וַיְהִי בִּשְׁנַת אַרְבַּע לְדָרְיָוֶשׁ הַמֶּלֶךְ הָיָה דְבַר־יְהוָה אֶל־זְכַרְיָה בְּאַרְבָּעָה לַחֹדֶשׁ הַתְּשִׁעִי בְּכִסְלֵו׃ 7:1
Zech. 7:1 And it was the fourth year for Darius, the king; the word of the Lord occurred to Zechariah in the ninth month's fourth, in Chislev,
וַיִּשְׁלַח בֵּית־אֵל שַׂר־אֶצֶר וְרֶגֶם מֶלֶךְ וַאֲנָשָׁיו לְחַלּוֹת אֶת־פְּנֵי יְהוָה׃ 7:2
Zech. 7:2 that Bethel-sarezer sent, with Regem-melech and his men, to entreat the presence of the Lord,
לֵאמֹר אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים אֲשֶׁר לְבֵית־יְהוָה צְבָאוֹת וְאֶל־הַנְּבִיאִים לֵאמֹר הַאֶבְכֶּה בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַחֲמִשִׁי הִנָּזֵר 7:3 כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתִי זֶה כַּמֶּה שָׁנִים׃
Zech. 7:3 to speak to the priests who belonged to the house of the Lord of hosts and to the prophets saying, “Should I weep in the fifth month, dedicating myself, as I have done this how many years?”
Some observations about these beginning three verses:
First, from v. 7:1 we learn that this is now into the second year of Zechariah’s prophetic period, in fact, eighteen months after he began (see Zech 1:1).
Second, neither of the men mentioned in v. 7:2 has been encountered before (or after) this verse. They are unknown except to Zechariah and his contemporaries, and it has been assumed by bible scholars that they were still in captivity in Babylon. Incidentally, the first name that I translate as Bethel-sarezer, others translate its first part as to the house of God, and the second part as the name Sharezer (which is incorrect, since the first letter is a sin, not a shin). Their translation of the first part of the verse is something like “And they sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to the house of God ....” To arrive at this translation, words for they, their, and to had to be added to the Hebrew. The word I translate as sent is singular, not plural, the proper translation of the pronoun suffix to the word for men is his, not their, and the word for to is not present in the Hebrew. I could entertain the possibility that the translation could conceivably be “that Sarezer sent Regem-melech and his men to the house of God to entreat the presence of the Lord.” All that translation needs is the insertion of the preposition to, which addition is not all that unusual. Nevertheless, I prefer my translation as it needs no adjustments to the Hebrew.
Third, according to the question asked in v. 7:3, the people apparently wept and fasted in the fifth month (the month of Av, the month in which the Temple was destroyed). So the Tishe b’Av fast seems to have been instituted immediately at or soon after that time. Finally, the question helps us to conjecture that as the Temple appeared to now be on the way to being rebuilt, the exiles in Babylon wanted to know if they still needed to continue fasting -- a reasonable question.