“Branch” is a prophetic title for the Anointed One, that royal descendant of David whom God will send to usher in a new age of justice, peace, and joy. In Zechariah’s day, the people wonder if Zerubbabel is that king. Ac cording to the prophet, God has designs on him as the one to rebuild the temple and occupy the throne, but he is not destined to reign alone as the Anointed One will. Zerubbabel reigns with Joshua, the high priest. Together they are anointed, acclaimed, and crowned leaders to watch over God’s people.
7 Two years after I saw the eight visions, on the fourth day of the ninth month (called Chislev) of the fourth year of the reign of Persian King Darius, the word of the Eternal came to me, Zechariah. 2 The situation was this: the citizens of Bethel had sent a delegation, including Sharezer and Regemmelech and his men, to seek the favor of the Eternal One 3 by questioning the priests working in the temple of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, and by questioning the prophets.
Delegation: During the fifth month of every year, I fast and mourn. Should I continue separating myself from the impure world on these occasions as I have for so many years?
4 The word of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies came to me and told me how to address their question.
Message: 5 Ask the citizens of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned during the fifth and seventh months for the last seventy years, were you really fasting for My benefit or just for yourselves? 6 When you were feasting on holy days, weren’t you just eating and drinking for yourselves instead of honoring Me? 7 Aren’t these the same directives the Eternal One gave you through the work of earlier prophets, when Jerusalem was bustling with people and prosperous, when the villages around Jerusalem throughout the south[a] and the western valleys were settled?”
8 The word of the Eternal came to me, Zechariah, again.
Message: 9 Here is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, has to say: “Dispense true justice, have mercy on others, and show all people compassion. 10 Do not take advantage of those who have lost a spouse or a parent, or those who are outsiders or poor. Don’t purpose to do evil toward your fellow Israelites.”
11 Some refused to listen. They turned their backs on this message and plugged their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint, refusing to listen to the law or the messages the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, sent by His Spirit and enacted through earlier prophets. That’s why His great wrath and calamity fell upon His people.
Eternal One: 13 When I called out, they chose not to hear Me, so when they called out, I returned the favor and decided not to hear them. 14 Like a sweeping tornado, I blew them throughout the nations, scattering them in distant lands where they were aliens, all alone. That’s how the land and its cities were emptied out and left so barren that no one even traveled through it. This is how your pleasant hills and valleys turned into empty lands.
- 7:7 Hebrew, Negev
New International Version
Justice and Mercy, Not Fasting
7 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah(A) on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.(B) 2 The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat(C) the Lord(D) 3 by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn(E) and fast in the fifth(F) month, as I have done for so many years?”
4 Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me: 5 “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted(G) and mourned in the fifth and seventh(H) months for the past seventy years,(I) was it really for me that you fasted? 6 And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?(J) 7 Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets(K) when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest(L) and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills(M) were settled?’”(N)
8 And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: 9 “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice;(O) show mercy and compassion to one another.(P) 10 Do not oppress the widow(Q) or the fatherless, the foreigner(R) or the poor.(S) Do not plot evil against each other.’(T)
11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly(U) they turned their backs(V) and covered their ears.(W) 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint(X) and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets.(Y) So the Lord Almighty was very angry.(Z)
13 “‘When I called, they did not listen;(AA) so when they called, I would not listen,’(AB) says the Lord Almighty.(AC) 14 ‘I scattered(AD) them with a whirlwind(AE) among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it.(AF) This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.(AG)’”