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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Zechariah 5

Verses 1-4

Vision of the Flying Scroll (5:1-4)

The final group of visions begins with the sight of a flying scroll — a huge scroll, approximately 30 feet long and 15 feet wide according to the prophet’s figures. This vision and the one which follows it concern the purifying of the land and follow logically upon the divine establishment of the religious and the civil government accomplished in the preceding two visions.

The meaning of the flying scroll is made known to the prophet without formalities: it is "the curse that goes out over the face of the whole land." Thieves and those who swear falsely by the name of the Lord are particularly singled out as objects of the curse, which will "roost" in their houses and consume them completely. Like a huge bird of prey sent from heaven, the curse from God will destroy the homes of those who will not observe his Law. In ancient times curses were written on scraps of papyrus and delivered by the breezes into people’s houses; this practice may serve as a parallel to this flying scroll from God. The thief and the false swearer will be "cut off," that is, removed from the postexilic community, probably by the direct effect of God’s curse rather than by the action of the community. Moderns would ascribe such deaths to "natural causes," but the ancients saw them as the result of God’s direct intervention in human affairs.

Verses 5-11

Vision of a Woman in an Ephah Measure (5:5-11)

The second of these two visions begins with an angelic invitation to look at something. Looking, the prophet asks for an explanation and is told that what he sees is an ephah measure (approximately three-fifths of a bushel) containing the iniquity of the land. When the leaden cover was removed, the prophet saw a woman sitting in the ephah. The cover was replaced, and he saw two women with stork like wings who flew away with the ephah and its contents to "the land of Shinar," the Hebrew name of the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers south of Babylon and known to secular historians as Sumer. There, the prophet was told, the ephah would be set down on its base in a house which would be built for it.

Clearly the removal of "Wickedness" from the land of Judah required a special intervention from God. It must be admitted that the special form this removal took in the prophet’s vision is even more mystifying to modem minds than is the use of a written curse flying about the land. The representation of wickedness as a woman may be explained in part by the fact that abstractions in Hebrew are generally feminine, but it may also be influenced by evils associated with the worship of the pagan goddesses of the Canaanites, which had helped bring the downfall of the Israelite and Judean states. The house provided for the woman in Babylon, the home of wickedness, is clearly a temple, and in it the ephah and its contents would be put on a pedestal for worship. Thus the source of evil is effectively contained and removed from the land, as have been the particular evildoers mentioned in the previous vision.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Zechariah 5". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/zechariah-5.html.