The vision of a flying roll. (1-4) The vision of a woman and an ephah. (5-11)
Verses 1-4 The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are rolls, in which God has written the great things of his law and gospel; they are flying rolls. God's word runs very swiftly, Ps. 147:15 . This flying roll contains a declaration of the righteous wrath of God against sinners. Oh that we saw with an eye of faith the flying roll of God's curse hanging over the guilty world as a thick cloud, not only keeping off the sunbeams of God's favour, but big with thunders, lightnings, and storms, ready to destroy them! How welcome then would the tidings of a Saviour be, who came to redeem us from the curse of the law, being himself made a curse for us! Sin is the ruin of houses and families; especially the doing hurt to others and false witness. Who knows the power of God's anger? God's curse cannot be kept out by bars or locks. While one part of the curse of God ruins the substance of the sinner, another part will rest on the soul, and sink it to everlasting punishment. All are transgressors of the law, so we cannot escape this wrath of God, except we flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel.
Verses 5-11 In this vision the prophet sees an ephah, something in the shape of a corn measure. This betokened the Jewish nation. They are filling the measure of their iniquity; and when it is full, they shall be delivered into the hands of those to whom God sold them for their sins. The woman sitting in the midst of the ephah represents the sinful church and nation of the Jews, in their latter and corrupt age. Guilt is upon the sinner as a weight of lead, to sink him to the lowest hell. This seems to mean the condemnation of the Jews, after they filled the measure of their iniquities by crucifying Christ and rejecting his gospel. Zechariah sees the ephah, with the woman thus pressed in it, carried away to some far country. This intimates that the Jews should be hurried out of their own land, and forced to dwell in far countries, as they had been in Babylon. There the ephah shall be firmly placed, and their sufferings shall continue far longer than in their late captivity. Blindness is happened unto Israel, and they are settled upon their own unbelief. Let sinners fear to treasure up wrath against the day of wrath; for the more they multiply crimes, the faster the measure fills.
Zechariah 5:1-4 . SIXTH VISION. THE FLYING ROLL. The fraudulent and perjuring transgressors of the law shall be extirpated from Judea.
1. flying roll--of papyrus, or dressed skins, used for writing on when paper was not known. It was inscribed with the words of the curse ( Deuteronomy 27:15-26 , 28:15-68 ). Being written implied that its contents were beyond all escape or repeal ( Ezekiel 2:9 ). Its "flying" shows that its curses were ready swiftly to visit the transgressors. It was unrolled, or else its dimensions could not have been seen ( Zechariah 5:2 ). Being open to all, none could say in excuse he knew not the law and the curses of disobedience. As the previous visions intimated God's favor in restoring the Jewish state, so this vision announces judgment, intimating that God, notwithstanding His favor, did not approve of their sins. Being written on both sides, "on this and on that side" ( Zechariah 5:3 ), VATABLUS connects it with the two tables of the law ( Exodus 32:15 ), and implies its comprehensiveness. One side denounced "him that sweareth falsely ( Zechariah 5:4 ) by God's name," according to the third commandment of the first table, duty to God; the other side denounced theft, according to the eighth commandment, which is in the second table, duty to one's neighbor.
2. length . . . twenty cubits . . . breadth . . . ten cubits--thirty feet by fifteen, the dimensions of the temple porch ( 1 Kings 6:3 ), where the law was usually read, showing that it was divinely authoritative in the theocracy. Its large size implies the great number of the curses contained. The Hebrew for "roll" or "volume" is used of the law ( Psalms 40:7 ).
3. curse . . . earth--( Malachi 4:6 ). The Gentiles are amenable to the curse of the law, as they have its substance, so far as they have not seared and corrupted conscience, written on their hearts ( Romans 2:15 ).
cut off--literally, "cleared away."
as on this side . . . as on that side--both sides of the roll [VATABLUS]. From this place . . . from this place (repeated twice, as "the house" is repeated in Zechariah 5:4 ) [MAURER]; so "hence" is used, Genesis 37:17 (or, "on this and on that side," that is, on every side) [HENDERSON]. None can escape, sin where he may: for God from one side to the other shall call all without exception to judgment [CALVIN]. God will not spare even "this place," Jerusalem, when it sins [PEMBELLUS]. English Version seems to take VATABLUS' view.
according to it--according as it is written.
4. The "theft" immediately meant is similar sacrilege to that complained of in Nehemiah 13:10 , Malachi 3:8 . They robbed God by neglecting to give Him His due in building His house, while they built their own houses, forswearing their obligations to Him; therefore, the "houses" they build shall be "consumed" with God's "curse." Probably literal theft and perjury accompanied their virtual theft and perjury as to the temple of God ( Malachi 3:5 ). Stealing and perjury go together; for the covetous and fraudulent perjure themselves by God's name without scruple (see Proverbs 30:9 ).
enter . . . the house--In vain they guard and shut themselves up who incur the curse; it will inevitably enter even when they think themselves most secure.
consume . . . timber . . . stones--not leaving a vestige of it. So the "stones" and "timber" of the house of a leper (type of the sinner) were to be utterly removed ( Leviticus 14:15 ; compare 1 Kings 18:38 ).
Zechariah 5:5-11 . SEVENTH VISION. THE WOMAN IN THE EPHAH. Wickedness and idolatry removed from the Holy Land to Babylon, there to mingle with their kindred elements.
The "ephah" is the Hebrew dry measure containing about thirty-seven quarts. Alluding to the previous vision as to theft and perjury: the ephah which, by falsification of the measure, they made the instrument of defrauding, shall be made the instrument of their punishment [GROTIUS]. Compare "this is their resemblance" ( Zechariah 5:6 ), that is, this is a representation of what the Jews have done, and what they shall suffer. Their total dispersion ("the land of Shinar" being the emblem of the various Gentile lands of their present dispersion) is herein fortetold, when the measure (to which the ephah alludes) of their sins should be full. The former vision denounces judgment on individuals; this one, on the whole state: but enigmatically, not to discourage their present building [PEMBELLUS]. Rather, the vision is consolatory after the preceding one [CALVIN]. Idolatry and its kindred sins, covetousness and fraud (denounced in the vision of the roll), shall be removed far out of the Holy Land to their own congenial soil, never to return (so Zechariah 3:9 , Isaiah 27:9 , 52:1 , 60:21 , Jeremiah 50:20 , Zephaniah 3:13 ). For more than two thousand years, ever since the Babylonian exile, the Jews have been free from idolatry; but the full accomplishment of the prophecy is yet future, when all sin shall be purged from Israel on their return to Palestine, and conversion to Christ.
5. went forth--The interpreting angel had withdrawn after the vision of the roll to receive a fresh revelation from the Divine Angel to communicate to the prophet.
6. This is their resemblance--literally, "eye" (compare Ezekiel 1:4 Ezekiel 1:5 Ezekiel 1:16 ). HENGSTENBERG translates, "Their (the people's) eye" was all directed to evil. But English Version is better. "This is the appearance (that is, an image) of the Jews in all the land" (not as English Version, "in all the earth"), that is, of the wicked Jews.
This--Here used of what was within the ephah, not the ephah itself.
7. lifted up--The cover is lifted off the ephah to let the prophet see the female personification of "wickedness" within, about to be removed from Judea. The cover being "of lead," implies that the "woman" cannot escape from the ponderous load which presses her down.
talent--literally, "a round piece": hence a talent, a weight of one hundred twenty-five pounds troy.
woman--for comparison of "wickedness" to a woman, Proverbs 2:16 , Proverbs 5:3 Proverbs 5:4 . In personifying abstract terms, the feminine is used, as the idea of giving birth to life is associated with woman.
8. wickedness--literally, "the wickedness": implying wickedness in its peculiar development. Compare "the man of sin," 2 Thessalonians 2:3 .
cast it--that is, her, Wickedness, who had moved more freely while the heavy lid was partially lifted off.
weight--literally, "stone," that is, round mass.
9. The agents to carry away the "woman," are, consistently with the image, "women." God makes the wicked themselves the agents of punishing and removing wickedness. "Two" are employed, as one is not enough to carry such a load [MAURER]. Or, the Assyrians and Babylonians, who carried away idolatry in the persons, respectively, of Israel and Judah [HENDERSON]. As two "anointed ones" ( Zechariah 4:14 ) stand by the Lord as His ministers, so two winged women execute His purpose here in removing the embodiment of "wickedness": answering to the "mystery of iniquity" (the Septuagint here in Zechariah uses the same words as Paul and "the man of sin," whom the Lord shall destroy with the spirit of His mouth and the brightness of His coming, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 2 Thessalonians 2:7 2 Thessalonians 2:8 ). Their "wings" express velocity. The "stork" has long and wide wings, for which reason it is specified; also it is a migratory bird. The "wind" helps the rapid motion of the wings. The being "lifted up between heaven and earth" implies open execution of the judgment before the eyes of all. As the "woman" here is removed to Babylon as her own dwelling, so the woman in the Apocalypse of St. John is Babylon ( Revelation 17:3-5 ).
11. To build . . . house in . . . Shinar--Babylonia ( Genesis 10:10 ), the capital of the God-opposed world kingdoms, and so representing in general the seat of irreligion. As the "building of houses" in Babylon ( Jeremiah 29:5 Jeremiah 29:28 ) by the Jews themselves expressed their long exile there, so the building of an house for "wickedness" there implies its permanent stay.
set . . . upon her own base--fixed there as in its proper place. "Wickedness" being cast out of Judah, shall for ever dwell with the antichristian apostates (of whom Babylon is the type), who shall reap the fruit of it, which they deserve.