18. And the word of the Lord of hosts came unto me, saying,
18. Et fuit sermo Iehovae exercituum ad me, dicendo,
19. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
19. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Iejunium quarti et jenunium quinti, et jejunium septimi, et jejunium decimi (mensis,) erit domui Iehudah in gaudium et laetitiam et dies festos bonos; ergo veritatem et pacem diligite.
He confirms the same truth, that such would be the restoration of the Church that all the memory of their sorrows would be obliterated. We have already said, that some fasts were observed by the Jews after the destruction of their city. Before two only were mentioned, but now the Prophet names four. In the fourth month the city was taken, and in the fifth the temple was destroyed and burnt down; in the seventh was Gedaliah slain, who had remained with the residue of the people who had been gathered by him; and the fast of the tenth month, as some think, was appointed when the city was besieged. If so, the fast of the tenth month preceded the rest, then followed the fast of the fourth month, in the third place the fast of the fifth month, and, lastly, the fast of the seventh month, on account of the death of Gedaliah.
These then were tokens of mourning to the time of the restoration; for when the city was besieged, God raised up, as it were, a sign of dreadful vengeance; and when Nebuchadnezzar broke through the wall of the city, it was then openly forsaken by God; after the burning of the temple there remained no hope, except that some of the common people continued in the land under the protection of Gedaliah. The root, as it were, of the people was cut off, but some thin fibres were remaining; and when even these were torn asunder, when all who could be found were led into exile, the favor of God had wholly disappeared as to the outward appearance. It behaved then the Jews to be in mourning and humiliation, that they might seek pardon from God. We shall not then say, that these fasts were without reason, and foolishly appointed by them, for they were at liberty to testify their sorrow; nay, it was an act of piety humbly in their guilt to deprecate the wrath of the celestial Judge, when they perceived that he was displeased with them. But God now promises joy, which was to extinguish all sorrow, as the rising of the sun drives away all the darkness of the night.
But the Prophet seems to allude to what he had before taught when he indirectly taunted the Jews, because they were too anxious about keeping fasts, while they neglected the main things. But the simple meaning is, that if the Jews really repented and sincerely sought to return to God's favor, there would be an end to all their miseries, so that there would be no need of fasting.
We must also remember that the design of fasting is this, that those who have sinned may humble themselves before God, and go as suppliants before his throne, that they may confess their sins and condemn themselves. Fasting then is, as it were, the habit of criminals when they desire to obtain pardon from God; for Christ says, that there is no fasting at marriages and during festal days. (Matthew 9:15.) We then see that there is here promised a restoration which was to put an end to every former cause of sorrow among the people; not that these fasts of themselves displeased God, for they were appointed, as we have said, for a good purpose -- that the people might thus exercise themselves in acts of piety, and also stimulate and support their hope till the time of their deliverance; but Zechariah pursues what he had begun -- that God was now plainly reconciled, for he favored his people, and proved this by the blessings he bestowed.
With regard to festal days, we know that among other things they are expressly mentioned by Moses, |Thou shalt rejoice before thy God.| (Deuteronomy 12:18.) When therefore the Jews celebrated their festal meetings, it was the same as though they stood before God, and were thus fully persuaded that they were in his presence. Forasmuch then as God thus designed to exhilarate his people by festivals, the Prophet does not without reason say, that the fasts, which had been signs of mourning, would be turned into joy and into festal days. Moreover, the Prophet thus speaks, because the observance of the law, which prevailed while the people were in a state of security, had been interrupted in their exile -- as though he had said, |As food expelled you to a foreign land, and made you while exiles from your country to grieve and mourn, so now being restored you shall have joy, and religiously keep your festal days.| And thus he indirectly reproves the Jews for having deprived themselves of their festal days, in which the law invited them to rejoice, for they had profaned them. God would not have suffered to be discontinued what he had commanded, had not religion been corrupted; for on this account it was that things changed for the worse, and that sorrow succeeded, which is here designated by fastings.
At length he concludes by saying, Love ye then truth and peace. By truth he means integrity, as we have said before; and Zechariah includes in this word the whole of what is just and right: for when our hearts are cleansed, then the rule of justice and equity is observed. When then we deal sincerely with our neighbors, all the duties of love freely flow from within as from a fountain. As to the word peace, it may be explained in two ways: either as in the former instance when he mentioned the judgment of peace in the sense of judgment rightly formed, and thus to love peace is to love good order; or it may be taken for God's blessing, as though the Prophet said, |If ye wish to be in a good and prosperous state, observe integrity towards one another; for God will ever be present by his blessing, provided ye be sincere and faithful. Ye have in a manner sought a curse for yourselves, and dried up as it were the fountain of God's blessings by your wickedness and your frauds. If then truth reign among you, all felicity shall accompany it; for the Lord will bless you.| I shall not proceed farther now.