And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Zechariah 7:1-3. The word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, &c. — In this and the next chapter is contained a third and distinct revelation made to Zechariah, about two years after the former; of which the occasion and matter are as follows: A considerable progress having, by this time, been made in the rebuilding of the temple, and affairs going on pretty smoothly, the hopes of the Jewish nation began to revive, and a deputation was sent to inquire of the priests and prophets, whether it was God’s will that they should still observe the fast, which had been instituted on account of the destruction of the city and temple by the Chaldeans. To this inquiry, the prophet is directed in these chapters how to answer; and his answer is given not all at once, but, as it seems, by piece-meal, and at several times. For here are four distinct discourses that have reference to this case. In the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu — This month corresponded with the latter part of our November and the beginning of December. When they had sent — The Hebrew verb here used is in the singular number, he had sent, or one had sent: but our translators very properly interpret it plurally, by the figure termed an enallage of the number, which is often used in the Hebrew; and the Vulgate renders it in the same sense. This is understood by some to be spoken of the Jews who still remained in Chaldea; but it seems more probable that those are meant who dwelt in the towns or villages at some distance from Jerusalem. These sent unto the house of God — That, is unto the temple, where the building was still carried on with success; Sherezer and Regem-melech — Men of note among them; and their men — Servants, or persons of less rank, who accompanied them; to pray before the Lord — To offer up prayers for themselves and their friends. The temple was the only place where they could offer sacrifices and oblations, to which solemn prayers were always wont to be joined. And to speak unto the priests and prophets — It was the office of the priests to resolve any doubts that might arise respecting the worship of God, or any part of his law, whether moral or ceremonial, and the people were commanded to consult them, and to act according to their determination. And since the Prophets Haggai and Zechariah were at this time residing in Jerusalem, it was proper to inquire of them, who might probably give them an immediate answer to their inquiry from God himself. Should I weep in the fifth month — The fast in the fifth month was kept because in that month, answering to our month of July, the city and temple were burned by the Chaldeans, 2 Kings 25:8; in memory of which grievous judgment, the people instituted a solemn fast, which, it appears, they had observed from that time until the times here spoken of; refraining from all worldly business and pleasure, and employing themselves in the religious exercise of prayer and humiliation: see Zechariah 12:12-14. The question they now proposed, was, whether it were proper for them still to continue this fast, when the ecclesiastical and civil state was in a great measure restored, and the judgment for which they mourned was removed.
Zec 7:1-14. II. Didactic Part, Seventh and Eighth chapters. Obedience, Rather than Fasting, Enjoined: Its Reward.
1. fourth year of … Darius—two years after the previous prophecies (Zec 1:1, &c.).
Chisleu—meaning "torpidity," the state in which nature is in November, answering to this month.The Jews having sent to inquire concerning the set fasts, Zechariah 7:1-3, Zechariah reproveth the hypocrisy of their fasts, Zechariah 7:4-7. They are exhorted by repentance to remove the cause of their calamity, Zechariah 7:8-14.
(a) Which contained part of November and part of December.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Zechariah 7:1-3. The Deputation and their Question
1. in the fourth year] This was nearly two years after Zechariah saw his visions (Zechariah 1:7), and about the same time before the completion of the Temple (Ezra 6:15). See General Introd. chap. II. p. 18.
Chisleu] Chislev. R. V.Verse 1-ch. 8:23. - Part II. THE ANSWER TO A QUESTION CONCERNING THE OBSERVANCE OF CERTAIN FASTS. Verses 1-3. - § 1. A deputation comes from Bethel to ask whether a fast instituted in memory of the calamity of Jerusalem was still to be observed. Verse 1. - In the fourth year of King Darius. This happened, then, B.C. 518, nearly two years after the visions had occurred (Zechariah 1:7). In two years more the temple was finished (Ezra 6:15), and the work of rebuilding was now proceeding vigorously; it seemed a fit opportunity for inquiring whether, in this period of comparative prosperity and success, it behoved the people to continue the fast appointed in sadder times. The word of the Lord came. This is the usual formula for introducing a revelation (Zechariah 1:1), but it is here placed in a peculiar position, dividing the date into two parts. Keil connects the last clause, which gives the day of the month, with the next verse; but this is against the traditional accentuation, and is not required by the wording of ver. 2. The prophet first gives the date generally when the word came to him, and then defines it more accurately. Chisleu; Chislev (Nehemiah 1:1). This month corresponded to parts of November and December. Zephaniah 2:8. "I have heard the abuse of Moab, and the revilings of the sons of Ammon, who have abused my nation, and boasted against its boundary. Zephaniah 2:9. Therefore, as I live, is the saying of Jehovah of hosts, the God of Israel: Yea, Moab shall become like Sodom, and the sons of Ammon like Gomorrha, an inheritance of nettles and salt-pits, and desert for ever. The remnant of my nation will plunder them, the residue of my nation will inherit them. Zephaniah 2:10. Such to them for their pride, that they have despised and boasted against the nation of Jehovah of hosts." The threat now turns from the Philistines in the west to the two tribes to the east, viz., the Moabites and Ammonites, who were descended from Lot, and therefore blood-relations, and who manifested hostility to Israel on every possible occasion. Even in the time of Moses, the Moabitish king Balak sought to destroy Israel by means of Balaam's curses (Numbers 22), for which the Moabites were threatened with extermination (Numbers 24:17). In the time of the judges they both attempted to oppress Israel (Judges 3:12. and Judges 10:7.; cf. 1 Samuel 11:1-5 and 2 Samuel 10-12), for which they were severely punished by Saul and David (1 Samuel 14:47, and 2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Samuel 12:30-31). The reproach of Moab and the revilings of the Ammonites, which Jehovah had heard, cannot be taken, as Jerome, Rashi, and others suppose, as referring to the hostilities of those tribes towards the Judaeans during the Chaldaean catastrophe; nor restricted, as v. Clln imagines, to the reproaches heaped upon the ten tribes when they were carried away by the Assyrians, since nothing is know of any such reproaches. The charge refers to the hostile attitude assumed by both tribes at all times towards the nation of God, which they manifested both in word and deed, as often as the latter was brought into trouble and distress. Compare Jeremiah 48:26-27; and for giddēph, to revile or blaspheme by actions, Numbers 15:30; Ezekiel 20:27; also for the fact itself, the remarks on Amos 1:13-2:3. יגדּילוּ על גב, they did great things against their (the Israelites') border (the suffix in gebhūlâm, their border, refers to ‛ammı̄, my people). This great doing consisted in their proudly violating the boundary of Israel, and endeavouring to seize upon Israelitish territory (cf. Amos 1:13). Pride and haughtiness, or high-minded self-exaltation above Israel as the nation of God, is charged against the Moabites and Ammonites by Isaiah and Jeremiah also, as a leading feature in their character (cf. Isaiah 16:6; Isaiah 25:11; Jeremiah 48:29-30). Moab and Ammon are to be utterly exterminated in consequence. The threat of punishment is announced in Zephaniah 2:8 as irrevocable by a solemn oath. It shall happen to them as to Sodom and Gomorrha. This simile was rendered a very natural one by the situation of the two lands in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea. It affirms the utter destruction of the two tribes, as the appositional description shows. Their land is to become the possession of nettles, i.e., a place where nettles grow. Mimshâq, hap leg., from the root mâshaq, which was not used, but from which mesheq in Genesis 15:2 is derived. Chârūl: the stinging nettle (see at Job 30:7), which only flourishes in waste places. Mikhrēh melach: a place of salt-pits, like the southern coast of the Dead Sea, which abounds in rock-salt, and to which there is an allusion in the threat of Moses in Deuteronomy 29:22. "A desert for ever:" the emphasis lies upon ‛ad ‛ōlâm (for ever) here. The people, however, i.e., the Moabites and Ammonites themselves, will be taken by the people of Jehovah, and be made their possession. The suffixes attached to יבזּוּם and ינחלוּם can only refer to the people of Moab and Ammon, because a land turned into an eternal desert and salt-steppe would not be adapted for a nachălâh (possession) for the people of God. The meaning is not, they will be their heirs through the medium of plunder, but they will make them into their own property, or slaves (cf. Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 61:5). גּויי is גּוי with the suffix of the first person, only one of the two י being written. In Zephaniah 2:10 the threat concludes with a repetition of the statement of the guilt which is followed by such a judgment.
The fulfilment or realization of the threat pronounced upon Philistia, Moab, and Ammon, we have not to look for in the particular historical occurrences through which these tribes were conquered and subjugated by the Chaldaeans, and to some extent by the Jews after the captivity, until they eventually vanished from the stage of history, and their lands became desolate, as they still are. These events can only come into consideration as preliminary stages of the fulfilment, which Zephaniah completely passes by, since he only views the judgment in its ultimate fulfilment. We are precluded, moreover, from taking the words as relating to that event by the circumstance, that neither Philistia on the one hand, nor Moabites and Ammonites on the other, were ever taken permanent possession of by the Jews; and still less were they ever taken by Judah, as the nation of God, for His own property. Judah is not to enter into such possession as this till the Lord turns the captivity of Judah (Zephaniah 2:7); that is to say, not immediately after the return from the Babylonish captivity, but when the dispersion of Israel among the Gentiles, which lasts till this day, shall come to an end, and Israel, through its conversion to Christ, be reinstated in the privileges of the people of God. It follows from this, that the fulfilment is still in the future, and that it will be accomplished not literally, but spiritually, in the utter destruction of the nations referred to as heathen nations, and opponents of the kingdom of God, and in the incorporation of those who are converted to the living God at the time of the judgment, into the citizenship of the spiritual Israel. Until the eventual restoration of Israel, Philistia will remain an uninhabited shepherds' pasture, and the land of the Moabites and Ammonites the possession of nettles, a place of salt-pits and a desert; just as the land of Israel will for the very same time be trodden down by the Gentiles. The curse resting upon these lands will not be entirely removed till the completion of the kingdom of God on earth. This view is proved to be correct by the contents of Zephaniah 2:11, with which the prophet passes to the announcement of the judgment upon the nations of the south and north.
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