A message the Jews loved to ignore
A question for God1The LORD gave a message to Zechariah on December 7 [518 BC]. That was the fourth year, ninth month, and fourth day of King Darius’ reign of Persia.
2People in the city of Bethel sent representatives to neighboring Jerusalem: Sharezer and Regem-melech, with their associates. They needed a favor. 3They asked prophets and priests at the LORD’s Temple:
“Should we continue our tradition of fasting and mourning every fifth month of the year, like we’ve been doing all these years?”
4The LORD of everyone gave me the answer for them. 5Tell the people this:
“When you grieved and fasted every fifth and seventh month, do you expect me to believe you did that for me? 6Isn’t it the same as when you eat and drink? Whatever you do—eat, drink, mourn, or fast— aren’t you doing it for yourselves?
7I’ll give you a message. But it’s the same message I gave your ancestors. Prophets delivered this message back when Jerusalem was a crowded and prosperous city, and when people still lived all over Judah. They lived in the rolling foothills of the Shephelah in the west. They even lived in the Negev desert wasteland to the south.”
God’s continuing plea for justice and kindness8Zephaniah continued the message by repeating what the LORD had said to prophets many years earlier:
9“Give people justice—the real thing. Show them your kindness and compassion. 10Don’t mistreat widows, orphans, immigrants, or the poor. Don’t spend your time trying to figure out how to hurt each other.
11Did your ancestors listen to what I said? They turned their backs on me and plugged their ears. 12They decided that no matter what, they were going to tune me out. It didn’t matter what messages I sent the prophets through the Spirit. So, the LORD of everyone in heaven and earth got angry.
13I gave them what they gave me. The silent treatment. They ignored me when I came asking for obedience. So, the LORD of everyone ignored them when they came asking for help. 14I blew them apart like a tornado, scattering them to all the nations around—including some they never heard of. They left their beautiful nation in ruins.
Darius the Great ruled the Persian Empire, based out of Iran, from September 29, 522- October of 486 BC. Dates are unusually precise because the details are cross-checked with other dated events. Darius tried to conquer Greece, but a storm decimated his fleet and the Greek army defeated his soldiers at the Battle of Marathon.
Bethel was about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. Some scholars say the name of Bethel might, however, refer to a man.
How many Jews do you know named Regem-melech? This was a Babylonian name, perhaps the name of a Babylonian convert to the Jewish faith. Or this could have been the name of a Jewish person whose parents were trying to assimilate into Babylonian culture.
It seems a reasonable question, given that the Temple had been rebuilt and worship rituals reinstated. Why grieve over something no longer gone? Unless it’s a relative we’d rather not have around.
The reason Jews picked the fifth and seventh months for fasting is revealed in 2 Kings 25:8-12. The fifth month and seventh day in 586 BC is when Babylon invaders destroyed the Temple.
These are people at greatest risk of being exploited and endangered. God wants them protected.
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