Zechariah 5
Pulpit Commentary
Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
Verses 1-4. - § 8. The sixth vision: the flying roll. Verse 1. - Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes; i.e. I lifted up mine eyes again, and saw the vision that follows. The prophet had seen, in the fourth vision, how in the new theocracy the priesthood should be pure and holy; in the fifth how the Church should be restored; he is now shown that sinners should be cut off, that no transgression should be left in the kingdom of God. A flying roll; volumen volans (Vulgate): comp. Ezekiel 2:9, 10. The Hebrews used parchment and leather scrolls for writing; the writing was divided into columns, and when completed the document was rolled round one or two sticks and kept in a case. In the present vision the scroll is unrolled and exhibited in its full length and breadth, showing that it was to be made known to all. Its flight denotes the speedy arrival of the judgment, and, as it is seen in the heaven, so the punishment proceeds from God. Theodotion and Aquila render the word, διφθέρα, "leather;" the Septuagint, by mistake, δρέπανον, "a sickle."
And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits.
Verse 2. - He said. The angel-interpreter spoke (Zechariah 4:2). The length thereof, etc. Taking the cubit at a foot and a half, the size of the roll is enormous, and may well have aroused the prophet's wonder. The dimensions given correspond to those of the porch of Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:3), twenty cubits long by ten broad. These are also the dimensions of the holy place in the tabernacle, and of Solomon's brazen altar (2 Chronicles 4:1). The careful statement of the size of the roll indicates that some special meaning is attached to these measurements. We do not know that any symbolical signification was recognized in the porch of the temple; but these dimensions may well contain a reference to the sanctuary and the altar, as Knabenbauer explains, "The curse is of the same measure as that altar which was the instrument of expiation and reconciliation, and as that sanctuary which was the entrance to the holy of holies." Others consider that the curse is pronounced according to the measure of the sanctuary, i.e. according to the Divine Law; or that all might thus know that it came from God, and that the possession of the temple did not secure the people from vengeance unless they were pure and obedient.
Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.
Verse 3. - This is the curse. The roll contained the curse written upon it on both sides. (For the curse of fled upon guilty nations, comp. Isaiah 24:6; Daniel 9:11.) Earth; land; for Judaea is meant. The curse was ready to fall on all who might come under it by their transgressions. This would be a warning also to exterior nations. Every one that stealeth...every one that sweareth. Thieves and perjurers are especially mentioned as incurring the curse. Perjury is a chief offence in one table of the Law, theft in the other; so these sins may stand for all offences against the Decalogue (comp. James 2:10, etc.). But probably they are named because they were particularly rife among the returned Jews. Daring their long sojourn in Babylon they had engaged in commercial pursuits and had fallen into the lax morality which such occupations often engender. These bad habits they had brought with them and practised in their new home (comp. ch. 8:17, and note there). Shall be out off as on this side according to it; Revised Version, shall be purged out on the one side (margin, from hence) according to it; Ewald, "driven hence like it." The reference is to the two sides of the roll, answering to the two tables of the Decalogue. Sinners shall be i.e. utterly consumed, cleansed away, i.e. according to the tenor of the roll. The Vulgate has judicabitur; the LXX., ἕως θανάτου ἐκδικηθήσεται "shall be punished unto death." That sweareth; i.e. falsely, as is plain from ver. 4; Septuagint, πᾶς ὁ ἐπίορκος, "every perjurer."
I will bring it forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.
Verse 4. - I will bring it forth. God will not keep the curse confined and inoperative (Deuteronomy 32:34, etc.), but it shall enter into the house of the thief. The curse shall not fall lightly and pass quickly by, but shall fix its abode with the sinner till it has worked out its fell purpose. It shall remain; it shall pass the night - take up its lodging; LXX., καταλύσει. With the timber thereof, etc. A hyperbolical expression of the terrible effects of Divine vengeance, which consumes utterly like a devouring fire - an adumbration of the destruction at the day of judgment (comp. Deuteronomy 4:24; Malachi 3:2; Matthew 3:12).
Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth.
Verses 5-11 - § 9. The seventh vision: the woman in the ephah. Verse 5. - Went forth. While the prophet meditated on the last vision, the interpreting angel retired into the background or among the company of angels; he now comes into view again to explain a new revelation closely connected with the former. That goeth forth. That comes into sight from the surrounding darkness. As the preceding vision denoted that sinners should be extirpated, so the present vision shows how iniquity itself, the very principle of evil, should be removed from the Holy Land.
And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.
Verse 6. - What is it? The prophet did not clearly discern the object, or his question may mean, "What does it signify?" An ephah; the ephah, as "the curse" (ver. 3). The ephah was the largest of the dry measures in use among the Jews, and was equal to six or seven gallons. It was, of course, too small to contain a woman. The LXX. calls it simply "the measure;" the Vulgate, amphora; and it must be considered as an imaginary vessel of huge size. It may have a tacit reference to dishonest dealings (comp. Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10). This is their resemblance; literally, this is their eye. The Authorized Version explains the meaning accurately. "Eye" is often used for that which is seen, as in Leviticus 13:55, where the Authorized Version has "colour;" and Numbers 11:7, where in reference to the manna we read, "The eve thereof was as the eye of bdellium" (comp. Ezekiel 1:4, 16). So here the meaning is: This ephah and this whole vision represent the wicked in the land. Some take "the eye" to mean the object of sight, that to which they look. But the ephah was not sot forth for all the people to examine. The LXX. and Syriac, from some variation in the reading, have ἀδικία, "iniquity," and some critics have desired to adopt this in the text. But authority and necessity are equally wanting.
And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.
Verse 7. - There was lifted up a talent of lead. As the prophet gazed, the leaden cover of the ephah was raised, so that the contents became visible. The word rendered "talent" (kikkar) denotes a circle. It is used in Genesis 13:10, 12, for the tract of country of which the Jordan was the centre, and in 1 Samuel 2:36 for a round loaf. Here it means a disc or circular plate which formed the cover of the round shaped ephah. In the next verse it is called, "the weight of lead." And this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah; and there was a woman sitting, etc. When the leaden lid was raised one woman (mulier una, γυνὴ μία) was seen in the measure. She is called "one," as uniting and concentrating in her person all sinners and all sins.
And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.
Verse 8. - This is wickedness. This woman is the personification of wickedness. It is very common to find backsliding Israel represented as a faithless and adulterous woman (comp. Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Hosea 2:5; and the parable of the two women in Ezekiel 23.). He cast it; her - the woman. As the woman rose, or tried to rise, from the ephah, the angel flung her down into it. It is possible, as some commentators suppose, that the ephah into which wickedness is thrust represents the measure of iniquity which, being reached, constrains God to punish (see Genesis 15:16, where the dispossession of the Amorites is postponed till their iniquity is full). The weight of lead; literally, as the LXX., the stone of lead; Vulgate, massam plumbeam. This is the cover of the ephah, that which is called the "talent of lead" in the preceding verse. This heavy cover the angel cast upon the mouth of the ephah, in order to confine the woman therein (comp. Genesis 29:2, which passage may explain why the cover is called "a stone"). Dr. Wright and some other commentators, referring the passage to theft and perjury alone, consider that the woman held in her hand the leaden weight with which she weighed her gains, and was sitting in the ephah which she used in her traffic; so that she represents dishonesty in the matter of weight and measure. She is punished by the means of the instruments she had used unrighteously; the weight is dashed upon her lying mouth, and the ephah, her throne, is made the vehicle that carries her out of the land. But it seems a mistake to confine the iniquity mentioned to the two special sins of theft and perjury; nor would the talent and the ephah be natural instruments of stealing and false swearing; and the point of the vision is not the punishment of wickedness, but its expulsion from the land. It is true that the pronominal suffix in the mouth thereof is feminine, and that the LXX. makes it refer to the woman, τὸ στόμα αὐτῆς. But it may equally refer to ephah, which is also feminine.
Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven.
Verse 9. - Then lifted I up mine eyes. This is the conclusion of the vision. And looked; and saw. There came out (forth) two women. These two women who now come in sight have been supposed to represent the Assyrians and Babylonians, who wore the agents in the deportation of Israel; or else are considered abettors of the woman in the ephah, who for a time save her from destruction. This latter supposition proceeds on the erroneous idea that wickedness is herein rescued from punishment, whereas the notion that underlies the whole vision is that the Holy Land is purged of wickedness. That the two nations hostile to Israel are represented is an untenable suggestion; for why should they carry off iniquity from Jerusalem and fix it in their own land? Probably by the two women carrying away the evil woman is signified (if the details are capable of explanation) that iniquity brings with it its own destruction and works out its own removal. The wind was in their wings. They were borne along so quickly that they seemed to be carried by the wind; or the wind helped their flight. A stork; Septuagint, ἔποπος, "the hoopoe;" Vulgate, milvi. The Authorized Version is certainly correct. The stork is common enough in Palestine, and is reckoned among unclean birds in the Pentateuch (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18), for which cause some have thought it is here introduced as bearing the sin laden ephah. But its introduction more probably has reference to its migratory habits, the power and rapidity of its flight, and, as some think, to its skill in constructing its nest.
Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?
And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.
Verse 11. - To build it (her) an house. The LXX. refers the pronoun to the ephah, but it seems more natural to refer it to a person, the woman. The feminine gender of the original would apply to either. She is carried away from Judaea to have a permanent dwelling in a land more suited to her. Pusey thinks that possibly a temple may be intended, "a great idol temple, in which the god of this world should be worshipped." In the land of Shinar; i.e. the ideal land of unholiness, where the world power first arrayed itself against God in the attempt at Babel. Septuagint, ἐν γῇ Βαβυλῶνος, (Genesis 11:2, etc.). Shinar, equivalent to Sumer in the Assyrian monuments, denotes Lower or Southern Babylon; Accad, Upper or Northern Babylon. And it shall be established. The house shall be firmly fixed there. Others render, "when it is ready." And set there. The gender shows that the woman is meant, not the house: "And she shall be set there in her own place." Thus from the spiritual Zion all wickedness shall be abolished (Zechariah 3:9) and sent to its own place prepared for the enemies of God and holiness. Doubtless, too, a warning is here conveyed to those Jews who still lingered in Babylon, that they were dwelling in a land accursed of God, and were liable to be involved in the fate which pursues ungodliness. Orelli and some others see in these two visions an analogy to the two goats on the Day of Atonement, of which one was sacrificed for the sins of the people, and the other bore away their iniquity to the demons' abode, the wilderness (Leviticus 16.).

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