Another oracle about the past fasting (Zech 7:4-7:7)

“Then the word

Of Yahweh of hosts

Came to me.

‘Say to all the people

Of the land

As well as the priests.

‘When you fasted,

When you lamented,

In the fifth month

As well as the seventh month,

For these seventy years,

Was it for me

That you fasted?

When you eat.

When you drink,

Do you not eat

Only for yourselves?

Do you not drink

Only for yourselves?

Were not these the words

That Yahweh proclaimed

By the former prophets?

This was when

Jerusalem was inhabited

In prosperity.

Was this not when

The towns around it

Were inhabited?

Was this not when

The Negeb

With the Shephelah

Were inhabited?’”

Yahweh sent another oracle to Zechariah about the fasting and lamenting that they had done for the past 70 years during the 5th and 7th months because of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 587 BCE and the murder of their governor.  Zechariah was to ask the people of the land and the priests why they had fasted.  Why did they not eat or drink?  Did they do if for themselves or for Yahweh?  Yahweh had warned them, via the prophets, when Jerusalem was prosperous and inhabited.  The towns around Jerusalem, as well as desert Negeb and the low land Shephelah were inhabited at that time also.

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No more just people (Mic 7:1-7:2)

“Woe is me!

I have become

Like one

After the summer fruit

Has been gathered.

I have become

Like one

After the vintage

Has been gleaned.

There is no cluster to eat.

There is no first-ripe fig

For which I hunger.

The faithful have disappeared

From the land.

There is no one left

Who is upright.

They all lie in wait

For blood.

They hunt each other

With nets.”

Micah started this lament with a woeful thought about himself.  He was lonely, because the late summer fruits had been harvested.  All the vineyards had been picked and gleaned.  There was nothing left to eat.  It did not make any difference, because Micah had no appetite for fig clusters or anything.  All the faithful people had disappeared from the land.  There was not even one good upright person left.  They were all waiting to steal from each other.  They were hungry for the blood of others, so that they were hunting each other with nets.

Yahweh’s punishment (Mic 6:13-6:15)

“Therefore,

I have begun

To strike you down.

I will make you desolate,

Because of your sins.

You shall eat,

But not be satisfied.

There shall be

A gnawing hunger

Within you.

You shall put away,

But not save.

What you save,

I will hand over to the sword.

You shall sow,

But not reap.

You shall tread olives,

But not anoint yourselves

With oil.

You shall tread grapes,

But not drink wine.”

With great irony, Yahweh, via Micah, pointed out that his punishment for these wicked people in the city would be unrewarded labor.  In other words, Yahweh was going to strike them down and make them desolate because of their sins.  They would eat, but not be satisfied because of a continual gnawing hunger.  They would try to save money, but none would be put away, because what little they had saved would be turned over to the robbers with swords.  They would sow seeds, but not be around for the harvest reaping.  They would tread grapes and olives, but they would not be able to anoint themselves with oil or drink any wine.  They were just wasting their time.

Against the lying prophets (Mic 3:5-3:7)

“Thus says Yahweh

Concerning the prophets,

Who lead my people astray.

‘They cry

‘Peace!’

When they have something

To eat.

But they declare war

Against those who put

Nothing into their mouths.

Therefore,

It shall be night to you,

Without vision.

It shall be darkness to you,

Without revelation.

The sun shall go down

Upon the prophets.

The day shall be black

Over them.

The seers shall be disgraced.

The diviners put to shame.

They shall all cover their lips.

There is no answer

From God.’”

This was another bitter rebuke of the prophetic leaders in Israel and Jacob.  These prophets had led Yahweh’s people astray.  They had cried peace to those who give them something to eat, but they declared war on those who did not give them anything to eat.  Thus, they would live in a night like condition without any vision.  There would be darkness, without any revelation.  The sun would go down on these evil prophets, so that their days would be pitch dark all around them.  The seers would be disgraced, while the diviners would be ashamed.  They would have nothing to say, because God would not answer them.

The great fast proclamation (Jon 3:7-3:9)

“The king had a proclamation

Made in Nineveh.

‘By the decree

Of the king

With his nobles.

No human being,

No animal,

No herd,

No flock,

Shall taste anything.

They shall not feed them.

They shall not drink water.

Human beings,

With animals,

Shall be covered

With sackcloth.

They shall cry mightily

To God.

All shall turn

From their evil ways.

They shall turn

From the violence

That is in their hands.

Who knows?

God may yet relent.

God may change

His mind.

He may turn

From his fierce anger.

Thus,

We may not perish.’”

This king of Nineveh sent out a proclamation from the capital city.  No humans or animals should eat or drink anything, a total fast.  Both the humans and animals should be covered in sackcloth.  They all should cry out to God.  They were to turn from their evil violent ways.  His thought was that maybe God would change his mind about the future destruction of Nineveh.  Perhaps God would not be angry with them.  Thus, they would not die.

The useless sacrifices (Hos 9:4-9:4)

“They shall not pour

Drink offerings

Of wine

To Yahweh.

Their sacrifices

Shall not please him.

Such sacrifices shall be

Like mourners’ bread.

All who eat of it

Shall be defiled.

Their bread

Shall be

For their hunger only.

It shall not come

To the house

Of Yahweh.”

Hosea told them that in their captivity, they will not be able to pour out drink offerings of wine to Yahweh. Their sacrifices would not please God. These sacrifices would be like the defiled bread of mourners who have had contact with the dead. The only reason to eat this bread would be because they were hungry. There will be no more symbolic bread, since they will no longer have contact with the house of Yahweh.

The sorrow of the exile (Hos 9:1-9:3)

“Do not rejoice!

O Israel!

Do not exult

As other nations do!

You have played

The prostitute!

You departed from

Your God!

You have loved

A prostitute’s pay

On all the threshing floors.

Threshing floor

With wine vat

Shall not feed them.

The new wine

Shall fail them.

They shall not remain

In the land of Yahweh.

But Ephraim shall return

To Egypt.

They shall eat

Unclean food

In Assyria.”

Hosea told the people of Israel, perhaps at a harvest festival, that they would no longer rejoice and exalt like other countries. They had prostituted themselves. They had departed from their God. They had accepted the prostitute’s pay on the threshing floor. No longer would grain and wine feed them, as the new wine would fail. They were not going to remain in the land of Yahweh. They would be sent to Egypt and Assyria, where they would eat unclean food.