Zechariah 7:1 And it came to pass
We almost passed right over this—“And it came to pass”—a phrase immortalized by Mark Twain. In reference to the Book of Mormon, Twain said, “If he (Joseph Smith) had left that out, his Bible would have been only a pamphlet.” (Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter 16) It’s true that Nephi, in particular, loved the phrase and used it over and over again. Mormon seemed to continue the trend through the rest of the Book of Mormon. One could make jokes on the one hand, but on the other hand the phrase “And it came to pass” is a literary device of ancient Hebrew origin. Zechariah used it in the 6th century BC. It was the same century that Nephi wrote his memoirs (2 Ne. 5:31). The phrase is linguistic evidence of the authenticity of the Book of Mormon, which Twain disparaged as “chloroform in print.”
Nothing delighted the critics more than the monotonous repetition of “it came to pass” at the beginning of thousands of sentences in the Book of Mormon. Here again is something that Western tradition found completely unfamiliar. Instead of punctuation, the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon divides up its phrases by introducing each by an “and,” “behold,” “now,” or “It came to pass . . . .” Simply outrageous—as English literature, but it is standard Egyptian (and Hebrew) practice.” (Since Cumorah, 2nd ed., edited by John W. Welch, [Salt Lake City: Deseret; Provo: FARMS, 1988], 150)
Zechariah 7:1 in the fourth year of king Darius
Josephus reports that it took the Jews seven years to complete the Temple and that it was completed in the ninth year of king Darius. This fits perfectly with the timeline Zechariah give us. In the second year of King Darius, Zechariah receives the word of the Lord (Zech 1:1). It seems the vision chapters (Zech 1-6) were revealed at the same time. Now, we are 20 months after Zechariah’s first prophetic announcement, in the fourth year of the king. From what we can tell, it was the fourth year when Zechariah received the rest of his prophetic message, comprising chapters 7-14. The last half is more commonly quoted and referenced because of the prophecies of Christ’s Triumphal Entry (Zech: 9:9), his Betrayal for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:11-12), the siege of Jerusalem by the Romans and before the Second Coming (Zech. 12:2), his Crucifixion (Zech 12:10), his Second Coming when the Jews ask, “What are these wounds in thine hands?” (Zech. 13:6), and when he stands again upon the Mount of Olives (Zech 14:4).
Zechariah 7:3 speak unto the priests… in the house of the Lord… and to the prophets
The people send two messengers, Sherezer and Regemmelech, to ask the priests and the prophets about the Law of the Fast. This is a good sign, the people are asking for guidance from the right people. They are not trusting in their own righteousness nor ignoring their tradition of fasting. “Are we doing this right?” That is the concern—a righteous self-examination. As people and individuals, revelation is given in just those times, when we sincerely seek the Lord’s direction from the correct sources.
Zechariah 7:5 ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years
From the rest of the Old Testament, it is hard to identify much about the Jewish practice of fasting. When, how, and why they fasted is rarely discussed, except here. We find out it was the tradition during the captivity to fast twice a year, in the 5th and 7th months.
“About two years after the prophet's first revelations came this revelation in response to the inquiries by a delegation who wanted to know about continuing the annual fasts in the fifth month to commemorate the destruction of the first temple and in the seventh month to commemorate the assassination of Gedaliah. (Jer. 41:1-2)” (Ellis T. Rasmussen, A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament [Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1993], 686)
Zechariah 7:5 When ye fasted and mourned… did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?
Part of Zechariah’s mission is to help the people hit the reset button. They are trying to re-establish a righteous branch of Jews. The forms of religion must be more than forms, there must be sincerity, integrity, and meaning behind everything. So the Lord asks a great question, “When ye fasted… did ye fast unto me?” When we fast, do we fast unto him? Or do we fast by habit without taking thought beforehand why or for what we are fasting?
“I have learned that to be meaningful, a fast must begin with a clear, righteous goal in mind. Through prayer, we then share that goal with Heavenly Father. We need to ask him to sustain us spiritually so we can overcome physical appetites. If we do this, we can be well-armed against enemies of the fast such as laziness, impatience, and the desire for food.
“Fasting can be a very rewarding experience. If we do it in the right spirit, we will feel joy within ourselves and compassion for others.”
Virginia H. Tefaaiie, 17
Puurai Ward, Papeete Tahiti Stake
(“Questions and Answers,” Liahona, May 1995, 28)
“We can teach children there are many worthy purposes of fasting, such as healing the sick and afflicted (see 2 Sam. 12:16; Matt. 17:18–21), overcoming sin (see Isa. 58:6), gaining a testimony (see Alma 5:46), receiving spiritual strength (see Matt. 4:1–11), being delivered from enemies (see Esth. 4:16), gaining humility (see Ps. 35:13), receiving revelation (see Alma 17:3), spreading the gospel (see Alma 6:6; Alma 17:9), and becoming full of joy and rejoicing (see D&C 59:13–14).
“Fasting individually or together with a common purpose—whether as a family, class, or ward—is an important way to teach children the principle of fasting while generating unity and love.” (Ensign, Jan. 1997, 66–67)
Zechariah 7:7 Should ye not hear the words which the Lord hath cried by the former prophets?
The Lord had already taught this principle through Isaiah. It seems he has to repeat the message for Zechariah’s people:
Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh? (Isa. 58:3-7)
Zechariah 7:9-10 Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions
What is the purpose of the fast? Isn’t it to show mercy and compassion on those who need it most: the widow, the fatherless, the stranger, and the poor? Isn’t pure religion and undefiled to “visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27)? Isaiah, said the same thing, “Wash you, make you clean… seek judgment, reliever the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isa. 1:16-17). The Lord set the example for us; He is the one “which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry… the Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow” (Ps. 14:7, 9; Deut: 10:18).
“God desires children who are like him, reflecting all his perfections. What is God like? He is full of mercy, compassion, empathy, and charity. He works for his children’s happiness. He serves and forgives. To become like him, we, too, must acquire these traits. What experiences of life are most conducive in developing these qualities? When others suffer, we feel mercy and compassion. When others sin against us, we learn to forgive. Through others’ needs, we learn service, empathy, and charity.” (S. Michael Wilcox, “No Other Gods before Me,” Ensign, Jan. 1994, 27)
Howard W. Hunter
[Christ] set a perfect example of right living, of kindness and mercy and compassion, in order that all of the rest of mankind might know how to live, know how to improve, and know how to become more godlike. (Ensign, Sept. 1994, 5)
Zechariah 7:12 they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes. (Ezek. 36:26-27)
Zechariah 7:13 As he cried, and they would not hear; so they cried, and I would not hear
Fair is fair. If they don’t listen to God’s commandments, then He doesn’t listen to their complaints. We can’t have it both ways. We can’t ignore his requests and expect ours to be granted. These two scripture came up when searching the phrase, “would not hear.”
Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.
Notwithstanding they would not hear, but hardened their necks, like to the neck of their fathers, that did not believe in the LORD their God.
And they rejected his statutes, and his covenant that he made with their fathers, and his testimonies which he testified against them; and they followed vanity, and became vain, and went after the heathen that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had charged them, that they should not do like them.
And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, even two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. (2 Kgs. 17:13-16)
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will send upon them the sword, the famine, and the pestilence, and will make them like vile figs, that cannot be eaten, they are so evil.
And I will persecute them with the sword, with the famine, and with the pestilence, and will deliver them to be removed to all the kingdoms of the earth, to be a curse, and an astonishment, and an hissing, and a reproach, among all the nations whither I have driven them:
Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the LORD, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the LORD. (Jer. 29:17-19)
Zechariah 7:14 I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not
Notice that the Lord uses the past tense, “I scattered them.” They are already scattered: the Ten Tribes have been taken to Assyria; Lehi and Mulek have been taken to the New World; and the tribes of Benjamin and Judah have been taken to Babylon and spread throughout the Persian Empire. Zechariah’s small branch of believers is trying to successfully be the first branch of the olive tree that is grafted back in. They would succeed for a while, but they would be scattered again by the Greeks and the Romans, because they would not hear.
Bruce R. McConkie
To Amos the Lord said: "I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth." (Amos 9:9.) Micah recorded the promise that "the remnant of Jacob shall be among the Gentiles in the midst of many people." (Micah 5:8.) And the Lord's word preserved by Zechariah is: "I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations whom they knew not." (Zech. 7:14.)
Nephi bears a concurring testimony. "The house of Israel, sooner or later," he says, "will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations." Then speaking of the Ten Tribes he acclaims: "And behold, there are many who are already lost from the knowledge of those who are at Jerusalem. Yea, the more part of all the tribes, have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth, save that we know that they have been led away." (1 Ne. 22:3-4) (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982], 188)