Hebrew Name:
Shiva Asar B'Tammuz-Tish'a B'Av

English Name:
lit. 17th of Tammuz-9th of Av; Fast of Three Weeks

Associated Scriptures:
Zechariah 8:19

First Covenant Application:
commemorating the 'Five Tragedies' of the 17th Tammuz and the 'Five Tragedies' of the 9th of Av; disasters and hardships of Israel over the centuries have typically happened on one of these two dates

New Covenant Application:
recognition of the turmoil and persecution that we are experiencing until Jesus returns

Ultimate Fulfillment:
current age of history

Fast of Three Weeks

not Levitical
mentioned briefly in Tanakh ('Old' Testament)
timing with relation to Levitical Feasts is prophetic

Suffering.  No rational person enjoys it; if anyone does, it is said there is something psychologically wrong with them.  Yet, as part of the fallen world in which we live, the endurance of suffering often causes us to become stronger; in some cases, it is the very agent which enables us to survive.  Jesus told us that suffering would be part of our normal experience:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” --John 16:33

Could it be that God permits or even ordains things in our lives which cause us pain?  There is a neo-Christian philosophy, often called the 'prosperity gospel' which teaches that God desires our happiness to the exclusion of any possibility of pain, hardship, poverty, sickness, or even death; all we have to do is use the 'force of faith' to make this utopia become our experience.  While this is partially true concerning God's ultimate desire for us, all one has to do is look at the Book of Job to see that reality affirms a completely different set of circumstances.

The problem is that we live in an 'already-not-yet' kingdom. What do I mean by this? In the Hebrew calendar of annual Levitical Feasts, God laid out the sequence of His plan for redemption, reconciliation, and restoration of His kingdom. When Jesus was bodily, physically on the earth, He fulfilled all the springtime Feasts: Passover, Unleavened Bread, Firstfruits, and Shavuot.1 But there are three annual Levitical Feasts yet to fulfill, and we will not see complete justice for all wrongs, the consummate vanquishment of evil, total healing of all wounds, and absolute peace until Jesus returns to accomplish these. Jesus could not finish everything at once without destroying every last person on earth; He had to take the punishment for sin upon Himself in order for us to live. Then, He had to allow humanity time to accept this work; so for now, we are living in an age between the initial re-establishment of the kingdom of God and its ultimate consummation--between the influence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (from the Garden of Eden) and eating from the tree of life (in the New Jerusalem). We are living between the trees.

This brings us to the Fast of Three Weeks.  It is a recognition of our current state.  It is necessarily uncomfortable, like the heat of summer:  full of hardship, persecution, and turmoil; nonetheless, it is also a time of growth, transformation, the production of fruit.  We know that our labor is not in vain; in time, we will enjoy all the benefits of our toil.  Sometimes, there are setbacks; we have the weeds of our own self-worship nature with which to contend, and there is no shortage of enemies willing to destroy our crops for simple hatred of our God.  It has been seen time and time again with the people of God over the centuries.

A both curious and ominous phenomenon is related to the Fast of Three Weeks:  the vast majority of national tragedies have occurred either on the 17th of Tammuz (June-July) or the 9th of Av (July-August).  Five tragedies for each specifically have been commemorated by rabbinical Jews in this fast as shown below:

Tragedies of Shiva Asar (17th) B'Tammuz Tragedies of Tisha (9th) B'Av
The idolatry of the golden calf causing Moses to break the Ten Commandment tablets The denial of the original generation of exiles entrance into the Promised Land
an idol was erected in the Temple by King Manasseh The destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians
The walls of the Second Temple were breached The destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans
A Roman military leader burned the Torah The crushing of the Bar Kochba revolt
The daily tamid offering ceased The plowing under of the Temple Grounds
Pope Gregory IX ordered the confiscation of all manuscripts of the Talmud The First Crusade began
In 1391, more than 4,000 Spanish Jews were killed in Toledo and Jaen, Spain The expulsion of Jews from England
the Jewish Quarter of Prague was burned and looted The expulsion of Jews from France
the entire population of the Kovno ghetto was sent to the death camps The expulsion of Jews from Spain
Libya ordered the confiscation of all Jewish property in 1970 Germany entered World War I

Heinrich Himmler received approval for the 'Final Solution' (Holocaust)

The events between the bold lines are the ones officially warranting the fast. The events under the bold lines are other events which have occured on these days.

The fast is not Levitical or commanded in Scripture; however, it is something the Jewish people have been doing from Biblical times.  It certainly is prophetic in terms of its significance and its relation to the Levitical Feasts on the Hebrew Calendar, and thus it is worth mentioning here.  If we choose to celebrate the Fast of Three Weeks, let us remember not only our sorrows, but look forward to what God is accomplishing; we know that in the Tanakh, looking forward to the time of the New Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah proclaims:

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.”

There will come a day when the harvest will be gathered, the work will be done, and we will enjoy all eternity in the presence of God with no more tragedies.  Every tear will be wiped away!