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The captives inquire of fasting. Zechariah reproveth their fasting. Sin the cause of their captivity.
Before Christ 518.
Zechariah 7:1. In the fourth year of king Darius— Two years after they began to rebuild the temple. See chap. Zechariah 1:1. The month Chisleu answers to part of our November and December.
Zechariah 7:2. When they had sent, &c.— Who it was that sent appears from Zec 7:5 where God commands the prophet to answer all the people and the priests. The people held a fast as a mournful memorial of their subverted temple: a doubt therefore arose in their mind, after the temple began to be rebuilt, whether they should yet fast; which was a doubt of such a kind, as ought to affect both people and priest, though the people might send to consult the priests. God commands the prophet to answer for the priests, and to the priests themselves. The answer is made to those who doubt: they who doubt are called the people of the land; which appellation certainly belongs to the people dwelling in their own land, but by no means to the Jews who continued among the Chaldeans: wherefore they seem to be greatly in an error who think that Sherezer and Regem-melech were sent from Babylon to Judaea. Houbigant.
Zechariah 7:3. Separating myself, as, &c.— Should I fast as I have done, &c. Houbigant. See Zechariah 7:5.
Zechariah 7:5. 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, in commemoration of the breach of the wall, mentioned Jeremiah 52:6.; one in the fifth month, in commemoration of the burning of the temple. Jeremiah 52:12.; one in the seventh month for the murder of Gedaliah, Jeremiah 41:2.; and one in the tenth month, in commemoration of the beginning of the siege, 2 Kings 25:1. These fasts were observed not only in their captivity but likewise in Judaea, 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. The prophet acquits himself with great address; he answers, that these days should still be observed, but in a different manner; not as days of mourning, but as days of thanksgiving; see chap. Zec 8:19 premising some very useful observations on the nature of fasts, on the causes of the national calamities, and the manner in which they ought to behave themselves in prosperity. See Grotius, and Calmet's Dictionary on the word FASTS. Houbigant renders the last clause of this verse, Did 1 command you this fast? "Was it by my orders?—to obey me? was it not rather from private motives,—from sentiments of self-love, than those of true religion, and sincere purposes of amendment?" The question is proposed in opposition to their false ideas, that fasting of itself, exclusive of any corresponding graces and virtues, would be pleasing to God.
Zechariah 7:7. When Jerusalem was inhabited— Heb. ישׁבת ioshebeth, was sitting. To sit denotes a state of permanent order and security. Hence a female figure sitting in a chair of state is the ordinary symbol on the ancient medals to represent a city or nation, whose constitution is entire the woman and unmolested. But when it is overturned and ruined, is seen cast from her seat, and lying or sitting on the ground.
When men inhabited the south— The south was the wilderness and the mountainous parts of Judaea; and the plain, the plains of Jericho. These parts were entirely abandoned during the last captivity. The prophet in this verse manifestly alludes to what Isaiah has said in his 58th chapter, Zechariah 7:3, &c.
Zechariah 7:10. Let none of you imagine, &c.— Let none of you devise in your heart the hurt of his brother.
Zechariah 7:11. Pulled away the shoulder— They refused to obey, and turned their backs on instruction. The Hebrew סררת ףּכת ויתנו vaiittenu kateph soreret is literally, They gave a backsliding shoulder; like him who offers his shoulder to carry a burthen with another, and afterwards slides from it, and leaves his companion overpowered with the weight. See Calmet.
Zechariah 7:14. I scattered them with a whirlwind— This sublime metaphor is expressed by a single word in the original, ואסערם vaeisaarem. See Archbishop Newcome.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, Though we have nothing here recorded of the prophet for two years, we are assured that he was well employed, Ezr 6:14 but he had no commission to publish his discourses, till on the present occasion. We have,
1. The question proposed concerning fasting. Sherezer and Regem-melech, persons of some note, with their men, are commissioned in the name of the people to go up to the house of God, that is to say, by those who were situated in the country of Judaea, at a distance from Jerusalem; to whom, in Zec 7:5 the answer seems to be directed. Their business at the temple was, to pray before the Lord, as the greatest of men should account it their honour to do, and to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of Hosts, whose office and business it is to explain the will of God; and the people, even the chief of them, should with reverence and attention hear the law at their mouth; for they who are sincere in their prayers, will be serious in their inquiries to know God's mind, that they may do it; and to the prophets, whom God had then in mercy raised up to them, saying, should I weep in the fifth month, on the day when the temple was burnt by the Chaldeans, separating myself for fasting and prayer, as I have done these so many years? which now they doubted whether it were proper for them to continue, their temple being in great forwardness, and a prospect of its happy re-establishment before them. Note; (1.) In cases of conscience, God's ministers should be consulted. (2.) When God afflicts, he calls to weeping and fasting: to be stupid, or unconcerned, would be to despise the chastening of the Almighty, and provoke a heavier scourge.
2. Zechariah has an answer given him for them, and it is a sharp reproof for their hypocrisy and disobedience. They had fasted, indeed, in the fifth and seventh month, in memory of the burning of the temple, and the murder of Gedaliah; but their fasts were mere ceremonious duties, without any real humiliation of soul: did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? Their eye was not single, they did not propose God's glory as their end, and therefore their services could not be acceptable, however long they had continued them; in mentioning which, they seem tacitly to upbraid God with not taking notice of them, and to value themselves on their performances: but their fasts were no more pleasing than their common meals, or their festivals, in which they ate, and drank for themselves, not giving him thanks, or doing him honour, or designing, in the use of his creatures, to glorify him, but to indulge themselves. 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? This was what they should have done, which would have prevented the desolations; and, in their fasts, these Scriptures should have been attended to, both as a matter of humiliation, and as a warning against the iniquities which had provoked God to destroy the land. But this they had neglected; and it is then to no purpose to fast, whilst our hearts continue unhumbled for the sins which are the cause of our calamities.
2nd, The examples which they had seen, and the words of the preceding prophets, should have been warnings to them.
1. The prophet puts them in mind what had been the subject of the former prophets' discourses. Thus speaketh the Lord of Hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, impartially administering justice without respect of persons, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother, under all his wants of body or soul, assisting him with our advice, our money, our person, and our prayers; forgiving every provocation, and bearing his infirmities. And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor, whose helpless state should plead for them; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart; neither harbour a design of mischief, nor entertain an evil surmise concerning him.
2. He reminds them of the disobedience of their fathers. They refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, disobedient and refractory against all the warnings given them, and stopped their ears that they should not hear, not deigning so much as to hearken to God's messages. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, impenetrable to conviction, neither regarding the law of Moses, nor the words of his divinely-commissioned messengers the prophets.
3. For these things came a great wrath upon them, from the Lord of Hosts; and since they would not hear his calls, God refused to hear their cries in the day of their calamity; scattered them among the nations, laid their pleasant land desolate; a righteous judgment upon them for their obstinacy, impenitence, and hardness of heart. Note: (1.) They who in prosperity set at nought God's threatenings, will cry too late for mercy when it is the time of judgment. (2.) Sinners have only themselves to blame for their eternal ruin.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Zechariah 7". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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