Zechariah 7:1-14

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The “word of YHWH,” a new message, came to Zechariah in the fourth year of the reign of King Darius. It was then the fourth day of the ninth Jewish month, Chislev (corresponding to mid-November to mid-December). Based on ancient sources that list the length of the reigns for Babylonian and Persian monarchs, the fourth year of King Darius was 518 BCE. This Persian ruler is also referred to as Darius the Great, Darius I, and Darius Hystaspes. (7:1)

From the town of Bethel (located about 11 miles or 17 kilometers north of Jerusalem), Sharezer and Regem-Melech, together with a delegation of other men, had been sent to entreat YHWH (literally, to “appease the face of YHWH”) or to obtain a divinely approved response in answer to their concern. The last part (Melech) of the compound name “Regem-Melech” means “king,” and this is the apparent reason for the rendering of the Septuagint. Whereas the Hebrew text may be understood as indicating that the delegation came from Bethel to Jerusalem, the Septuagint represents a delegation as having been sent to Bethel. “And Sarasar [Sharezer] and Arbeseer the king and his men sent out to Baithel [Bethel] to propitiate the Lord.” The word for “sent out” in the Septuagint is exapésteilen, which is a third person singular verb, but those doing the sending are more than one individual — Sarasar and King Arbeseer and his men.
(7:2; see the Notes section.)

The delegation asked “the priests of the house of YHWH of hosts [the house of the Lord Almighty (LXX)] and the prophets” (probably Haggai and Zechariah), “Shall I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for many years?” In Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint, the Greek rendering is not expressed as a question and differs from the Hebrew text. “The holy offering [a possible rendering for the Greek word hagíasma] has come in here in the fifth month, as I have done already many years.” (7:3)

The Babylonian forces destroyed the temple of YHWH in the fifth Jewish month (Ab, corresponding to mid-July to mid-August). (2 Kings 25:8, 9; Jeremiah 52:12, 13) The mourning and fasting of the fifth month in which the people (represented by the collective first person singular verbs) engaged for many years commemorated this calamity. Their concern was whether they should continue to observe this mourning and fasting. (7:3)

In response to the inquiry of the delegation, the “word of YHWH of hosts” (the “word of the Lord of forces” or hosts [LXX]) came to Zechariah. The manner in which the prophet received the message from YHWH, the God with hosts of angels in his service, is not disclosed in the account. (7:4)

Through Zechariah, YHWH directed a question to “all the people of the land and to the priests.” “When you fasted and wailed in the fifth [month] and in the seventh for these 70 years, [was it] for me that you fasted?” This question was meant for more than the delegation that had come to inquire whether this fasting should be continued. Everyone (the people then living in the land from which they had been exiled and the priests who would be carrying out their assigned duties at the rebuilt temple) needed to give serious consideration to the question. (7:5)

When the people and their priests accompanied their fasting with lamenting or loud wailing, or beat themselves upon their breasts (as the rendering of the LXX suggests), they commemorated the destruction of the temple in the fifth month (2 Kings 25:8, 9; Jeremiah 52:12, 13) and, in the seventh month, the assassination of Gedaliah, the appointee of Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar as governor, and which assassination prompted Israelite survivors of the conquest to flee to Egypt because of fearing Babylonian reprisal for this seditious act. (2 Kings 25:25, 26; Jeremiah 41:1-3; 42:19-43:3) If their fasting and wailing had been for YHWH, they would have done so out of deep sorrow and regret over having seriously transgressed his commands and disregarded his pleading with them through his prophets to repent and to abandon their wayward course. Their great sadness would not primarily have been on account of the calamities that had befallen them but would have been mainly over their flagrant wrongdoing that led to their loss of YHWH’s protection and blessing. As the rhetorical question and the one that followed implied, they did not really fast and lament for YHWH. (7:5)

The wording of the question indicates that the 70 years extended from the past to the then-present time. According to extant ancient sources that list the length of the reigns of Babylonian and Persian monarchs, the time between the destruction of Jerusalem and the fourth year of the reign of Darius was about 70 years. At the time of Jerusalem’s destruction, about 25 years remained of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Evil-merodach (Amel-Marduk) ruled for 2 years, Neriglissar (Nergal-sharezer) for 4 years, Labashi-Marduk for less than a year, Nabonidus for 17 years, Cyrus for 9 years, and Cambyses for 8 years, and Darius succeeded Cambyses as king. The total number of years of Babylonian and Persian rule that ended in the fourth year of Darius extend from 587 BCE (the generally accepted year for the destruction of Jerusalem) to 518 BCE. (7:5)

The next rhetorical question served to highlight the answer to the previous rhetorical question. “When you would eat and when you would drink, would you not eat for yourselves and drink [for yourselves]?” The people and their priests knew that they ate and drank to satisfy their daily needs and that the main objective of their eating and drinking was not to bring praise to YHWH. Likewise, it had not been for YHWH that they had fasted and lamented annually in the fifth month and in the seventh month over the course of the decades that had passed since Jerusalem and the temple had been destroyed. (7:6)

By means of yet another question, the people and their priests were reminded about what the prophets had proclaimed before the destruction of Jerusalem and the desolation of the land of Judah. “[Were] not these the words that YHWH proclaimed by the former prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and her cities about her, and the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited?” YHWH’s words through his prophets had called attention to the transgressions of the people and their leaders, called upon them to repent, and warned them of the calamities that would come upon them if they persisted in following a lawless course. Therefore, they brought upon themselves the destruction of Jerusalem, the desolation of the land, and life as exiles far away from their own land. (7:7)

At the time the former prophets were active, all appeared well for the inhabitants of Jerusalem and of the surrounding cities or towns despite their failure to live up to YHWH’s commands. There were then inhabitants in the Negeb (the “mountain” or the mountainous or hilly region [LXX]), the area south of the mountains of Judah, and in the Shephelah or in the “lowland” (the land between the central mountain range of Judah and coastal plains bordering the Mediterranean Sea). (7:7)

Again the “word of YHWH” came to Zechariah. This “word” provided specifics regarding the message that the former prophets had declared and concerning the unresponsiveness of the people who heard what they said. (7:8)

The message the former prophets had proclaimed to the people was just as applicable to them as to those who had returned from exile if they were to benefit from YHWH’s aid and enjoy his blessing. “Thus says YHWH of hosts [the Lord Almighty (LXX)],” the God with hosts of angels in his service, “Judge with true judgment [righteous judgment (LXX)]; show compassion (chésed) and mercy [each] man to his brother.” Rendering true judgment required judging impartially and uprightly, refusing to accept bribes to pervert justice. The Hebrew word chésed may be defined as “graciousness,” “enduring loyalty,” and “steadfast love.” It is a compassionate care and loving concern that expresses itself in action. Dealing with compassion and mercy would mean responding generously and kindly to one’s “brother” or to one’s fellow in need. (7:9)

The message about what YHWH expected from his people continued. They were not to oppress or take advantage of the widow, the fatherless, the resident alien and the poor, making their difficult lot even harder to bear. In their “heart” or inmost selves, they were not to scheme some evil against a “brother.” This indicated that they needed to refrain from formulating a plan by which they could derive profit for themselves at the expense of a fellow Israelite. (7:10; see the Notes section.)

Instead of obeying the “word of YHWH,” the people refused to listen. They “turned a stubborn shoulder” or revealed themselves to be defiant. Not wanting to “hear,” listen, or obey, they made themselves totally unresponsive as if they had stopped up their ears. (7:11)

The people “made their heart like adamant,” a stone the ancients considered so hard as to be impenetrable. They made their “heart” or inmost selves so stubbornly unresponsive because they did not want to “hear” or obey the “law and the words that YHWH of hosts [conveyed] by his spirit through the former prophets.” According to the Septuagint rendering, the people made their “heart” or inmost selves “disobedient.” The “law” included all the commands that the nation of Israel received after departing from Egypt and before entering the land of Canaan. Because God’s spirit operated upon them, the prophets were able to impart the word of YHWH to the people, making clear to them the course they needed to follow to have his approval and blessing. The Septuagint refers to the “words that the Lord Almighty sent by his spirit by the hands of the former prophets.” The expression “by the hands of the former prophets” denotes “by means of” or “through” them. (7:12)

As a consequence of their defiantly disregarding the law and the messages the prophets proclaimed, “great wrath from YHWH of hosts” (the Lord Almighty [LXX]) came upon the people. YHWH, the God with hosts of angels in his service to accomplish his purpose, permitted the Babylonians under the command of King Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem, devastate the land of Judah, and take survivors of the conquest into exile. (7:12)

YHWH of hosts (the Lord Almighty [LXX]), according to the words of Zechariah, is the one who had called out to the people, using his prophets to admonish them to abandon their lawless ways, and they did not listen. Therefore, when the threatened judgment for disobedience befell the people, “they called” or cried out for help, but he did not hear or respond to them. (7:13)

On account of what he permitted the Babylonian forces to do to his wayward people, YHWH is represented as saying that he “swept them way” (“cast them” [LXX]) “among all the nations that they had not known.” They then found themselves as exiles far away from their own land in unfamiliar surroundings among people speaking other languages, observing different customs, and worshiping a multitude of deities. Their own land was desolate after they had been ripped away from it. No one passed through it and no one returned to it. By their stubborn refusal to heed YHWH’s commands and the words of his prophets, the people had made the “desirable” (“choice” [LXX]) or pleasant land into a waste or an object of horror. (7:14)


According to another view reflected in the renderings of a number of translations (verse 2), “Bethel” is part of a compound name. “Bethelsarezer sent Regemmelech and his men to implore favor of the LORD.” (NAB) “Bethel-sharezer sent Regem-melech together with his men to entreat the favour of the LORD.” (REB) “When Bethel-sarezer, and Regem-melech and his men, had sent to entreat the favour of the LORD.” (Margolis)

In verse 10, the Septuagint expresses the thought of the last phrase in a way that differs from the extant Hebrew text. No one of the people was to bear a grudge in their “hearts” regarding a wrong “his brother” may have committed.