Zechariah 1:6
But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do to us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so has he dealt with us.
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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.Only My words and My decrees - Which God spake by them, "did not they overtake them?" (as Psalm 2:7; Zephaniah 2:2). Pagan reminiscence of God's justice acknowledged , "Rarely hath punishment with limping tread parted with the forerunning miscreant." "All these curses," Moses foretells, "shall come upon thee and overtake thee, until thou art destroyed" Deuteronomy 28:45.

And they returned to God and said - The history of the Jews in Babylon is omitted in Holy Scripture, except as to His special dealings with Daniel and his three companions. Yet Jeremiah confesses in words, what Zechariah had apparently in his mind; "The Lord hath done that which He purposed; He hath fulfilled His word, which He commanded in the days of old" Lamentations 2:17. The Lamentations are one long confession of deserved punishment, such as Daniel too made in the name of his people with himself Daniel 9:4-16.

It was one long waiting for God and for the restoration of His visible worship. Yet repentance was a condition of their restoration.

6. statutes—My determined purposes to punish for sin.

which I commanded my servants—namely, to announce to your fathers.

did they not take hold—that is, overtake, as a foe overtakes one fleeing.

they returned—Turning from their former self-satisfaction, they recognized their punishment as that which God's prophets had foretold.

thought to do—that is, decreed to do. Compare with this verse La 2:17.

our ways—evil ways (Jer 4:18; 17:10; 23:2).

But my words, the dreadful menaces which I spake by my prophets, and my statutes, the decreed judgments which my provoked justice resolved to execute on them, which I commanded my servants the prophets; which by my prophets as my heralds I proclaimed and published.

Did they not take hold of your fathers? overtake as a pursuing enemy overtakes and seizeth on his enemy and spoileth him; have not my judgments thus taken hold both on your fathers and on you?

They returned and said: by this it should seem that Zechariah gave them time to consider what answer to give.

So hath he dealt with us; it is true, as God said he would do, so he hath done against us, our fathers, our families, our cities and temples. God’s words have not failed, they died not, though our fathers did. This may be an abstract of their repentance. But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets,.... That is, the predictions which he ordered his prophets to declare in his name, that their fathers should die by the sword, or famine, or pestilence, or be carried captive, which he purposed in himself, and threatened them with:

did they not take hold of your fathers? overtake them, seize upon them, and have their accomplishment in them? not one thing has failed, or come short of being fulfilled, of all that was determined, or said should be done:

and they returned and said; that is, as many of them as perished not, but were carried captive; at least many of them, who either were thoroughly converted, and turned from their evil, or however in appearance: and who were obliged to own,

Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doing, so hath he dealt with us: as he purposed, so he performed, and that with great justice and equity, being what their evil ways and doings righteously deserved; see Isaiah 14:24.

But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of {f} your fathers? and {g} they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.

(f) Seeing you saw the force of my doctrine in punishing your fathers, why do you not fear the threatenings contained in the same, and declared by my Prophets?

(g) As men astonished with my judgments, and not that they were touched with true repentance.

6. my statutes] or decrees. The word may be used here, as it is in Zephaniah 2:2; Psalm 2:7 (in both which places it is rendered decree in A. V.), of some punishment, which God had purposed or decreed, and threatened by His prophets to send upon them unless they repented. But it may also be taken to refer, as it commonly does in the O. T., to the “statutes” of the Law, sanctioned by rewards and punishments, which it was the office of the prophet to repeat and enforce.

take hold of] Marg. and R.V. overtake. Comp. Deuteronomy 28:15; Deuteronomy 28:45, where the same word is used. Pusey quotes the well-known words of Horace, “Rarely hath punishment with limping tread parted with the forerunning miscreant.”

returned] Rather turned, as the word is rendered in Zechariah 1:3-4. They were brought at last to do, what before they had refused to do, Zechariah 1:4, and what you are now intreated to be wise in time to do, Zechariah 1:3, to turn from sin and turn to God.

thought to do] Comp. Lamentations 2:17, where the penitent confession is uttered by Jeremiah, as the representative of the people, almost in the words here recorded: “The Lord hath done that which he had devised (the same word as is here rendered, “thought”); he hath fulfilled his word that he had commanded in the days of old.”

dealt with us] Lit. done with us. As He thought, or purposed, to do, so hath He done.

The Visions. Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15. Exactly five months had now elapsed since the building of the Temple was resumed, as the fruit of Haggai’s earnest expostulation (Haggai 1:14-15). It was three months since Zechariah had uttered the call to repentance with which his Book opens (Zechariah 1:1); and in the mean time Haggai had again spoken in the name of the Lord, in his concluding prophecies (Haggai 2:10-23). On the basis of the repentance, of which the people were giving practical proof in their honest endeavours to rebuild the Temple, and as an encouragement to them to persevere in the work, Zechariah now unfolds to them God’s purposes of mercy, as they had been unfolded to him in a series of eight visions, all of which had been vouchsafed to him, as it would seem, in a single night.Verse 6 - My words. The words that God put into the mouths of the prophets (Jeremiah 39:16; Lamentations 2:17). Statutes, usually applied to the Law, which the prophets had to announce and enforce; but it may mean "decrees" which God appointed (Zephaniah 2:2). The LXX. inserts "receive ye" to govern these nouns. I commanded. The LXX. adds, ἐν πνεύματὶ μου, "by my inspiration." Did they not take hold of your fathers? Did they not overtake, etc.? Did not their threatened chastisements, however long delayed, reach your fathers in the end? And they returned; turned, as vers. 3, 4. They turned so far as to acknowledge that the threats had been fully accomplished (see Daniel 9:5; Ezra 9:6, etc.). Thought to do; παρατέτακται (Septuagint), "designed, purposed to do" (comp. Lamentations 2:17). 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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