Zechariah 8 Bible Study verses 18-23: Let’s turn our attention to Zechariah 8. We’ll be studying verses 18-23 to end this chapter.
And what we’ll see in this section is the Lord’s 4th response to the Jews’ question about fasting. Remember that the Jews who came back from Babylon to Jerusalem were curious as to whether they should keep mourning and fasting to commemorate the destruction of the Temple by Babylon about 70 years prior to this point.
And the Lord answered their question in four separate responses. The first response highlighted the fact that God was not happy with their fasts in the first place because those fasts were self-centered and not done for the Lord. The second response highlighted the Jews’ previous lack of love for one another. So, these Jews had not loved God or neighbor as they had been commanded. And this is why the Lord had to destroy their temple in the first place, which is why they were fasting.
Then the third response let these Jews in on the fact that God was planning to richly bless them with his own presence among them in the future. And that’s still future to this day.
And so, now here’s the fourth and last response from the Lord. And it also – like the third response – addresses the awesome blessings that God has in store for them.
So, let’s read Zechariah 8:18-23 to see this last response in full.
[Read Zec 8:18-23…]
Zechariah 8 Bible Study verses 18-19
So, first of all, let’s examine what the Lord is talking about with these various fasts in all of these months that he mentions in verses 18 and 19.
KJV Zechariah 8:18 ¶ [And the/The/Again the] word of the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] came [unto/to] [me, saying,/me as follows/me]
19 [Thus saith the LORD of hosts;/The LORD who rules over all says,/This is what the LORD Almighty says:]
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/will become] [to/for] the house of Judah [joy/joyful] and [gladness/happy/glad occasions], and [cheerful feasts/pleasant feasts/happy festivals];
[therefore/so] love [the truth/truth] and peace.
Now, the Lord just mentioned four separate fasts that the Jews of Zechariah’s day were observing. And that’s interesting because our knowledge of the number of months on which these Jews were fasting has been increasing throughout these two chapters that we’ve been studying for the last few weeks.
At first the Jews come and ask the Lord whether they should fast in the fifth month. By they way, they came in the ninth month to ask that question. So, they were looking forward to the fast that was to come in a few months. But anyway, the Jews initially asked only about the fast of the fifth month. That’s just one month they’re asking about in Zechariah 7:3.
Well, then the Lord responds to their question in Zechariah 7:5 by mentioning their fasting in both the fifth and seventh months and how neither was pleasing to him because they were done improperly with a focus on themselves rather than on the Lord to whom they were supposedly fasting. But you can see that now the number of months in which these Jews were fasting is expanded to two from the one they originally mentioned.
But now here in Zechariah 8:19 we have not one… not two… but actually four months during which these Jews were fasting. That’s what God says.
So, we’re going to look at these various months and try to figure out what caused the Jews to fast during them.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study Fourth Month
First, God mentions the fourth month. And there are two passages in the book of Jeremiah that help us figure out why the Jews were fasting and mourning to commemorate that month.
The first reference is Jeremiah 39:2 where we’re told…
KJV Jeremiah 39:2 And in the eleventh year of Zedekiah, in the fourth month, the ninth day of the month, the [city/city wall] was [broken up/breached/broken through].
And then this event is restated in Jeremiah 52:6 where Jeremiah records this…
KJV Jeremiah 52:6 And in the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was sore in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land.
KJV Jeremiah 52:7 Then the [city/city wall] was broken [up/into], and all the men of war fled, and went forth out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden; (now the Chaldeans were by the city round about:) and they went by the way of the plain.
So, in summary, what happened in the fourth month about 70 years prior to the question asked in this passage in Zechariah? The Babylonians broke into the city of Jerusalem through the city wall. And the Jews that went into exile in Babylon would every year mourn and fast as they remembered this breach of the wall of their beloved city.
So, that’s the fast of the fourth month.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study Fifth Month
Then we have the fast of the fifth month. And numerous awful events happened in the fifth month for which there are two references in the book of Jeremiah.
The first reference is at the very beginning of that book in which that faithful prophet tells us the following…
KJV Jeremiah 1:3 [It/God’s word to Jeremiah] came also in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the end of the eleventh year of Zedekiah the son of Josiah king of Judah, unto the [carrying away/exile] of [Jerusalem/the people of Jerusalem] captive in the fifth month.
So, that’s a brief summary of what happened in the fifth month. Jerusalem – really, the people residing in Jerusalem – were taken away captive into Babylon where they would remain for about 70 years.
But if you want the details of what all happened in that month you can go to the end of the book of Jeremiah in chapter 52 and you’ll be given the following details in verses 12-16…
KJV Jeremiah 52:12 ¶ Now in the fifth month, in the tenth day of the month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, came Nebuzaradan, captain of the guard, which served the king of Babylon, into Jerusalem,
KJV Jeremiah 52:13 And burned the house of the LORD, and the king’s house; and all the houses of Jerusalem, and all the houses of the great men, burned he with fire:
KJV Jeremiah 52:14 And all the army of the Chaldeans, that were with the captain of the guard, brake down all the walls of Jerusalem round about.
KJV Jeremiah 52:15 Then Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive certain of the poor of the people, and the residue of the people that remained in the city, and those that fell away, that fell to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the multitude.
KJV Jeremiah 52:16 But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left certain of the poor of the land for vinedressers and for husbandmen.
So, that’s the whole story. Jeremiah 1 gives you a brief summary – Jerusalem was exiled to Babylon. But it’s in that last chapter that you hear the details.
Babylon burned all the houses in Jerusalem – both men’s houses and God’s house – the temple. Babylon broke down the city wall around Jerusalem. And then finally Babylon took everyone except the poorest and brought them to Babylon.
So, what was to fast about in the fourth month? The wall was breached.
And what did that lead to in the fifth month that was fast-worthy? The destruction of all the houses and walls of Jerusalem and the deportation of almost all of her people.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study Seventh Month
But some people were left. And that brings us to the fast of the seventh month. What happened then that was worth mourning and weeping and fasting about?
Well, according to Jeremiah 41, those people who were left experienced a very unpleasant episode involving an assassination, a rescue, and then finally all the people being led away from Israel back into Egypt. That’s in Jeremiah 41…
KJV Jeremiah 41:1 ¶ Now it came to pass in the seventh month, that Ishmael the son of Nethaniah the son of Elishama, of the seed royal, and the princes of the king, even ten men with him, came unto Gedaliah the son of Ahikam to Mizpah; and there they did eat bread together in Mizpah.
KJV Jeremiah 41:2 Then arose Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and the ten men that were with him, and smote Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan with the sword, and slew him, whom the king of Babylon had made governor over the land.
KJV Jeremiah 41:3 Ishmael also slew all the Jews that were with him, even with Gedaliah, at Mizpah, and the Chaldeans that were found there, and the men of war.
So, Ishmael who was a royal heir murdered the Babylonian-appointed governor of Israel at the time – Gedaliah. This was a national tragedy that these Jews of Zechariah’s day were still mourning over.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study Tenth Month
And the last month mentioned for fasting – the tenth month – is actually the basic reason that these Jews were fasting.
The events of the seventh month with Ishmael and Gedaliah happened… because the events of the fifth month with Jerusalem being destroyed and exiled happened… because the city wall was breached in the fourth month… because of what happened in the tenth month.
What happened in the tenth month that was worthy of mourning and fasting? It was in the tenth month in which Babylon came and laid siege to Jerusalem to begin with, according to Jeremiah 39:1…
KJV Jeremiah 39:1 ¶ In the ninth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the tenth month, came Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon and all his army against Jerusalem, and they besieged it.
And Jeremiah tells us why Babylon came in the first place in Jeremiah 52:3 where he says…
KJV Jeremiah 52:3 ¶ For through the anger of the LORD it came to pass in Jerusalem and Judah, till he had cast them out from his presence, that Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
KJV Jeremiah 52:4 And it came to pass in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and pitched against it, and built forts against it round about.
So, the tenth month is when it all started. Babylon came in response to the rebellion of the king of Judah at that time.
So, the Jews were fasting during four different months for things all related to the destruction of their city and especially the temple that was in that city. These were sorrowful memories for the Jews.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study Joy, Gladness, Cheerful Feasts
But God is saying here in Zechariah 8:19 that this was all going to change. There will be a time for the Jews that instead of sorrow and mourning and fasting there will be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study Love Truth and Peace
But there seems to be some sort of condition placed on this happening. In order for these fasts to be turned into feasts for these people, they needed to love truth and peace.
In these last two chapters – chapters 7 and 8 – the Lord has been encouraging them to love these two realities – truth and peace. Most recently in verse 16 of this chapter the Lord admonished the Jews to both speak and judge truthfully and to pursue peace in their judgements. Truth and peace. They were to love it.
Did the Jews of Zechariah’s day do this? Well, shortly after this time period, the prophet Malachi communicated his prophecies to these same people. And his book is notable for all of the rebuking the Lord did through him to the people. They still were not loving truth and peace.
How about in Jesus’ day? Did the Jews all together love truth and peace? No, they crucified their Messiah by giving him untruthful trials. Instead of being at peace with their God they attacked and killed God the Son. Those Jews were not loving truth and peace.
How about the Jews of modern times? No, they’re still not obeying this command. And apparently these people need to obey this command in order for their fasts to be turned into feasts. So, something is going to need to change, isn’t it?
And that something, as we’ve seen before, is exactly what we see in the book of Revelation. Jesus their rejected Messiah is going to need to return and save these people. They will need to look on him whom they’ve pierced and they’re going to need to mourn again. They’re going to need to mourn – not the destruction of their temple, but rather their crucifying and rejecting their Savior. And then at that point there will be a fountain opened for cleansing for these Jews.
And it’s at that point when this passage will come to pass and their fasts will turn into feasts. They will love truth and peace.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study verses 20-21
And so, with this promise of Israel’s fasts being turned into feasts, the Lord is going to spend the rest of this chapter painting a picture for us of what that’s going to look like. What will it look like for Israel to no longer fast and mourn – but rather instead that they would gather to celebrate feasts?
Well, according to verse 20 at that time when this reality will come to pass, Israel’s cities will be filled with people.
20 ¶ [Thus saith the LORD of hosts;/The LORD who rules over all says,/This is what the LORD Almighty says:]
[It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:/’It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities./’It will someday come to pass that people– residents of many cities– will come./”Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come,/Yet shall many peoples come, and the inhabitants of many cities;]
And I just said that these people are all in Israeli cities. But I suppose they don’t need to be. These cities could be both Jewish and Gentile. But I think the emphasis in verses 20 and 21 is Israel, because later in verse 22 we have a mention of nations coming in addition to these people in these cities.
So, people in cities – especially cities in Israel – will all come, as verse 20 says.
Well… “come” where? And for what purpose are they coming? Verse 21.
21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying,
[Let us/Let’s] [go/go up] [speedily/at once] to [pray before/entreat the favor of/ask the favor of/entreat/make supplication to] the LORD, [and to/to/and] seek the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty]:
[I will/Indeed, I’ll/I myself will] [go also/also go/go with you/am going].
So, these people from these cities in Israel are going to go get each other and they’re going to go to pray before the Lord. They’re going to seek his mercy and favor – and just him himself – in the Millennium.
And of course, they’ll be going to Jerusalem. That’s where the Lord was to be sought in the Old Testament with their temple. And that’s where the Lord will be sought in the Millennium in the person of Jesus the Messiah who will rule from that city for 1,000 years.
And the Lord presents what the people of Israel will say and feel in those days. The people from one city going to the people from another city and saying that they should go to Jerusalem aren’t just doing what some folks do today. They’re not like the parents who send their kids to church on a bus because they feel like their kids needs some religion – but they themselves don’t feel all that compelled to be at church.
No, these Jews of those days will be compelling each other to go seek the Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. And they’ll all know and recognize their need to do this. And not just need – but really, excitement and anticipation!
Zechariah 8 Bible Study verse 22
But it’s not just Jews from the cities of Israel that will be going up to Jerusalem to seek the Lord. Many nations will also be engaged in this activity, according to verse 22.
22 [Yea, many/So many/Many/And many] [people/peoples] and [strong/mighty/powerful/many] nations [shall/will] come to seek the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] [in/to] Jerusalem, and to [pray before the LORD/entreat the favor of the Lord/ask his favor/entreat him].
So, just what we heard that the Jews will be doing, so too will the Gentiles do. They will also come to pray before the Lord – to seek his favor and entreat him.
And notice that these nations in the Millennium are strong. This group of nations would certainly include what we would call the world-powers in the Millennium.
Imagine our current president Donald Trump leading a delegation from the United States to humbly and earnestly seek the favor of the Lord in Jerusalem. Imagine Vladimir Putin bringing a group of the most important Russian oligarchs to acknowledge his need and the need of his country for the Lord’s help and favor. Or the leaders of the currently-atheistic Communist China or North Korea or Venezuela. Or currently-Muslim nations coming to seek the favor of Jesus Christ, the Jew.
But there will be no Islam in those days. There will be no atheistic Communism. And there certainly won’t be any American materialism.
But rather the strength of each of these nations will be subdued by a greater strength in those days – that of Yahweh of Hosts – Yahweh who commands the armies of heaven – the Lord Jesus Christ.
Zechariah 8 Bible Study verse 23
And if you’re curious as to how these people will carry themselves while doing going to Jerusalem – are they going to be grudgingly going up to Jerusalem? Are they going to be insincere about it?
Well, the Lord ends his response to the Jews’ question about fasting by giving us the mindset of these nations as they go up to Jerusalem to pray before Jesus Christ in verse 23.
23 [Thus saith the LORD of hosts;/Thus says the LORD of hosts,/The LORD who rules over all says,/This is what the LORD Almighty says:]
In those days [it shall come to pass, that ten/ten] [men/people]
[shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying,/from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying,/from all languages and nations will grasp hold of– indeed, grab– the robe of one Jew and say,/from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say,/of all the languages of the nations should take hold– even take hold of the hem of a Jew, saying,]
[We will/Let us] go with you:
[for/because] we have heard that God is with you.
So, you sense some urgency in the hearts of these numerous Gentiles who will come to worship the Lord in Jerusalem during the Millennium.
There’s the overwhelming number of them. Ten come and mob one Jew. And they’re going to grasp the garment of that Jew, again indicating some breathless urgency about something.
Now, the Jews have been mobbed like this before – they’ve been surrounded and have been grasped by their garments by hostile Gentiles throughout the centuries.
But a time is coming when they will be mobbed and grabbed by Gentiles – not for harm – but because these people want something from them.
These Gentiles will want to “go with” the Jews. Go where? Go up to Jerusalem like we heard about in the previous verse.
And why will these Gentiles want to go with these Jews up to Jerusalem? They will have heard that “God is with” the Jews. They will know that Jesus Christ – God the Son – is ruling in Jerusalem over the whole world – and those Gentiles – all 10 of them for every 1 Jew – will want to seek the Lord Jesus Christ.
You have a small picture of what this will be like in the 12th chapter of the Gospel of John where some Greeks – some non-Jews, some Gentiles – we don’t know how many there were – maybe 10??? – but they come and get Philip and say, “Sir, we [would/wish to/would like to] see Jesus.” Gentiles (these Greeks) had come to a Jew (Philip) and asked to see the Lord (Jesus Christ).
This is what it will be like in the Millennium. These Gentiles – at many times in history hostile to the Jews and to their God – will be clamoring for the Jews to lead them to their God who will be on the throne in the city of Jerusalem ruling over the whole world.
Now, let’s acknowledge something before we end. Did God answer the question of these Jews? They came and asked him if they should keep fasting and mourning concerning the destruction of their Temple. Did God say “yes” or “no?”
He didn’t answer them. Why?
Well, consider that these fasts they had been doing were not direct commands from the Lord. Nowhere did the Lord command them to hold these fasts. But they fasted anyway.
And so just like the Lord never commanded them to fast in the first place, so too he is not going to command them to stop. But what he is offering them is a glimpse into the future where they won’t even think of fasting. There will be no reason to mourn and fast and grieve. If you have a problem or are troubled – just go to Jesus! And we’re not speaking metaphorically of praying to someone you can’t see – though you know he’s there. No – in those days these people can take their problems directly to the Lord who sits on the throne in Jerusalem.
What a glorious day that will be! May the Lord come quickly and bring these things to pass.