Zechariah 1:4
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.
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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.) Zechariah 1:4The first word of the Lord was addressed to the prophet Zechariah in the eighth month of the second year of the reign of Darius, and therefore about two months after Haggai's first prophecy and the commencement of the rebuilding of the temple, which that prophecy was intended to promote (compare Zechariah 1:1 with Haggai 1:1 and Haggai 1:15), and a few weeks after Haggai's prophecy of the great glory which the new temple would receive (Haggai 2:1-9). Just as Haggai encouraged the chiefs and the people of Judah to continue vigorously the building that had been commenced by this announcement of salvation, so Zechariah opens his prophetic labours with the admonition to turn with sincerity to the Lord, and with the warning not to bring the same punishment upon themselves by falling back into the sins of the fathers. This exhortation to repentance, although it was communicated to the prophet in the form of a special revelation from God, is actually only the introduction to the prophecies which follow, requiring thorough repentance as the condition of obtaining the desired salvation, and at the same time setting before the impenitent and ungodly still further heavy judgments.

(Note: "The prophet is thus instructed by God, that, before exhibiting to the nation the rich blessings of God for them to look at under the form of symbolical images, he is to declare the duty of His people, or the condition upon which it will be becoming in God to grant them an abundant supply of these good things." - Vitringa, Comm. in Sach. p. 76.)

Zechariah 1:1. Bachōdesh hasshemı̄nı̄ does not mean "on the eighth new moon" (Kimchi, Chr. B. Mich., Koehl.); for chōdesh is never used in chronological notices for the new moon, or the first new moon's day (see at Exodus 19:1). The day of the eighth month is left indefinite, because this was of no importance whatever to the contents of this particular address. The word of the Lord was as follows: Zechariah 1:2. "Jehovah was angry with wrath concerning your fathers. Zechariah 1:3. And thou shalt say to them, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Return ye to me, is the saying of Jehovah of hosts, so will I return to you, saith Jehovah of hosts. Zechariah 1:4. Be not like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, Turn now from your evil ways, and from your evil actions! But they hearkened not, and paid no attention to me, is the saying of Jehovah." The statement in Zechariah 1:2 contains the ground for the summons to turn, which the prophet is to address to the people, and is therefore placed before ואמרתּ in Zechariah 1:3, by which this summons is introduced. Because the Lord was very angry concerning the fathers, those who are living now are to repent with sincerity of heart. The noun qetseph is added as the object to the verb, to give it greater force. The nation had experienced the severe anger of God at the destruction of the kingdom of Judah, and of Jerusalem and the temple, and also in exile. The statement in Zechariah 1:15, that Jehovah was angry מעט, is not at variance with this; for מעט does not refer to the strength of the anger, but to its duration. ואמרתּ is the perf. with Vav consec., and is used for the imperative, because the summons to repentance follows as a necessary consequence from the fact stated in Zechariah 1:2 (cf. Ewald, 342, b and c). אלהם does not refer to the fathers, which might appear to be grammatically the simplest interpretation, but to the contemporaries of the prophet, addressed in the pronoun your fathers, the existing generation of Judah. שׁוּבוּ אלי does not presuppose that the people had just fallen away from the Lord again, or had lost all their pleasure in the continuance of the work of building the temple, but simply that the return to the Lord was not a perfect one, not a thorough conversion of heart. So had Jehovah also turned to the people again, and had not only put an end to the sufferings of exile, but had also promised His aid to those who had returned (compare אני אתּכם in Haggai 1:13); but the more earnestly and the more thoroughly the people turned to Him, the more faithfully and the more gloriously would He bestow upon them His grace and the promised salvation. This admonition is shown to be extremely important by the threefold "saith the Lord of Zebaoth," and strengthened still further in Zechariah 1:4 by the negative turn not to do like the fathers, who cast the admonitions of the prophets to the winds. The "earlier prophets" are those before the captivity (cf. Zechariah 7:7, Zechariah 7:12). The predicate ראשׁנים points to the fact that there was a gap between Zechariah and his predecessors, namely the period of the exile, so that Daniel and Ezekiel, who lived in exile, are overlooked; the former because his prophecies are not admonitions addressed to the people, the latter because the greater part of his ministry fell in the very commencement of the exile. Moreover, when alluding to the admonitions of the earlier prophets, Zechariah has not only such utterances in his mind as those in which the prophets summoned the people to repentance with the words שׁוּבוּ וגו (e.g., Joel 2:13; Hosea 14:2-3; Isaiah 31:6; Jeremiah 3:12., Zechariah 7:13, etc.), but the admonitions, threatenings, and reproofs of the earlier prophets generally (compare 2 Kings 17:13.). The chethib מעליליכם is to be read מעליליכם, a plural form עלילים from עלילה, and is to be retained, since the preposition min is wanting in the keri; and this reading has probably only arisen from the offence taken at the use of the plural form ‛ălı̄lı̄m, which does not occur elsewhere, in the place of ‛ălı̄lōth, although there are many analogies to such a formation, and feminine forms frequently have plurals in ־ים, either instead of those in ־ות or in addition to them.

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