The Woman in the Ephah
Zechariah 5:5-11
Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said to me, Lift up now your eyes, and see what is this that goes forth.…

This vision, like the preceding, is of a warning character, and somewhat more obscure in its symbolical apparatus. A dim outline rises to the eye of the prophet, to which the angel calls his attention, but which he cannot at first distinctly make out. The angel tells him that it is an ephah, a very common dry measure, containing about three pecks. He then sees a mass of lead, containing about a hundredweight, lifted up above the measure, and on looking more closely he sees a woman in the measure. This woman is then violently thrust down into the measure, and the mass of lead laid upon its mouth, after which two winged women carry it away into the land of Shinar, where it was to be permanently deposited in a house prepared for it there. The general meaning of this is to show that when the measure of the people's wickedness became full, then their punishment should come, and they should again be carried into the land of their enemies in exile, not for seventy years, but for a long time. As the flying roll symbolised the certainty and completeness of their punishment, so this vision indicated its swiftness and mode. The ephah is selected simply as a common dry measure, to symbolise the thought that there is a certain measure of sin beyond which the people cannot go with impunity. The woman sitting in it represents the Jewish people, by a common figure. The phrase, "this is their appearance (Heb. eye) in all the land" (ver. 6), simply means, this represents that to which the people are looking, or tending, namely, to fill up the measure of their sin, and when they have done that, God will lay upon them their punishment. When the prophet perceives the woman in the measure, he is told that this is (represents) wickedness, even that of the Jewish people. Henderson thinks that the wickedness here represented was idolatry, and that the vision predicted the removal of idolatry from Palestine to Babylon. But there is no reason at all to limit it thus, but rather the contrary. Idolatry had not been a sin of the Jews for a century, and would hardly be represented as an existing thing, as this vision does. It did not exist in the land, and so could not be removed out of it. Moreover, it was not removed to Babylon, in any sense, literally or figuratively, and did not remain there as the vision declares (ver. 11), for the Mohammedan occupants of that region were not idolaters. Hence the explanation that refers it to the entire wickedness of the Jewish people of all kinds, is more consistent with the preceding vision, and gives a better sense. The mass of lead symbolises the heavy judgments that God was holding over them, and which at the fulness of time He would allow to fall. Accordingly, the wicked woman is thrust down into the small measure, crushed and doubled together, and the heavy weight laid upon her to keep her thus prostrate. Then there appear two winged messengers, with outstretched pinions, as if the wind was raising them up, and their wings were strong for flight like those of the stork. There were two, because it required two persons to lift such a measure. They symbolised the messengers of God's wrath that should desolate Judea, and banish the people. They were to carry it into Shinar, which is here the symbol for an enemy's country, and not the exact country to which they were to be exiled. There it was to be put in a house, shut up, and this house to be built strongly and securely for a permanent habitation, to show that this exile would not be, like the first, a brief sojourn, but a long, weary, and enduring banishment from the land of their fathers; when their resting should not be on God, or on the rock Christ Jesus, but "on their own base"; they should be left to themselves, weighed down like lead with judicial blindness, stupidity, darkness, and hardness of heart. The vision predicted what happened four hundred years afterwards, when the measure of their iniquity being full by the rejection and murder of the Messiah, their hearts being gross, and their care heavy, the hour of vengeance came. Then appeared the Roman eagles, and after the most desperate struggle, the Jewish nation was crushed, and scattered to the four winds, wandering in enemies' countries, not resting on the promise of God, but weighed down with leaden obstinacy, and resting on their own works and righteousness. Learn —

1. Every individual, and every nation, has a measure of sin; and until that measure is filled up, God's longsuffering will wait for repentance and reformation.

2. There hangs above every sinner a crushing weight of wrath, poised and ready to descend with overwhelming destruction.

3. If the measure is filled up, the weight shall fall, and crush the sinner with its ponderous mass of punishment.

4. The finally impenitent shall be driven from God into loomy exile, and left to himself, "to rest on his own base," to be subject to the thrall of his own lawless lusts that he has so long pampered into strength, and to reap as he has sowed, through a long and limitless banishment.

(T. V. Moore, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: 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.

WEB: Then the angel who talked with me came forward, and said to me, "Lift up now your eyes, and see what is this that is appearing."

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