The Hypocrisy of False Fasting

1 In King Dariusfourth year, on the fourth day of Kislev, the ninth month,1 the word of the Lord came to Zechariah. 2 Now the people of Bethel2 had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the Lord’s favor 3 by asking both the priests of the temple3 of the Lord who rules over all and the prophets, “Should we weep in the fifth month,4 fasting as we have done over the years? 4 The word of the Lord who rules over all then came to me, 5 Speak to all the people and priests of the land as follows: ‘When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh5 months through all these seventy years, did you truly fast for me – for me, indeed? 6 And now when you eat and drink, are you not doing so for yourselves?’ 7 Should you not have obeyed the words that the Lord cried out through the former prophets when Jerusalem6 was peacefully inhabited and her surrounding cities, the Negev, and the Shephelah7 were also populated?

8 Again the word of the Lord came to Zechariah: 9 The Lord who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. 10 You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’

11But they refused to pay attention, turning away stubbornly and stopping their ears so they could not hear. 12 Indeed, they made their heart as hard as diamond,8 so that they could not obey the Torah and the other words the Lord who rules over all had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore, the Lord who rules over all had poured out great wrath.

13‘It then came about that just as I9 cried out, but they would not obey, so they will cry out, but I will not listen,’ the Lord Lord who rules over all had said. 14 Rather, I will sweep them away in a storm into all the nations they are not familiar with.’ Thus the land had become desolate because of them, with no one crossing through or returning, for they had made the fruitful10 land a waste.”

1sn The fourth day of Kislev, the ninth month would be December 7, 518 b.c., 22 months after the previous eight visions. 2map For location see Map4-G4; Map5-C1; Map6-E3; Map7-D1; Map8-G3. 3tn Heb “house” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV). 4sn This lamentation marked the occasion of the destruction of Solomon’s temple on August 14, 586 b.c., almost exactly 70 years earlier (cf. 2 Kgs 25:8). 5tn The seventh month apparently refers to the anniversary of the assassination of Gedaliah, governor of Judah (Jer 40:13-14; 41:1), in approximately 581 b.c. 6map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. 7sn The Shephelah is the geographical region between the Mediterranean coastal plain and the Judean hill country. The Hebrew term can be translated “lowlands” (cf. ASV), “foothills” (NAB, NASB, NLT), or “steppes.” 8tn The Hebrew term שָׁמִיר (shamir) means literally “hardness” and since it is said in Ezek 3:9 to be harder than flint, many scholars suggest that it refers to diamond. It is unlikely that diamond was known to ancient Israel, however, so probably a hard stone like emery or corundum is in view. The translation nevertheless uses “diamond” because in modern times it has become proverbial for its hardness. A number of English versions use “flint” here (e.g., NASB, NIV). 9tn Heb “he.” Since the third person pronoun refers to the Lord, it has been translated as a first person pronoun (“I”) to accommodate English style, which typically does not exhibit switches between persons of pronouns in the same immediate context as Hebrew does. 10tn Or “desirable”; traditionally “pleasant” (so many English versions; cf. TEV “This good land”).