Zechariah 1:4
Be you not as your fathers, to whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus said the LORD of hosts; Turn you now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor listen to me, said the LORD.
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1:1-6 God's almighty power and sovereign dominion, should engage and encourage sinners to repent and turn to Him. It is very desirable to have the Lord of hosts for our friend, and very dreadful to have him for our enemy. Review what is past, and observe the message God sent by his servants, the prophets, to your fathers. Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings. Be persuaded to leave your sins, as the only way to prevent approaching ruin. What is become of our fathers, and of the prophets that preached to them? They are all dead and gone. Here they were, in the towns and countries where we live, passing and repassing in the same streets, dwelling in the same houses, trading in the same shops and exchanges, worshipping God in the same places. But where are they? When they died, there was not an end of them; they are in eternity, in the world of spirits, the unchangeable world to which we hasten apace. Where are they? Those of them who lived and died in sin, are in torment. Those who lived and died in Christ, are in heaven; and if we live and die as they did, we shall be with them shortly and eternally. If they minded not their own souls, is that a reason why their posterity should ruin theirs also? The prophets are gone. Christ is a Prophet that lives for ever, but all other prophets have a period put to their office. Oh that this consideration had its due weight; that dying ministers are dealing with dying people about their never-dying souls, and an awful eternity, upon the brink of which both are standing! In another world, both we and our prophets shall live for ever: to prepare for that world ought to be our great care in this. The preachers died, and the hearers died, but the word of God died not; not one jot or title of it fell to the ground; for he is righteous.Be ye not like your fathers - Strangely infectious is the precedent of ill. Tradition of good, of truth, of faith, is decried; only tradition of ill and error are adhered to. The sin of Jeroboam was held sacred by every king of Israel: "The statutes of Omri were diligently kept, and all the works of the house of Ahab" Micah 6:16. "They turned back and were treacherous like their forefathers; they turned themselves like a deceitful bow" Psalm 78:57, is God's summary of the history of Israel. Cyril: "Absurd are they who follow the ignorances of their fathers, and ever plead inherited custom as an irrefragable defense, though blamed for extremest ills. So idolaters especially, being called to the knowledge of the truth, ever bear in mind the error of their fathers and, embracing their ignorance as an hereditary lot, remain blind."

The former prophets - The prophets spake God's words, as well in their pastoral office as in predicting things to come, in enforcing God's law and in exhorting to repentance, as in announcing the judgments on disobedience. The predictive as well as the pastoral office were united in Nathan 2 Samuel 7:4-16; 2 Samuel 12:1-14, Gad 1 Samuel 22:5; 1 Samuel 24:11, Shemaiah 2 Chronicles 11:2-4; 2 Chronicles 12:5-8, Azariah 2 Chronicles 15, Hanani 2 Chronicles 16:7-9, Elijah 1 Kings 17:1, 1 Kings 17:14; 1 Kings 18:1, 1 Kings 18:41; 1 Kings 21:19, 1 Kings 21:21, 1 Kings 21:23, 1 Kings 21:29; 2 Kings 1:4, 2 Kings 1:16, Elisha 2 Kings 3:17-18; 2 Kings 4:16; 2 Kings 5:27; 2 Kings 7:1-2; 2 Kings 8:10-13; 2 Kings 13:14-19, Micaiah the son of Imla, whose habitual predictions against Ahab induced Ahab to say 1 Kings 22:8, "I hate him, for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil." The specific calls to conversion here named and their fruitlessness, are summed up by Jeremiah as words of all the prophets. For ten years he says, "The word of the Lord hath come unto me, and I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking, and ye have not hearkened. And the Lord hath sent unto you all His servants the prophets, rising early and sending; but ye have not hearkened nor inclined your ear to hear. They said, Turn ye again now every one from his evil ways and from the evil of your doings, and dwell in the land that the Lord hath given unto you and to your fathers forever and ever; and go not after other gods to serve and worship them, and provoke Me not to anger with the works of your hands, and I will do you no hurt. But ye have not hearkened unto Me, saith the Lord; that ye might provoke Me to anger with the works of your hands to your own hurt. Therefore, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Because ye have not heard My words ..." Jeremiah 25:3-8. The prophetic author of the book of Kings sums up in like way, of "all the prophets and all the seers." "The Lord testified against Israel and against Judah by the hand of all the prophets and all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets, and they did not hear, and hardened their neck, like the neck of their fathers" 2 Kings 17:13.

The characteristic word, "turn from your evil ways and the evil of your doings" occurring in Jeremiah, it is probable, that this summary was chiefly in the mind of Zechariah, and that he refers not to Isaiah, Joel, Amos etc., (as all the prophets were preachers of repentance), but to the whole body of teachers, whom God raised up, analogous to the Christian ministry, to recall people to Himself.

The title, "the former prophets," contrasts the office of Haggai and Zechariah, not with definite prophets before the captivity, but with the whole company of those, whom God sent as He says, so unremittingly.

And they hearkened not unto Me - Jerome: "They heard not the Lord warning through the prophets, attended not - not to the prophets who spake to them but - not to Me, saith the Lord. For I was in them who spake and was despised. Whence also the Lord in the Gospel saith, "He that receiveth you, receiveth Me" Matthew 10:40.

4. Be ye not as your fathers—The Jews boasted of their fathers; but he shows that their fathers were refractory, and that ancient example and long usage will not justify disobedience (2Ch 36:15, 16).

the former prophets—those who lived before the captivity. It aggravated their guilt that, not only had they the law, but they had been often called to repent by God's prophets.

Be ye; you who have seen the sorrows of a long captivity, who are wonderfully brought back, who are under the teachings of rod and staff.

The former prophets; all the former prophets, 2 Chronicles 36:15,16.

Cried; preached earnestly, frequently, and compassionately.

Turn ye now from your evil ways; now, to-day, yet before it is too late, O turn from vicious, sinful courses and ways; from your atheism, idolatry, murders, oppressions, and adulteries.

And from your evil doings: it is repeated that it might be more impressive upon them. The prophets importunately entreated them to cease from evil, Isaiah 1:16 31:6 Jeremiah 3:12 Ezekiel 18:30 Hosea 14:1.

They did not hear; they did not because they would not, they regarded not what I said by my prophets, neither could they be persuaded to it.

Nor hearken unto me: this obstinate disobedience is twice together charged on them, to make their sin appear in its greatness. Be ye not as your fathers,.... Who lived before the captivity, and misused the prophets and messengers of the Lord, and despised his word, and fell into gross idolatry; the evil examples of parents and ancestors are not to be followed:

unto whom the former prophets have cried: such as Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others:

saying, thus saith the Lord of hosts, Turn now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings; by their "evil ways" may be meant their idolatrous worship; and by their "evil doings" their immoralities; or, by both, their wicked lives and conversations, both before God and men; from whence they were exhorted by the former prophets to turn, and to reform; even "now", at that present time they prophesied to them, immediately, lest destruction come upon them:

but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord; speaking by his prophets, who were sent by him, and came and spoke in his name; so that not hearing them was not hearing him who sent them, and whom they represented.

Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.
4. the former prophets have cried] Rather, cried, as R.V. The reference is not to any one particular prophet or prophets, in whose writings words similar to these may be found; but to the whole body of prophets, who had preceded Zechariah and Haggai, and of whose message in the discharge of the didactic, as distinguished from the predictive function of their office, the substance is here given. Comp. Jeremiah 7:25-26.

now] i.e. I pray.

unto me] whose word, and not their own, the prophets spoke. Comp. Luke 10:16.Verse 4. - The former prophets have cried. Omit "have." The prophets referred to are those before the Captivity, both those whoso writings are extant, as Hosea, Joel, Amos, etc., and those whose names are mentioned in the historical books, e.g. Nathan, Gad, Shemaiah, Azariah, Hanaui, Elijah, Elisha, Micaiah (Pusey). (See similar complaints in 2 Kings 17:13; 2 Chronicles 36:15, etc.; Jeremiah 25:3-8, which last passage seems to have been in Zechariah's mind.) The prophet's lamentation. Hab 1:2. "How long, Jehovah, have I cried, and Thou hearest not? I cry to Thee, Violence; and Thou helpest not! Habakkuk 1:3. Why dost Thou let me see mischief, and Thou lookest upon distress? devastation and violence are before me: there arises strife, and contention lifts itself up. Habakkuk 1:4. Therefore the law is benumbed, and justice comes not forth for ever: for sinners encircle the righteous man; therefore justice goes forth perverted." This complaint, which involves a petition for help, is not merely an expression of the prophet's personal desire for the removal of the prevailing unrighteousness; but the prophet laments, in the name of the righteous, i.e., the believers in the nation, who had to suffer under the oppression of the wicked; not, however, as Rosenmller and Ewald, with many of the Rabbins, suppose, over the acts of wickedness and violence which the Chaldaeans performed in the land, but over the wicked conduct of the ungodly of his own nation. For it is obvious that these verses refer to the moral depravity of Judah, from the fact that God announced His purpose to raise up the Chaldaeans to punish it (Habakkuk 1:5.). It is true that, in Habakkuk 1:9 and Habakkuk 1:13, wickedness and violence are attributed to the Chaldaeans also; but all that can be inferred from this is, that "in the punishment of the Jewish people a divine talio prevails, which will eventually fall upon the Chaldaeans also" (Delitzsch). The calling for help (שׁוּע is described, in the second clause, as crying over wickedness. חמס is an accusative, denoting what he cries, as in Job 19:7 and Jeremiah 20:8, viz., the evil that is done. Not hearing is equivalent to not helping. The question עד־אנה indicates that the wicked conduct has continued a long time, without God having put a stop to it. This appears irreconcilable with the holiness of God. Hence the question in Habakkuk 1:3 : Wherefore dost Thou cause me to see mischief, and lookest upon it Thyself? which points to Numbers 23:21, viz., to the words of Balaam, "God hath not beheld iniquity ('âven) in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness (‛âmâl) in Israel." This word of God, in which Balaam expresses the holiness of Israel, which remains true to the idea of its divine election, is put before the Lord in the form of a question, not only to give prominence to the falling away of the people from their divine calling, and their degeneracy into the very opposite of what they ought to be, but chiefly to point to the contradiction involved in the fact, that God the Holy One does now behold the evil in Israel and leave it unpunished. God not only lets the prophet see iniquity, but even looks at Himself. This is at variance with His holiness. און, nothingness, then worthlessness, wickedness (cf. Isaiah 1:13). עמל, labour, then distress which a man experiences or causes to others (cf. Isaiah 10:1). הבּיט, to see, not to cause to see. Ewald has revoked the opinion, that we have here a fresh hiphil, derived from a hiphil. With שׁד וגו the address is continued in the form of a simple picture. Shōd vechâmâs are often connected (e.g., Amos 3:10; Jeremiah 6:7; Jeremiah 20:8; Ezekiel 45:9). Shōd is violent treatment causing desolation. Châmâs is malicious conduct intended to injure another. ווהי, it comes to pass, there arises strife (rı̄bh) in consequence of the violent and wicked conduct. ישּׂא, to rise up, as in Hosea 13:1; Psalm 89:10. The consequences of this are relaxation of the law, etc. על־כּן, therefore, because God does not interpose to stop the wicked conduct. פּוּג, to relax, to stiffen, i.e., to lose one's vital strength, or energy. Tōrâh is "the revealed law in all its substance, which was meant to be the soul, the heart of political, religious, and domestic life" (Delitzsch). Right does not come forth, i.e., does not manifest itself, lânetsach, lit., for a permanence, i.e., for ever, as in many other passages, e.g., Psalm 13:2; Isaiah 13:20. לנצח belongs to לא, not for ever, i.e., never more. Mishpât is not merely a righteous verdict, however; in which case the meaning would be: There is no more any righteous verdict given, but a righteous state of things, objective right in the civil and political life. For godless men (רשׁע, without an article, is used with indefinite generality or in a collective sense) encircle the righteous man, so that the righteous cannot cause right to prevail. Therefore right comes forth perverted. The second clause, commencing with על־כּן, completes the first, adding a positive assertion to the negative. The right, which does still come to the light, is מעקּל, twisted, perverted, the opposite of right. To this complaint Jehovah answers in Habakkuk 1:5-11 that He will do a marvellous work, inflict a judgment corresponding in magnitude to the prevailing injustice.
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