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Hearts like Flint

In the fourth year of [the reign of] King Darius [of Persia], the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev (Dec 7, 518 b.c.). Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to seek the favor of the Lord, speaking to the priests who belong to the house of the Lord of hosts and to the prophets, saying, “[Now that I am returned from exile] shall I weep in the fifth month [mourning the destruction of the temple], and fast as I have done these many years [in Babylon]?” Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me (Zechariah), saying, “Speak to all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years [that you were in exile], was it actually for Me that you fasted? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and do you not drink for yourselves [to satisfy your own needs]? Should you not hear the words which the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous along with her cities around her, and the South (the Negev) and the foothills were inhabited?’”

Then the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus has the Lord of hosts said, ‘Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion, to each other; 10 and do not oppress or exploit the widow or the fatherless, the stranger or the poor; and do not devise or even imagine evil in your hearts against one another.’ 11 But they refused to listen and pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder [stiffening themselves in resistance] and stopped up their ears. 12 They made their hearts [hard] like flint, so that they could not hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great wrath came from the Lord of hosts. 13 And just as He called and they would not listen, so they called and I would not listen,” says the Lord of hosts; 14 “but I scattered them with a storm wind among all the nations whom they have not known. Thus the land was desolate after they had gone, so that no one passed through or returned, for they [by their sins] had made the pleasant land desolate and deserted.”

A Call to Justice and Mercy

On December 7[a] of the fourth year of King Darius’s reign, another message came to Zechariah from the Lord. The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech,[b] along with their attendants, to seek the Lord’s favor. They were to ask this question of the prophets and the priests at the Temple of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “Should we continue to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction,[c] as we have done for so many years?”

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn,[d] was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves? Isn’t this the same message the Lord proclaimed through the prophets in years past when Jerusalem and the towns of Judah were bustling with people, and the Negev and the foothills of Judah[e] were well populated?’”

Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

11 “Your ancestors refused to listen to this message. They stubbornly turned away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing. 12 They made their hearts as hard as stone, so they could not hear the instructions or the messages that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent them by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. That is why the Lord of Heaven’s Armies was so angry with them.

13 “Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. 14 As with a whirlwind, I scattered them among the distant nations, where they lived as strangers. Their land became so desolate that no one even traveled through it. They turned their pleasant land into a desert.”

Footnotes

  1. 7:1 Hebrew On the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev, of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar. This event occurred on December 7, 518 B.c.; also see note on 1:1.
  2. 7:2 Or Bethel-sharezer had sent Regemmelech.
  3. 7:3 Hebrew mourn and fast in the fifth month. The Temple had been destroyed in the fifth month of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar (August 586 B.c.); see 2 Kgs 25:8.
  4. 7:5 Hebrew fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months. The fifth month of the ancient Hebrew lunar calendar usually occurs within the months of July and August. The seventh month usually occurs within the months of September and October; both the Day of Atonement and the Festival of Shelters were celebrated in the seventh month.
  5. 7:7 Hebrew the Shephelah.