Zechariah 5:4
I will send it out, declares the LORD of Hosts, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of him who swears falsely by My name. It will remain inside his house and destroy it, down to its timbers and its stones."
A Curse in the FamilyA. J. Gordon, D. D.Zechariah 5:1-4
A Plague in the HouseF. B. Meyer, B. A.Zechariah 5:1-4
Judgment with ConsolationZechariah 5:1-4
RetributionW. Forsyth Zechariah 5:1-4
The Flying RollN. L. Frothingham.Zechariah 5:1-4
The Flying RollT. V. Moore, D. D.Zechariah 5:1-4
The Flying RollOutlines by London MinisterZechariah 5:1-4
The Flying RollS. Thodey.Zechariah 5:1-4
The Flying Roll -- Divine RetributionHomilistZechariah 5:1-4
The Flying Roll: Divine RetributionD. Thomas Zechariah 5:1-4
The Lord's CurseGeorge Hutcheson.Zechariah 5:1-4

I. PROVOKED. Sin is the transgression of the Law. Here two kinds singled out.

1. Sins against the second table. "Stealeth." Fraud, injustice of all kinds. False to man.

2. Sins against the first table. "Sweareth." Profanity. Self-will. False to God. These are samples of sins infinite in number and variety. Bold and flagrant offences, opposed to all law and order, defiant of God.

II. PROCLAIMED. Symbolically set forth. Sin will be judged, not according to custom or public sentiment, but by the measure of the sanctuary, the eternal Law of God. "Flying roll."

1. Broad enough to cover all offences.

2. Swift to seize all transgressors in its fatal embrace. The warning comes in mercy. "Flee from the wrath to come." See refuge under the shadow of the cross. Justice pursues the sinner, but it stops satisfied at Calvary.

III. INFLICTED. Sooner or later judgment will come. Inevitable and sure, just because God is God. Society must be purified. The bad will have to give place to the good. The earth will end with Eden, as it began.

"My own hope is, a sun will pierce
The thickest cloud earth ever stretched;
That, after last, returns the first,
Though a wide compass round be fetched;
That what began best can't end worst,
Nor what God blessed once prove accurst."

(Browning.) F.

And I turned...and looked, and behold a flying roll
The object of this discourse is to present to you the Scriptures as a phenomenon of the world around us. Consider them as an appearance in the circle of our observation, a fact in the history of our race, and ask, what account is to be given of it? The attention of our age is taken up much and wisely with the study of phenomena. We may interpret the Scriptures in one way or another; we may study or neglect, revere or despise them; we may consider them to be the dictates of observation, or below the level of human intelligence; we may call them a word of delusion, or the Word of God; but in the extremest varieties of opinion no one can escape from this, — that they are a leading phenomenon in the history of civilisation and religious thought, in the aspect of the moral world as it now stands and moves before us. In the text an angel speaks in vision to one of the last of the prophets, and asks, as if in the very spirit of modern research, "What seest thou?" The prophet raises his eyes and sees a winged book, "a flying roll." It is of gigantic dimensions. It is of restless speed. It "goeth forth over the face of the whole earth." It was the roll of the Lord's judgments — a consuming fire. In this respect the Bible corresponds with it only in one of its parts, but in that part perfectly: in its testimony against, unrighteousness, its sentence upon those who love and practise dishonour, its "fiery law." Dealing with the "flying roll" more generally, what are the points that we discover in it?

1. The extraordinary dimensions of the book, "its length twenty cubits, and its breadth ten." What a space does the Bible fill in the gaze of mankind, though it can be carried about in the hand of the feeblest wayfarer! Do we not speak truly of its wonderful dimensions when it holds on its ample pages such a widely scattered wisdom, and is discerned from so far?

2. Its preservation and continuance through so long a sweep of time. This is remarkable even at a first glance. Since faithful Abraham came out from Chaldaea vast tribes and strong nations have risen to renown and passed away into silence. Founders of states have not so much as secured the name of what they founded. Dispensers of religion have left neither a priest for their successor nor a shrine for their monument. Oracles of wisdom have grown forgotten as well as dumb. Genius and learning have gone down into the dust, and there is not a finger track of an inscription upon it for their posterity to read. Whole literatures have disappeared, their tongues having ceased, and their characters become illegible or blotted entirely out. But here is writing, from many hands, and in a long series of instructions, dating as far back as the school lessons of human improvement. It has defied time. It has repelled decay. The linen, or the parchment, or whatever frail material it was confided to, held fast its trust, while brazen trophies were melted down and marble columns were pulverised. The temple of the Lord protected its archives; though its huge stones were unable to hold themselves together, and its sacred vessels served at last but for the ornaments of a heathen triumph.

3. Its spread. It is, indeed, a "flying roll." The Scriptures move rapidly. They are not only preserved, but incredibly multiplied. They were addressed for the most part to one people, and they now speak to all people. They were written in their own peculiar tongues, and now they call all tongues their own. Have they not "gone forth over the face of the whole earth"? They are among the studies of learned men, who find there a wisdom higher than all else they know; while the ignorant and the simple, reading as they run, are made wise to life everlasting.

4. The honour with which they have been received as they have flown along. They are recognised in the public worship of most of the civilised tribes now under heaven. They are enshrined in cathedrals. They are revered, at least with all outward forms of homage, in the courts of the proudest empires. They are sworn upon when the most solemn vows by which we can be bound are to be attested. The patient fingers of holy recluses could for centuries find no better task than to copy them; and countless presses are now perpetually busy, that they may be distributed over the globe. The rarest genius and the profoundest learning are employed upon the illustration of them. It may be objected that we have said nothing of the disrespect and derision with which the Scriptures are regarded by multitudes, and have always been. We may admit this, but press the consideration, that they have withstood even this trial. Familiarity and levity have not subjected them to contempt. Nothing could better show how deeply they are seated in the veneration of mankind.

5. Their influence, their surprising power. There may be a high repute without any true efficiency. But that roll of the Divine covenants has always been of a Divine force. It has acted upon communities, wherever it has been introduced, so as to accomplish the most astonishing consequences. Are you inquiring what overthrew many of the massy oppressions, the enormous abuses, of the elder times? It was its paper edges that smote upon all that dark strength, and before those thin leaves buttress and battlement went down. How much has it done for individual minds.

6. Their immeasurable superiority, as mere traditions, above everything that has been handed down to us from the ancient world. There is in their contents a deep spring of instruction, such as the old generations nowhere furnish, and the coming ones are not likely soon to exhaust. Your own minds will surely leap to the inference: the finger of God was here. You may be perplexed with many passages in your Bible. You may slight some things as unimportant, and repel others as uncongenial. You may think you discern great blemishes and errors here and there. But what of that? It should throw no mistrust over the spontaneous conclusion: the finger of God was here. Yes, the Divine providence ordained and protected this charter of man's truest liberty and highest good. Let us look thoughtfully at it, then, as it flies on its holy errand.

(N. L. Frothingham.)

The import of this vision is threatening, to show that the object of the prophet was to produce genuine repentance. The parts are significant. A roll, probably of parchment, is seen, 30 by 15 feet, the exact dimensions of the temple porch; where the law was usually read, showing that it was authoritative in its utterance, and connected with the theocracy. Being a written thing, it showed that its contents were solemnly determined beyond all escape or repeal. It was flying, to show that its threats were ready to do their work, and descend on every transgressor. It was unrolled, or its dimensions could not have been seen, to show that its warnings were openly proclaimed to all, that none might have an excuse. It was written on both sides, to connect it with the tables of the law, and show its comprehensive character. One side denounced perjury, a sin of the first table, the other stealing, a sin of the second; and both united in every case where a thief took the oath of expurgation to acquit himself of the charge of theft. This hovering curse would descend in every such case into the house of the offender, and consume even its most enduring parts, until it had thoroughly done its work of destruction. The immediate application of this vision was to those who were neglecting the erection of God's house to build their own, and thus robbing God and forswearing their obligations to Him. On such the prophet declares a curse shall descend that will make this selfish withholding of their efforts in vain, for the houses they would build should be consumed by God's wrath. The teaching of this vision is that of the law. It blazes with the fire, and echoes with the thunder of Sinai, and tells us that our God is a consuming fire. We learn thus a lesson of instruction to those who have succeeded the prophets of the Old Testament, as the authorised expounders of God's will under the New. It is needful to tell the love of God, to unfold His precious promises, and to utter words of cheer and encouragement. But it is also needful to declare the other aspect of God's character. There is a constant tendency in the human heart to abuse the goodness of God to an encouragement of sin. Hence ministers of the Gospel must declare this portion of God's counsel as well as the other. They must declare to men who are living in neglect of duty, that withholding what is due to God, either in heart or life, is combined robbery and perjury. For those who thus sin, God has prepared a ministry of vengeance. There is something most vivid and appalling in this image of the hovering curse. It flies viewless and resistless, poising like a falcon over her prey, breathing a ruin the most dire and desolating, and when the blind and hardened offender opens his door to his ill-gotten gains, this mystic roll, with its fire tracery of wrath, enters into his habitation, and, fastening upon his cherished idols, begins its dread work of retribution, and ceases not until the fabric of his guilty life has been totally and irremediably consumed.

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

Outlines by London Minister.
I. THE MAN WHO IS MARKED AS A SPECIAL TRANSGRESSOR IS MARKED ALSO FOR SPECIAL JUDGMENT. The curse went "forth over the face of the whole earth," but it was to cut off the thief and the false swearer. In the Hebrew nation there were many sinners, but there, as everywhere else, there were sinners who had not yet filled up the measure of their iniquity, and there were others who had passed all bounds, whose transgressions were so great as to make them marks upon which the lightnings of God's displeasure must fall.

II. ESCAPE FROM THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNREPENTED SIN IS IMPOSSIBLE. It is not necessary that the sin should reveal itself in action to ensure the entail of the certain penalty. If it never passes the boundary of the inner man there will be a reaction upon the man's spirit as certainly as night follows day, and more so because, though God has suspended the laws of nature, we have no reason to suppose He has ever interposed to prevent the consequences of sin, unless the sinner has come under the power of another law, — the law of forgiveness by confession and repentance. However hidden the transgression, the curse will find out its most secret hiding place.

III. THEFT AND PERJURY INCLUDE ALL OTHER SINS. The son who forges his father's name includes in that one act every other crime that he can commit against him except that of taking his life. He only needs occasion to reveal his readiness for any other act of dishonour toward his parent. The man who deliberately appeals to God to uphold him in his false statements forges the name of the Eternal Himself, and seeks to turn the God of truth into the Father of lies.

IV. THE SPECIAL SINS OF SOME BRING SUFFERING UPON MANY. The curse went forth "over the whole earth," or land. It is a truth proclaimed by God and verified by experience, that many may suffer by the sin of the few to whom they are in no way related. See this principle, and its bright reverse, illustrated by St. Paul in Romans 5:18.

(Outlines by London Minister.)

The threatenings here are directed against the defects and transgressions of the Jewish people at that time. God gives them to understand by this vision that whilst it was His purpose to make His promise good, in the establishment of His Church, He would by no means connive at their sins and corruptions, but would visit them with present punishment, and with future extirpation, if they persisted in their unbelief and rebellion.


1. Theft and sacrilege.

2. Perjury and false swearing.

II. THE PUNISHMENT THREATENED. Partly personal and partly domestic.

1. A personal judgment is denounced. Everyone shall receive his reward and punishment according to his sins, and according to the sentence of the roll.

2. It was to extend to his relative and domestic interests. "It shall enter into the house of the thief." "It shall remain in the midst of his house." "And shall consume it with the timbers thereof, and the stones thereof." This subject may well teach heads of families a lesson of religious caution, lest by an undue anxiety for their own worldly success, or that of their children, they frustrate their most cherished purposes, and entail a curse rather than a blessing. We shall do well to remember that no external evil which may befall a particular class of mankind, in consequence of the faults of their progenitors, renders any individual of that class less acceptable to God, if he turn from his wickedness and repent. But the very curse may become a blessing, if it operate to warn an individual against the sin by which it was brought down upon him. On the other hand, let no children of religious parents suppose that the piety of a long line of ancestors will avail in their behalf, unless they are themselves the possessors of religious principle. And since all are exposed to an infinite danger on account of sin, how deep should be our gratitude to that Divine Redeemer, who bore the curse for us, that we might escape the impending penalty, and inherit the unspeakable blessings of His salvation.

(S. Thodey.)


1. The particular sins which retribution pursues.

(1)Theft and sacrilege.

(2)Perjury and false swearing.The sins here mentioned are not mere specimens, but root or fountain sins. The "flying roll" of Divine retribution followed sin with its curses. There is a curse to every sin, and this is not vengeance, but benevolence. It is the arrangement of love.

2. The way in which just retribution pursues them.(1) Openly. The roll is spread open, and is written in characters that are legible to all Divine retribution is no secret to man. It is not some intangible, hidden, occult thing. It is open to all eyes. Every man must see the "riving roll," not only in the history of nations and communities, but in his own domestic and individual life. The "flying roll" hovers over every sin.(2) Rapidly. Retribution is swift. It is a "flying roll." Retribution follows sins swifter than the sound of the swiftest thunder peal follows the lightning flash.(3) Penetratingly. "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." Wherever the sinner is, it will find him out. No mountain so high, no cavern so deep, no forest so intricate and shadowy as to protect him from His visitation. It serves to illustrate retribution.

II. As ABIDING WITH SIN. "It shall remain in the midst of his house." Not only does it rule the house of the sinner, "it remains in the midst of it" like a leprosy, infecting, wasting, consuming, destroying. It abides in the house to curse everything, even the timber and the stones. Guilt, not only, like a ravenous beast, crouches at the door of the sinner, but rather, like a blasting mildew, spreads its baneful influence over the whole dwelling. The sin of one member of a family brings its curse on the others. The sins of the parents bring a curse upon the children.


The angel shows, in this chapter, that whatever evils the Jews had suffered, proceeded from the righteous judgment of God; and then he adds a consolation — that the Lord would at length alleviate or put an end to their evils, when He had removed afar off their iniquity. Interpreters have touched neither heaven nor earth in their explanation of this prophecy, for they have not regarded the designs of the Holy Spirit. Some think that by the volume are to be understood false and perverted glosses, by which the purity of doctrine had been vitiated; but this view can by no means be received. There is no doubt but that God intended to show to Zechariah that the Jews were justly punished, because the whole land was full of thefts and perjuries. As their religion had been despised, as well as equity and justice, he shows that it was no wonder a curse had prevailed through the whole land, the Jews having by their impiety and sins extremely provoked the wrath of God. This is the import of the first part. And then, as this vision was terrible, there is added some alleviation by representing iniquity in a measure, and the mouth of the measure closed, and afterwards carries to the land of Shinar, that is, into Chaldea, that it might not remain in Judea. Thus, in the former part the prophet's design was to humble the Jews, and to encourage them to repent, so that they might own God to have been justly angry; and then he gives them reason to entertain hope, and fully to expect an end to their evils, for the Lord would remove to a distance, and transfer their iniquity to Chaldea, so that Judea might be pure and free from every wickedness, both from thefts and acts of injustice, by which it had been previously polluted.

( John Calvin.)

This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth
This type is expounded to signify the Lord's curse going forth to do execution in all the land of Judah, and to cut off sinners against the first and second tables of the Law. Doctrine —

1. Whatever be the particular punishment inflicted by God for sin, yet this is seriously to be laid to heart, that every such punishment hath in its bosom a curse, till the sinner, awakened thereby, flee to Christ, who became a curse, that His own may inherit a blessing.

2. The Lord is an impartial avenger of sin, when it is persevered in without repentance; and when other means are ineffectual, He will not spare to cut off the desperate sinner; for the curse goes forth "over the face of the whole earth," or land; and "everyone shall be cut off," without exception, who are guilty.

3. The Lord will not spare but indifferently punish sin, whether against the first or second tables, in avoiding of both which the Lord's people are to testify their sincerity. This is signified by "cutting off everyone that stealeth, and everyone that sweareth."

4. When a people are delivered out of sore troubles, and yet their lusts are not modified, they ordinarily prove covetous, false, and oppressing, as labouring by all means to make up these things that trouble hath stript them of; therefore is there a particular threat against everyone that stealeth, it being a rife sin at their return from captivity, for they went every man to his own house (Haggai 1:9), were cruel oppressors (Nehemiah 5:1-3), yea, and robbed God of tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8).

5. Covetous and false men, in their bargains with men, will make no bones of impiety and perjury, if that may help to gain their point; for with the former is joined "everyone that sweareth," which is expounded, ver. 4, to be "swearing falsely by God's name."

(George Hutcheson.)

It shall remain in the midst of his house
As certain as the ordinances of nature, is the law that ill-gotten gain will bring a curse. The following is a startling illustration of the truth, gathered from the history of a rural town: — "In 1786, a youth, then residing in Maine, owned a jackknife, which he, being of a somewhat trading disposition, sold for a gallon of West India rum. This he retailed, and with the proceeds purchased two gallons, and eventually a barrel, which was followed in due time with a large stock. In a word, he got rich, and became the squire of the district, through the possession and sale of the jackknife, and an indomitable trading industry. He died, leaving property, in real estate and money value, worth eighty thousand dollars. This was divided by testament among four children, three boys and a girl. Luck, which seemed the guardian angel of the father, deserted the children; for every folly and extravagance they could engage in seemed to occupy their exclusive attention and cultivation. The daughter married unfortunately, and her patrimony was soon thrown away by her spendthrift of a husband. The sons were no more fortunate, and two died in dissipation and in poverty. The daughter also died. The last of the family, for many years past, has lived on the kindness of those who knew him in the days of prosperity, as pride would not allow him to go to the poor farm. A few days ago he died, suddenly and unattended, in a barn, where he had laid himself down to take a drunken sleep. On his pockets being examined, all that was found in them was a small piece of string and a jackknife! So the fortune that began with the implement of that kind left its simple duplicate. We leave the moral to be drawn in whatever fashion it may suggest itself to the reader; simply stating that the story is a true one, and all the facts well known to many whom this relation will doubtless reach."

(A. J. Gordon, D. D.)

How terribly those words have been fulfilled in the case of people and families we have known! It has seemed as though there were a plague in the house. The fortune which had been accumulated with such toil has crumbled; the children turned out sources of heartrending grief; the reputation of the father has become irretrievably tarnished. "There is a plague spread in the house; it is a fretting leprosy, it is unclean." No man can stand against that curse. It confronts him everywhere. It touches his most substantial effects, and they pulverise, as furniture eaten through by white ants.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

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