|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:1-7 If we truly desire to know the will of God in doubtful matters, we must not only consult his word and ministers, but seek his direction by fervent prayer. Those who would know God's mind should consult God's ministers; and, in doubtful cases, ask advice of those whose special business it is to search the Scriptures. The Jews seemed to question whether they ought to continue their fasts, seeing that the city and temple were likely to be finished. The first answer to their inquiry is a sharp reproof of hypocrisy. These fasts were not acceptable to God, unless observed in a better manner, and to better purpose. There was the form of duty, but no life, or soul, or power in it. Holy exercises are to be done to God, looking to his word as our rule, and his glory as our end, seeking to please him and obtain his favour; but self was the centre of all their actions. And it was not enough to weep on fast days; they should have searched the Scriptures of the prophets, that they might have seen what was the ground of God's controversy with their fathers. Whether people are in prosperity or adversity, they must be called upon to leave their sins, and to do their duty.
Verse 2. - When they had sent unto the house of God. The Vulgate supports this version, Et miserunt ad domum Dei; the LXX. gives, Καὶ ἐξαπέστειλεν εἰς Βαιθὴλ Σαρασὰρ καὶ Ἀρβεσεὲρ ὁ βασιλεὺς καὶ οἱ ἄνδρες αὐτοῦ, "And Sarasar and Arbescer the king and his men sent to Bethel" - which is far from clear. But the temple is never called Beth-el, while a mission to the town Bethel would be unmeaning. So "Bethel" is to be taken as the subject of the sentence, thus: "Now Bethel (i.e. they of Bethel) sent." The persons named may be taken either as the deputation or as the persons meant by "they of Bethel." The former seems most likely to be intended. The Bethelites sent these men to Jerusalem to make the inquiry. The exiles returned each to his own city, as we read in Ezra it.; among them were many people of Bethel (Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32), which town they rebuilt (Nehemiah 11:31). They seem to have tacitly acquiesced in the spiritual supremacy of Jerusalem, notwithstanding the associations Connected with their own city. Sherezer. The names of the deputies are Assyrian; they seem to have retained them on their return. Sherezer, equivalent to Assyrian Sar-usur or Asur-sar-usur, "Asur protect the King," is the name borne by a sen of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:37). Regem-melech; "Friend of the King." The first half of the word is probably Assyrian (see Schrader, 'Die Keilinschr. und Alt. Test.,' pp. 206, 417). And their men. Certain persons associated with them in the business. To pray before the Lord; literally, to stroke the face of the Lord (Zechariah 8:21, 22; Exodus 32:11); so Latin, mulcere caput. Hence it means, "to entreat the favour of God" for their city. This was one object of their mission. The other purpose is mentioned in the next verse.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
When they had sent unto the house of God,.... It is, in the Hebrew text, "when he sent Bethel"; which some, as Kimchi observes, take to be the name of a man that was sent along with those after mentioned; but the Targum and the Septuagint render it, "when", or "after he had sent unto Bethel": not the place so called in Jacob's time; but Jerusalem, where the temple or house of God was now building; and it may be observed, that the words are expressed in the singular number, "when he had sent" (t); and not, as we render them, "when they had sent"; and agreeably, in Zechariah 7:3, it is said, "should I weep", &c. as if these messengers were sent by a single person, and yet a body of people is meant; and not the captives that remained in Babylon, as most interpreters understand it; but the Jews that were returned from thence, and were in Judea, as Junius and Tremellius observe; for to them the answer is returned, and to them does the Lord by the prophet direct his speech throughout the whole chapter. The persons sent were
Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men; who these persons were is not known; they were, no doubt, principal men of the people, by whom they were sent, and the chief of the embassy, and had others with them inferior to them: part of their business at Bethel, or the house of God, was,
to pray before the Lord; that they might be directed aright, and have a proper answer returned to the question they came with. The temple at Jerusalem was the place where men used to go up to pray; see Luke 18:10.
(t) "cum misisset, sub. populus", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius, Tarnovius; "et misit", Pagninus, Montanus; "miserat autem sub". Israel, Vatablus; "et miserat", Cocceius; "et misit Bethelum", i. e. "urbem", Burkius.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
2. they … sent unto … house of God—The Jews of the country sent to the house of God or congregation at Jerusalem. The altar was long since reared (Ezr 3:3), though the temple was not completed till two years afterwards (Ezr 6:15). The priests' duty was to give decision on points of the law (De 17:9; Mt 2:4). Beth-el is here used instead of Beth-Jehovah, because the religious authorities, rather than the house itself (designated "Beth-Jehovah" in Zec 7:3), are intended. The old Beth-el had long ceased to be the seat of idol-worship, so that the name had lost its opprobrious meaning. "The house of the Lord" is used for the congregation of worshippers headed by their priests (Zec 3:7; Ho 8:1). Maurer makes the "house of God" nominative to "sent." Henderson makes "Beth-el" so.
Sherezer—an Assyrian name meaning, "Prefect of the treasury."
Regemmelech—meaning, "The king's official." These names perhaps intimate the semi-heathen character of the inquirers, which may also be implied in the name "Beth-el" (Hebrew for "house of God"), so notorious once for its calf-worship. They sent to Jehovah's house as their forefathers sent to old Beth-el, not in the spirit of true obedience.
pray before the Lord—literally, "to entreat the face of," that is, to offer sacrifices, the accompaniment of prayers, to conciliate His favor (1Sa 13:12).
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