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Zec 7:1 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;
Ver. 1. In the fourth year of king Darius ] Two years and a month after the former sermon. The word of the Lord was precious in those days. "The Lord gave the word": but it cannot be said that "great was the company of those that preached it," Psalms 68:11 ; during the captivity they complained that there was no more any prophets; neither any among them that knew how long their misery should last. Soon after their return God stirred them up Haggai and Zechariah; and after that Malachi; and then there was Chathimath chazon, as the Jews phrase it, a sealing up or end of prophecy. Only they had Bath-col, as they call it, a voice from heaven, sometimes, as Mat 3:17 John 12:28 . This and the pool of Bethesda only were left them as extraordinary signs of God’s love to that people. But for a punishment of their killing the prophets (as they did this Zechariah between the porch and the altar, Mat 23:37 ) and stoning those that were sent unto them (as they did the other Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada), they had no more prophets till the arch-prophet and his forerunner, the Baptist, came. And now also by this long vacation of two years and a month, it appeareth that preachers were rare, and that sermons they had but seldom. Neither was it otherwise here in England at the first reformation; for to many churches (for want of preachers) readers were sent. Whence one of the martyrs wished that every able minister might have ten congregations committed to his charge till further provision could be made.
The word of the Lord came unto Zechariah ] The Lord is said to come to Balaam, Abimelech, Laban, &c. But he never entrusted his word to these profane persons; as he did to the holy prophets, of whom it is said, as here, "The word of the Lord came unto them."
In the fourth day of the ninth month ] Which answereth to our November. Why the precise time of the prophecies is set down - See Trapp on " Hag 1:1 "
Zec 7:2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,
Ver. 2. When they had sent ] They? who? Not the princes of Persia, that were now proselyted, as the vain glorious Jews (and after them Haymo and Hugo) would have it, for the honour of their nation, nor the Samaritans (as some in Theodoret held), as seeming to Judaize in part, to join Jewish ceremonies with heathenish rites; but either the Jews yet remaining in Babylon, as Calvin conceiveth (blaming them for their sloth in not returning when they might, and yet commending them for this, that they had not cast off all care of God’s sincere service), or else the whole body of the Jews returned, as Junius determineth; or, lastly, some particular man not named, who is brought in, Zechariah 7:3 , saying, "Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself," &c. But that may be an ordinary analogy, the singular for the plural; especially since the embassy was sent in the name of the whole congregation.
Unto the house of God ] Not to Bethel, as the Septuagint translateth here, nor from Bethel (as the Chaldee), though that is better than the former, and more likely; but, to the house of God, that is, to the temple, which was now well nigh finished; and that gave occasion to the question here propounded.
Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men ] That is, their train: for they were men of rank and fashion; as it was fit they should be in such a weighty employment. And here the Septuagint, by their corrupt translating of the text, have caused a strange coil among those that strive to defend them. It is said that they translated against their will; and therefore what can we expect from them but slippery doing? It is most sure that the translation of theirs which we now have, is full of errors; and that they pervert various clear prophecies concerning Jesus Christ, and have occasioned many mistakes, being themselves many times grossly mistaken, as here; unless they did it wilfully. Some learned men think that the Septuagint that we have now, is not theirs. It was burned by Dioclesian (as some hold) in the library of Alexandria, or (as others) by Julius Caesar, when he burnt Serapion.
To pray before the Lord ] Heb. to entreat the face of the Lord, sc. by prayers and sacrifices in the most solemn sort. The Hebrew properly signifieth to weary the Lord with prayers, to seize upon him with utmost importunity, to give him no rest until he yield, to urge him (as they did the prophet, 2Ki 2:17 ) until he be ashamed to deny, till we put him to the blush, or leave a blot in his face (as she, Luk 18:5 ), unless we may prevail. This must be done, especially when we are to converse with prophets about soul businesses, cases of conscience.
Zechariah 7:3 [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?
Ver. 3. And to speak unto the priests ] Whose office is to preserve knowledge, and present it too; to teach Jacob God’s judgments, and to put incense before him, Deuteronomy 33:10 , to sell oil, Matthew 25:9 , to bring balm from Gilead, Jeremiah 8:22 , to speak as the oracles of God, 1 Peter 4:11 , which scarcely one of a thousand has the skill of, Job 33:23 .
And to the prophets ] Who were extraordinarily raised up sometimes by God, to assist the priests in teaching the people, and to shame them for their backwardness to such businesses. See Trapp on " Zec 7:1 "
Should I weep ] That is, fast, which was ever with weeping, see Joel 2:15-17 , and affliction of the soul, Leviticus 16:31 ; Leviticus 23:27 ; which indeed is the soul of a fast, and without the which it is but as a brainless head, or a lifeless carcase. What is a humble day (saith one) without a humble heart? not only an irreligious incongruity, but a high provocation; like Zimri’s act when all the congregation were weeping before the door of the tabernacle?
In the fifth month ] Wherein the temple was consumed to ashes, Jeremiah 52:12 . In a sad remembrance whereof the Jews took up that tenth day of the fifth month for a solemn fast every year, till now.
Separating myself ] Heb. Nazariting myself that is, abridging myself of meats, drinks, and delights. Hence a fasting day is called a day of restraint, Joel 2:15 . Hence it hath its hand both in Hebrew and Greek, Tsom, Nηστειο Hence also it is spoken of as a foul fault, Isaiah 58:3 "Behold in the day of your fast ye find your pleasure." The Popish fast is a mere mock fast; for they separate themselves from some kind of meats only; it is not a total abstinence. And herein they come short of the very Turks, who upon their fasting days will not so much as taste a cup of water, or wash their mouths with water all the day long, before the stars appear in the sky; and then they make all the cheer and joy they can devise. Like as the Attic dames in their Thesmophoria (a feast of Ceres) prepared themselves with fasting, but after that laid the reins on the neck, and ran riot.
As I have done these so many years? ] Seventy at least. But they seem to reckon up upon so many as was scarce to be told; and that therefore God was deep in their debt. Is it not time now to give over, since the temple was almost rebuilt? This was the great case propounded by these Questionists. Hereunto an answer is made by the prophet in the two following chapters, and this answer is partly reprehensory, Zechariah 7:1-14 , partly consolatory, Zechariah 8:1-23 . The Sun of righteousness loves not to set in a cloud.
Zec 7:4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
Ver. 4. Then came the word of the Lord of hosts ] This is often prefaced, for authority’s sake; and to procure audience and reverence. The Lord God hath spoken, who can but be affected? See that ye despise not him that speaketh from heaven. The angel, Matthew 28:7 , useth no other argument to assure the women of the truth of what he had told them but this, "Lo, I have told you."
Zec 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?
Ver. 5. Speak unto all the people of the land ], Not to the ambassadors only: as the cause is common, so let the answer be public; for they were all too well conceited of their external services, bodily exercises, and made much ado about a trifle, a practice of their own devising, neglecting the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith, Matthew 23:23 .
And to the priests ] Who themselves were to seek belike; and having been the authors and observers of these customs, were backward to abolish them, as those that rested in them without true repentance, faith, and new obedience.
When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month ] sc. For the slaughter of Gedaliah and the sad consequence thereof, 2Ki 25:22 Jeremiah 41:1 .
Even those seventy years ] Wherein ye have lost full seven score fasts; and were not a bit the better for them, because they fasted rather to get off their chains than their sins; they rested in their fasts, in the work done, neither regarding how nor why they should fast. Now God weighs men’s actions by their aims. And with him, though a good aim doth not make a bad action good (as we see in the case of Uzzah), yet a bad aim makes a good action bad, as in Jehu’s reformation. He had a squint eye to his own ends in all (as the eagle hath an eye upon her prey when she flies highest), and so consulted ruin to his own house.
Did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? ] Did you propound me to yourselves? Or gat I anything by the hand? Did you serve me? and not yourselves rather upon me? Was it not sinful self-love and base self-seeking that put you upon these practices? looked you any higher therein than only to the satisfying of your own carnal humours? God was not in all your thoughts. This Daniel saw and acknowledged with grief and shame, Daniel 9:13 "All this is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand thy truth: therefore hath the Lord watched upon the evil and brought it upon us," &c. The Jews no doubt had prayed much and often during that seventy years’ captivity; yet Daniel denies that they had prayed to any purpose; because they had failed both quoad fontem et quoad finem, they had acted from evil principles, and had been carried on by self-respects. They had not that true heart spoken of by the apostle, Hebrews 10:22 , but that wicked mind mentioned by the wise man, Proverbs 21:27 . The sacrifice of the wicked is abominable; how much more when he brings it with a wicked mind; either as thinking to deceive the God of heaven, or at least to stop his judgments, and still the noise of his own conscience by his external services. Thus Ephraim bore fruit to himself, but proved an empty vine, Hosea 10:1 ; when as the spouse (that fruitful vine on Christ’s house side) kept her fruit for her beloved, Song of Solomon 5:4 ; who therefore fed heartily upon it; and not upon her vine only, but her milk too; not upon her honey only, her finer and sweeter services, but upon her honeycomb too, that had much wax in it, meaning her more worse and coarser performances. If the heart be upright all is well between Christ and his people. O labour for that truth in the inward parts, that we may be, with "Apelles, approved in Christ," Romans 16:10 ; that he may say of us, as once he did of Nathaniel, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile." Great virtues not sweetened with sincerity are no ornaments unto us, and great infirmities not soured with hypocrisy are no great deformities. Those God acknowledgeth not, these he imputeth not.
Zec 7:6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat [for yourselves], and drink [for yourselves]?
Ver. 6. And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink ] q.d. In all your actions, natural, civil, recreative, religious, you should have sought, served, and set up me, you should have done all to the glory of God, as saith the apostle; you should have eaten, drank, and slept eternal life, as it was said of a certain Scotch divine. "The way of life is above to the wise," Proverbs 15:24 , he goes a higher way than his neighbour, who contents himself with a natural use of the creature, but he can extract a spiritual. Grace is called the divine nature, as that which, elixir-like, by contraction turns all into the same property with itself. Meat makes us not acceptable to God, 1 Corinthians 8:8 . The kingdom of God consists not in meats and drinks, Romans 14:17 . Howbeit the Israelites were commanded, as to fast, so to feast before the Lord; that is, in faith and obedience; and to do everything from the heart, as unto him. This these Jews did not; and are therefore worthily blamed. From their feeding themselves without fear of God is concluded their no respect to him in their fasts and holy services: since true goodness is ever like itself, and carries a uniformity in all proceedings.
Zechariah 7:7 [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?
Ver. 7. Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried ] q.d. Hath he not spoken loud enough, long enough? Hath he not sufficiently declared his will concerning these external actions, and especially concerning a fast profaned through wickedness, Isaiah 58:8 ; Isa 58:4 Jeremiah 14:12 , and elsewhere. Sed surdo fabulam; But a story falling on deaf ears. All hath been but as a trumpet sounded in a dead man’s ear; you are altogether uncounsellable, untractable; and all that hath been spoken hath even been spilt upon you.
Should ye not the words ] So the original runs, by a concise and short kind of speaking, well befitting a sharp reproof. Should ye not hear them and heed them? which, if you had done, you might have spared that labour of coming to us; and out of the former prophecies have resolved yourselves.
When Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity ] But then their hearts were fat as grease, and the prosperity of those fools destroyed them; who, if they had hearkened to wisdom, had dwelt safely; and lived quietly from the fear of evil, Proverbs 1:32-33 . Surely as those that lie on downy pillows cannot hear well; so such as be at ease in Sion cannot profit by good counsel. It is by correction that God openeth the ears of men and sealeth their instructions, Job 33:16 .
When men inhabited the south and the plain ] Heb. the south of the plain, that is, the bounds and borders, that part of the country that lieth most open to the inroads of the enemy, and hath most of all felt the desolations of war. See Jeremiah 17:26 ; Jeremiah 32:44 .
Zec 7:8 And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
Ver. 8. And the word ] See Trapp on " Zec 7:4 "
Zec 7:9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
Ver. 9. Execute true judgment ] According to Deuteronomy 1:17 . See the note there. The prophet having here to do with hypocrites, who boast much of their piety with neglect of charity, and seem to be strict in the service of God, but make overly bold with men, presseth them to duties of the second table, which yet he would have exercised in the first table; for not only the second is included in the first, but in the very first commandment of the law the observation of the rest is commanded, as Luther well observeth.
And show mercy ] Or bountifulness, kindness, favourable dealing.
And compassions ] Heb. bowels, q.d. Do it out of deep pity from the heart root. Draw out, not your sheaf only, but your soul to the hungry, Isaiah 58:10 , this way the poorest may exercise his charity; though he cannot show mercy, yet he may love it, Micah 6:8 , he may wish well to it, as these poor wretches, that were willing indeed, but never, alas, able to relieve the necessitous, Matthew 25:35 : we usually call such poor men, poor souls; but in the bowels of compassion a poor soul may be a rich Christian; and a rich man may have a poor soul.
Zec 7:10 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.
Ver. 10. And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless ] Widows and orphans are God’s clients, taken into his special protection.
The stranger ] Whose right is so sacred, saith one, that there was never nation so barbarous that would violate the same.
Nor the poor ] Whose misery moves compassion without an orator. In the Low Countries they may not beg, but only look pitifully. To grind the faces of such is barbarous cruelty; to wrong them, or but wrangle with them, is called man-eating, Psalms 14:4 .
And let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart ] For though you never act it, yet Fecit quisque quantum voluit, He does anything whatever he wished, saith Seneca. It is said, Joshua 24:9 "Balak arose and fought with Israel," and yet the story saith nothing so. Sed fieri dicitur quod tentatur aut intenditur, saith Ribera upon Amos 9:5 . He did not, because he dared not; yet he is said to have done it because he had a mind to do it. A man may die of an inward bleeding; so of heart sins, which are maioris reatus, greater guilt, as we see in devils, though outward sins are maioris infamiae, greater dishonour, as the schools well observe.
Zec 7:11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
Ver. 11. But they refused to hearken ] Being a nation void of counsel, Deuteronomy 32:28 , not willing to know what they should do, lest they should do what they would not. Nay (said they once, when they had nothing else to say), but we will have a king.
And pulled away the shoulder ] As untamed heifers do from the yoke, or untoward porters from the burden. The Vulgate rendereth it: Averterunt scapulam recedentem, making it a metaphor from those that scornfully turn their backs upon their betters when they like not their commands; as the Earl of Essex did once upon Queen Elizabeth; whereat she, waxing impatient, gave him a cuff on the ear, bidding him be gone with a mischief. Sides and shoulders should be set to God’s work, Zephaniah 3:9 .
And stopped their ears ] Heb. They made heavy their ears. See here how they proceeded by fit degrees from bad to worse (for Nemo repente fit turpissimus ), noted in the many "ands" here used. There is a concatenation of vices as well as of graces; and he that is one step down the ladder of hell knoweth not where he shall stop, till he break his neck at the very bottom. Wherefore principiis obsta. Meddle not with sin; it is modest and maidenlike at first, but who knows what it may come to? We have heard of virgins so modest at first as to blush at the motions of an honest love, who, being once corrupt and debauched, have grown boldly lascivious so as to solicit others, so as to prostitute themselves to all comers. Keep thee, therefore, far from an evil matter, Exodus 23:7 ; have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness, Ephesians 5:11 . Circa serpentis antrum positus non eris diu illaesus (Isidore). He that plays upon the hole of the asp may be suddenly stung.
Zec 7:12 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.
Ver. 12. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant ] That hardest of stones, harder than the flint, Ezekiel 3:9 , than the nether millstone, Job 41:24 . Pliny saith of it, Durities eius est inenarrabilis, et simul ignium victrix natura et nunquam incalescens. The hardness of this stone is unspeakable: the fire cannot burn it, nor so much as heat it through; the hammer cannot break it; and therefore the Greeks call it an adamant, from its untameableness. Hircino tamen rumpitur sanguine, saith the same author. Howbeit this hardest stone, soaked for a while in goat’s blood, may be dissolved and broken in pieces. So may the hardest heart by the blood of Christ (the true scape goat) applied by faith. "They shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn" ( οψονται κοψονται , Rev 1:7 ). He shall look again upon them, and they shall melt much more. A stroke from guilt broke Judas’s heart into despair; but a look from Christ broke Peter’s heart into tears. Now till the heart be thus graciously mollified instructions glide off it, as rain falling upon a rock: afflictions, God’s hammers, do not but beat upon an adamant, qui respuit scalptra et malleos, quin at ipsos disrampit, which will sooner break them than be broken by them. "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye," Acts 7:51 . How their fathers did appears by this text and Nehemiah 9:29 . They had not only sinews of iron, a natural hereditary hardness (whereby all men are born averse from, yea, adverse to, the motions of the Spirit: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh"), but also brows of brass, Isaiah 48:4 , a habitual, voluntary, adventitious, wilful hardness; refusing to be reformed, hating to be healed: such a desperate hardness, as neither ministry, nor misery, nor miracle, nor mercy could possibly mollify.
By the former prophets ] Heb. the hand of the former prophets, that is, by their mouth and ministry ( Manus enim, est οργανον οργανων . Arist.), but to as little purpose, through their singular obstinace, as when Bede preached to a heap of stones.
Therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts ] Which argues that they were great sinners before the Lord, as Genesis 13:13 ; for he doth not use to kill flies upon men’s brows with beetles.
Zec 7:13 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:
Ver. 13. Therefore it is come to pass ] By a most just and equal retaliation. Distributive justice requireth that men should be punished according to the nature and kind of their offences. "The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways," Proverbs 14:14 . As he makes a match with mischief, so he shall have his belly full of it; he hath sold himself to do wickedness, and he shall be sure to have his payment. With the froward God will show himself froward, Psalms 18:26 , he will be as cross as they are, for the hearts of them. If they turn the deaf ear to him, he will do as much for them another time. They shall call and cry for help till their hearts and sides ache, but all in vain; he will not come at them. If they pull away the shoulder, he will pull away their supporters, and they shall be "overthrown in stony places," Psalms 141:6 . If they harden their hearts he will harden his hand, and hasten their destruction. This shall they have of God’s hand, they "shall lie down in sorrow," Isaiah 50:11 .
Zec 7:14 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.
Ver. 14. But I scattered them with a whirlwind ] This is the second part of their punishment. The first was no audience or help from heaven at their greatest need, Zechariah 7:13 . This was the curse of Saul, 1 Samuel 28:15 ; of Moab, Isaiah 16:12 ; of David’s enemies, Psalms 18:41 . The next now is, they were dejected and dissipated, as the dust of the mountains before a whirlwind; cast out of their native soil, and carried, they knew not whither, with a great and fearful dispersion and discerption of the same body and nation.
Thus the land was desolate after them ] This is the third degree of their grievous punishment, their land laid utterly waste and desolate; according to that, "God turneth a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein," Psalms 107:34 . Here a learned expositor observeth a wonderful providence, that this pleasant country, left thus destitute of inhabitants, and compassed about with warlike nations, was not invaded and replanted by foreigners for seventy years’ time; but enjoyed her sabbaths, resting from tillage and all other employments.
For they laid the pleasant land desolate ] They, by their sins, rather than the Babylonians by their armies, did all this spoil, as Daniel also confesseth, Daniel 9:16 , and Nehemiah, Nehemiah 1:8 . Sin is the great mischief-maker, hell-hag, a trouble maker, that hurled confusion over the world at first, and brings desolation still to pleasant countries. Palestine was very pleasant, not more by the nature of the soil than by God’s special blessing; a land that he had espied out for them, flowing with milk and honey, which was the glory of all lands, Ezekiel 20:6 . This land they had laid desolate, or for an astonishment, as some render it; or for an In qua quid? as Montanus reads it, What is here? Nothing of its old pleasantness.
a A diabolical or vile woman. ŒD
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 7". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30