A portion of Israel’s history is dealt with chapters 7 and 8.
Zechariah 7:1 And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the L-RD came to Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Kislev;
About 2 years have passed since the beginning of chapter 1 when Zechariah received his first vision.
It would be another 2 years before the temple was completed.
The month of Kislev roughly coincides with the month of December.
Zechariah 7:2 When they had sent to the house of G-d Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their men, to pray before the L-RD,
“the house of G-d” - Beth’el in the Hebrew. These men were not “sent to the house of G-d”. This verse would be better translated. “They came from the city of Bethel”. The “house of the L-rd” is used over 230 times in the Tanakh to refer to the Temple. Every time Bethel is used it refers to the city of Bethel and not the temple.
These men came to the temple from Bethel to pray at the temple and speak to the priests.
Sherezer and Regem-melech are Babylonian names.
Zechariah 7:3 And to speak to the priests which were in the house of the L-RD of hosts (Adonai-Tzva’ot), and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
Yom Kippur - The Day of Atonement was the only fast required by G-d’s law. (Lev 23:27) There were occasional fasts called for by G-d. (ie. Joel 1:14)
The people remember the destruction of the temple in several additional fasts. The one they considered the most serious was in the 5th month, Av, which roughly coincides with the month of August. This fast occurs on the 9th of Av. Both the 1st and 2nd temples were destroyed on this date. :~(
Apparently the people had grown tired of keeping this fast. This seems to be implied by the words “so many years”.
G-d responds with a 3-fold answer.
Answer 1) Vs. 4-7 - When the heart is right, the ritual is right. They were bored with the ritual and G-d was bored with them too.
Zechariah 7:4 Then came the word of the L-RD of hosts to me, saying,
G-d speaks to them through Zechariah.
Zechariah 7:5 Speak to all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did you at all fast to me, even to me?
G-d wants them to search their hearts and honestly tell Him that they were fasting for Him.
Zechariah points out that they were doing this not for G-d but out of self-pity. (Isa. 1:10-15; 58:3-9)
Zechariah 7:6 And when you did eat, and when you did drink, did not you eat for yourselves, and drink for yourselves?
He goes on to tell them that they were not feasting for Him during the feasts but for themselves.
Zechariah 7:7 Are not these the words which the L-RD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous with its cities around it, and the Negev and the foothills (Sh’felah) were inhabited?
Obedience to G-d’s word it what is important, not the ritual. Israel will be prosperous when she is obedient to G-d.