in him they live, move, and subsist, Colossians 1:17 , they are ever under his view, and within his reach. He sitteth upon the circle of the earth, Isaiah 40:22 , and can easily shake them out of it, as by a canvas. Yea, he sits in the height of heaven, and wherein they deal proudly, he is above them, Exodus 18:11 , disclosing their cabinet counsels, as he did Benhadad’s, and blasting their designs.
To destroy all nations ] God stands not upon multitudes; he takes not the tenth man, but destroys all nations, be they never so many of them that come against Jerusalem, that oppose or affront his people, either with their virulent tongues or violent hands. When a rabble of rebels shall set themselves against the Lord, and against his Christ, his mystical Christ, the Church, he will utterly destroy them; the word signifieth he will destroy them, ut nihil reliquum maneat, that there shall be no remainder of them. Woe, therefore, to the Church’s enemies; for their destruction ever goes with the saints’ salvation, Php 1:28-29 Isa 8:9 Proverbs 11:8 . God’s jealousy, Zechariah 1:14 , and justice, 2 Thessalonians 1:6 , will effect it surely, severely, suddenly.
Zec 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for [his] only [son], and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for [his] firstborn.
Ver. 10. And I will pour upon the house of David ] Pour, as by whole pailfuls; God is no penny father; no small gifts fall from so great a hand; he gives liberally, James 1:15 , and is rich to all that call upon his name, Romans 10:12 ; abundant in kindness, Exodus 34:6 , plenteous in mercy, Psalms 103:8 ; the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ hath over abounded ( υπερεπλεονασε ), hath overflowed all the banks, 1 Timothy 1:14 , indeed, it hath neither bank nor bottom. Oh pray for that blissful sight, Ephesians 1:18 ; Ephesians 3:18-19 , that spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Of grace and of supplications ] Or deprecations of that utter destruction that shall befall other nations. God will save his people, but so as by prayer, Psa 32:6 2Ch 7:14 Zechariah 13:9 , he will grace his own ordinance, draw many suitors, and derive many praises to himself. See Eze 36:37 Psalms 50:15 ; Psalms 116:2 . Some render it, a spirit of grace and of lamentations, sc. before the Lord, when they felt the nails, wherewith they had pierced Christ, pricking their own hearts, Acts 2:37 , punctually pricking and piercing them, κατενυγησαν τη καρδια (Bishop Andrews, 333).
And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced ] Dacaru, whom they have daggered, or digged, as Psalms 22:16 , him they shall look upon and lament, οψονται, κοψονται , their eye shall affect their heart, Rev 1:7 Lamentations 3:51 ; for the eye is the instrument both of sight and of sorrow; and what the eye never sees the heart never rues. The sun looketh upon the earth, draweth up vapours thence, and distilleth them down again; so doth the sun of the understanding; which, till it be convinced, the heart cannot be compuncted. Sight of sin must precede sorrow for sin. The prodigal came to himself ere he repented of his loose practices; men must bethink themselves, or bring back to their hearts (as the Hebrew hath it, 1Ki 8:47 ), ere they will say, We have sinned and dealt perversely, we have committed wickedness; see Jer 8:6 Psalms 38:18 . An infant in the womb cries not because he sees not; but as soon as it comes into the light he sets up his note. Get, therefore, your eyes anointed with eye salve, with this spirit of grace and supplications; so shall you soon see (saith Mr Bradford, martyr) your face foul arrayed, and so shameful, saucy, mangy, pocky, and scabbed, that you cannot but be sorry at the contemplation thereof. It is the Spirit that convinceth the world of sin; neither can the waters flow till his wind bloweth, Psalms 147:18 . A sigh is not breathed out for sin till the Spirit imbreathe the same into us.
And they shall mourn for him ] Or, for it, viz. for their crucifying the Lord of glory in their forefathers, and having a great hand in it themselves; since their and our sins were thorns and nails that pierced him, the lance that let out his heart blood, &c. We bound him with cords; we beat him with rods; buffeted him with fists, reviled him with our mouths, nodded at him with our heads, &c. We were the chief actors and principal causes that set to work Judas, Pilate, &c. Oh stand a while with the devout women, and see him bleeding, groaning, dying, by the wounds that we gave him; and mourn affectionately over him, as here.
They shall mourn ] With such outward pomp and rites as are used at funerals; as wringing the hands, beating the breasts, shaking the head, and the like external gestures and expressions of heaviness.
And shall be in bitterness ] By inwardness of extreme grief; as when David’s heart was leavened with it, Psalms 73:21 ; it was soured with godly sorrow, and soused in the tears of true repentance. So Peter went forth and wept bitterly, Matthew 26:15 ; waters of Marah flowed from Mary Magdalen’s eyes, which were as a fountain for Christ’s feet: here sorrow was deep and downright, producing repentance never to be repented of. The sorrow we conceive for an unkindness offered to Christ must not be slight and sudden, but sad and soaking; like that of the Israelites met at Mizpeh, when they drew water before the Lord, 1 Samuel 7:6 , whereunto the prophet Jeremiah seemeth to allude when he seriously wisheth that his head were waters, Jeremiah 9:1 , and David, with his river of tears, Psalms 119:136 . His heart was soft and soluble. Now softness of heart discovers sin; as the blots run abroad and seem biggest in wet paper; and as when the cockatrice egg is crushed it breaks forth into a viper, Isaiah 59:5 . Now to make and keep the heart soft and tender, the consideration of Christ’s dolorous passion must needs be of singular use and efficacy; as the sight of Caesar’s bloody robes brought forth greatly affected the people of Rome, and edged them to revenge. The hardest heart, soundly soaked in the blood of Christ, the true scape goat, cannot but relent and repent for such a horrid villany.
As one that mourneth for his only son … for his firstborn] sc. With a funeral sorrow; such as was that of the Shunammite, of the widow of Nain, and of Rachel, who refused to be comforted. There is an ocean of love in a father’s heart; as we see in Jacob towards Joseph, in David towards Absalom, in the father of the prodigal, &c. Christ was God’s only Son in respect of his Divine nature; he was also the firstborn among many brethren. And yet "God so loved the world," &c. So? how? So as I cannot tell how; for this is a Sic So, without a Sicut: In the same way, even so should our sorrow be, for having a wicked hand in his dolorous death. The prophet here seems to be at a stand, as it were, whence to borrow comparisons to shadow it out by. Great is the grief of children for their deceased parents, as of Joseph for Jacob, Genesis 50:1 , he fell upon his father’s face, as willing to have wept him alive again if possible. So our Edward I, returning from the wars in Palestine, rested himself in Sicily; where the death of his son and heir coming first to his ear, and afterwards of the king, his father, he much more sorrowed his father’s departure than his son’s; whereat King Charles, of Sicily, greatly marvelled, and, demanding the reason, had of him this answer: The loss of sons is but light, because they are multiplied every day; but the death of parents is irremediable, because they can never be had again. Thus he. Howbeit, love rather descendeth than ascendeth, and Abraham could better part with his father, Torah, than with his son, his only son Isaac, whom he loved, Genesis 22:2 . Before he had him, Lord God, said Abraham, what wilt thou give me so long as I go childless? Genesis 15:2 . His mouth was so out of taste with the sense of his want, that he could relish no comfort. But now to be bereft of him, and that in such a manner, as he might conceive by that probatory precept, Genesis 22:2 , this must needs go to the very heart of him, for though he had put on grace, yet he had not put off nature. Both Jacob and Jacob’s father (as Junius understandeth that passage, Gen 37:35 ) wept savourly for Joseph, and would go down into the grave unto their son mourning. True it is, that the loss of some wife may be greater than the loss of some son (Abraham came from his own tent to Sarah’s tent to mourn for her, Genesis 22:2 , and she was the first that we read of in Scripture mourned for), but the prophet here speaketh of the mourning of husband and wife together; and they can lose no greater outward blessing than their firstborn, if an only one especially.
Zec 12:11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.
Ver. 11. In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem ] Magnificabitur luctus (so the Hebrew hath it), their mourning shall be greatened, their heaviness heightened, they shall rise in their repentance above all that is ordinary. The casuists and schoolmen affirm sorrow for sin to be the greatest of all sorrows. 1. In conatu: in the effort, the whole soul seems to send springs into it, out of every faculty. 2. In extensione: in the strain, it is a spring which in this life more or less is continually dropping; neither would God have the wounds of godly sorrow to be so dosed up at all, as not to bleed afresh upon every good occasion. 3. In appreciatione: In understanding, the true penitentiary doth ever judge that a good God offended, a Saviour crucified, should be the primo cause of greatest grief. 4. In intensione: in aim, for intention of displicence in the will; there being no other things with which, or for which, the will is more displeased with itself than for sinning against God. There is more cause of grief, say they, for sinning than for the death of Christ; because therein was aliquid placens, pleasing anyone but sin is simpliciter displicens, simply displeasing. But is it not godly mourning, may some say, unless it be so great? I answer, that other mourning may make more noise, like a dashing shower of rain, or a land flood that by a small shallow channel comes down from a hill. When a man mourns for his only son, or the like, this comes from God as a judgment; it comes downhill, as it were, hath nature to work with it, and nothing to hinder it; but this mourning and melting over Christ is as a stream that goeth uphill, and through many reeds and flags, as Mr Cotton expresseth it.
As the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo ] Where good Josiah was slain, and where the people saw, to their unspeakable grief and heart break, family, Church, and commonwealth plucked up by the roots in the loss of that one man, who was the very breath of all their nostrils, as Jeremiah sadly acknowledgeth in his Lamentations, composed on that very occasion, and when he died, all their prosperity here died with him; and themselves were no better than living ghosts, walking sepulchres of themselves; a being they had, but not a life; those that before seemed to touch heaven with their finger, fell down to the earth as if they had been planet-struck, as Budaeus speaketh of the French courtiers at the death of Louis XII - nunc humi derepente serpere sideratos esse diceres. When Augustus died, orbis ruinam timueramus, saith Paterculus, we thought all had been lost, and that the world would have fallen about our ears. When our Edward VI (that second Josiah) was taken away, Cardan sung this sorrowful Epicedion;
“ Flete nefas magnum, sed tote flebitis orbe
Mortales; vestrum corruit omnis honos. ”
Zec 12:12 And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart, and their wives apart; the family of the house of Nathan apart, and their wives apart;
Ver. 12. And the land shall mourn ] Not the generality of the Jews (unless it be at their last general conversion, that resurrection from the dead, as it is called, Rom 11:15 ), but the elect according to grace, who are here called the land, because more esteemed by God than all the other Jews besides; for he reckoneth of men by their righteousness, as he did of Lot at Sodom.
Every family apart ] To show the soundness of their sorrow, the sincerity by the secrecy; for Ille dolor vere qui sine teste dolor. He grieves with a witness that grieves without a witness. There is a worldly sorrow that hardeneth the heart, and indisposeth it for repentance; as did that of Nabal. There is also a hellish sorrow, a desperate grief for sin, poenitentia Iscariotica, as was that of Judas. There is no birth without travail; but some children die in the birth, are killed with the pains of the labour. Lastly, there is a sorrow according to God ( η κατα Yεον λυπη , 2Co 7:10 ), whereby we weep kindly after God, inquiring the way to Zion, with our faces set thitherward, and renewing our covenant, Jeremiah 50:4-5 "Against thee, thee only, have I sinned," saith David, Psalms 51:4 . Lo, there lay this pinch of his grief, that he had offended so good a God. It was the myrrh and its scent that Christ had dropped on the bars of the door, that waked the drowsy spouse, and made her bowels fret, Cant. v. This made her first weep in secret, and then seek out after him whom her soul loved. She first went to inquire of the Lord, as Rebecca did, Genesis 25:22 , and then she hears from him those sweet words, Song of Solomon 2:14 "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rocks," that hast wrought thyself a burrow, a receptacle of rest in the Rock of Ages, "in the secret places of the stairs," whither thou art retired, as for security so for secrecy, to mourn as a dove, and to pray for pardon. Show me thy face, which now appeareth most orientally beautiful, because most instamped with sorrow for sin; "let me hear thy voice," which never sounds so melodiously as when thy heart is broken most penitentially; "for sweet is thy voice, and thy countenance comely."
And their wives apart ] Sarah had her peculiar tent, Genesis 24:67 , wherein she dwelt, Genesis 18:6 , and died, Genesis 23:2 . Rebecca, likewise, had her retiring room, whither she went to inquire of the Lord, Genesis 25:22 . Rachel and Leah had their several tents, apart from Jacob’s, Genesis 31:33 . Miriam and her women do apart by themselves praise God for deliverance, Exodus 15:20 "I and my maidens will fast likewise," saith Esther, Esther 4:16 . In a time of solemn humiliation, "let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet," Joel 2:16 . See 1 Corinthians 7:5 . Among both Jews, Greeks, and Romans, the women were separated from the men in public acts and assemblies, in times of common calamity especially, as may be gathered out of Plutarch, Athenaeus, Virgil, Livy. Stratae passim Matres crinibus Templa verrentes, veniam irarum coelestium exposcant, saith he; The men by themselves, and the women by themselves, sought to appease the angry gods - ad templum non aequae Palladis ibant Iliades - (Virg.). Here they are severed, to show that they wept not for company, sed sponte et proprio affectu, as Calvin hath it, but of their own accord, and out of pure affection; they freely lamented, not so much for Christ’s dolorous death, as for that themselves had a chief hand in it, and were the principal causes of it. The best kind of humiliation is to love and weep, as that woman did, Luke 7:38 , who made her eyes a fountain to wash Christ’s feet in, and had his side opened for a fountain to wash her soul in, as it is Zechariah 13:1 .
Zec 12:14 All the families that remain, every family apart, and their wives apart.
Ver. 14. All the families that remain ] Out of every family of this people God will have some converts, "A remnant according to the election of grace," Romans 11:5 . A thing so incredible, that to persuade it the prophet may here seem to some profane person to use more words than needeth.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany