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