And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;Zechariah 7:1-3. The word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, &c. — In this and the next chapter is contained a third and distinct revelation made to Zechariah, about two years after the former; of which the occasion and matter are as follows: A considerable progress having, by this time, been made in the rebuilding of the temple, and affairs going on pretty smoothly, the hopes of the Jewish nation began to revive, and a deputation was sent to inquire of the priests and prophets, whether it was God’s will that they should still observe the fast, which had been instituted on account of the destruction of the city and temple by the Chaldeans. To this inquiry, the prophet is directed in these chapters how to answer; and his answer is given not all at once, but, as it seems, by piece-meal, and at several times. For here are four distinct discourses that have reference to this case. In the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu — This month corresponded with the latter part of our November and the beginning of December. When they had sent — The Hebrew verb here used is in the singular number, he had sent, or one had sent: but our translators very properly interpret it plurally, by the figure termed an enallage of the number, which is often used in the Hebrew; and the Vulgate renders it in the same sense. This is understood by some to be spoken of the Jews who still remained in Chaldea; but it seems more probable that those are meant who dwelt in the towns or villages at some distance from Jerusalem. These sent unto the house of God — That, is unto the temple, where the building was still carried on with success; Sherezer and Regem-melech — Men of note among them; and their men — Servants, or persons of less rank, who accompanied them; to pray before the Lord — To offer up prayers for themselves and their friends. The temple was the only place where they could offer sacrifices and oblations, to which solemn prayers were always wont to be joined. And to speak unto the priests and prophets — It was the office of the priests to resolve any doubts that might arise respecting the worship of God, or any part of his law, whether moral or ceremonial, and the people were commanded to consult them, and to act according to their determination. And since the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah were at this time residing in Jerusalem, it was proper to inquire of them, who might probably give them an immediate answer to their inquiry from God himself. Should I weep in the fifth month — The fast in the fifth month was kept because in that month, answering to our month of July, the city and temple were burned by the Chaldeans, 2 Kings 25:8; in memory of which grievous judgment, the people instituted a solemn fast, which, it appears, they had observed from that time until the times here spoken of; refraining from all worldly business and pleasure, and employing themselves in the religious exercise of prayer and humiliation: see Zechariah 12:12-14. The question they now proposed, was, whether it were proper for them still to continue this fast, when the ecclesiastical and civil state was in a great measure restored, and the judgment for which they mourned was removed.
When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,
And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,Zechariah 7:4-6. Then came the word of the Lord unto me — When these men had proposed their case, and were expecting the priests’ answer, God commissioned his prophet to give them the answer contained in the subsequent part of this and in the following chapter; saying, Speak unto all the people of the land — Let all the people in general, and not only those who have proposed the question, know what I am now about to say to thee, in answer to it. When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month — “The Jews not only observed those fasts which were instituted by God himself, but likewise added others, in commemoration of great calamities. The exiled Jews instituted four of these fasts; one in the fourth month, (June 17,) in commemoration of the breach of the wall, mentioned Jeremiah 52:7; one in the fifth month, (July 4,) in commemoration of the burning of the temple, Jeremiah 52:12; one in the seventh month, (September 3,) for the murdering of Gedaliah, Jeremiah 41:2; and one in the tenth month, (December 4,) in commemoration of the beginning of the siege, 2 Kings 25:1. These fasts were observed, not only in their captivity, but likewise in Judea, between the reigns of Cyrus and Darius the son of Hystaspes; the Jews therefore, as we have remarked, particularly inquired concerning the observation of the fast on account of the burning of the temple, because that temple was now rebuilding; for they might doubt whether it was not improper to retain it any longer, as the reason had ceased which gave rise to it; or, whether the commemoration of past calamities was not of great utility to the morals of mankind.” See Grotius, and Calmet’s Dictionary on the word FASTS. Did ye fast at all unto me — Blayney renders it, Did ye fast any fastings of mine? Or, Did ye fast my fastings, mine? When ye fasted, were those fastings observed as mine, my ordinances? No: you did not fast with an intention to obey me, or from religious motives, and with sincere purposes of repentance and reformation. You lamented more the losses, inconveniences, and miseries you suffered, than the sinfulness of your conduct which brought these calamities upon you. And when ye did eat, did ye not eat for yourselves? — Did you not seek your own pleasure and convenience, and not my glory? I was as little regarded by you in your fasts as in your feasts.
Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
Should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?Zechariah 7:7. Should ye not hear the words — You needed not to have thus inquired, had you regarded the words spoken by my prophets, who have borne testimony to the real excellence and absolute necessity of obedience to the great and momentous precepts of my law, and who have called for true repentance and sincere love to God and man, with their proper fruits, and have shown how light and insignificant all ceremonies and formal services are in comparison thereof. When Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity — He puts them in mind of the reproofs, warnings, and exhortations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others of the former prophets, delivered to them when they were in a state of comparative prosperity, in which state they would have been continued, if they had hearkened to these prophets, and been obedient to the Lord’s voice uttered by them. As if he had said, This is what you should have done on your fast-days; it was not enough to weep and separate yourselves on those days in token of your sorrow for the judgments that had come upon you; but you should have searched the Scriptures of the prophets, that you might have seen what was the ground of God’s controversy with your fathers, and might have taken warning by their miseries, not to tread in the steps of their iniquities. You ask, shall you do as you have done in fasting? No; you must do that which you have not yet done; you must repent of your sins, and reform your lives; that is it that we now call you to, and it is the same that the former prophets called your fathers to. To affect them the more with a sense of the mischief that sin had done them, and to bring them to true repentance, he reminds them of the former flourishing state of their country; Jerusalem was then inhabited, and in prosperity, but is now desolate and in distress; the cities round about, that are now in ruins, were then inhabited too, and in peace; the country likewise was very populous. But then God by the prophets cried to them, as one in earnest, and was importunate with them to mend their ways, and their doings, or else their prosperity would soon be at an end. Now, says the prophet you should have taken notice of that, and have inferred, that what was required of them for the preventing of the judgments, and which they did not perform, is required of you for the removal of the judgments; and if you do it not, all your fastings and weeping signify nothing. The south was that tract of land called the wilderness of Judea, Matthew 3:1; part of which, or near to it, was the hill country, mentioned Joshua 21:11; Luke 1:39. The LXX. here render it Ορεινη, the hill country. The plain was that open country, called the plains of Jericho, 2 Kings 25:5; and the plain of the valley of Jericho, Deuteronomy 34:3; and reached as far as the salt sea, or the lake of Asphaltites, called the sea of the plain, Deuteronomy 3:17; compare Jeremiah 17:26.
And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:Zechariah 7:9-12. Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts — Or did speak, that is, to your fathers, and thus he speaks to you now; Execute true judgment — I often put your fathers in mind that judgment and mercy were more acceptable to me than fasting, or any external performances; (see the margin;) and I repeat the same admonition to you of the present age. And let none of you imagine evil against his brother, &c. — Neither think ill of, nor wish ill to, nor plot evil against one another. But they refused to hearken — But your fathers refused to obey the admonitions of the former prophets, and were often reproved by them for their refractory disposition; and pulled away the shoulder — Withdrew their shoulder from the yoke of the law. The metaphor is taken from oxen that refuse to put their necks under the yoke. See the margin. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant-stone — So that no arguments could make any impression upon them; lest they should hear the law — Of God by Moses, which they were peremptorily required to do, but to do which they as peremptorily refused; and the words — The counsels and commands; which the Lord hath sent in his Spirit by the former prophets — Inspired and commissioned his prophets to declare; therefore — For this great obstinacy; came a great wrath — Which consumed the whole land, and burned against the people that had inhabited it seventy years together in Babylon; from the Lord of hosts — In all which the hand of the Lord was most evidently seen, rendering unto them according to their ways.
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts.
Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the LORD of hosts:Zechariah 7:13-14. Therefore — On this very account; as he cried — As I, by my Spirit in my prophets, called, warned, entreated, and urged them to repent, obey, and live, but they would not; so they cried — In their deep distress, and amidst their overwhelming calamities; and I would not hear — Would not answer, or regard their prayer. But I scattered them — Cast them out of their habitations, and dispersed them through distant countries; with a whirlwind — Suddenly and irresistibly; among all the nations — All the heathen, that hated them and their ways. Thus the land — Once flowing with milk and honey; once full of cities, men, and cattle; was desolate after them — Became waste as a wilderness after they were cast out; that no man passed through — An entire riddance was not only made of its inhabitants, but the very highways were desolate, so that none passed and repassed: and that which was before a pleasant land, became a mere desert.
But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not. Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.