Zechariah 7:4
Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
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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.

7:1-7 If we truly desire to know the will of God in doubtful matters, we must not only consult his word and ministers, but seek his direction by fervent prayer. Those who would know God's mind should consult God's ministers; and, in doubtful cases, ask advice of those whose special business it is to search the Scriptures. The Jews seemed to question whether they ought to continue their fasts, seeing that the city and temple were likely to be finished. The first answer to their inquiry is a sharp reproof of hypocrisy. These fasts were not acceptable to God, unless observed in a better manner, and to better purpose. There was the form of duty, but no life, or soul, or power in it. Holy exercises are to be done to God, looking to his word as our rule, and his glory as our end, seeking to please him and obtain his favour; but self was the centre of all their actions. And it was not enough to weep on fast days; they should have searched the Scriptures of the prophets, that they might have seen what was the ground of God's controversy with their fathers. Whether people are in prosperity or adversity, they must be called upon to leave their sins, and to do their duty.Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself? - "In the fifth month," from the seventh to the tenth day, Jerusalem was in flames, fired by Nebuchadnezzar. "He burnt the house of the Lord, and the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem and every great man's house he burnt with fire" .

Jerome: "Now since it is said that the temple is builded and we see that no cause of sorrow remaineth, answer, we pray, are we to do this or to change our sorrow into joy?"

Separating myself - This seems to be added, to intensify the fast which they had kept. The Nazarite was bound to "separate himself from wine and strong drink" Numbers 6:3, and so, they severed themselves to the Lord, and consecrated themselves to Him (Numbers 5. See the note at Amos 2:11). These had severed themselves from food, from things pleasant, from pleasure, from sin, it may be, for the day, but not abidingly: they had not given themselves to God.

As I have done these so many years - Literally, "how many." As if, although they knew that they were seventy years, they could not count them.

3. Should I weep in the fifth month—"I" represents here the people of God (compare Zec 8:21). This rather favors Maurer's view, taking "the house of God," the congregation, as nominative to "sent." Their hypocrisy appeared because they showed more concern about a ceremony of human institution (not improper in itself) than about moral obedience. If, too, they had trusted God's promise as to the restoration of Church and State, the fast would have now given place to joy, for which there was more cause than for grief [Pembellus].

to the prophets—Haggai and Zechariah especially. The tenth day of the fifth month was kept a fast, being the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem (Jer 52:12-14). They ask, Should the fast be continued, now that the temple and city are being restored?

separating myself—sanctifying myself by separation, not only from food, but from all defilements (compare Joe 2:16) as was usual in a solemn fast.

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.

Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying. Upon the sending of this embassy, and upon putting this question. Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
Verses 4-7. - § 2. In answer to the inquiry, the delegates are told that fasting is in itself an indifferent thing, but is to be estimated by the conduct of those who observe it. Verse 4. - Then came the word of the Lord. This formula marks the several portions of the answer to the inquiry (see ver. 8; ch. 8:1, 18). The present verse takes up the sentence in ver. 1, interrupted by the explanation of the object of the deputation (vers. 2, 3). Zechariah 7:4The first of these four words of God contains an exposure of what might be unwarrantable in the question and its motives, and open to disapproval. Zechariah 7:4. "And the word of Jehovah of hosts came to me thus, Zechariah 7:5. Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and in the seventh (month), and that for seventy years, did ye, when fasting, fast to me? Zechariah 7:6. And when ye eat, and when ye drink, is it not ye who eat, and ye who drink? Zechariah 7:7. Does it not concern the words, which Jehovah has preached through the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and satisfied, and her towns round about her, and the south country and the low land were inhabited?" The thought of Zechariah 7:6 and Zechariah 7:7 is the following: It is a matter of indifference to God whether the people fast or not. The true fasting, which is well pleasing to God, consists not in a pharisaical abstinence from eating and drinking, but in the fact that men observe the word of God and live thereby, as the prophets before the captivity had already preached to the people. This overthrew the notion that men could acquire the favour of God by fasting, and left it to the people to decide whether they would any longer observe the previous fast-days; it also showed what God would require of them if they wished to obtain the promised blessings. For the inf. absol. see at Haggai 1:6. The fasting in the seventh month was not the fast on the day of atonement which was prescribed in the law (Leviticus 23), but, as has been already observed, the fast in commemoration of the murder of Gedaliah. In the form צמתּני the suffix is not a substitute for the dative (Ges. 121, 4), but is to be taken as an accusative, expressive of the fact that the fasting related to God (Ewald, 315, b). The suffix is strengthened by אני for the sake of emphasis (Ges. 121, 3). In Zechariah 7:7 the form of the sentence is elliptical. The verb is omitted in the clause הלוא את־הדּברים, but not the subject, say זה, which many commentators supply, after the lxx, the Peshito, and the Vulgate ("Are these not the words which Jehovah announced?"), in which case את would have to be taken as nota nominativi. The sentence contains an aposiopesis, and is to be completed by supplying a verb, either "should ye not do or give heed to the words which," etc.? or "do ye not know the words?" ישׁבת, as in Zechariah 1:11, in the sense of sitting or dwelling; not in a passive sense, "to be inhabited," although it might be so expressed. שׁלוה is synonymous with שׁקטת in Zechariah 1:11. ישׁב, in the sense indicated at the close of the verse, is construed in the singular masculine, although it refers to a plurality of previous nouns (cf. Ges. 148, 2). In addition to Jerusalem, the following are mentioned as a periphrasis for the land of Judah: (1) her towns round about; these are the towns belonging to Jerusalem as the capital, towns of the mountains of Judah which were more or less dependent upon her: (2) the two rural districts, which also belonged to the kingdom of Judah, viz., the negeb, the south country (which Koehler erroneously identifies with the mountains of Judah; compare Joshua 15:21 with Joshua 15:48), and the shephēlâh, or lowland along the coast of the Mediterranean (see at Joshua 15:33).
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