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Zechariah 7:1-10; 8:16-17 – True Religion--Ritual or Ethics?

Summary

Instead of fasting to commemorate past events, a person should rather "render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another; not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and not devise evil in your hearts against one another" (7:9-10). 

Analysis

Zechariah lists the four months when special fasts were observed. Jerusalem was besieged in the tenth month and conquered in the fourth month. The temple was burned in the fifth month, and Gedaliah, Judah's governor after the fall of the king and the beginning of exile, was murdered in the seventh month (Jeremiah 39:1-2; 52:6-7, 12-14; 2 Kings 25:25). Rather than assiduously commemorating these ritualistic times of fasting, Zechariah exhorts his hearers to treat others with justice and compassion. Failure to do so will bring God's wrath, but chapter 8 promises restoration for the people and the land. The shift in the emphasis of true religion from ritual to ethics is characteristic of the later prophets, such as Isaiah 1:11-14; 61:1, 8; Amos 5:10-15, 21-24; and Micah 6:6-8.

Zechariah 7:1-10; 8:16-17

Hypocritical Fasting Condemned

7In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. 2Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men, to entreat the favour of the Lord, 3and to ask the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, ‘Should I mourn and practise abstinence in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?’ 4Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: 5Say to all the people of the land and the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? 6And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink only for yourselves? 7Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, along with the towns around it, and when the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited?

Punishment for Rejecting God’s Demands

8 The word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying: 9Thus says the Lord of hosts: Render true judgements, show kindness and mercy to one another; 10do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien, or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another. 16These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgements that are true and make for peace, 17do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath; for all these are things that I hate, says the Lord.

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10 February 2011

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