Zechariah 7:2
When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,
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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.When they held sent unto the house of God - Rather, "And Bethel sent;" that is, the inhabitants of Bethel sent. "The house of God" is nowhere in Holy Scripture called Bethel. Bethel is always the name of the place. . The "house of God" is designated by historians, Psalmists, prophets, by the name, "Beth-elohim," more commonly "Beth-Ha-elohim, the God;" or "of the Lord," YHVH. Zechariah and Haggai use these names. It is not likely that the name, Beth-el, should have first been given to the house of God, when it had been desecrated by the idolatries of Jeroboam. Bethel also is, in the Hebrew order of the words, naturally the subject . Nor is there any reason why they should have sent to Bethel, since they sought an answer from God. For it would be forced to say that they sent to Bethel, in order that those at Bethel should send to Jerusalem; which is not said.

It were unnatural also that the name of the sender should not have been mentioned, when the names of persons inferior, because sent, are recorded . Bethel, in Nehemiah's time Nehemiah 11:31, was one of the chief places of Benjamin. "Two hundred twenty and three of the men of Bethel and Ai" Ezra 2:28 had returned with Zerubbabel. The answer being to "the people" of the land, such were doubtless the enquirers, not those still in Babylon. The answer shows that the question was not religious, though put as matter of religion. It is remarkable that, whereas in the case of those who brought presents from Babylon, the names express some relation to God, these names are singularly, the one of a parricide son of Sennacherib Isaiah 37:38; 2 Kings 19:37, and of one, chief among the King of Babylon's princes ; the other probably a secular name, "the king's friend".

Osorius: "I do not see why under the name of Bethel, the city so called is not understood. For since Jerusalem was not yet fortified, the Jews chose them sites in various places, where they should be less harassed. All hatred was concentrated on that city, which the neighbors wished not to be restored to its former greatness. Other cities they did not so molest. Bethel then, that is, the assembly of the city, sent messengers to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to God and consult the wise there."

To entreat the face of the Lord - They wished, it seems, (so to speak) to ingratiate themselves with God with an account of their past self-humiliation, on the day when the house of God was burned by Nebuchadnezzar. In regard to God, the word is always used of entreating Him by earnest prayer .

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).

When they, either the captives which still continued in Babylon, or the Jews returned out of captivity, but who dwelt in the country at distance from Jerusalem,

had sent unto the house of God; the temple, which now, half built, began to be frequented by priests and people, and where Haggai and Zechariah might be found true prophets.

Sherezer and Regem-melech: it appears not who these were, but no doubt they were eminent in dignity and piety,

And their men; a train either of friends that accompanied them, or of servants that waited on them.

To pray before the Lord, in most solemn manner, and with sacrifices no doubt, for the altar was set up long ago. Now these come to entreat the face of the Lord by prayer, in the house of prayer, for pardon of what was past, and acceptance of them at present, and for answer to their inquiry.

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.

When {b} they had sent to the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,

(b) That is, the rest of the people that yet remained in Chaldea, sent to the Church at Jerusalem for the resolution of these questions, because these feasts were consented upon by the agreement of the whole Church, the one in the month that the temple was destroyed, and the other when Gedaliah was slain; Jer 41:2.

2. when they had sent unto the house of God] Rather, And (or now) Bethel sent. “Now they of Bethel had sent.” R. V. Having announced the fact and the date of the word of Jehovah coming to him again in Zechariah 7:1, the prophet breaks off, as it were, to state the occasion of its coming in Zechariah 7:2-3—now, why it came was that Bethel sent, &c. Then in Zechariah 7:4 he resumes by repeating the phrase of Zechariah 7:1, “and (as I said) the word of the Lord came unto me,” and passes on to the message itself. We have a similar construction, with the repetition of the word “take” Zechariah 6:10-11. It is best to regard Bethel here as a proper name. It was one of the cities to which captives had returned (Ezra 2:1; Ezra 2:28, “every one unto his own city”), and from it the question here proposed emanated.

Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men] It is better to take these, as in A. V. and R. V., to be the deputation, or persons sent. It is possible, however, to render, when Bethel, viz. Sharezer, &c. sent (men). In that case Sharezer and Regem-melech would probably be the chief men of the city, their names being those which were given them in Babylon. For Sharezer comp. Isaiah 37:38; 2 Kings 19:37. Regemmelech has been supposed to be an official title and to signify, “friend of the king.”

to pray before] Lit. smooth or stroke the face of, i.e. propitiate or seek the favour of. Comp. chap. Zechariah 8:21-22; Exodus 32:11; Psalm 45:12. It is also used of imploring the favour of man, Job 11:19; Proverbs 19:6.

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. Zechariah 7:2Zechariah 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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