Zechariah 7:5
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?
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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.Speak unto all the people of the land - They of Bethel had spoken as one man, as Edom said to Israel, "Thou shalt not pass by me" Numbers 20:18; and "the men of Israel said to the Hivite; Perhaps thou dwellest in the midst of me, and how shall I make a league with thee?" Joshua 9:7. God gives the answer not to them only, but to all like-minded with them, "all the people of the land," the whole population (in our language); as Jeremiah says, "ye and your fathers, your kings and your princes and all the people of the land" Jeremiah 44:21, and, "the scribe who mustered the people of the land." Jeremiah 52:25.

When ye fasted and that, mourning - It was no mere abstinence from food (severe as the Jewish fasts were, one unbroken abstinence from evening to evening) but with real mourning, the word being used only of mourning for the dead (Genesis 23:2; Genesis 50:10; 1 Samuel 25:1; 1 Samuel 28:3; 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 3:31; 2 Samuel 11:26; 1 Kings 13:29-30; 1 Kings 14:13, 1 Kings 14:18; Ecclesiastes 12:5; Jeremiah 16:4-6; Jeremiah 22:18; (twice); Jeremiah 25:33; Jeremiah 34:5; Ezekiel 24:16, Ezekiel 24:23; Zechariah 12:10, Zechariah 12:12), or, in a few instances, , for a very great public calamity; probably with beating on the breast.

In the seventh month - The murder of Gedaliah, "whom the king of Babylon made governor of the land," completed the calamities of Jerusalem, in the voluntary, but prohibited exile to Egypt, for fear lest the murder should be avenged on them Jeremiah 41-43.

Did ye at all fast unto Me, Me? - God emphatically rejects such fasting as their's had been, as something, unutterably alien from Him, "to Me, Me!" Yet the fasting and mourning had been real, but irreligious, like remorse for ill-deeds, which has self only for its ground. He prepares the way for His answer by correcting the error of the question. Osorius: "Ye fasted to yourselves, not to Me. For ye mourned your sorrows, not your misdeeds; and your public fast was undertaken, not for My glory, but out of feeling for your own grief. But nothing can be pleasing to God, which is not referred to His glory. But those things alone can be referred to His glory, which are done with righteousness and devotion."

5. Speak unto all—The question had been asked in the name of the people in general by Sherezer and Regemmelech. The self-imposed fast they were tired of, not having observed it in the spirit of true religion.

seventh month—This fast was in memory of the murder of Gedaliah and those with him at Mizpah, issuing in the dispersion of the Jews (2Ki 25:25, 26; Jer 41:1-3).

did ye … fast unto me?—No; it was to gratify yourselves in hypocritical will-worship. If it had been "unto Me," ye would have "separated yourselves" not only from food, but from your sins (Isa 58:3-7). They falsely made the fast an end intrinsically meritorious in itself, not a means towards God's glory in their sanctification. The true principle of piety, reference to God, was wanting: hence the emphatic repetition of "unto Me." Before settling questions as to the outward forms of piety (however proper, as in this case), the great question was as to piety itself; that being once settled, all their outward observances become sanctified, being "unto the Lord" (Ro 14:6).

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?

Speak unto all the people of the land,.... Of Judea, who had sent these men on this errand, and whom they represented, and in whose name they spake:

and to the priests; who were consulted on this occasion:

saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth; on the seventh or tenth day of the fifth month Ab, on account of the temple being burnt by Nebuchadnezzar:

and seventh month; the month Tisri, which answers to September; on the third day of this month a fast was kept on account of the murder of Gedaliah, Jeremiah 41:1 though Kimchi says he was slain on the first day of the month; but, because that was a feast day, keeping a day for a fast on this occasion was fixed on the day following:

even those seventy years; of their captivity, during which they kept the above fasts. The Jews say (w) there was no fast of the congregation, or public fast, kept in Babylon, but on the ninth of Ab, or the fifth month only; and if so, other fasts here, and in Zechariah 8:19, must be private ones. These seventy years are to be reckoned from the nineteenth of Nebuchadnezzar, when the city was destroyed, to the second or fourth of Darius:

did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? the fast they kept was not according to the command of God, but an appointment of theirs; nor was it directed to his glory; nor was it any profit or advantage to him; and therefore it was nothing to him whether they fasted or not; see Isaiah 58:3.

(w) T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 54. 2.

Speak to all the people of the land, and to the {f} priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast to me, {g} even to me?

(f) For there were both of the people, and of the priests, those who doubted with regard to this controversy, besides those who as yet remained in Chaldea, and argue about it, as of one of the chief points of their religion.

(g) For they thought they had gained favour with God because of this fast, which they invented by themselves: and though fasting of itself is good, yet because they thought it a service toward God, and trusted in it, it is here reproved.

4–7. The Answer. First Section

5. seventh month] This fast appears to have been observed during the captivity, because in the seventh month “the murder of Gedaliah, whom the king of Babylon made governor of the land, completed the calamities of Jerusalem, in the voluntary but prohibited exile to Egypt, for fear lest the murder should be avenged on them.” Pusey. See 2 Kings 25:25-26; Jeremiah 41-43.

even to me] For the emphatic repetition of the pronoun comp. Haggai 1:4 and note.

Verse 5. - Unto all the people of the land. The message was not for Bethel only, but for all the restored Jews, for whose satisfaction the question had been asked. And to the priests. The prophet was to make known to the priests God's will in this matter, it not being a mere ritual question. Fifth month (see note on ver. 3). The original question referred only to this fast; the answer embraces also another fast appointed by human authority. The seventh month. This fast was instituted in consequence of the murder of Gedaliah, B.C. 587, just seventy years ago, when the greater part of the remnant of the Jews, contrary to the prophet's warning, fled into Egypt to escape the punishment of the crime (2 Kings 25:25, 26; Jeremiah 41:2, 16, etc.). Did ye at all fast unto me? It was not by God's command, or to do him honor, that they fasted; not from hearty repentance or sorrow for the sins which had brought ruin upon their city and country; but from vexation at the calamity itself, and in a self-righteous spirit, with some idea of gaining merit by this punishment of the body; and God was not constrained by this formal observance to show them favour. Even to me. (For the forcible repetition of the pronoun, comp. Genesis 27:34; Proverbs 22:19; Haggai 1:4.) Zechariah 7:5The 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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