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wider than the source of the question. We see no reason then for departing from the usual meaning of the terms. The fast of the 5th month is mentioned, because that was the commemoration of the destruction of the temple, an observance which would seem incongruous after the temple was rebuilt.

The deputation was sent first to pray, perhaps that God might solve their doubts, or bestow a fresh prosperity on Israel, and afterwards to seek at the mouth of His ministers the solution of their difficulties. The phrase haloth p'ne, means to stroke the face, then to flatter by caressing, then to supplicate, or pray. See Ex. 32: 11; 1 Sam. 13: 12.

But the Jewish people needed something more than information in regard to the continuance of this fast. The whole doctrine of fasting had become overlaid with an incrustation of formalism and superstition that needed to be broken up. Fasting had become not a means but an end, a mere form, as it is in Mohammedan and Papal countries at this day, and had attached to it an opus operatum efficacy that wholly destroyed its real value. They thought that God must bless them, indeed was bound to bless them, if they rigidly observed these outward rites, whatever was their inward character. Thus formalism in religion acted in the time of the restoration, precisely as it has acted in every subsequent period in the history of the church, leading men to be scrupulous about the mint, anise and cumin, the postures, costumes and rubrics of religion, whilst the weightier matters of justice toward man, and piety toward God, were neglected and forgotten. Hence before a mere question of ritual observance could be settled, it was important that their minds should be set right on the deeper questions of their spiritual relations to God. The prophet then, instead of answering the question about the fast of the 5th month, proceeds to rebuke them for their selfish and stupid will-worship, and their ignorance in regard to the whole subject of fasting, not only as to this, but as to all the stated fasts that they had been observing.

4. 5. "Then was the word of Jehovah of Hosts to me, saying: Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye

fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, these seventy years, 6. did ye fast unto me, unto me? And when ye ate, and when ye drank, was it not to yourselves that ye were eating, and to yourselves that ye were drinking?"

The grand error of all their observances, was that they were "without God;" not done because of his command, not supported by his authority, not directed to his glory, and not therefore deserving his approbation. The repetition of the phrase "unto me," at the close of the 5th verse, is emphatic, and gives the key to the passage. Their fasting and feasting were alike selfish and godless, alike wanting in elevated aim, and alike centered on themselves. The radical principle of all piety, reference to God, was wanting in all their conduct, and hence before asking questions about the form, it were better to secure the substance; before raising questions about the outward manifestations of piety it were better to assure themselves that they have piety itself.


But some might be disposed to plead ignorance as an exThe prophet meets this evasion by telling them that this very ignorance was culpable in them, for they had the teachings of the former prophets on this very question of fasting.

7. "Are not these the words which Jehovah cried by the hand of the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in peace, and also her cities round about her, and when the south and the plain was inhabited."

The English version makes "words" the object of a verb understood, thus making the verse an expostulation for disobedience, rather than an additional asseveration. But as the particle eth is sometimes used to designate the subject of the verb, it is more natural to take it so here, thus obviating the necessity for any ellipsis. These are not novelties that are spoken in your ears, or words that have had no corroborating proofs. Are they not the very teachings of the older prophets? Did not Isaiah (ch. 58,) and others assure you that it was not such a fast that God had chosen? Did they not warn your fathers, when all was yet prosperity, that such con

duct would bring a curse on the land? And did not that curse descend and depopulate Jerusalem, and those regions round about her, that once were crowded with life? Has not God then taught you alike by his word, and his providence, and can you under such circumstances urge the plea of ignorance? If you follow your fathers in their sin, must you not also follow them in their suffering?

But that there might be no doubt in regard to the duties omitted, and the teachings neglected, the prophet gives an epitome of both in the following verses.

8, 9. "And the word of Jehovah was to Zechariah saying. Thus speaketh Jehovah of Hosts saying: Judge the judgment of truth, and work 10. kindness and compassion, every man toward his neighbour: and the widow, and the fatherless, the stranger and the poor, do not oppress, and do not devise evil in your hearts, any man against his neighbour."

These were the instructions given to their fathers by the former prophets, but how these were received, and what were the consequences of this reception, are next pointed out.

11. "But they (your fathers) refused to hear, and presented a refractory shoulder (one that refused to wear the yoke,) and made heavy their ears 12. against hearing: And their heart they made an adamant against hear

ing the law, and the words which Jehovah of Hosts did send in his spirit by the hand of the former prophets, wherefore there was great 13. wrath from Jehovah of Hosts. And it came to pass, that as He cried and they did not hear, so they cry and I hear not, saith Jehovah of 14. Hosts. And I scattered them to all nations whom they knew not, and the land was desolate after them, so that none went out or came in, and they made the land of desire to be desolate."

The meaning of these verses is very obvious. The disobedience of their fathers, and the punishment that followed, are held up to warn them against following in their footsteps. As they refused to wear the yoke of obedience, God laid upon them the yoke of oppression, and as they hardened their hearts like the diamond against God's word, God broke these hard hearts by His judgments. When these judgments came down on them, they cried to God, but as they had refused to hear him, he then refused to hear them. The change of tense in v. 13, from the preterite in the first clause to the future in

the second is not accidental, but designed to show that the action is still continued, which is the force of the Hebrew future in such a connection as this. See Nordheimer's Grammar, 967, 1. a. The meaning is that God had refused to hear their cry, and continued to do so even to the present time. Thus they had closed the throne of grace against themselves, and opened the throne of judgment. From this throne came forth the mandate of destruction, like a whirlwind, scattering them among their enemies, and leaving their pleasant land desolate, and desolate by their own wilful and persevering disobedience.

Having urged them to obedience by the fate of their fathers, the prophet next urges them by promises drawn from the future prosperity of Jerusalem. Ch. 8: 1-8.


"And the word of Jehovah of Hosts was to me saying, 2. Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,

I was jealous toward Zion with great jealousy,
And with great fury was I jealous toward her.

3. Thus saith Jehovah, I have returned to Zion,

And I will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem,

And Jerusalem shall be called 'city of the truth,'

And the mountain of Jehovah, ' mountain of holiness.""

The metaphor of the first verse is so common and obvious as to require no explanation, and yet it is full of instruction. God demands the whole heart, and will not be content with a divided throne. As the husband cannot brook the estrangement of his wife's affections to a rival, so God cannot allow the bestowal of our affections supremely to any other object. This is idolatry, and as such will be punished with intense severity, either in this world or in the next. But he assures them, v. 3, that this outburst of anger is past, and that now he has returned to Jerusalem with his former love, and will dwell in her midst. God's presence in heaven creates all its bliss, and God's presence on earth will make it an antepast of heaven. But this will manifest itself in an appropri ate way. God is truth and holiness, and they who enjoy his presence must partake of both. Hence Jerusalem was to be


a city of truth, and Moriah a mountain of holiness. phrases which are drawn from Isaiah, are used in the same sense as in the older prophet, and refer to the theocracy whose seat was in Jerusalem, and therefore predict not simply the temporal enlargement of the nation, but the permanent enlargement of the church. This future prosperity is further described in the next verse.

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And the man whose staff is in his hand for multitude of days. 5. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls,

Playing in the streets of it."

The image here presented is one of great force and beauty. The city rises before us as the glow of sunset begins to steal over Olivet, and the lengthening shadows begin to warn the laborer home. The streets are not silent or deserted, as they have hitherto been, but there sits the old man gazing on the scenes of peaceful beauty before him, while the aged companion of his earlier years sits by his side, to enjoy with him. the freshening breeze that comes cool and sweet from the distant sea, while before them and around them are the merry shout, the joyous glee, and glad gambols of happy childhood, whose ringing echoes mingle sweetly with the tinkle of the bells and the lowing and bleating of the flocks that come softly from the hills as they hie them homeward to the nightly fold. There is an exquisite beauty in this picture would strike a Jewish mind with peculiar force, to whom the promise of old age and posterity was one of the richest that could be made. Indeed, the presence of the two extremes of life, is one of the usual signs of prosperity. Old age and childhood not only grace a community, the one by its venerableness, and the other by its beauty, but they also prove its peace and prosperity. When war, famine, pestilence or anarchy, have been raging, there are but few of either class, for their feebleness makes them the earliest victims. Hence in the streets of Jerusalem, there were but few of either in her desolation, for

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