Zechariah 7:1
And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;
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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.

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.In the fourth year of Darius - Two years after the series of visions, shown to him, and two years before the completion of the temple. Chisleu being December, it was the end of 518 b.c. CHAPTER 7

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.

It came to pass; a most usual form of speech, introductory to what shall afterwards be spoken.

In the fourth year; when the Jews had now been two years in building the temple, and probably it was in good forwardness.

Of king Darius; son of Hystaspes, about A. M, 3487, as Arch. bishop Usher in his Annals.

In Chisleu; part of our November and December, when half the time of building the temple was spent.

And it came to pass, in the fourth year of King Darius,.... Near two years after the foundation of the temple was laid, Haggai 2:10 and near two years before it was finished, Ezra 6:15 when the work was going forward, and there was a great deal of reason to believe it would be completed:

that the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu: which answers to part of our October, and part of November.

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 {a} Chisleu;

(a) Which contained part of November and part of December.

Chap. 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. Zechariah 7:1Zechariah 7:1-3 describe the occasion for this instructive and consolatory "word of God," which was addressed to Zechariah in the fourth year of Darius, i.e., two years after the building of the temple was resumed, and two years before its completion, and therefore at a time when the building must have been far advanced, and the temple itself was possibly already finished in the rough. Zechariah 7:1. "It came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of Jehovah came to Zechariah, on the fourth (day) of the ninth month, in Kislev." In this definition of the time we are surprised first of all at the circumstance, that, according to the Masoretic accentuation, and the division of the verses, the statement of the time is torn into two halves, and the notice of the year is placed after ויהי, whilst that of the month does not follow till after התה דבר יי; and secondly, at the fact that the introduction of the occurrence which led to this word of God is appended with the imperfect c. Vav rel. (vayyishlach), which would then stand in the sense of the pluperfect in opposition to the rule. On these grounds we must give up the Masoretic division of the verses, and connect the notice of the month and day in Zechariah 7:1 with Zechariah 7:2, so that Zechariah 7:1 contains merely the general statement that in the fourth year of king Darius the word of the Lord came to Zechariah. What follows will then be appended thus: On the fourth day of the ninth month, in Kislev, Bethel sent, etc. Thus the more precise definition of the time is only given in connection with the following occurrence, because it was self-evident that the word of God which was addressed to the prophet in consequence of that event, could not have been addressed to him before it occurred. The rendering of the words in Zechariah 7:2 is also a disputed point. We adopt the following: Zechariah 7:2. "Then Bethel sent Sharezer and Regem-melech, and his people, to entreat the face of Jehovah, (Zechariah 7:3) to speak to the priests who were at the house of Jehovah of hosts, and to the prophets, thus: Shall I weep, abstaining in the fifth month as I have now done so many years?" As Bēth-ēl may either signify the house of God, or be the name of the town of Bethel, it may be taken either as accus. loci, or as the subject of the sentence. Against the first explanation, which is very widely spread, viz., "it sent to the house of God, or to Bethel, Sharezer," etc., or "they sent to the house of God Sharezer," etc., it may be argued not only that the prophet, in order to make himself intelligible, ought either to have written 'el Bēth-'ēl, or to have placed Bēth-'ēl after the object, but also that beeth-'eel cannot be shown to have been ever applied to the temple of Jehovah, and that it would have been altogether out of place to speak of sending to Bethel, because Jehovah could not be prayed to in Bethel after the captivity. We must therefore take bēth-'ēl as the subject, and understand it as denoting the population of Bethel, and not as a name given to the church of the Lord, since there are no conclusive passages to support any such use, as bēth Yehōvâh only is used for the church of God (see at Hosea 8:1), and here there could be no inducement to employ so unusual an epithet to denote the nation. A considerable number of the earlier inhabitants of Bethel had already returned with Zerubbabel, according to Ezra 2:28 and Nehemiah 7:32; and, according to Nehemiah 11:31, the little town appears to have been soon rebuilt. The inhabitants of this city sent an embassy to Jerusalem, namely Sharezer and Rechem-Melech, and his men. The omission of the nota accus. את has indeed been adduced as an objection to this interpretation of the names as the object, and the names have been therefore taken as the subject, and regarded as in apposition to Bēth-ēl: "Bethel, namely Sharezer and Rechem, etc., sent;" that is to say, two men are mentioned in connection with Bethel, who are supposed to have acted as leaders of the embassy. But there is something so harsh and inflexible in the assumption of such an apposition as this, that in spite of the omission of the את we prefer to regard the names as accusatives. The name Sharezer is evidently Assyrian (cf. Isaiah 37:38; Jeremiah 39:3, Jeremiah 39:13), so that the man was probably born in Babylonia.

The object of sending these men is given first of all in general terms: viz., להלּות את־פּני יי, lit., to stroke the face of Jehovah, - an anthropomorphic expression for affectionate entreaty (see at Psalm 119:58), and then defined more precisely in Zechariah 7:3, where it is stated that they were to inquire of the priests and prophets, i.e., through their mediation, to entreat an answer from the Lord, whether the mourning and fasting were to be still kept up in the fifth month. Through the clause אשׁר לבית יי the priests are described as belonging to the house of Jehovah, though not in the sense supposed by Kliefoth, namely, "because they were appointed to serve in His house along with the Levites, in the place of the first-born, who were the possession of Jehovah" (Numbers 3:41; Deuteronomy 10:8-9). There is no such allusion here; but the meaning is simply, "as the persons in the temple, who by virtue of their mediatorial service were able to obtain an answer from Jehovah to a question addressed to Him in prayer." The connection with the prophets points to this. The question האבכּה is defined by the inf. absol. הנּזר, as consisting in weeping or lamentation connected with abstinence from food and drink, i.e., with fasting. On this use of the inf. abs., see Ewald, 280, a; הנּזר, to abstain (in this connection from meat and drink), is synonymous with צוּם in Zechariah 7:5. זה כּ מּה שׁנים: "these how many years," for which we should say, "so many years." Kammeh suggests the idea of an incalculably long duration. זה, in this and other similar combinations with numerical data, has acquired the force of an adverb: now, already (cf. Zechariah 1:12, and Ewald, 302, b). The subject to אבכּה is the population of Bethel, by which the men had been delegated. The question, however, had reference to a subject in which the whole community was interested, and hence the answer from God is addressed to all the people (Zechariah 7:5). So far as the circumstances themselves are concerned, we can see from Zechariah 7:5 and Zechariah 8:19, that during the captivity the Israelites had adopted the custom of commemorating the leading incidents in the Chaldaean catastrophe by keeping fast-days in the fifth, seventh, fourth, and tenth months. In the fifth month (Ab), on the tent day, because, according to Jeremiah 52:12-13, that was the day on which the temple and the city of Jerusalem were destroyed by fire in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar, though the seventh day of that month is the date given in 2 Kings 25:8-9 (see the comm. in loc.). In the seventh month, according to Jewish tradition, they fasted on the third day, on account of the murder of the governor Gedaliah, and the Judaeans who had been left in the land (2 Kings 25:25-26; Jeremiah 51:1.). In the fourth month Tammuz) they fasted on the ninth day, on account of the conquest of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar in the eleventh year of Zedekiah (Jeremiah 39:2; Jeremiah 52:6-7). And lastly, in the tenth month, a fast was kept on the tenth day on account of the commencement of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar on that day, in the ninth year of Zedekiah (2 Kings 25:1 and Jeremiah 39:1).

(Note: The later Jews kept the 9th Ab as the day when both the first and second temples were destroyed by fire; and in Mishna Taanit iv. 6, five disasters are enumerated, which had fallen upon Israel on that day: viz., (1) the determination of God not to suffer the fathers to enter the promised land; (2 and 3) the destruction of the first and second temples; (4) the conquest of the city of Bether in the time of Bar-Cochba; (5) the destruction of the holy city, which Rashi explains from Micah 3:12 and Jeremiah 26:18, but which others refer to the fact that Turnus Rufus (either Turannius Rufus or T. Annius Rufus: cf. Schttgen, Horae hebr. et talm. ii. 953ff., and Jost, Gesch. des Judenthums, ii. 77) ploughed over the foundation of the temple. Also, on the seventeenth of the fourth month (Tammuz), according to Mishna Taan. iv. 6, five disasters are said to have befallen Israel: (1) the breaking of the tables of the law (Exodus 32); (2) the cessation of the daily sacrifice in the first temple from the want of sacrificial lambs (cf. Jeremiah 52:6); (3) the breach made in the city walls; (4) the burning of the law by Apostemus; and (5) the setting up of the abomination, i.e., of an idol, in the temple (Daniel 11:31; Daniel 12:13). Vid., Lundius, Codex talm. de jejunio, Traf. ad Rhen. 1694, p. 55ff.; also in abstract in Mishna ed. Surenhus. ii. pp. 382-3.)

The question put by the delegates referred simply to the fasting in the fifth month, in commemoration of the destruction of the temple. And now that the rebuilding of the temple was rapidly approaching completion, it appeared no longer in character to continue to keep this day, especially as the prophets had proclaimed on the part of God, that the restoration of the temple would be a sign that Jehovah had once more restored His favour to the remnant of His people. If this fast-day were given up, the others would probably be also relinquished. The question actually involved the prayer that the Lord would continue permanently to bestow upon His people the favour which He had restored to them, and not only bring to completion the restoration of the holy place, which was already begun, but accomplish generally the glorification of Israel predicted by the earlier prophets. The answer given by the Lord through Zechariah to the people refers to this, since the priests and prophets could give no information in the matter of their own accord.

The answer from the Lord divides itself into two parts, Zechariah 7:4-14 and ch. 8. In the first part He explains what it is that He requires of the people, and why He has been obliged to punish them with exile: in the second He promises them the restoration of His favour and the promised salvation. Each of these parts is divisible again into two sections, Zechariah 7:4-7 and Zechariah 7:8-14; Zechariah 8:1-17 and Zechariah 8:18-23; and each of these sections opens with the formula, "The word of Jehovah (of hosts) came to me (Zechariah), saying."

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