Zechariah 7:7
Should you not hear the words which the LORD has cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zechariah 7:7. Should ye not hear the words — You needed not to have thus inquired, had you regarded the words spoken by my prophets, who have borne testimony to the real excellence and absolute necessity of obedience to the great and momentous precepts of my law, and who have called for true repentance and sincere love to God and man, with their proper fruits, and have shown how light and insignificant all ceremonies and formal services are in comparison thereof. When Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity — He puts them in mind of the reproofs, warnings, and exhortations of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others of the former prophets, delivered to them when they were in a state of comparative prosperity, in which state they would have been continued, if they had hearkened to these prophets, and been obedient to the Lord’s voice uttered by them. As if he had said, This is what you should have done on your fast-days; it was not enough to weep and separate yourselves on those days in token of your sorrow for the judgments that had come upon you; but you should have searched the Scriptures of the prophets, that you might have seen what was the ground of God’s controversy with your fathers, and might have taken warning by their miseries, not to tread in the steps of their iniquities. You ask, shall you do as you have done in fasting? No; you must do that which you have not yet done; you must repent of your sins, and reform your lives; that is it that we now call you to, and it is the same that the former prophets called your fathers to. To affect them the more with a sense of the mischief that sin had done them, and to bring them to true repentance, he reminds them of the former flourishing state of their country; Jerusalem was then inhabited, and in prosperity, but is now desolate and in distress; the cities round about, that are now in ruins, were then inhabited too, and in peace; the country likewise was very populous. But then God by the prophets cried to them, as one in earnest, and was importunate with them to mend their ways, and their doings, or else their prosperity would soon be at an end. Now, says the prophet you should have taken notice of that, and have inferred, that what was required of them for the preventing of the judgments, and which they did not perform, is required of you for the removal of the judgments; and if you do it not, all your fastings and weeping signify nothing. The south was that tract of land called the wilderness of Judea, Matthew 3:1; part of which, or near to it, was the hill country, mentioned Joshua 21:11; Luke 1:39. The LXX. here render it Ορεινη, the hill country. The plain was that open country, called the plains of Jericho, 2 Kings 25:5; and the plain of the valley of Jericho, Deuteronomy 34:3; and reached as far as the salt sea, or the lake of Asphaltites, called the sea of the plain, Deuteronomy 3:17; compare Jeremiah 17:26.7:1-7 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.Should ye "not hear" the words, or, Know ye "not the words?" The verb is presupposed in the emphatic question, as in, "Shall I, the blood of these men?" 2 Samuel 23:17. David omits the word "drink" for abhorrence.

By the former prophets - Isaiah and Jeremiah , "when Jerusalem was dwelling abidingly," at ease, as the whole world then was, except herself, "and the south and the low-country," both belonging to Judah, were inhabited. The restoration then was still very incomplete, since he contrasts their then condition with the present, as inhabited or no. The mountain, the south, and the low country, known still by its name of Sephela to Greeks , made up the territory of Judah Joshua 10:40, Judges 1:9; Jeremiah 17:26; Jeremiah 32:44; Jeremiah 33:13.

7. Should ye not hear the words—rather, "Should ye not do the words," as their question naturally was as to what they should do (Zec 7:3); "hearing" is not mentioned till Zec 7:12. The sense is, It is not fasts that Jehovah requires of you, but that ye should keep His precepts given to you at the time when Jerusalem was in its integrity. Had ye done so then, ye would have had no occasion to institute fasts to commemorate its destruction, for it would never have been destroyed (Zec 7:9-14) [Maurer]. Or, as the Margin, "Are not these the words" of the older prophets (Isa 58:3; Jer 14:12) which threatened a curse for disobedience, which the event has so awfully confirmed. If ye follow them in sin, ye must follow them in suffering. English Version is good sense: Ye inquire anxiously about the fasts, whereas ye ought to be anxious about hearing the lesson taught by the former prophets and verified in the nation's punishment; penitence and obedience are required rather than fasts.

the plain—southwest of Jerusalem. They then inhabited securely the region most unguarded.

Should ye not hear the words? you needed not have thus inquired had you heeded the word written. Should you not remember, or have you not read, what Isaiah 58:3-7, determines in this very case? Which the Lord hath cried, openly and loudly spoken,

by the former prophets; who have given you the true value of obedience to the great and momentous precepts of the law, who have called for repentance and sincere love to God and man, and have on just balance showed how light and under weight formal services have been.

When Jerusalem was inhabited, and in prosperity: did such observances preserve Jerusalem in its prosperity? Did they prevent the desolation of the cities round about her? Were they sufficient to save the men, the multitudes, that inhabited the south of the plain? Did they, or could they, do no good when things were all safe and well? and do you fondly imagine they can profit you now all is in ruins? Can they restore a fallen state that could not support it falling? Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets,.... As Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others; suggesting that it would have been much better for them to have regarded the exhortations and instructions which the Lord sent them by his servants, which would have prevented their captivity; and so would have had no occasion of fasting and mourning: for those prophecies were delivered out

when Jerusalem was inhabited, and in prosperity, and the cities thereof round about her; when Jerusalem, and the cities about it, were full of people, and enjoyed all the blessings of life in great plenty; and which would have continued, had they attended to the exhortations, cautions, and warnings given them:

when men inhabited the south and the plain? the land of Judea, as the Misnic (x) doctors say, was divided into three parts; the mountainous part, the plain, and the valley. Jerusalem was in the mountainous part, and these are the other two; and not only those parts of the land which were hilly, and those cities that were encompassed with mountains, were in safety and prosperity; but those also that were in the champaign country, and in the low valleys. The "south" was that part of the land of Canaan formerly inhabited by the Amalekites, and which they invaded when David was at Ziklag, Numbers 13:29. Sometimes it was called Negeb, as here; and sometimes Daroma, as frequently in the Jewish writings; in which Judea is often called the south, with respect to Galilee; for they distinguish between the inhabitants of Galilee and the inhabitants of the south country: and say, a disciple might intercalate the year for Galilee, but not for the south, i.e. Judea. It reached from Eleutheropolis to the south of the land, eighteen or twenty miles: it was distinguished by the Jews (y) into upper and nether Daroma, or south country: the upper consisted of the hilly part of it; the nether of the plain; and by Jerom (z) mention is made of interior Daroma, by which there should be an exterior one. The "plain", or "Sephela", was all the champaign country, near to Eleutherepolis, to the north and west; and so the above writer (a) says it was called in his times: now each of these were well inhabited; Daroma, or the southern part; hence it is frequent, in Jewish writings (b), to read of such a Rabbi of Daroma, or the south, as R. Jacob, R. Simlai, and others; and of the elders of the south (c); and so Jerom speaks of Eremmon, and Duma, large villages, in his days, in Daroma or the south; the one sixteen, the other seventeen miles from Eleutheropolis; and of Ether, Jether, and Jethan, one of which was eighteen, and another twenty miles from it (d); and in the Apocrypha:

"Simon also set up Adida in Sephela, and made it strong with gates and bars.'' (1 Maccabees 12:38)

mention is made of Adida in Sephela, fortified, by Simon; and in which also were various other places well stored with inhabitants. This expresses the happy and safe state the Jews were in before their captivity, and in which they would have remained, had they hearkened to the words of the Lord.

(x) Misn. Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2.((y) T. Hieros. Maaaser Sheni, fol. 56. 3. & Sanhedrin, fol. 18. 4. (z) De locis Hebr. fol. 91. C. & 92. I.((a) Ibid. fol. 94. M. (b) T. Hieros. Beracot, fol. 2. 2. & 11. 4. & Succah, fol. 53. 4. (c) T. Hieros. Erubin, fol. 23. 3.((d) Ut supra, fol. 90. K. & 91. C. & 92. I.

Should ye not hear the words which the LORD {i} hath cried by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and her cities around her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?

(i) By this he condemns their hypocrisy, who thought by their fasting to please God, and by such things as they invented, and in the meantime would not serve him as he had commanded.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. Should ye not hear the words] Comp. Isaiah 58:3-7; 1 Samuel 15:22. To that old teaching it is that you have need to take heed and return. It was uttered in the time of your national prosperity. By neglecting it that prosperity was lost. Only by returning to it can it be regained.

the south and the plain] two of the three divisions of the territory of the tribe of Judah; the Negeb and the Shepçlah (or lowland, R. V.). Perhaps the third division, “the hill country,” Luke 1:39, is pointed at in the words, “Jerusalem and the cities thereof round about her.” Jdg 1:9; Obadiah 1:19 and note.Verse 7. - Should ye not hear the words, etc.? A verb must be supplied. "Do ye not know the words?" or "Should ye not obey the words?" Syriac, Septuagint, and Vulgate, "Are not these the words?" By the former prophets (Zechariah 1:4). It had been a common cry of the prophets from early times that men must not put their trust in the observance of outward ceremonies, but attend to the cultivation of moral obedience and purity (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11, 12, 16, 17; Isaiah 58:3, etc.; Jeremiah 7:22, 23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:8, where see note). When Jerusalem was inhabited. Before its destruction and the deportation of its inhabitants. He recalls the former prosperity to their memory, contrasting it with the present low estate, to remind them of all they had lost in punishment of disobedience. The south (Negeb). The southern part of Judaea was so called (see on Obadiah 1:19; and comp. Numbers 13:17; Joshua 15:21). The plain (Shephelah); the low land, along the coast of the Mediterranean (Joshua 15:33; 1 Macc. 12:38). The above districts comprise two of the three divisions of Judaea (Judges 1:9); the third, the mountain or hill country (Luke 1:39), is intended in the expression, "Jerusalem and the cities round about her." There was still a great dearth of population in the country, and the towns were not half inhabited, nor was the]and half cultivated. After this statement of the aim of the judgments of God, Zephaniah mentions two other powerful heathen nations as examples, to prove that the whole of the heathen world will succumb to the judgment. Zephaniah 2:12. "Ye Cushites also, slain of my sword are they. Zephaniah 2:13. And let him stretch out his hand toward the south, and destroy Asshur; and make Nineveh a barren waste, a dry place, like the desert. Zephaniah 2:14. And herds lie down in the midst of it, all kinds of beasts in crowds: pelicans also and hedgehogs will lodge on their knobs; the voice of the singer in the window; heaps upon the threshold: for their cedar-work hath He made bare. Zephaniah 2:15. This the city, the exulting one, the safely dwelling one, which said in her heart, I, and no more: how has she become a desolation, a lair of beasts! Every one that passeth by it will hiss, swing his hand." As a representative of the heathen dwelling in the south, Zephaniah does not mention Edom, which bordered upon Judah, or the neighbouring land of Egypt, but the remote Ethiopia, the furthest kingdom or people in the south that was known to the Hebrews. The Ethiopians will be slain of the sword of Jehovah. המּה does not take the place of the copula between the subject and predicate, any more than הוּא in Isaiah 37:16 and Ezra 5:11 (to which Hitzig appeals in support of this usage: see Delitzsch, on the other hand, in his Comm. on Isaiah, l.c.), but is a predicate. The prophecy passes suddenly from the form of address (in the second person) adopted in the opening clause, to a statement concerning the Cushites (in the third person). For similar instances of sudden transition, see Zephaniah 3:18; Zechariah 3:8; Ezekiel 28:22.

(Note: Calvin correctly says: "The prophet commences by driving them, in the second person, to the tribunal of God, and then adds in the third person, 'They will be,' etc.")

חללי חרבּי is a reminiscence from Isaiah 66:16 : slain by Jehovah with the sword. Zephaniah says nothing further concerning this distant nation, which had not come into any hostile collision with Judah in his day; and only mentions it to exemplify the thought that all the heathen will come under the judgment. The fulfilment commenced with the judgment upon Egypt through the Chaldaeans, as is evident from Ezekiel 30:4, Ezekiel 30:9, as compared with Josephus, Ant. x. 11, and continues till the conversion of that people to the Lord, the commencement of which is recorded in Acts 8:27-38. The prophet dwells longer upon the heathen power of the north, the Assyrian kingdom with its capital Nineveh, because Assyria was then the imperial power, which was seeking to destroy the kingdom of God in Judah. This explains the fact that the prophet expresses the announcement of the destruction of this power in the form of a wish, as the use of the contracted forms yēt and yâsēm clearly shows. For it is evident that Ewald is wrong in supposing that ויט stands for ויּט, or should be so pointed, inasmuch as the historical tense, "there He stretched out His hand," would be perfectly out of place. נטה יד (to stretch out a hand), as in Zephaniah 1:4. ‛al tsâphōn, over (or against) the north. The reference is to Assyria with the capital Nineveh. It is true that this kingdom was not to the north, but to the north-east, of Judah; but inasmuch as the Assyrian armies invaded Palestine from the north, it is regarded by the prophets as situated in the north. On Nineveh itself, see at Jonah 1:2 (p. 263); and on the destruction of this city and the fall of the Assyrian empire, at Nahum 3:19 (p. 379). Lishmâmâh is strengthened by the apposition tsiyyâh kammidbâr.

Nineveh is not only to become a steppe, in which herds feed (Isaiah 27:10), but a dry, desolate waste, where only desert animals will make their home. Tsiyyâh, the dry, arid land - the barren, sandy desert (cf. Isaiah 35:1). בּתוכהּ, in the midst of the city which has become a desert, there lie flocks, not of sheep and goats (צאן, Zephaniah 2:6; cf. Isaiah 13:20), but כּל־חיתו־גוי , literally of all the animals of the (or a) nation. The meaning can only be, "all kinds of animals in crowds or in a mass." גּוי is used here for the mass of animals, just as it is in Joel 1:6 for the multitude of locusts, and as עם is in Proverbs 30:35-36 for the ant-people; and the genitive is to be taken as in apposition. Every other explanation is exposed to much greater objections and difficulties. For the form חיתו, see at Genesis 1:24. Pelicans and hedgehogs will make their homes in the remains of the ruined buildings (see at Isaiah 34:11, on which passage Zephaniah rests his description). בּכפתּריה, upon the knobs of the pillars left standing when the palaces were destroyed (kaphtōr; see at Amos 9:1). The reference to the pelican, a marsh bird, is not opposed to the tsiyyâh of Zephaniah 2:13, since Nineveh stood by the side of streams, the waters of which formed marshes after the destruction of the city. קול ישׁורר cannot be rendered "a voice sings," for shōrēr, to sing, is not used for tuning or resounding; but yeshōrēr is to be taken relatively, and as subordinate to קול, the voice of him that sings will be heard in the window. Jerome gives it correctly: vox canentis in fenestra. There is no necessity to think of the cry of the owl or hawk in particular, but simply of birds generally, which make their singing heard in the windows of the ruins. The sketching of the picture of the destruction passes from the general appearance of the city to the separate ruins, coming down from the lofty knobs of the pillars to the windows, and from these to the thresholds of the ruins of the houses. Upon the thresholds there is chōrebh, devastation ( equals rubbish), and no longer a living being. This is perfectly appropriate, so that there is no necessity to give the word an arbitrary interpretation, or to alter the text, so as to get the meaning a raven or a crow. The description closes with the explanatory sentence: "for He has laid bare the cedar-work," i.e., has so destroyed the palaces and state buildings, that the costly panelling of the walls is exposed. 'Arzâh is a collective, from 'erez, the cedar-work, and there is no ground for any such alteration of the text as Ewald and Hitzig suggest, in order to obtain the trivial meaning "hews or hacks in pieces," or the cold expression, "He destroys, lays bare." In Zephaniah 2:15 the picture is rounded off. "This is the city," i.e., this is what happens to the exulting city. עלּיזה, exulting, applied to the joyful tumult caused by the men - a favourite word with Isaiah (cf. Isaiah 22:2; Isaiah 23:7; Isaiah 24:8; Isaiah 32:13). The following predicates from היּושׁבת to עוד are borrowed from the description of Babel in Isaiah 47:8, and express the security and self-deification of the mighty imperial city. The Yod in 'aphsı̄ is not paragogical, but a pronoun in the first person; at the same time, 'ephes is not a preposition, "beside me," since in that case the negation "not one" could not be omitted, but "the non-existence," so that אפסי equals איני, I am absolutely no further (see at Isaiah 47:8). But how has this self-deifying pride been put to shame! איך, an expression of amazement at the tragical turn in her fate. The city filled with the joyful exulting of human beings has become the lair of wild beasts, and every one that passes by expresses his malicious delight in its ruin. Shâraq, to hiss, a common manifestation of scorn (cf. Micah 6:16; Jeremiah 19:8). היניע יד, to swing the hand, embodying the thought, "Away with her, she has richly deserved her fate."

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