Zechariah 7 - Outline of Zechariah (Book Notes menu page)
I. Symbolic Visions - Israel's Messianic Hope: Sure (ch. 1-6)
  1. Introduction and Message of Warning, 1:1-6
  2. Ten Visions, 1:7 - 6:15
II. Historic Traditions - Israel's Religion: Misdirected (ch. 7,8)
  1. Question Concerning a Religious Ritual: Fasting (7:1-3)
  2. Answer in four messages, which are each introduced by: "the Word of the LORD came" (7:4- 8:23)
    1. Israel's ritual: empty, through disregard of God's Word (7:4-7)
    2. Israel's ruin: cut off, through disregard of God's Word (7:8-14)
    3. Israel's restoration (historic and future): sure, in fulfillment of God's Word (8:1-17)
    4. Israel's rejoicing (future): overflowing, through love of the Truth (8:18-23)
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;
2 When they had sent unto the house of God
Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men,
to pray before the LORD,
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?
in the fourth year of king Darius...-
ie., about two years after Zechariah received the ten visions of ch. 1-6 (Zech 1:1,7), and also about two years after the work of rebuilding the second Temple had resumed (Ezr 4:23,24), and about two years before it would be completed (Ezr 6:15). Also see the Book Notes at Zechariah 1:1 and 1:7
when they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech... to pray...-
Apparently, these men were sent to the Temple in Jerusalem, by the Jews living in exile in Babylon.
     [Note: Because the phrase 'the house of God' (in v.2) is the HB word 'Beth-el,' and because this word is not used in reference to the Temple elsewhere in scripture, some feel that these men were sent by returned exiles who had settled in Bethel. However, Bethel and Jerusalem are separated by only 10 miles, which might preclude the need to send emissaries.]
     The names of these men reflect the influence of the heathen nation where they lived. The name Sherezer {Prince of Fire} was shared by a son of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib, 200 years earlier (2Kin 19:36,37). Regemmelech {Friend of the King} may suggest a position of political advantage.
saying, Should I weep in the fifth month... as I have done these so many years?-
4 Then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me, saying,
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?
6 And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink,
did not ye eat [for yourselves], and drink [for yourselves]?
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?
then came the word of the LORD of hosts unto me...-
Although the question was posed "to the priests... and to the prophets" at Jerusalem (which would have included Zechariah), the answer did not come through the deliberations of these leaders. (We do not know how the priests may have responded. However, because the message from the LORD was directed, not only to the people, but also to the priests, it may have corrected their erroneous consensus.) Nor did it come through the wisdom of any man. Zechariah is careful to say that the answer was not from within himself. As the outline indicates, the LORD answered through Zechariah in four distinct messages, each beginning "the word of the LORD... came."
when ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month...-
  1. The fifth month - was the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon (2Kin 25:8,9; Jer 52:12,13).
    • The representatives from the captives in Babylon asked whether they should continue mourning that calamity, now that the Temple was under reconstruction.
    • Now that their prayers had apparently been answered, would it be permissable to set aside this ritual, which had become wearisome to them through the seventy long years of captivity?
  2. The seventh month - has double significance:
    1. It marked the rebellion of Ishmael against Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had appointed as governor of the few Jews allowed to remain in Judah, following the destruction of Jerusalem. This rebellion caused further dispersion and suffering to those who remained in the land (Jer 41:1-f). Although observant Jews, today, continue to mark 'the fast of Gedaliah,' mourning the loss of Jewish rule over the land, that event is probably not in view here, since it had little effect upon the captives who were taken to Babylon, whose emissaries were now asking only about the fast of the fifth month.
    2. It marked the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:29,30; 23:24,27-29), in which every individual was to humble himself in repentance for his sin, and then solemnly assemble as a nation of repentant sinners, around God's provision for the remission of sin (Lev 17:11; Heb 9:22).
even in those seventy years... did ye at all fast unto me...? -
The LORD answers that they had not honored Him with their observation of either fast.
  • The fast of the fifth month was their own invention. The LORD had not ordained it. Its observation demonstrated only that they mourned the consequences of their sin. They wept over the destruction of Jerusalem and their captivity, but they had neither grieved for, nor turned from, the sin which caused those calamities.
  • Although the Day of Atonement provided the means of purging sin away, they had merely engaged in religious activity. They had not truly dealt with their sin. They had not drawn near to Him. For what reason had they participated in the ceremonial services, when nothing good came of it? (cp. Isa 1:11-15)
  • In either case, whether they were fasting or feasting (at the end of their fast), they were self-motivated and sought self-satisfaction. They had been careful to 'separate' {HB=nazar, to dedicate, to consecrate (v.3)} themselves to their self-imposed ritual of self-affliction, thinking it would impress God. But through neglect of His Word, they had failed to separate from their sin, and therefore, were not separated unto Him. Had they learned nothing through their seventy years in captivity? (cp. Isa 58:4-6)
should ye not hear the words which the LORD hath cried by the former prophets...--
There would have been no cause for mourning, if the nation had heeded God's Word of warning through His prophets, who spoke prior to the captivity (Isa 1:16-20; Dan 9:6-12; Zech 1:4).
...when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity... when men inhabited the south and the plain? -
Before their captivity, both the core of the country and the outlying areas ('the south and the plain,' which were sparsely populated and geographically more difficult to defend) had enjoyed peace and plenty, while God's blessing rested upon them. His favor had been withdrawn only because they had turned from Him.
     Now that the seventy years of exile had run their terrible course, the pressing need remained unchanged: to hear and obey God's Word. Zech 1:3-6; cp. Luk 6:46

8. And the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah, saying,
9 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment,
and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:
10 And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor;
and let none of you imagine evil
{ie., plan injury} against his brother in your heart.
11 But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder,
and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.
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.
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:
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.
Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts... Execute true judgment...-
The LORD's message through Zechariah (in vs. 8-10) is a review of His Word through 'the former prophets' who spoke before the captivity (cp. Isa 1:16-20; 58:6-10; Jer 7:5-7; Hos 10:12,13). The LORD had no desire for empty religious ritual. Rather, He wanted His people to live in obedience to Him, as demonstrated through righteous conduct toward other people. cp. Mat 23:14,23; Jam 1:22; 2:17
But they refused to hearken...
...and pulled away the shoulder...-
Like an ox refusing to shoulder the yoke of its master, the nation had pulled away from God.
eg., 2Kin 17:13-15; Isa 1:19,20; Jer 7:23,24; 8:5; Hos 4:16; Dan 9:5
...they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law...-
'Adamant stone' is one word: HB=shamiyr, sharp stone, flint. There is a play on words here. They made their hearts 'shamiyr' {sharp} lest they should 'shama' {hear with understanding, hear with the intent to obey}. They purposely 'cut themselves off' from the hearing of God's Word.
...and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. - cp. Isa 6:10; Acts 7:57; 2Tim 4:3,4
Therefore... - ie., because they had refused to hear and heed God's Word.
...came a great wrath...- ie., the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of the nation.
...it is come to pass... so they cried and I would not hear...-
Just as they had refused to hear God's Word, God had refused to listen to their cries for help and deliverance when they were carried into captivity.
eg., Psa 66:18; 81:8-16; Isa 1:15; 59:1,2; Jer 11:11; 14:12; Luk 13:34,35
I scattered them with a whirlwind...- cp. Hos 13:2,3
Thus the land was desolate after them... for they laid the pleasant land desolate.-
Note the words 'them' and 'they.' The people, by disregarding God's Word, had themselves brought desolation upon their land. Hos 13:9; 14:1
To summarize these first two messages:
The willful disregard of God's Word, which resulted in Judah's 70 years of captivity, remained at the root of their empty religious ritual (vs. 4-7), and rendered their prayers ineffective. The remnant's return to Jerusalem was accomplished, not by 70 years of empty prayer and fasting, but according to God's faithfulness to His Word (Jer 25:11,12; 29:10). Thus, their great need remained: that they should 'hear the word of the LORD' (cp. Jer 7:2-8; and Zech 6:15, where the blessings of the Messiah's Kingdom come when Israel will 'diligently obey' {'shama'} the Word of God).
A lesson for all of us:
Israel's chief advantage was that they were entrusted with God's Word (Rom 3:1-4). Their downfall was in their failure to heed it. This also is the great tragedy of the Church and individual Christians, today (cp. Psa 119:1-3; Mat 7:21; Luk 12:47,48; Jam 4:17; 2Pet 2:21; Rev 3:14-22).

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