Matthew Poole's Commentary
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;The Jews having sent to inquire concerning the set fasts, Zechariah 7:1-3, Zechariah reproveth the hypocrisy of their fasts, Zechariah 7:4-7. They are exhorted by repentance to remove the cause of their calamity, Zechariah 7:8-14.
It came to pass; a most usual form of speech, introductory to what shall afterwards be spoken.
In the fourth year; when the Jews had now been two years in building the temple, and probably it was in good forwardness.
Of king Darius; son of Hystaspes, about A. M, 3487, as Arch. bishop Usher in his Annals.
In Chisleu; part of our November and December, when half the time of building the temple was spent.
When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,When they, either the captives which still continued in Babylon, or the Jews returned out of captivity, but who dwelt in the country at distance from Jerusalem,
had sent unto the house of God; the temple, which now, half built, began to be frequented by priests and people, and where Haggai and Zechariah might be found true prophets.
Sherezer and Regem-melech: it appears not who these were, but no doubt they were eminent in dignity and piety,
And their men; a train either of friends that accompanied them, or of servants that waited on them.
To pray before the Lord, in most solemn manner, and with sacrifices no doubt, for the altar was set up long ago. Now these come to entreat the face of the Lord by prayer, in the house of prayer, for pardon of what was past, and acceptance of them at present, and for answer to their inquiry.
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?To speak unto, to consult with, the priests: they were to be the ordinary casuists, and ought to be able and ready to answer all cases of conscience, as Malachi 2:7.
Which were in; had their residence in or about the temple.
And to the prophets: these were extraordinary casuists, who, might be supposed able to satisfy the inquiry, if the priests could not. These prophets were Haggai and Zechariah.
Should I weep, i.e. fast, of which weeping was a part, 1 Samuel 1:7 Matthew 9:15.
In the fifth month; in sad remembrance of the burning of the temple on the 10th day of that month.
Separating myself from worldly cares and designs, and afflicting myself. As I have done: this intimateth their former practice, and seems to include in it some little boasting of it.
These so many years: it had been easy for them to have reckoned up the exact number of years, but they choose rather to express it thus, to greaten their performance.
Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,Then, when these men had proposed their case, and expected the priests’ answer,
came the word of the Lord; an answer from God, which follows in the 7th and 8th chapters of this book at large.
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?Speak unto all the people, i.e. either by their messengers who came in their name, or to all the Jews that were at Jerusalem.
Of the land; by which it seems to be not the loiterers in Babylon, but the returned in Judea, that sent.
And to the priests: some of these perhaps doubted; and others might overvalue and dote on these voluntary services, and needed, as well as deserved, a reproof.
When ye fasted and mourned: who prescribed this your fast? and since you needs would, (as it was at liberty you might fast and mourn,) who was better for it? or did you do it to please me, when you displeased me by other, your sinful courses?
In the fifth month: see Zechariah 7:3.
And seventh; for the murder of Gedaliah, slain by Ishmael, Jeremiah 41:1.
Even those seventy years; so many they were since Gedaliah’s death to this time of inquiry, which is made now as many years after the return as Gedaliah was slain after the beginning of the captivity.
Did ye at all fast unto me? whatever was in it, there was very little in it from me, no command, no honour; as you ordered it, you pleased yourselves in it, not me; you wept more for the inconveniences of the thing than the sinfulness of it. Had you fasted to me, you would have abstained more from sin, which I forbade, than from meats, which I did not forbid.
Even to me; as if God had said, I put it once more to you, did you indeed fast to me?
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?I was as little minded by you in your fasts as in your feasts, and I was as little pleased with your fasts as feasts; self was all in both, you looked no higher. Such fasting commends none to God; you had not been the worse if you had forborne such fasts, nor are you the better for such ill-managed abstinence.
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?Should ye not hear the words? you needed not have thus inquired had you heeded the word written. Should you not remember, or have you not read, what Isaiah 58:3-7, determines in this very case? Which the Lord hath cried, openly and loudly spoken,
by the former prophets; who have given you the true value of obedience to the great and momentous precepts of the law, who have called for repentance and sincere love to God and man, and have on just balance showed how light and under weight formal services have been.
When Jerusalem was inhabited, and in prosperity: did such observances preserve Jerusalem in its prosperity? Did they prevent the desolation of the cities round about her? Were they sufficient to save the men, the multitudes, that inhabited the south of the plain? Did they, or could they, do no good when things were all safe and well? and do you fondly imagine they can profit you now all is in ruins? Can they restore a fallen state that could not support it falling?
And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,See Zechariah 7:4
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:Thus speaketh, or did speak, i.e. to your fathers, and thus he doth speak to you now.
Execute true judgment: God required former judges, and he requireth present judges, without hatred, prejudice, partiality, or bribery to give true sentence.
Show mercy and compassions; be kind and beneficent to such as need; wrong none if you could; do good to all you can with tenderest and most abundant pity, with a heart that feels their miseries.
Every man; as this is every man’s duty, let it be every one’s practice.
To his brother, i.e. to every one that needs you.
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.Oppress not; do not first misreport their persons, their actions, and their cases, and on that pretence do them wrong, and oppress them: it is double oppression, to oppress by false information, and then condemn; the first is an oppression of righteousness, the next is oppression of the righteous.
The widow, i.e.: a catalogue of helpless ones, who are under the peculiar tutelage of God, Exodus 22:21,22 Deu 10:18,14:29 24:17,19 Isa 1:17,23, &c.
Let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart; neither think ill of, nor wish ill to, nor plot evil against, one another.
But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.But they refused to hearken; they wilfully were ignorant, ant, would not consider nor understand.
Pulled away the shoulder; next they shift from doing their duty, withdraw their shoulder from the yoke of the law, Nehemiah 9:29 Hosea 4:16.
And stopped their ears; and to make it highest contempt, they act the deaf man, stop their ears, and so turn their backs on God.
That they should not hear; all this out of an obstinate resolution to be unacquainted with God’s will and their own duty.
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.They made their hearts as an adamant: though the heart of itself is far from taking impressions, and receiving kindly the law of God, yet these desperate sinners think it is too pliable, they study how to harden it, and this was the fault of many of them. An adamant; the hardest of stones.
Lest they should hear the law; which was peremptorily required of them, and they as peremptorily resolved against it.
The law of God by Moses, of whom they boasted, whilst they despised his law.
The words, counsels and commands, which the Lord of hosts, their God, spake; nay, though they knew he spake they would not hear.
In his spirit; by his Holy Spirit, in clear evidences, piercing convictions, powerful operation, and dreadful threatenings; yet they opposed and resisted. and sinned against his Spirit.
By the former prophets: all of them acted by the same Spirit, pressing them to the same duties, and foretelling the same miseries, and promising the same blessings, but all would not prevail.
Therefore, for this great obstinacy, came a great wrath, which consumed the whole land, and burned against them seventy years together in Babylon.
From the Lord of hosts; in all which the hand of the Lord was most evidently seen, dealing to them according to their ways. Such were your fathers, such their ways, such their sufferings, all which is well known to you who start such queries, and meanwhile run away from the great commands of the law.
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:Therefore it is come to pass; this is the very cause, and it is just too.
As he cried; my Spirit by the prophets called, warned, entreated, and urged them to repent, obey, and live, but they would not; so they cried, by fasting and howling in their deep but chosen distress, in the miseries they fell under after Gedaliah’s death, yet
I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts. Is it not most just I should disregard their tears for Gedaliah, when after his death they pretended to inquire that they might obey my word, Jeremiah 42:2,3,5,6, yet then they gave my prophet the lie, and contemptuously resolved to do contrary to my word by him, Jeremiah 43:4? Thus you know my resentments of your fasts held on with your sins, saith the Lord.
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.But I scattered them; when they had so provoked me, I cast them out of their habitations, pursued them with the tempest of wrath that scattered them as I threatened.
With a whirlwind; irresistibly, suddenly, and tearing all into pieces, as whirlwinds do.
Among all the nations; all the heathen, that hated them and their ways.
Whom they know not; where they could have no pity, nor any relief, nor common commerce; but as barbarous usage as fierce and unintelligible enemies can give them.
Thus the land, once flowing with milk and honey, once full of cities, men, and cattle, now waste as a wilderness,
was desolate after them; either the Jews cast out, or the Chaldeans who cast them out.
No man passed through nor returned: it was not fit to make a road through a land so void of all necessaries, so full of wild and ravenous beasts, so unwholesome as to the air, &c.
For they, sinful Jews by their sins, fierce Chaldeans by their sword, and God by his just displeasure, laid the pleasant land most desolate and waste.