Zech. 1:1 In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, the prophet, saying, 2 “The LORD was very angry with your fathers. 3 Therefore say to them, Thus says the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. 4 Be not like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or heed me, says the LORD. 5 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live for ever? 6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.”
The Lord “comes to” Zechariah, likely in a vision. The time given, “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius”, would be Marchesvan, or a month overlapping October and November on the Gregorian calendar, during approximately 519 B.C. This is the time of year when the winter wheat and barley are planted, and roofs and shelters are examined and repaired for the coming rainy season. This is the same year that Haggai gave his four short teachings on the rebuilding of the temple, although they apparently had not started rebuilding. In these teachings, Haggai tells them that all the silver and gold of the nations will eventually come to the temple, and Zechariah announces that the glory of the LORD will be there. First, however, there is work to be done and consequences of the Lord’s anger to be acknowledged.
They had been 70 years in Babylon. Since returning the people had built their own homes, but in 19 years they had only laid the foundation for the temple. Things were not at all going well. They had enemies that were plotting against them. They were unhappy with the general inability to rebuild anything as grand as Solomon had built. It is to this weakened and impotent nation that the prophet gave encouragement and hope.
FYI: It is only after the Babylonian exile that the scripture writers begin giving dates that can be used. Before the Exile, the Jews started a new calendar with every new king. Often assigning the same year to both the deceased king and the new king, making Biblical chronology before the captivity very difficult. In a few cases, the king of Israel and the king of Judah are listed concurrently; on one occasion, there were two kings in Israel and one in Judah at the “same” time.
Zechariah begins by telling the people that the LORD was very angry with their fathers. The Hebrew word used is a bit stronger than the English word ‘very’ implies; and to further make the gravity of their actions clear, the verse starts with ‘angry’ and ends with ‘wrathful.’ Most English versions start the next line with ‘therefore.’ However, there is no Hebrew word equivalent to ‘therefore,’ in the text, creating an abrupt pronouncement as the LORD simply starts chastising them. The passage could be compared to a parent talking to a child that has returned after curfew: the child knows the parent never starts with a ‘therefore’ but moves immediately to the accusative, ‘Where have you been?’ This is the nature of the question posed by God in this passage: He asks where they have been spiritually. They have not kept His words, and are not where they should be. So it is with God. Just as He did in the garden when He asked Adam, “Where are you?” Gen 3:9. This was not because God didn’t know where Adam was. It was because Adam did not understand he was not where he should of been. The question is a spiritual one. Where are they spiritually? They had not kept His words, and were not where they should be. Just like an upset parent, He calls on them to return to His words, to follow His rules, to return to His teaching and precept, all of which will precipitate His return to them.
Three times in this passage God calls Himself the LORD of Hosts, or army, in a necessary reminder of His eternal power and their mortality. He points out the folly of not following the ways of God, for their fathers had followed evil ways and committed evil deeds. Rather than endlessly berating His people, He abruptly stops the speech here and simply asks, where are they now? It’s an example of the saying ‘less is more’. This illustration points out that both the people and the prophets they would not listen to are gone and buried. In the end all that can be said is that the LORD did to them as He had promised. The living no longer rule over themselves or their land, and are at the mercy of the empires.
The Lord was explaining to the children of Israel about how they were to go about establishing a culture and nation; they were warned not to have anything to do with Molech specifically [Lev. 20:2 -5]. Yet they did. [1 Kings 11:7; Jer. 32:35]
The children of Israel were repeatedly told to have nothing to do with the Ashtaroth of the nations around them. Yet they pursued this worship with great zeal; they even had temple prostitutes in the temple in Jerusalem. “….and there were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.” 1Kings 14:24 [see also: I Kings 15:12, 22:46, 23:7; Hos 4:14; Jer. 7:18-27].
They were also taking on the weeping for Tammuz [Ezek. 8:14-15]
They had been warned from the time they left Egypt that if they did these things, if they followed after the pagans, that they would be turned over to the beasts. At the time Moses wrote this, they in all probability thought that this meant a literal beast. But Daniel with in the last 70 years had explained that these beast were empires. Empires that for 2520 years would take away their sovereign power.
“Then if you walk contrary to me, and will not hearken to me, I will bring more plagues upon you, sevenfold as many as your sins. 22 And I will let loose the wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number, so that your ways shall become desolate. Lev. 26:21 -22
Because of the prophecy of Dan 7 & 8, Zechariah and the people should have known that they were not facing real wild animals. But that these were symbolic of the bestial natures of the Empires that were to rule over them in judgment. They had lived through the lion beast of Babylon, they were presently living under the bear beast of Medio/Persia, and still had to face the leopard beast that history tells us was Greece and the terrible beast that was Rome. They knew it was not about to get easy. There was more to come.
Like the child home late, even though the lecture is over the restrictions imposed by the parent were still in effect. Yes they were back ing the land but, there would be no glorious freedom. They were a vassal kingdom to the Persian’s, and a vassal they would remain. No freedom, No self determination, No returning to being the trading center of the world, as they had been under David and Solomon. There was much more of this sevenfold judgment to be faced.
We live in exciting times. At the present time the reign of all these empires is all but over. Israel is back in the land. We only now wait to see, the nations that made up the former territory of these Empires to be ground to dust and blow away, and the stone that grows into a great mountain must not be far off [Dan 2:45]. The “Time of The Gentiles” has run out. The things of the present political conditions are about to change. No one is quite sure what the prophecies mean. The time prophecies don’t say what happens next. Where the sequential prophecies have no time line.