The Questions about Fasting Zechariah 7-8
Zechariah 7:1-14-Fasting for all the Wrong Reasons
Zechariah 7:1-3-It is 518 B.C. A group came to the priest and asked that since the Temple was being rebuilt, was it still necessary for them to keep the fast that commemorated the burning of the first temple by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C. (cf. Jeremiah 52:12-13)?
7:5-7 The fast in the seventh month commemorated the assassination of Gedaliah, the Jewish government of Judah (2 Kings 25:23-25). Though done for good motives, these fasts we're nevertheless man-made, we're not commanded by God, and were observed self-righteously (v. 6). Had the people heeded Gods word through the prophets, they would not have experienced captivity and have had no need for the fasts (v. 7).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie, footnote on Zechariah 7:5-7, p. 1420
Zechariah 7:4-6-God questions the purpose of the fast. Who was it really serving…Him, or them (:6-7)?
Zechariah 7:7-12-God reminds them of what He had commanded them to do through the prophets (:9-10). However, they were disobedient and did not do that…but chose to do other things (:11-12).
Zechariah 7:13-14-So, He made a decision. Since they chose to not listen to His prophets…He would not hear their prayers (:13). And in addition to that that…He judged them by allowing them to be conquered and deported to other lands (:14).
Zechariah 8:1-23-Fasting for the Right Reason
This entire chapter speaks of how wonderful it will be to be God’s People and to live in the land when the Lord brings His people back. While some of these ideals have been partially realized, they will not be fully realized until the Millennium.
Zechariah 8:1-2-God’s People are Loved by Him
God says that He has not given up on the Jewish people. They are His chosen people and He is “jealous” for them (:2).
Zechariah 8:3-15-God’s People are Protected by Him
The day will come when He will return to Jerusalem and establish it as His capital. In that day, people of all ages will live in peace (:4-5). God says that He knows that such a thing sounds impossible…but nothing is impossible for Him (:6). He is going to bring back a remnant of His people from the countries where they have been dispersed (:7-8). God is aware of how difficult things have been. But, He tells them, “Let your hands be strong”…in other words, “Don’t give up just because things are difficult.” (:9-11). God says that He is going to turn everything around. The land will produce crops in abundance (:12). Whereas formerly He had cursed them, then He will bless them (:13-15).
Zechariah 8:16-17-God’s People are Obedient to Him
For life to be like this…the people have a responsibility. They have to live according to God’s purpose (:16-17).
Zechariah 8:19-God’s People are Blessed by Him
When they are obedient to live in this manner, then the times of fasting will take on a totally different nature (it will be turned around, as well). They will times of joy…instead of mourning (:19-20).
Zechariah 8:20-23-God’s People are a Witness for Him
And when life is like that…even people of other nations will want to come to the Lord. They will eagerly seek out a Jew that will bring them to God because they have been told that “God is with you” (:21-23).
The Visions of the Future Zechariah 9-14
These chapters describe future events that will take place in Israel. The dates when they were written are not given…but some suppose that Zechariah was an old man when he did so. The Hebrew word translated into English as “burden” speaks of something that is heavy, something that is weighty, important. So, the things that Zechariah reveals are about matters that will be of great significance in the future.
We must remember that while it was Zechariah’s intention to encourage these people who were rebuilding the Temple at the present…he also wanted to provide encouragement for those who would worship in the Temple in the future. Difficult times would come and the Temple would be a physical representation of God’s presence with them…even during those hard days. The sad news was that the Temple would eventually be destroyed, again (by the Romans, 70 A.D.). But Zechariah provides encouragement in that He reveals that God desires for there to be a Temple and they are helping to fulfill His will by rebuilding it. Eventually, even after the destruction of the Temple that they were rebuilding…there would be a third, and final Temple. It will be built by the Messiah in the Millennial Period…it will last forever…and He will rule over His kingdom from there.
Question: "What was Solomon's temple / the first temple? How many temples were there?"
Answer: The crowning achievement of King Solomon’s reign was the erection of a magnificent temple in Jerusalem, often called Solomon’s temple or the first temple. Solomon’s father, King David, had wanted to build a great temple for God a generation earlier, as a permanent resting place for the Ark of the Covenant which contained the Ten Commandments. However, God had forbidden him from doing so: "You will not build a house for my name for you are a man of battles and have shed blood" (1 Chronicles 28:3). Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David (2 Chronicles 3:1). This new, stationary temple would replace the portable tabernacle constructed during the wilderness wandering.
If Solomon reigned from 970 to 930 BC, then he began building the temple in 966 BC. A very interesting fact concerning the building of the temple was there was no noise of the construction. The material was prepared before it was brought to the building site. The house, while it was being built, was built of stone prepared at the quarry, and there was neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool heard in the house while it was being built (1 Kings 6:7). The Bible’s description of Solomon’s temple suggests that the inside ceiling was 180 feet long, 90 feet wide, and 50 feet high. The highest point on the temple that King Solomon built was actually 120 cubits tall (about 20 stories or about 207 feet). First Kings 6:1–38 and chapters 7—8 describe the construction and dedication of Solomon’s temple.
Until the first temple was destroyed by the Babylonians some four hundred years later, in 586 BC, sacrifice was the predominant mode of divine service there. Seventy years later, a second temple was completed on the same site, and sacrifices again resumed. The book of Ezra chronicles the building of the second temple. During the first century, Herod greatly enlarged and expanded this temple, which became known as Herod’s temple. It was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, during the siege of Jerusalem. Only a small portion of the retaining wall remains to this day, known as “The Wailing Wall.”
Zechariah 9:1-11:17-Events Leading to the First Coming of the Messiah (Rejected by the People)
Zechariah 9:1-8-The Conquest of Greece for the Middle East
It is important to remember that these verses are prophetic…speaking of an event that would happen in the future. They were written sometime around 520-518 B.C. They speak of the victories of Alexander the Great as he would march across the Middle East. Most scholars believe that he arrived at Jerusalem in 329 B.C., some 200 years after Zechariah made this prophecy. Alexander and his military machine had progressed steadily across Syria (:1-2), to Phoenicia (:2b-4), and finally Philistia (:5-8)…just as Zechariah had prophesied. Zechariah had prophesied that despite the advance of an unrelenting army bent on conquest and destruction…Jerusalem would be the exception, and would not be destroyed (:8). And that is exactly what happened. Jerusalem was spared because Alexander had previously had a dream/vision of his meeting with a man dressed exactly like the High Priest of Israel. Alexander had a huge ego and saw himself as being a man of destiny. When he met the High Priest, he showed him a passage in the book of Daniel (written in 537 B.C.) about a great military leader that would come out of Greece and destroy the Persians (Daniel 7:6; 8:5-8,20-22; 11:3-4). Alexander immediately assumed that it was speaking about himself and spared Jerusalem from destruction.
The account of Alexander’s arrival at Jerusalem is an amazing story that was recorded by the first century Jewish historian, Josephus (37-100 A.D.). Josephus' account of Alexander's meeting with the High Priest is found in his writings: Antiquities 11.8.4-5.
Now Alexander, when he had taken Gaza, made haste to go up to Jerusalem; and Jaddua the high priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them; whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent. Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.
- And when he understood that he was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha, which name, translated into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple. And when the Phoenicians and the Chaldeans that followed him thought they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high priest to death, which the king's displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened; for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high priest. The Jews also did all together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind. However, Parmenio alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, "I did not adore him, but that God who hath honored him with his high priesthood; for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dios in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians; whence it is that, having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind." And when he had said this to Parmenio, and had given the high priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high priest's direction, and magnificently treated both the high priest and the priests. And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended. And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present; but the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him; whereupon the high priest desired that they might enjoy the laws of their forefathers, and might pay no tribute on the seventh year. He granted all they desired. And when they entreated him that he would permit the Jews in Babylon and Media to enjoy their own laws also, he willingly promised to do hereafter what they desired. And when he said to the multitude, that if any of them would enlist themselves in his army, on this condition, that they should continue under the laws of their forefathers, and live according to them, he was willing to take them with him, many were ready to accompany him in his wars.
For an interesting study of Alexander the Great from a Jewish perspective see:
For a map showing the military campaigns of Alexander the Great see:
Zechariah 9:9-10-The Comparison of Greece (Alexander) with Christ
Now, in contrast to the formidable military power of Alexander…Zechariah contrasts the coming of the Messiah and His glorious reign. The prophecies in verse 9 were fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus Christ. The prophecies of verse 10 will be fulfilled at the second coming of Christ. Whereas Alexander served as the portrayal of a kingdom of earth…Messiah is the portrayal of the kingdom of Heaven. Notice the differences between these two kings:
“just” was not concerned with justice for people, just power
“endowed with salvation” did not come to save, but to enslave
“humble” arrogant and filled with pride
“donkey…colt”…servant king riding on a warhorse…conquering king
Zechariah 9:11-17-The Conquering of Greece by the Maccabees
These verses predict the defeat of Greece (particularly Antiochus Epiphanies) by the Jewish people during the Maccabean era (2nd century BC.).
The Ryrie Study Bible, Charles Ryrie, footnote on Zechariah 9:23-27, p. 1423
For information on the Maccabean Revolt see:
Prayer: Lord, don’t let me become self-serving or mechanical in my faith. It seems that in these chapters the Jews thought that they had devised a method to use fasting as a means to obtain Your blessings. While I know that You do bless us and that You desire to bless us…I am also aware that You are more concerned with the condition of our heart, than with rituals and ceremonies. We can do many right things…for the wrong reasons. Please help my heart to be right in all that I do. Help me to do what I do…so that You will be glorified. Help that to be my motive.