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THE INQUIRY CONCERNING THE CONTINUED OBSERVANCE OF THE FASTS.
(1) Fourth year . . . This was in B.C. 518, the second year after the commencement of the re-building of the Temple, and about two years before its completion.
(2) When they had sent . . . before the Lord.—Better, Then [the people of] Bethel [such as] Sherezer and Regemmelech, and his men, sent to entreat the Lord. “Bethel” stands for the inhabitants of Bethel, many of the former inhabitants of which had returned (Ezra 2:28); similarly “Jerusalem” often means “the inhabitants of Jerusalem.” The verb “then there sent” seems to denote an event subsequent to the revelation spoken of in Zechariah 7:1. (Comp. 1 Kings 14:5, where the prophet Ahijah receives warning of the coming of the wife of Jeroboam. Though the literal meaning of “Bethel” is house of God, no instance can be adduced of the words being used to denote the Temple (as it is taken by the English Version). Some (with LXX.) translate “to Bethel;” but this rendering is unsuitable, for we have no reason to suppose that “the priests belonging to the house of the Lord” dwelt specially at Bethel. Others, again, render the words, “when Bethel sent Sherezer, and Regem-melech, and their people.” Sherezer, or rather Sarezer, is mentioned as a name of one of the sons of Sennacherib, Isaiah 37:38, and Nergal-Sarezer occurs Jeremiah 39:3. The name is Assyrian, [Nirgal]-sar-uśur, “May [Nergal] protect the king” (Schrader).
(3) In.—Better, belonging to. LXX., wrongly, ἐν τῷ οἴκῳ.
In the fifth month.—On the tenth of the fifth month (Ab), Nebuzar-adan burnt the Temple and Jerusalem with fire (Jeremiah 52:12-13), but in 2 Kings 25:8-10, the seventh day of the fifth month is given as the date; perhaps it was in flames for three days. Now that the re-building was well in progress, they naturally desired to know whether the fast which had been kept in commemoration of the past calamity should be still held.
Separating myself—viz., from meat and drink. LXX., for “shall I weep, separating myself?” give εἰσελήλυθεν ὧδε . . . τὸ ἁγίασμα, reading the same consonants, but different vowels (see my Student’s Commentary). Consequently, instead of “as I have done,” LXX. give καθότι ἐποίησεν.
7:4-8:23. The prophet’s answer is contained in four sections (Zechariah 7:4-14; Zechariah 8:1-23), each of which is introduced by the words, “The word of the Lord of Hosts came,” &c., as a testimony that he spake not of himself.
(4-7) The people (as in Isaiah 58:3-8) are rebuked for the hypocritical, or merely formal, nature of their fasts. The prophet does not, even further on, give any direct answer to their inquiry. He seems to have wished to show them that fasting or not fasting was a matter of only secondary consideration. Their fasts were undertaken on account of their sufferings; their sufferings were caused by their sins. So, then, their sins were the origin of their fasts. Let them remove sin from their midst, then fasting would be unnecessary. “All stated fasts tend to degenerate into superstition, unless there is a strong counteracting agency. The original reference to God is lost in the mere outward act. . . . Selfishness is the bane of all true piety, as godliness is its essence” (Moore).
(5) All the people.—The question, though asked but by a few, was of interest to all the people; or the people of Bethel may have been the representatives of all the people; at all events the reply is given to the whole nation (Zechariah 7:5). Though the mission came in the ninth month, no question was asked about the fast of the tenth month, but only about that of the fifth month. The reason of this appears to be, that the fast in Ab being in connection with their mourning for the destruction of the Temple, it was natural that, now the rebuilding of it had progressed so far, they should inquire whether that particular fast should be kept. The prophet, in his first reply, mentions also the fast of the 3rd of the seventh month (Tishri), which was kept in memory of the assassination of Gedaliah, which took place soon after the destruction of the Temple. The seventy years to which he refers are those between the seventh month B.C. 587 (the date of the assassination of Gedaliah) and the ninth month B.C. 518 (the date of the Bethel mission).
(7) Should ye not hear the words which . . .—Better, are not these the very words which . . . Haggai 2:5, and Zechariah 8:17, afford exactly parallel constructions. There is no need to supply any verb, such as “should ye not hear?” “should ye not do?” or “do ye not know?” LXX., rightly, οὐχ οὗτοι οἱ λόγοι;
The south.—District belonging to Judah (Joshua 15:21).
And the plain.—To the west of Judah (Joshua 15:33).
(8-14) The prophet implies that true fasting is to loose the bands of wickedness and leave off oppression. But Israel had adopted quite the opposite course, and therefore God, in accordance with Deuteronomy 4:27, had scattered them among the nations.
(10) And let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.—Better, and imagine not evil against one another in your heart. The LXX., (καὶ κακίαν ἕκαστος τοῦ ), and Auth. Version are here grammatically incorrect, the pronoun being not here (as it is in Zechariah 8:17) the nominative but objective case, as is shown by the collocation.
(11) Pulled away the shoulder.—Better, offered a stubborn shoulder (Nehemiah 9:29), as an ox that refuses to receive the yoke.
(12) Adamant stone means a very hard stone; “diamond” is the modern form of the word. “Adamant,” adhámas, meaning in Greek unconquerable, was originally applied to “steel” (Hesiod). LXX. explain the metaphor, “made the heart disobedient.”
(13) Therefore it is come to pass.—LXX., wrongly, καὶ ἔσται, the consequence of which mistake is that the following verbs are also put incorrectly in the future. (For the phraseology comp. Micah 3:4; Jeremiah 11:11; Jeremiah 14:12.)
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 7". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13