Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
1. fourth year of . . . Darius--two years after the
Chisleu--meaning "torpidity," the state in which nature is in November,
answering to this month.
2. they . . . sent unto . . . house of
God--The Jews of the country sent to the house of God or
congregation at Jerusalem. The altar was long since reared
though the temple was not completed till two years afterwards
The priests' duty was to give decision on points of the law
Beth-el is here used instead of Beth-Jehovah, because the
religious authorities, rather than the house itself (designated
are intended. The old Beth-el had long ceased to be the seat of
idol-worship, so that the name had lost its opprobrious meaning. "The
house of the Lord" is used for the congregation of worshippers headed
by their priests
makes the "house of God" nominative to "sent."
makes "Beth-el" so.
Sherezer--an Assyrian name meaning, "Prefect of the treasury."
Regemmelech--meaning, "The king's official." These names perhaps
intimate the semi-heathen character of the inquirers, which may also be
implied in the name "Beth-el" (Hebrew for "house of God"), so notorious
once for its calf-worship. They sent to Jehovah's house as their
forefathers sent to old Beth-el, not in the spirit of true
pray before the Lord--literally, "to entreat the face of," that is,
to offer sacrifices, the accompaniment of prayers, to conciliate His
3. Should I weep in the fifth month--"I" represents here the people
of God (compare
This rather favors MAURER'S view, taking "the
house of God," the congregation, as nominative to "sent." Their
hypocrisy appeared because they showed more concern about a ceremony of
human institution (not improper in itself) than about moral obedience.
If, too, they had trusted God's promise as to the restoration of Church
and State, the fast would have now given place to joy, for which there
was more cause than for grief [PEMBELLUS].
to the prophets--Haggai and Zechariah especially.
The tenth day of the fifth month was kept a fast, being the
anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem
They ask, Should the fast be continued, now that the temple and
city are being restored?
separating myself--sanctifying myself by separation, not only from
food, but from all defilements (compare
as was usual in a solemn fast.
5. Speak unto all--The question had been asked in the name of the
people in general by Sherezer and Regemmelech. The self-imposed fast
they were tired of, not having observed it in the spirit of true
seventh month--This fast was in memory of the murder of Gedaliah and
those with him at Mizpah, issuing in the dispersion of the Jews
(2Ki 25:25, 26;
did ye . . . fast unto me?--No; it was to gratify yourselves in
hypocritical will-worship. If it had been "unto Me," ye would have
"separated yourselves" not only from food, but from your sins
They falsely made the fast an end intrinsically meritorious in itself,
not a means towards God's glory in their sanctification. The true
principle of piety, reference to God, was wanting: hence the
emphatic repetition of "unto Me." Before settling questions as to the
outward forms of piety (however proper, as in this case), the great
question was as to piety itself; that being once settled, all their
outward observances become sanctified, being "unto the Lord"
6. did not ye eat for yourselves?--literally, "Is it not
ye who eat?" that is, it is not unto Me and My glory. It tends
no more to My glory, your feasting than your fasting.
7. Should ye not hear the words--rather, "Should
ye not do the words," as their question naturally was as
to what they should do
"hearing" is not mentioned till
The sense is, It is not fasts that Jehovah requires of you, but that ye
should keep His precepts given to you at the time when Jerusalem was in
its integrity. Had ye done so then, ye would have had no occasion to
institute fasts to commemorate its destruction, for it would never have
Or, as the Margin, "Are not these the words" of
the older prophets
which threatened a curse for disobedience, which the event has so
awfully confirmed. If ye follow them in sin, ye must follow them in
suffering. English Version is good sense: Ye inquire anxiously
about the fasts, whereas ye ought to be anxious about hearing
the lesson taught by the former prophets and verified in the nation's
punishment; penitence and obedience are required rather than fasts.
the plain--southwest of Jerusalem. They then inhabited securely the
region most unguarded.
9. speaketh--implying that these precepts addressed to their ancestors
were the requirements of Jehovah not merely then, but now. We must
not only not hurt, but we must help our fellow men. God is pleased with
such loving obedience, rather than with empty ceremonies.
10. imagine evil--that is, devise evil. The Septuagint takes it,
Harbor not the desire of revenge
"Devise evil against one another" is simpler
11. pulled away the shoulder--literally, "presented a refractory
shoulder"; an image from beasts refusing to bear the yoke
stopped . . . ears--
12. hearts . . . adamant--
(Eze 3:9; 11:19).
Lord . . . sent in Spirit by . . . prophets--that is, sent by the
former prophets inspired with His Spirit.
therefore . . . great wrath--
As they pushed from them the yoke of obedience, God laid on them the
yoke of oppression. As they made their heart hard as adamant, God brake
their hard hearts with judgments. Hard hearts must expect hard
treatment. The harder the stone, the harder the blow of the hammer to
13. he cried--by His prophets.
they cried--in their calamities.
I . . . not hear--retribution in kind
14. whirlwind--of wrath
nations whom they knew not--foreign and barbarous.
desolate after them--after their expulsion and exile. It was ordered
remarkably by God's providence, that no occupants took possession of it,
but that during the Jews' absence it was reserved for them against their
return after seventy years.
they laid . . . desolate--The Jews did so by their sins. The blame of
their destruction lay with themselves, rather than with the Babylonians
pleasant land--Canaan. Literally, "the land of desire"