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The Book of Zechariah
In chapters 7 and 8 we have what seems to be a pause. It is similar to that in the little prophecy of Haggai. In the middle of that prophecy, Haggai was sent to the priest to ask about a law: "When something that is ceremonially clean touches that which is unclean, will it make it clean?" NO, it will not. "If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean?" YES, it will. (Hag.2:12-14). Here in this chapter of Zechariah, we have the same problem approached in a different way.
Some Jews were sent from those remaining at Babylon to ask the priests and prophets at Jerusalem whether they were still to keep the fasts which had been appointed on occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem, and kept during the captivity. The prophet takes this opportunity of enforcing upon them the weightier matters of the law, judgment and mercy, that they might not bring upon them such tragedies as had fallen on their fathers. He also says that in their former fasts they had thought more of themselves, than they did God; and that they had rested way too much on the performance of external rites, even though the former prophets had really insisted on the superior excellence of moral duties, in other words: OBEDIENCE, INSTEAD OF FASTING, was commanded!
Question Concerning Fasting Zec.7:1-3
Zechariah 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; (KJV)
And it came to pass, in the fourth year of King Darius . . . nearly two years after the foundation of the temple was laid (Hag.2:10), and nearly two years before it was finished (Ezra 6:15) when the work was going forward, and there was a great deal of reason to believe it would be completed.
That the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu . . . this would be part of our November and part of December. http://www.jewfaq.org/calendar.htm
Zechariah 7:2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD, (KJV)
When they had sent unto the house of God . . . they, either the captives still in Babylon, or the Jews returned out of captivity, but who did not live close to Jerusalem, had sent unto the house of God; the Temple, which now was half built, began to be frequented by priests and people, and where Haggai and Zechariah might be found to be true prophets.
Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men . . . who these men were is not known. They were, no doubt, well known men of the people, by whom they were sent. "And their men" . . . either friends that accompanied them, or servants that waited on them.
To pray before the Lord . . . in a most solemn manner, that they might be directed aright, and have a proper answer returned to the question they came with. It is almost certain that they came with gifts and sacrifices, for the altar had been set up long ago. These came to request the Face of the Lord by prayer, in His House of prayer, for pardon of what was past, and for answer to their inquiry. The temple at Jerusalem was where men would go to pray (Lk.18:10).
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? (KJV)
And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts . . . that ministered in the sanctuary, who offered sacrifices, and who were consulted in matters of religion (Mal.2:7).
And to the prophets . . . such as Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
Saying, Should I weep in the fifth month . . . which is the month Ab, like our July and August. On the tenth day of this month, the temple was burnt by the Chaldeans (Jer.52:12-14), and which day was kept by the Jews as a day of fasting and humiliation, in commemoration of it. Seeing the temple was being rebuilt, the question with those Jews was: Should they should continue any longer mourning and fasting on that account? Fasting commanded: (Joel 1:14; 2:12-13,15).
Separating myself, as I have done these so many years? . . . meaning, from eating and drinking, and not taking the lawful pleasures and recreations of life for seventy years (Zec.7:5). The question was: Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself from food and drink, should I keep fasting?
The Nazarite was bound to "separate himself from wine and strong drink" (Num.6:3; Amos 2:11).
Question 22. Next one, Zec.7:5.
Zechariah 7:4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying, (KJV)
Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying . . . upon the sending of this embassy, and putting forth this question.
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? (KJV)
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 spoke.
And to the priests . . . who were consulted on this occasion.
Saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month . . . The 10th day of the fifth month (Jer. 52:12-13) was a fast to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem.
On the 3rd day of the seventh month a fast was held to commemorate the murder of Gedaliah by Ishmael (Jer. 40:8; 41:1-3,15-18).
Even those seventy years . . . the 70 years of captivity, during which they kept the above fasts. (Jer. 25:11-14; Dan. 9:2).
Did ye at all fast unto me, even to me? . . . whatever was in their fasting, very little in it was to the Lord; no command, no honor. They fasted only to please themselves, NOT God! They wept more for their inconveniences, than the sinfulness of it. Had they fasted to God, they would have restrained more from sin, which God forbid, than from meats, which I did not forbid.
God rejects such fasting as their's had been, as something utterly alien from Him. Their fasting and mourning had been real, but ungodly, like remorse for ill-deeds, which thought of self only. They fasted to themselves, NOT to God. They mourned their sorrows, NOT their sins and disobedience. Fasting was NOT done for the glory of God, but out of feeling for their own grief. But nothing like that can ever be pleasing to God. It must be done to His glory or He shall reject it. Only things done with righteousness and devotion will ever please God.
Questions 23-25. Next one, Zec.8:6.
Zechariah 7:6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? (KJV)
And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink . . . they had not observed those fasts as they should have. They hated the loss of their Temple, and all its riches, but they did NOT humble themselves because of those iniquities which had brought the displeasure of God's wrath upon them, their temple, and their city.
Did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves? . . . merely and only for their own refreshment and pleasure, NOT for the glory of God. After their return, they feasted for joy, which was NO reverent, religious act, for there was NO thanksgiving to God. Their actions were opposite to the apostle Paul's words: 1 Cor.10:31 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. (KJV) . . . They ate and drank only to the nourishment of the body. They never gave thought to the needy. Anyone who fasts to himself, if he does not give to the poor what he withdrew from himself, but keeps it to be later given to his appetite, that fast was NOT to God! The prophet Joel told them to "sanctify a fast" (Joel 1:14; 2:15), which would show an abstinence worthy of God through good deeds to others. The Lord was NOT thought of by their fasts as in their feasts. He was little pleased because self was all that was in both. They did NOT seek God, looking no higher that self. Such fasting gives NO praise or thankfulness to God.
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? (KJV)
Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets . . . or rather: "Should ye not do the words," since their question was as to what they should do (Zec.7:3). "Hearing" is not mentioned until Zec.7:12.
"The former prophets" . . . such as Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah; meaning that it would have been much better for them to have paid attention to the warnings and instructions which the Lord sent to them by those His servants. Obedience would have prevented their captivity; and there would have been no need for fasting and mourning. Israel should have listened to God: (Deut.8:20; 11:16; 32:29; Isa.1:16; 5:5; 6:11; 7:23; 10:3; 17:10; 24:12; 27:10; 32:14; 33:8; 56:2; 58:3; 64:12; Jer.4:7,14,27; 6:8; 7:3-7,20,34; 9:11; 10:22,25; 14:12; 22:3-9; 29:8; 31:19; 32:33; 37:9; 35:13-15; Ps.50:17; 94:12; Pro.4:13; Eze.5:14; 6:6,14; 12:19; 14:15; 15:8; 19:13; 20:26; 23:18-19; 33:24,28; 36:4; Hos.2:3,12; 3:3-5; Joel 1:10,17; 2:3; Mic.3:12; 6:16; Zep.1:13; 3:7; Zec.7:14).
When Jerusalem was inhabited, and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her . . . Jerusalem was once full of people, enjoying abundant blessings; which would have continued, IF they paid attention to the warnings and cautions that had been given to them.
This is SO like today! I really do think that deep inside every person, they KNOW when they are going against God. Yet, they continue on in sin, just like Israel did. The Bible reveals to us history! Israel sinned and went against God. He repeatedly told them by the prophets to STOP or He would punish them. They did NOT stop, so since He "cannot lie" (Tit.1:2), He lowered the boom on them! We do NOT have the prophets of old, BUT we DO have God's Holy Word! And that includes the prophets words to Israel. Shouldn't we pay attention, lest we have God's holy and righteous wrath come down on us?
When men inhabited the south and the plain? . . . the plain was southwest of Jerusalem. They then lived there securely in this the region most unguarded. The sense here is: It is NOT fasts that the Lord desires or requires of them, but that they would keep His guidelines and laws given to them when Jerusalem was in its upright state. Had they done so then, they would have NO reason to set up fasts to remember its destruction, for it would never have been destroyed (Zec.7:9-14).
The older prophets (Isa.58:3-7; Jer.14:10-16) threatened a curse for disobedience to God, which had been so clearly confirmed. If they would continue in sin, they would continue suffering. This really should reach the hearts of people today! Yet these today who continue in sin, shall be as those back in Zechariah's day. Continued sin shall result in God's holy and righteous wrath!
ALL the wicked shall drink God's wrath: (Job 21:19-20; Ps.75:8; Isa.29:9; 51:17,22; Jer.8:14; 9:15; 13:13; 23:15; 25:15,28; 48:26; 49:12; 51:7; Lam.4:21; Eze.23:33; Nah.3:11; Hab.2:16; Zec.12:2; Rev.14:10; 16:19; 18:3,6).
They were anxiously asking about the fasts, where they should have been anxious to hear the great lesson taught by the former prophets and proven in the Israel's punishment. They should have been repentant and obedient rather than be concerned about fasts. When Jerusalem was inhabited, and in peace and prosperity, fasting had NO part in preserving Jerusalem in that peace and prosperity. It was instead obedience to God. It is the same today with us.
Zechariah 7:8 And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying, (KJV)
And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying . . . the Lord told the prophet to repeat what the former prophets had said, and to urge them to accept what they had rejected before, because it was that rejection that brought them to ruin. The result of that stubbornness of the people was, that great wrath came down on them from God (Zec.1:2-4).
Zechariah 7:9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: (KJV)
Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying . . . the same things as He had said before; for the things spoken by God are forever in force, and must always be obeyed, and to be regarded and preferred before anything that is simply ritual and ceremonial.
Execute true judgment . . . or, "judge righteous judgment" (Jn.7:24); this is addressed to the judges of the people, that they would judge righteously, according to the Law of God; and, without respect to persons, pass sentence as the truth of the case required. It seems crooked judges always existed! SIN!
And show mercy and compassion every man to his brother . . . they were to show mercy and compassion whether it is in want of food, clothing or in whatsoever distress. God "desires mercy, and not sacrifice" (Hos.6:6).
In today's society, much is doled out to the supposedly "poor" by the government, making it a burden on those paying taxes. I think this is wrong! 2 Thes. 3:10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (KJV) . . . There is a multitude of lazy slobs who should be out working. The government does not owe any able bodied person a living. I personally think this is robbery (Ex.20:15)! Sluggards: (Pro.6:9; 10:4-5; 12:24,27; 13:4; 18:9; 19:15; 20:4; 21:25; 22:13; 24:30-34; 26:13; Mat.20:3; 25:18,26; Rom.12:11; 1 Thes. 3:10-11; 4:11; Tit.1:12). Heb.6:12 That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (KJV)
Do right by others: (Zec.8:16-17; Lev.19:15,35-37; Deut.10:18-19; 15:7;13-14; 16:18-20; Ps.82:2-4; Pro.21:3; Isa.1:17,23; 58:6-10; Jer.7:5,23; 21:12; Eze.18:8; 45:9; Hos.6:6; 10:12-15; 12:6; Am.5:21-24; Mic.6:8; Mat.23:23; Lk.10:30-37; 11:42; Jn.7:24; Rom.13:9; Jam.2:13-17).
Zechariah 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. (KJV)
And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor . . . those who have no husband to provide for them, nor father and mother to care for them, the elderly, those who have no friends and are poor, and can not help themselves. Laws of this kind were frequently looked down on by the Jews (Deut.24:14-15).
And let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart . . . thoughts of evil are sin and cannot be hidden from the Lord (Eze.11:5), and they forbidden by God as well as evil actions, which agrees with our Lord's sense of the law (Lev.19:17-18; Mat.5:22). "Devising evil on their beds" (malice) is also forbidden (Ps.36:4; Mic.2:1-3).
Zechariah 7:11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. (KJV)
But they refused to hearken . . . meaning the Jews, before their captivity. They refused to heed to the above warnings, refused to obey the voice of God in them.
And pulled away the shoulder . . . pulled away from serving the Lord, and obeying His Word, like a "backsliding heifer" (Jer.7:26; Hos.4:16; Neh.9:29; Acts 7:57), that would not submit to the yoke. The Jews could not, would not, bear the yoke of the Law, nor the burden of duty, they would not hear the words of warning, or receive the rebuke given to them.
And stopped their ears . . . so they would not hear; like the deaf adder (Ps.58:4; 106:24-29; Isa.6:10; Jer 7:26; Ac 7:57). They did not want to hear what God had to say, so they pretended they had not heard. What absolute contempt this is to the Lord, then and NOW, in today's world!
Zechariah 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. (KJV)
Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone . . . "stone" here is translated a "diamond" (Jer.17:1), and said to be harder than a flint (Eze.3:9; 11:19).
Lest they should hear the law . . . God's Law left NO room for debate. God expected them and us, to obey! But, they did NOT want to hear it, and they refused to obey it. The law of God by Moses . . . Moses of whom they boasted, BUT the Law brought by him, they despised. There are millions today who despise the Law of God. BOTH Jews and Gentiles!
Lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath seat in his Spirit by the former prophets . . . the words of reproof, admonition, caution and exhortation, which Jeremiah and others were sent to deliver to them, under the influence of the Spirit of God. The words, counsels and commands which the Lord of hosts, their God, spoke and knowing that He spoke them, they would NOT hear!
Therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts . . . "therefore came a great wrath" (2 Chron.36:16-21). When they "pulled away the shoulder" . . . they pushed away from them the yoke of obedience, and the Lord laid on them the yoke of oppression. When they made their heart hard as "an adamant stone," God broke those hard hearts with hard judgments. Hard hearts must expect hard treatment . . . then and now! The harder the stone is, the harder the blow of the hammer must be to break it. Their continued stubbornness brought the Chaldeans upon them, who carried them captive into Babylon.
All of the former prophets acted and spoke by the same Spirit, stressing to them the same duties, and foretelling the same miseries if they disobeyed. Yet stubbornness persisted!
- #1. The words of God are not heard.
- #2. The resistive shoulder is shown. People turn away from God. Since they would not bear the burden of the law, sadly they bore the heavy weight of their sins.
- #3. Obduracy (stubbornness). Their heart of stone could not be softened by promises or threats. The only thing left was the great wrath of God.
Zechariah 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: (KJV)
Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried . . . the Lord by the former prophets told them many times to repent and obey.
And they would not hear . . . they refused to hear His Words, refused to obey His voice. But when God's wrath came down on them, they changed their minds.
So they cried . . . when God's wrath came down on them, when they were besieged in Jerusalem, and were carried captive into Babylon.
And I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts . . . but it was too late, for then God would NOT hear them! He would NOT deliver them out of the hands of their enemies. God would not hear: (Pro.1:24,27-28; Isa.1:15; 66:4; Jer.7:13; 11:11,14; 14:12; Eze.8:18; Hos.5:6; Mat.23:37-38).
Zechariah 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. (KJV)
But I scattered them with a whirlwind . . . they had so provoked God, that He cast them out of their homes, and pursued them with the storm of His wrath that scattered them, just as He had threatened to do. Meaning the fierceness of His wrath, and the strength of His fury, seen in their dispersion.
Whirlwind (tornado), as destruction of the wicked: (Pro.1:27; 10:25; Isa.5:28; 17:13; 40:24; 41:16; 66:15; Jer.4:13; 23:19; 25:32; 30:23; Dan.11:40; Hos.4:19; 13:3; Zec.7:14; 9:14).
Among all the nations whom they knew not . . . such as the Babylonians, Medes, and Persians, people before unknown to the Jews.
Thus the land was desolate after them . . . means the land of Judea had but a few or no inhabitants remaining in it, after the Jews were carried captive into Babylon; for the rest, after the death of Gedaliah, fled into Egypt (Jer.41:17-18).
That no man passed through, nor returned . . . neither from Egypt, nor from Babylon, until the seventy years of captivity were ended. Neither did any from other nations settle in it, during this time, that there is any account of.
For they laid the pleasant land desolate . . . either the Israelites by their iniquities, which were the cause of it; or the Babylonians, as the instruments of God's vengeance. This pleasant land is the land of Canaan, "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex.3:8,17; 13:5; 33:3; Lev.20:24; Num.13:27; 14:8; 16:13-14; Deut.6:3; 11:9; 26:15; 31:20; Josh.5:6; Song 4:11; 5:1; Jer.11:5; 32:22; Eze.20:6,15). Pleasant land: (Ps.106:24; Jer.3:19; Dan.8:9).
I really think that God's judgments upon Israel in the past for her sins, was written to warn Christians in today's sinful world. By this study in Zechariah chapter 7, it is quite clear that our duties are NOT by keeping fasts and offering sacrifices, but instead doing right, being compassionate and loving mercy. The Law of God lays laws of self-discipline upon the heart. But the Jews filled their minds with prejudices against the Word of God, just like people in today's world. Nothing is harder than the heart of an arrogant, disrespectful sinner. If we are wise, we will take into consideration the fatal consequences of this to Israel. Great sins against the Lord of hosts, shall bring great wrath from His omnipotent power, which NO one can resist. Any time that sin is regarded in the heart, it will NOT bring success in your prayer (Jn.9:31). The Lord always hears the cry of the broken-hearted, repentant sinner; BUT all who die impenitent and unbelieving, will find absolutely NO remedy or refuge from the miseries in eternity.
God does NOT hear sinners: (Job 27:8-9; 35:12-13; Ps.18:41; 34:15; 66:18-20; Pro.1:28-31; 15:29; 21:12-13; 28:9; Isa.1:15; 58:9; Jer.11:11; 14:12; Eze.8:18; Mic.3:4; Zec.7:13).
Eternal agony: (Ps.1:5-6; 5:5; 11:6; Isa.33:14; 34:10; 66:24; Eze.20:38; Dan.7:11; 12:2; Mal.4:1; Mat.3:12; 5:22; 7:23; 8:12; 10:28; 13:30,42,49-50; 18:8; 23:33; 24:40,51; 25:32-33,41,46; Mk.9:43-48; Lk.16:22-31; Jn.3:36; 5:28-29; 1 Thes.5:3; 2 Thes.1:8-9; Jude 1:7; Rev.14:10; 19:20; 20:10,15; 21:8,27; 22:15)
Book of Zechariah
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