19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”
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My understanding is that these fasts were not occasions that God had commanded, but that had been instituted by the Jews themselves as a sign of sorrow over specific adverse events that had occurred in the past. The fast of the fourth month commemorated the breaking by Moses of the original stone tablets on which God had written the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32:19), as well as the first breach that was made in the walls of Jersualem at the time that Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon (2 Kings 25:4). The fast of the fifth month commemorated the refusal of Israel to enter into the Promised Land after the exodus from Egypt, based on the adverse report that ten of the twelve spies (all except Joshua and Caleb) who had been sent to scout out the land brought back to the people, which caused God to punish the people by requiring them to wander forty years in the wilderness (one year for each day that the spies had been gone on their mission, until all the men of military age at that time would have died), before Israel would be allowed to enter the land (Numbers 13-14). It also commemorated the burning of Solomon's temple when Judah was taken into full captivity in Babylon (2 Kings 25:9; Jeremiah 39:8). The fast of the seventh month commemorated the slaying (as recounted in Jeremiah 41) of Gedaliah, whom Nebuchadnezzar had appointed as governor to oversee the inhabitants of Judah who had not been taken as captives to Babylon. The fast of the tenth month commemorated the learning by the prophet Ezekiel and the inhabitants of Judah who were already in captivity with him of the destruction of the temple (Ezekiel 24:20-27). Despite these tragedies, God (speaking through the prophet Zechariah) indicated His future intent (as noted in the verse cited in the question) to nevertheless turn these occasions into a time of joy and happiness after Judah's captivity had ended, and Judah had returned to its land.
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