For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

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 (November);”

This was approximately two and a half years after Haggai had been sent to rebuke the people for having abandoned the building of the Temple, see Hag 1:1; and two years after God had first spoken to Zechariah, see Zech 1:1.

As is recorded in Ezra 6:15, the building of the Temple was completed “on the third day of the (twelfth) month, Adar (Feb-March), which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.”

7:2.  “When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer, meaning he beheld treasure, and Regem-melech stoning of the king, and their men, to pray before the Lord,”

These are Chaldean names indicating that these men had been born quite some time after the captivity had begun and the use of Chaldean names was being adopted by the exiles, so that they were probably relatively young men.  Some translations indicate that they may have come from Bethel (house of God).

7:3.  “And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month (August), separating myself as I have done these so many years?”

The seventh day of the fifth month was the day on which the Temple and Jerusalem had been burnt to the ground, see 2 Ki 25:8-9, and it was in the seventh month that Ishmael slew Gedaliah a good man who had been set over the Jews whom Nebuchadnezzar had left in the land, that murder impelling the flight of the Jews into Egypt, see 2 Ki 25:22-26.  It was these two tragic events that were solemnly remembered each year, the propriety of continuing the remembrance being that about which there was now a question.  Accordingly a company of men led by Sherezer and Regem-melech (about whom nothing is known), and sent by a group designated as “they” and about whom also no further identification is given, came to inquire of the priests and prophets in the partially completed Temple.  (Some have taken the fast of the seventh month to be that of the day of Atonement, but obviously there would be no question about that which God Himself had appointed).

7:4.  “Then came the word of the Lord of hosts unto me, saying,”

7:5.  “Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?”

It seems that neither the prophets nor the priests knew the answer, but God spoke to Zechariah, and very obviously Jehovah’s primary concern was less with whether they should continue the practice, but with the reality of it.  Clearly it had been a mere empty ritual divorced from the genuine repentance that would have given it value in God’s sight; and only the spiritually blind will fail to see that this is largely the character of what passes for worship in Christendom today, and to see also that God is as much displeased with the so-called worship of the latter as with the former, the attitude of both being correctly expressed by the hymnist who wrote, “The pleasures lost, I sadly mourned; but never wept for Thee.”

7:6.  “And when ye did eat, and when ye did drink, did not ye eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?”

It was the same with their feasts as with their fasts: God’s name was a mere shibboleth on their lips.  They were far more concerned with the food and drink and social merry-making than with God; and again, Christendom is largely guilty of the same sin.

7:7.  “Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath 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?”

Taylor’s rendering of this verse furnishes adequate comment, “Long years ago, when Jerusalem was prosperous and her southern suburbs out along the plain were filled with people, the prophets warned them that this attitude would surely lead to ruin, as it has.”  That earlier generation, however, had not only ignored the prophets’ warnings: they had mocked and persecuted some of God’s messengers, and killed others: hence God’s having delivered them into the hand of the Babylonians.  The remnant just returned from that captivity were in danger of also incurring God’s wrath by reverting to the same cold empty ritualistic worship of their fathers.  Their descendants, in fact, produced the generation whose loveless ritualistic empty forms provoked the Lord’s scathing denunciation, which resulted in their crucifying Him, and that culminated in the Diaspora of AD 70, which has left them still scattered amongst the Gentiles, except for the few who have begun returning to Palestine since 1948.

The remnant returned from Babylon in the days of Zechariah is but a type of that which has been returning to Palestine since 1948; and as that earlier return culminated in the terrible judgment that overtook their descendants in AD 70, so will this present returning remnant also inherit the still more terrible judgments of the impending Tribulation era.  Neither generation has learned the lesson God tried to teach them by His use of the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans as His instruments of chastisement.  Nor has Christendom read the lesson that those chastisements are but the foreshadowings of those which are about to engulf her, for she has aped Israel’s evil ways in her own insincere ritualistic so-called worship.  The Tribulation judgments will destroy both apostate Israel and equally apostate Christendom; but they will also produce a believing remnant of Israel and of the Gentiles, those of them who physically survive the Tribulation judgments remaining on the earth to inherit millennial blessings.

It can’t be repeated too often or too emphatically: Israel is God’s mirror in which he bids every man see his own reflection.  I am either duplicating the sin of the apostate mass of the nation Israel, or the sincere striving after righteousness which marked the small godly remnant.

7:8.  “And the word of the Lord came unto Zechariah, saying,”

7:9.  “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother:”

The repeated use of the term “the Lord of hosts” is to remind us that He Who speaks is Omnipotent, having the power to punish rebellion and reward obedience.  Nor should we forget that He is also omniscient, having the power to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart, and to distinguish between true worship and the empty forms by which we may deceive ourselves, but can’t deceive Him.

It is not by what we say or do at the Lord’s table that we disclose the true state of our hearts: it is by how we act toward others, not only on the Lord’s day, but throughout the other days of the week as well.

“Execute true judgment,” is literally to be honest and aboveboard in all our dealings with others; and “to shew mercy and compassions to our brethren” means to be kind, compassionate, pitying the needs of those less fortunate than we.  The same exhortation is given by Paul in Eph 4:31-32, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

It is by this kind of living, not by outward hypocritical piety, or ability with words, that we merit God’s favor, and make ourselves channels of blessing to others.

7:10.  “And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.”

“Oppress” has many shades of meaning, e.g., persecute, burden, crush, afflict, overtax, overburden, etc.  One of God’s most serious charges against the rich in Israel was that they oppressed the poor.  By bribing unscrupulous judges they secured unjust judgments against their poor brethren and widows, robbing them of their lands and homes, and of their freedom by making them their slaves when unable to repay even a trifling debt.  All of this was abhorrent to the God of immeasurable mercy, provoking His anger, and calling down His judgment. 

To “imagine evil against his brother in your heart” was to plot or contrive evil against another.  It was, in fact, for these very sins that the earlier generation of those addressed by the prophet had been carried captive into Babylon, and for which the generation of Christ’s day was either slain, enslaved, or scattered amongst the Gentiles in AD 70.  They had failed to learn the lesson God had sought to teach their fathers through the Assyrian and Babylon captivities.

7:11.  “But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.”

In stubborn rebellion they refused to listen to God’s word brought to them by the former prophets.  “... and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears” means that they turned their backs and covered their ears in deliberate rejection of God and His messengers.

Their blatant rebellion is duplicated today by Christendom, and will bring down God’s now imminent Tribulation judgment just as surely as did the rebellion of the Jews who were carried away by Assyria, Babylon, and Rome, the terrible nature of those coming judgments being adumbrated in those of the past, and described in vivid detail in the book of Revelation.

7:12.  “Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.”

God’s words are addressed to the heart and conscience as well as to the mind, but with the exception of the small godly remnant, the apostate nation had hardened their hearts, the degree of that hardening being revealed in its being likened to the hardness of a diamond.  But hardening of the heart doesn’t happen overnight: it is a gradual repeated process, and God is emphatic in His warnings against it, see Ps 95:8 and Heb 3:8,15, the context of the latter two verses indicating that such hardening is a symptom which is indicative of an unsaved state.  An evidence of a true conversion, on the other hand, is a tender heart, as already discussed in our study of verse 9.

The coming of “a great wrath from the Lord of hosts” continues to emphasize the seriousness of this condition, for there is every indication that the majority of those Israelites who died in the wilderness were unbelievers, as were the majority of those carried captive into Assyria and Babylon, and the majority of those slain, enslaved, or scattered by Rome in AD 70.  The fact that there were also true believers in all three groups, is the reminder that believers often have to share the effects of God’s judgments upon the ungodly, but with a difference: their departure from this life is the beginning of true life in heaven; that of the unbeliever, the beginning of eternal torment, first in hell, and then for ever in the lake of fire.

7:13.  “Therefore it is come to pass, that as he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear, saith the Lord of hosts:”

As has been noted many times in these studies, God demonstrates a unique ability to match the punishment to the crime.  He had cried to Israel, but to no avail.  They would not listen; but when His great patience had finally come to an end, and He executed judgment, causing them then to cry to Him, He refused to listen.  It is a dreadful thing when a man’s rebellion exhausts God’s patience, and provokes His wrath, hence the twice repeated warning, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Ge 6:3, and, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Pr 29:1.  Esau is an example of such a man, and of him it is written that “he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry,” Ge 27:34, and again in Heb 12:17, “he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.”  As it is written, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God,” Heb 10:31.

7:14.  “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not.  Thus the land was desolate after them, that no man passed through nor returned: for they laid the pleasant land desolate.”

The destructive power of the instruments God used to punish rebel Israel - Assyria and Babylon - is presented under the figure of a whirlwind, which leaves devastation in its wake.  Nor was the power of His later third instrument, Rome, any less.  In all three instances the land was left a desolation.  The still more terrible Tribulation judgments now about to break upon the head, not just of Israel, but all the nations, will leave the whole world in ruins.

Believers of this present Church age, however, look not for that coming judgment, but for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to the air, to catch them up and rapture them to heaven before that terrible day of judgment breaks, see 1 Th 4:13-18, “But I would not have you ignorant, brethren .... For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

[Zechariah 8]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough