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The Hypocrisy of False Fasting

In King Darius’ fourth year, on the fourth day of Kislev, the ninth month,[a] the Lord’s message came to Zechariah. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melech and their companions to seek the Lord’s favor by asking both the priests of the temple[b] of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies and the prophets, “Should we weep in the fifth month,[c] fasting as we have done over the years?” The message of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies then came to me, “Speak to all the people and priests of the land as follows: ‘When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and seventh[d] months through all these seventy years, did you truly fast for me—for me, indeed? And now when you eat and drink, are you not doing so for yourselves? Should you not have obeyed the words that the Lord cried out through the former prophets when Jerusalem was peacefully inhabited and her surrounding cities, the Negev, and the foothills[e] were also populated?’”

Again the Lord’s message came to Zechariah: “The Lord of Heaven’s Armies said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. 10 You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the resident foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow citizen.’[f]

11 “But they refused to pay attention, turning away stubbornly and stopping their ears so they could not hear. 12 Indeed, they made their hearts as hard as diamond,[g] so that they could not obey the law of Moses[h] and the other words the Lord of Heaven’s Armies had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies poured out great wrath.

13 “‘Just as I[i] called out, but they would not obey, so they will call out, but I will not listen,’ the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says. 14 ‘Rather, I will sweep them away in a storm into all the nations they are not familiar with.’ Thus the land became desolate because of them, with no one crossing through or returning, for they had made the fruitful[j] land a waste.”


  1. Zechariah 7:1 sn The fourth day of Kislev, the ninth month would be December 7, 518 b.c., 22 months after the previous eight visions.
  2. Zechariah 7:3 tn Heb “house” (so NAB, NIV, NRSV).
  3. Zechariah 7:3 sn 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).
  4. Zechariah 7:5 tn 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.
  5. Zechariah 7:7 sn The foothills (שְׁפֵלָה, shephelah) are the region between the Judean hill country and the Mediterranean coastal plain.
  6. Zechariah 7:10 tn Heb “brother.” The Hebrew term ‘akh (אָח) may refer to a brother, relative, fellow countryman, or Cf. Exod 22:21; Lev 19:33-34; Deut 10:18-19; 24:14, 17; 27:19.
  7. Zechariah 7:12 tn 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).
  8. Zechariah 7:12 tn Heb “Torah”; the five books of Moses that make up the Pentateuch.
  9. Zechariah 7:13 tn 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.
  10. Zechariah 7:14 tn Or “desirable”; traditionally “pleasant” (so many English versions; cf. TEV “This good land”).