1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu, 2 When those of Beth-el had sent Sherezer, Regem-melech, and their men to pray before the LORD, 3 And to speak to the priests who were in the house of the LORD of hosts and to the prophets, saying, "Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?" 4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 5 "Speak to all the people of the land and to the priests, saying, 'When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did you at all fast to me, even to me? 6 And when you ate and when you drank, did you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? 7 Should you not hear the words which the LORD has cried by the former prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, and her cities around her, when men inhabited the south and the plain?'"
8 And the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 9 "Thus speaks the LORD of hosts, saying, 'Execute true judgment and show mercy and compassions each to his brother. 10 And do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor, and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.' 11 But they refused to listen and withdrew the shoulder and stopped their ears so that they should not hear. 12 They even made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts has sent in his Spirit by the former prophets. Therefore, a great wrath came from the LORD of hosts. 13 Therefore, it has come to pass, that as he cried and they would not hear, so they cried and I would not hear," says the LORD of hosts. 14 "But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they did not know. Thus the land was desolate after them so that no man passed through nor returned, for they laid the pleasant land desolate."
John Gill's Chapter Summary
This chapter treats concerning the nature and use of certain fasts kept by the Jews, on account of the destruction of the temple, and other things; and concerning the message of the former prophets to them, and the effects of it. The occasion of the former was an embassy sent by the Jews to the priests and prophets, to know whether they should continue the fast of the fifth month; upon which the prophet was sent by the Lord to them. The time of the prophecy is noted (verse 1); an account of the embassy is given, of the persons that were sent, and to whom, and upon what account (verses 2-3); the answer of the Lord to it by the prophet, showing the usefulness of fasts to him, and putting them upon listening to his voice by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was in great prosperity (verses 4-7); and then they are exhorted by him, in the ministry of the present prophet, to acts of righteousness, several species of which are mentioned; and which were the same they had been exhorted to by the former prophets, but had neglected, and hardened their hearts against all exhortations and instructions (verses 8-12); and were the reason of their captivity and desolation (verses 13-14).
[v.3] - The question in this verse is framed in the singular form, but in English, it would be proper to frame it in the plural form. In that case, the question would be written as, "Should we weep in the fifth month, separating ourselves, as we have done these so many years?" Throughout the text of the Bible, it is not uncommon that the first person singular form is used to refer to a community or nation, which in this case is the Bethelites.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 1-9:
Grant, Almighty God, that as we are so inclined to dissimulation, we may learn strictly to examine ourselves, and to descend into our own consciences, so that none of us may sleep in self-delusion, but be so displeased with our hidden vices, as in the meantime to aspire after, and with every care and labor, to attain true religion, and so strive to devote ourselves wholly to you, that we may groan under the burden of our sins, and so suppliantly flee to your mercy, as at the same time to be touched with true penitence, until having at length put off the corruptions of our flesh, we shall be received into that purity which has been prepared for us in heaven by Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
John Calvin's Prayer for Verses 10-14:
Grant, Almighty God, that as you have adopted us for this end, that we may show brotherly kindness one toward another, and labor for our mutual benefit,— O grant, that we may prove by the whole tenor of our life, that we have not been called in vain by you, but that we may so live in harmony with each other, that integrity and innocence may prevail among us; and may we so strive to benefit one another, that your name may be thus glorified by us; until having at length finished our course, we reach the goal which you have set before us, that having at last gone through all the evils of this life, we may come to that blessed rest which has been prepared for us in heaven by Christ our Lord. Amen