Zechariah 7

 

This chapter has some of the most difficult Hebrew in the book of Zechariah.  As a not unexpected result, several phrases have been mistranslated in most if not all of the other translations.  Thus their interpretations are misleading.  I will address them as we encounter them.

וַיְהִי בִּשְׁנַת אַרְבַּע לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ הָיָה דְבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־זְכַרְיָה בְּאַרְבָּעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ הַתְּשִׁעִי בְּכִסְלֵו׃   7:1

Zech. 7:1   And it was the fourth year for Darius, the king; the word of the Lord occurred to Zechariah in the fourth month's ninth, in Chislev,

וַיִּשְׁלַח בֵּית־אֵל שַׂר־אֶצֶר וְרֶגֶם מֶלֶךְ וַאֲנָשָׁיו לְחַלּוֹת אֶת־פְּנֵי יְהוָה׃   7:2

Zech. 7:2   that Bethel-sarezer sent, with Regem-melech and his men, to entreat the presence of the Lord,

לֵאמֹר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים אֲשֶׁר לְבֵית־יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת וְאֶל־הַנְּבִיאִים לֵאמֹר הַאֶבְכֶּה בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִשִׁי הִנָּזֵר   7:3    כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי זֶה כַּמֶּה שָׁנִים׃

Zech. 7:3   to speak to the priests who belonged to the house of the Lord of hosts and to the prophets saying, “Should I weep in the fifth month, dedicating myself, as I have done this how many years?”

Some observations about these beginning three verses:   More >>

וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת אֵלַי לֵאמֹר׃   7:4

Zech. 7:4   And the word of the Lord of hosts occurred to me saying,

אֱמֹר אֶל־כָּל־עַם הָאָרֶץ וְאֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים לֵאמֹר כִּי־צַמְתֶּם וְסָפוֹד בַּחֲמִישִׁי וּבַשְּׁבִיעִי וְזֶה שִׁבְעִים שָׁנָה   7:5 הֲצוֹם צַמְתֻּנִי אָנִי׃

Zech. 7:5   “Speak to all the people of the land and to the priests saying, ‘When you fasted with mourning in the fifth and in the seventh even this seventy years, was I ‘fasting’ My fast?”

We have here another revealing verse and I have three remarks about it.  First, there was a fast in both the fifth and seventh months, informing us that the exiles observed both Tishe B’Av and at least one other fast day.  Was it Yom Kippur?  Scholars believe that the fast in the seventh month related to the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor of the remnant of Jerusalem, who was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar (see 2Kin. 25:25).   I would be unsure of this except for another revealing verse in the next chapter.  So most likely there were two fasts in the seventh month, on the anniversary of Gedaliah’s death and on Yom Kippur.                                          [Return to Zech. 8:19]

Second, the final clause of the verse, namely, “was I fasting My fast,” must be intended to convey the idea that the Lord had not “fasted,” that is, mourned, for the destruction of the Temple or the death of Gedaliah, and perhaps had no use for the Jews’ fast on Yom Kippur.  Why would He have “fasted?”  He knew that these incidents were supposed to teach the Jews something important.  If He “mourned” or “fasted” at all (which I refuse to believe), it would have been over the Jews being so stubbornly defiant.

Third, the clause in question is mistranslated in all the bibles I have consulted -- over twenty of them, three being from Jewish publishers and the rest from Christian publishers.  They all translate that clause as something like “did you at all fast unto Me, even Me?”  This is about one of the most flagrant mistranslations in the bible.  In no way except by tradition (and the appearance of collusion among the translators) could this mistranslation be so universal.  Worse yet, It leads to its erroneous interpretation.  The mistranslation seems to show the Lord’s “disapproval” of the people’s fasts Instead of showing his “ambivalence” toward these historic events.  They provide a totally different (and erroneous) depiction of the Lord’s rhetorical questions in this verse and the next two.

וְכִי תֹאכְלוּ וְכִי תִשְׁתּוּ הֲלוֹא אַתֶּם הָאֹכְלִים וְאַתֶּם הַשֹּׁתִים׃   7:6

Zech. 7:6   “And when you could eat and when you could drink, would you not be eating and drinking,

הֲלֹוא אֶת־הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר קָרָא יְהוָה בְּיַד הַנְּבִיאִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים בִּהְיֹות יְרוּשָׁלִַם יֹשֶׁבֶת וּשְׁלֵוָה   7:7             וְעָרֶיהָ סְבִיבֹתֶיהָ וְהַנֶּגֶב וְהַשְּׁפֵלָה יֹשֵׁב׃

Zech. 7:7   not the words that the Lord proclaimed by the hand of the earlier prophets, when Jerusalem was existing settled and prosperous, as well as its towns surrounding it, and the south was abiding, as well as the lowland?”

Here again in vss. 7:6 and 7:7 I’ve found virtually universal mistranslations and (as I see it) misleading interpretations.  All other translations that I have investigated separate the two verses into separate questions, adding words like “for yourselves” in v. 7:6 and “should,” “are,” and/or “hearken” as the first word in v. 7:7.  I have translated and interpreted these two verses as one rhetorical question:  The Lord is not really asking anything, He is telling the people that, when they could eat and drink (not on fast days), they were not eating and drinking the words proclaimed by the Lord through all the prophets before and including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־זְכַרְיָה לֵאמֹר׃   7:8

Zech. 7:8   And the word of the Lord occurred to Zechariah saying,

כֹּה אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת לֵאמֹר מִשְׁפַּט אֱמֶת שְׁפֹטוּ וְחֶסֶד וְרַחֲמִים עֲשׂוּ אִישׁ אֶת־אָחִיו׃   7:9

Zech. 7:9   “Thus speaks the Lord of hosts to say:  ‘Execute judgment of divine instruction, and observe mercy and compassion everyone with his brother,

וְאַלְמָנָה וְיָתוֹם גֵּר וְעָנִי אַל־תַּעֲשֹׁקוּ וְרָעַת אִישׁ אָחִיו אַל־תַּחְשְׁבוּ בִּלְבַבְכֶם׃   7:10

Zech. 7:10   and you shall not oppress widow or orphan, stranger or one poor, and you shall not value in your heart one doing his brother evil.’”

וַיְמָאֲנוּ לְהַקְשִׁיב וַיִּתְּנוּ כָתֵף סֹרָרֶת וְאָזְנֵיהֶם הִכְבִּידוּ מִשְּׁמוֹעַ׃   7:11

Zech. 7:11   But they refused to take heed and extended a stubborn shoulder and made their ears dull so as not to hear.

וְלִבָּם שָׂמוּ שָׁמִיר מִשְּׁמוֹעַ אֶת־הַתּוֹרָה וְאֶת־הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר שָׁלַח יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת בְּרוּחוֹ בְּיַד   7:12              הַנְּבִיאִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים וַיְהִי קֶצֶף גָּדוֹל מֵאֵת יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת׃

Zech. 7:12   And they made their heart flint so as not to obey the Torah or the words that the Lord of hosts had sent with His spirit by the hand of the earlier prophets; and the “wrath” from the Lord of hosts was great.

וַיְהִי כַאֲשֶׁר־קָרָא וְלֹא שָׁמֵעוּ כֵּן יִקְרְאוּ וְלֹא אֶשְׁמָע אָמַר יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת׃   7:13

Zech. 7:13   And it was as He called and they did not hear, “So they would call and I would not hear,” said the Lord of hosts,

וְאֵסָעֲרֵם עַל כָּל־הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יְדָעוּם וְהָאָרֶץ נָשַׁמָּה אַחֲרֵיהֶם מֵעֹבֵר וּמִשָּׁב וַיָּשִׂימוּ   7:14                       אֶרֶץ־חֶמְדָּה לְשַׁמָּה׃

Zech. 7:14   “and I drove them away into all the nations which they had not known, and the land was made a waste after them with none passing or returning, as they made a desirable land for a waste.”

 

[Return to Zechariah Chapters]   [Prev.:  Zech. 6]   [Next:  Zech. 8]