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By the flying roll, is shewed the curse of thieves and false swearers: The prophet sees a woman sitting in an ephah, which two other women carry into the land of Shinar.
Before Christ 519.
THE visions represented in this chapter are of a very different kind from the preceding ones. Hitherto all has been consoling, and meant to cheer the hearts of the Jewish people, by holding forth to them prospects of approaching prosperity. But lest they should grow presumptuous and careless of their conduct, it was thought proper to warn them of the conditions on which their happiness would depend; and to let them see, that however God was at present disposed to shew them favour, his judgments would assuredly fall upon them with still greater weight than before, if they should again provoke him by repeated wickedness. Accordingly in the first of these visions, which was the sixth in succession, the prophet is shewn an immense roll of a book, like that which Ezekiel describes, chap. Zec 2:9-10 filled with curses, and in the act of flying, to denote the celerity and speed, as well as the certainty, with which the thief and false swearer, who might other wise flatter themselves with hopes of impunity, would be visited to their utter destruction. The next vision presents the appearance of an ephah, or measure, in which fate a woman representing a nation, whose wickedness was arrived at such a height as required an immediate check. Accordingly a heavy cover is cast upon her, and she is carried into exile in a distant land, there to abide the full time allotted for her punishment.
Zechariah 5:1. A flying roll— See Ezekiel 2:9. Revelation 10:10. This flying roll inclosed an account of the sins and punishments of the people, and is described as flying, to denote the swiftness of God's judgments.
Zechariah 5:3. Over the face of the whole earth— Over the face of the whole land: for, on one hand, every thief shall be purged out according to it; and, on the other hand, every swearer shall be purged out according to it. Instead of, shall be cut off, Houbigant reads, shall be punished. This is the curse, means that in this volume is written the curse, or the maledictions and judgments which God denounced against the sinners of the land. Calmet observes, that under the two names of thief and false-swearer, the Hebrews and Chaldeans comprehended all other crimes; theft denotes every injustice and violence executed against men; and perjury all crimes committed against God.
Zechariah 5:6. This is an ephah that goeth forth— The ephah that is going forth. An ephah was a dry measure containing somewhat less than our bushel, consequently too small for a woman to sit in; we must therefore understand here a measure in the form only of an ephah, but of a larger size. And this is implied in its not being said in the original to be an ephah, but "the ephah that is going forth;" doubly corresponding with the iniquities that prevailed in the land, both as exceeding the ordinary measure, and also continually increasing, so as already to have risen to such a pitch, as made it necessary to repress them. This is the ephah that is going forth, and such both in their extent and in their progressive state are iniquities over the land.
This is their resemblance, &c.— This is their iniquity through all the land. Houbigant, after the LXX and many other versions. See also Zec 5:8 where it is said, This is wickedness, or iniquity; that is to say, "This is their theft, their perjury, when they sell by a false measure of the ephah what they swear to be true and exact."
Zechariah 5:7. And this is a woman, &c.— And this is one woman who sitteth, &c. This woman denotes the wickedness, or the wicked one, as the angel deciphers it in the next verse. As corrupt societies are expressed by harlots, and women of lewd characters; so here the corrupt state of the Jews is figured by a wicked woman.
Zechariah 5:8. This is wickedness— The wicked one. That is, the wicked one representing the wicked nation. Her being driven back within the ephah denotes the check given to her farther progress; and the weight of lead, the weight of God's judgments falling upon her.
And he cast it— And he drove her back, &c.
Zechariah 5:9. Then lifted I up mine eyes— There are great difficulties in explaining this part of the vision, and commentators are very much divided upon it. Calmet says, that the woman inclosed in the ephah denoted the iniquity of Babylon; the mass of lead which fell down upon her was the vengeance of the Lord; and the two women who lifted her up in the air, were the Medes and Persians, who destroyed the empire of Babylon. Houbigant however observes, that nobody has yet found out, nor ever will find out, why these women should carry the ephah into the land of Shinar, or of the Chaldees, if Shinar be understood literally, and not metaphorically. The Jews were not again carried captive into the land of the Chaldeans, after the rebuilding of the temple by Zerubbabel; nor can the Chaldeans be understood by the ephah which is carried into the land of Shinar with the woman who abused it to fraudulent purposes; for the ephah is a Hebrew measure; and this woman who is kept shut up in the ephah, is carried into a land not her own. Shinar will be more properly understood as spoken metaphorically of the last captivity, under which the Jews now live; being in some sense, in the several kingdoms of the world, in the same state of servitude as they lived in under the kings of the Chaldeans; having their dwelling every where. There is no necessity to be anxious about explaining why the ephah is to be carried by two women, and not by one only, or more, for the empire of the Greeks and Romans is not denoted hereby; but two women pertain only to the parable; as it might have seemed too much for one to have carried into a distant country an ephah burdened with lead, and with a woman shut up in it.
Zechariah 5:11. To build it— To build her her. The woman mentioned Zechariah 5:7-9. A house denotes a fixed and settled habitation, See Jeremiah 29:5.
The land of Shinar— That is, the land of Babylon, Genesis 11:2. But this does not necessarily imply, that Babylon would be the scene of the next captivity; but only that the people in case of fresh transgression might expect another severe captivity, like that in Babylon, but of still longer duration. In this manner Egypt is used proverbially for any grievous calamity inflicted by the judgment of God. See Deuteronomy 28:68. Hosea 8:13; Hosea 9:3. The last clause of this verse should be rendered, And when it is prepared, then shall she be made to rest there according to what is prepared for her.
REFLECTIONS.—1st, A new vision here appears, big with terrible judgment against the wicked.
1. The prophet, looking upwards, beheld a flying roll; and, being asked what he saw, describes a strange sight; a roll of vast length appeared expanded in the air, and carried by the wind.
2. This is explained to him by the angel, as containing the curse, the long catalogue of lamentations, mourning, and woe, which are the wages of sin; that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth; either the world in general, where all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; or over the whole land of Israel, which seems principally intended. Note; Sinners, whose eyes are blinded by the god of this world, see no danger, and walk on fearless and secure; but the enlightened mind, that looks into God's word, beholds with trembling the wrath which hangs over their devoted heads, and wonders at their insensibility.
3. The crimes here particularly charged upon them are theft and perjury. The curse lies against every one that stealeth, whether robbing God, Mal 3:8 or man, their parents or others; whether in the lesser acts of fraud, imposition, deceit, and knavery; or the more atrocious deeds of open violence; and every one that sweareth, profanely, rashly, passionately, thoughtlessly, falsely, shall be cut off; God will not hold them guiltless; wrath is upon them.
4. God will himself fearfully execute the curse denounced on these criminals: I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of Hosts. It shall not only cut off the sinners themselves, and destroy both soul and body in hell; but it shall entail temporal ruin upon their whole house, and, like the plague of leprosy prove incurable, till the whole be utterly demolished and laid in ruins.
2nd, Another vision succeeds, dark and hard to be understood. The prophet is commanded to look up, and say what he saw; but, through the distance, or dimness of his sight, he does not distinctly perceive the object, and asks, what it is; and is answered:
1. It is an ephah, a measure containing about seven gallons, and seems to signify the measure of the iniquity of the Jewish people. And he said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth; throughout Judaea, or through all the countries where they were dispersed, their wickedness abounded, and especially in the times of Christ the measure of their sins was filled fast.
2. A woman appears, sitting in the midst of the ephah, the representative of the sinners among them, and a lively figure of her who afterwards should arise, the mother of harlots. And he said, This is wickedness, intimating the exceeding sinfulness of their iniquity, who, being professors of godliness, had so grievously degenerated.
3. A talent of lead is cast as a cover on the mouth of the ephah, to shew how insupportable the load would be on the impenitent.
4. Two women came forth with wings like a stork, and lifting up the ephah, with the wind in their wings, swiftly conveyed it to the land of Shinar, or Babylon, where they built the woman a house, &c. See the notes. And these seem to represent the Roman armies, swiftly marching to the destruction of Jerusalem, and carrying the Jewish nation into a more dreadful captivity, and of much longer continuance, than they had endured in Babylon: and to this day we see them sunk under this load.
Some refer this to antichrist, and his destruction: and it may well be applied to the eternal perdition of all ungodly men, who, when the measure of their iniquity is full, will be caught away from the earth, under their load of guilt, and cast down into Shinar, into the everlasting burnings, where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Zechariah 5". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28