A Question About Fasting. 1In the fourth year of Darius the king, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, on the fourth day of the ninth month, Kislev.* 2Bethelsarezer sent Regem-melech and his men to implore the favor of the LORD 3and to ask the priests of the house of the LORD of hosts, and the prophets, “Must I weep and abstain in the fifth month* as I have been doing these many years?” 4Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me: 5Say to all the people of the land and to the priests: When you fasted and lamented in the fifth and in the seventh month* these seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?a 6When you were eating and drinking, was it not for yourselves that you ate and for yourselves that you drank?
7Are these not the words which the LORD proclaimed through the earlier prophets,* when Jerusalem and its surrounding cities were inhabited and secure, when the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited? 8The word of the LORD came to Zechariah: 9Thus says the LORD of hosts: Judge with true justice, and show kindness and compassion toward each other.b 10Do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the resident alien or the poor;* do not plot evil against one another in your hearts.c 11But they refused to listen; they stubbornly turned their backs and stopped their ears so as not to hear.d 12And they made their hearts as hard as diamonde so as not to hear the instruction and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his spirit through the earlier prophets. So great anger came from the LORD of hosts: 13Just as when I called out and they did not listen, so they will call out and I will not listen, says the LORD of hosts. 14And I will scatter them among all the nations that they do not know.f So the land was left desolate behind them with no one moving about, and they made a pleasant land into a wasteland.
* [7:1] The fourth year of Darius…the ninth month, Kislev: December 7, 518 B.C., the last chronological heading in Zechariah.
* [7:3] Weep…fifth month: a mourning ritual commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple on the seventh day of the fifth month in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign (ca. 587/586 B.C.; see 2 Kgs 25:8).
* [7:5] Seventh month: the time of a fast in memory of the murder of Gedaliah, the governor installed by the Babylonians after they conquered Jerusalem (see 2 Kgs 25:25; Jer 41:1–3). Seventy years: see note on 1:12.
* [7:7, 12] Earlier prophets: see note on 1:4.
* [7:10] Widow…orphan…resident alien…poor: four categories of socially and economically marginalized persons. Concern for their well-being is commanded in both pentateuchal and prophetic literature.
c. [7:10] Ex 22:20–24; Dt 24:17; Jer 5:28; Mi 2:1.