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§ 8. The sixth vision: the flying roll.
Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes; i.e. I lifted up mine eyes again, and saw the vision that follows. The prophet had seen, in the fourth vision, how in the new theocracy the priesthood should be pure and holy; in the fifth how the Church should be restored; he is now shown that sinners should be cut off, that no transgression should be left in the kingdom of God. A flying roll; volumen volans (Vulgate): comp. Ezekiel 2:9, Ezekiel 2:10. The Hebrews used parchment and leather scrolls for writing; the writing was divided into columns, and when completed the document was rolled round one or two sticks and kept in a ease. In the present vision the scroll is unrolled and exhibited in its full length and breadth, showing that it was to be made known to all. Its flight denotes the speedy arrival of the judgment, and, as it is seen in the heaven, so the punishment proceeds from God. Theodotion and Aquila render the word, διφθέρα, "leather;" the Septuagint, by mistake, δρέπανον, "a sickle."
He said. The angel-interpreter spoke (Zechariah 4:2). The length thereof, etc. Taking the cubit at a foot and a half, the size of the roll is enormous, and may well have aroused the prophet's wonder. The dimensions given correspond to those of the porch of Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:3), twenty cubits long by ten broad. These are also the dimensions of the holy place in the tabernacle, and of Solomon's brazen altar (2 Chronicles 4:1). The careful statement of the size of the roll indicates that some special meaning is attached to these measurements. We do not know that any symbolical signification was recognized in the porch of the temple; but these dimensions may well contain a reference to the sanctuary and the altar, as Knabenbauer explains, "The curse is of the same measure as that altar which was the instrument of expiation and reconciliation, and as that sanctuary which was the entrance to the holy of holies." Others consider that the curse is pronounced according to the measure of the sanctuary, i.e. according to the Divine Law; or that all might thus know that it came from God, and that the possession of the temple did not secure the people from vengeance unless they were pure and obedient.
This is the curse. The roll contained the curse written upon it on both sides. (For the curse of fled upon guilty nations, comp. Isaiah 24:6; Daniel 9:11.) Earth; land; for Judaea is meant. The curse was ready to fall on all who might come under it by their transgressions. This would be a warning also to exterior nations. Every one that stealeth … every one that sweareth. Thieves and perjurers are especially mentioned as incurring the curse. Perjury is a chief offence in one table of the Law, theft in the other; so these sins may stand for all offences against the Decalogue (comp. James 2:10, etc.). But probably they are named because they were particularly rife among the returned Jews. Daring their long sojourn in Babylon they had engaged in commercial pursuits and had fallen into the lax morality which such occupations often engender. These bad habits they had brought with them and practised in their new home (comp. Zechariah 8:17, and note there). Shall be out off as on this side according to it; Revised Version, shall be purged out on the one side (margin, from hence) according to it; Ewald, "driven hence like it." The reference is to the two sides of the roll, answering to the two tables of the Decalogue. Sinners shall be i.e. utterly consumed, cleansed away, i.e. according to the tenor of the roll. The Vulgate has judicabitur; the LXX; ἕως θανάτου ἐκδικηθήσεται "shall be punished unto death." That sweareth; i.e. falsely, as is plain from Zechariah 5:4; Septuagint, πᾶς ὁ ἐπίορκος, "every perjurer."
I will bring it forth. God will not keep the curse confined and inoperative (Deuteronomy 32:34, etc.), but it shall enter into the house of the thief. The curse shall not fall lightly and pass quickly by, but shall fix its abode with the sinner till it has worked out its fell purpose. It shall remain; it shall pass the night—take up its lodging; LXX; καταλύσει. With the timber thereof, etc. A hyperbolical expression of the terrible effects of Divine vengeance, which consumes utterly like a devouring fire—an adumbration of the destruction at the day of judgment (comp. Deuteronomy 4:24; Malachi 3:2; Matthew 3:12).
§ 9. The seventh vision: the woman in the ephah.
Went forth. While the prophet meditated on the last vision, the interpreting angel retired into the background or among the company of angels; he now comes into view again to explain a new revelation closely connected with the former. That goeth forth. That comes into sight from the surrounding darkness. As the preceding vision denoted that sinners should be extirpated, so the present vision shows how iniquity itself, the very principle of evil, should be removed from the Holy Land.
What is it? The prophet did not clearly discern the object, or his question may mean, "What does it signify?" An ephah; the ephah, as "the curse" (Zechariah 5:3). The ephah was the largest of the dry measures in use among the Jews, and was equal to six or seven gallons. It was, of course, too small to contain a woman. The LXX. calls it simply "the measure;" the Vulgate, amphora; and it must be considered as an imaginary vessel of huge size. It may have a tacit reference to dishonest dealings (comp. Amos 8:5; Micah 6:10). This is their resemblance; literally, this is their eye. The Authorized Version explains the meaning accurately. "Eye" is often used for that which is seen, as in Leviticus 13:55, where the Authorized Version has "colour;" and Numbers 11:7, where in reference to the manna we read, "The eve thereof was as the eye of bdellium" (comp. Ezekiel 1:4, Ezekiel 1:16). So here the meaning is: This ephah and this whole vision represent the wicked in the land. Some take "the eye" to mean the object of sight, that to which they look. But the ephah was not sot forth for all the people to examine. The LXX. and Syriac, from some variation in the reading, have ἀδικία, "iniquity," and some critics have desired to adopt this in the text. But authority and necessity are equally wanting.
There was lifted up a talent of lead. As the prophet gazed, the leaden cover of the ephah was raised, so that the contents became visible. The word rendered "talent" (kikkar) denotes a circle. It is used in Genesis 13:10, Genesis 13:12, for the tract of country of which the Jordan was the centre, and in 1 Samuel 2:36 for a round loaf. Here it means a disc or circular plate which formed the cover of the round shaped ephah. In the next verse it is called, "the weight of lead." And this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah; and there was a woman sitting, etc. When the leaden lid was raised one woman (mulier una, γυνὴ μία) was seen in the measure. She is called "one," as uniting and concentrating in her person all sinners and all sins.
This is wickedness. This woman is the personification of wickedness. It is very common to find backsliding Israel represented as a faithless and adulterous woman (comp. Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 2:20; Hosea 2:5; and the parable of the two women in Ezekiel 23:1-49.). He cast it; her—the woman. As the woman rose, or tried to rise, from the ephah, the angel flung her down into it. It is possible, as some commentators suppose, that the ephah into which wickedness is thrust represents the measure of iniquity which, being reached, constrains God to punish (see Genesis 15:16, where the dispossession of the Amorites is postponed till their iniquity is full). The weight of lead; literally, as the LXX; the stone of lead; Vulgate, massam plumbeam. This is the cover of the ephah, that which is called the "talent of lead" in the preceding verse. This heavy cover the angel cast upon the mouth of the ephah, in order to confine the woman therein. Dr. Wright and some other commentators, referring the passage to theft and perjury alone, consider that the woman held in her hand the leaden weight with which she weighed her gains, and was sitting in the ephah which she used in her traffic; so that she represents dishonesty in the matter of weight and measure. She is punished by the means of the instruments she had used unrighteously; the weight is dashed upon her lying mouth, and the ephah, her throne, is made the vehicle that carries her out of the land. But it seems a mistake to confine the iniquity mentioned to the two special sins of theft and perjury; nor would the talent and the ephah be natural instruments of stealing and false swearing; and the point of the vision is not the punishment of wickedness, but its expulsion from the land. It is true that the pronominal suffix in the mouth thereof is feminine, and that the LXX. makes it refer to the woman, τὸ στόμα αὐτῆς. But it may equally refer to ephah, which is also feminine.
Then lifted I up mine eyes. This is the conclusion of the vision. And looked; and saw. There came out (forth) two women. These two women who now come in sight have been supposed to represent the Assyrians and Babylonians, who wore the agents in the deportation of Israel; or else are considered abettors of the woman in the ephah, who for a time save her from destruction. This latter supposition proceeds on the erroneous idea that wickedness is herein rescued from punishment, whereas the notion that underlies the whole vision is that the Holy Land is purged of wickedness. That the two nations hostile to Israel are represented is an untenable suggestion; for why should they carry off iniquity from Jerusalem and fix it in their own land? Probably by the two women carrying away the evil woman is signified (if the details are capable of explanation) that iniquity brings with it its own destruction and works out its own removal. The wind was in their wings. They were borne along so quickly that they seemed to be carried by the wind; or the wind helped their flight. A stork; Septuagint, ἔποπος, "the hoopoe;" Vulgate, milvi. The Authorized Version is certainly correct. The stork is common enough in Palestine, and is reckoned among unclean birds in the Pentateuch (Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18), for which cause some have thought it is here introduced as bearing the sin laden ephah. But its introduction more probably has reference to its migratory habits, the power and rapidity of its flight, and, as some think, to its skill in constructing its nest.
To build it (her) an house. The LXX. refers the pronoun to the ephah, but it seems more natural to refer it to a person, the woman. The feminine gender of the original would apply to either. She is carried away from Judaea to have a permanent dwelling in a land more suited to her. Pusey thinks that possibly a temple may be intended, "a great idol temple, in which the god of this world should be worshipped." In the land of Shinar; i.e. the ideal land of unholiness, where the world power first arrayed itself against God in the attempt at Babel. Septuagint, ἐν γῇ Βαβυλῶνος, (Genesis 11:2, etc.). Shinar, equivalent to Sumer in the Assyrian monuments, denotes Lower or Southern Babylon; Accad, Upper or Northern Babylon. And it shall be established. The house shall be firmly fixed there. Others render, "when it is ready." And set there. The gender shows that the woman is meant, not the house: "And she shall be set there in her own place." Thus from the spiritual Zion all wickedness shall be abolished (Zechariah 3:9) and sent to its own place prepared for the enemies of God and holiness. Doubtless, too, a warning is here conveyed to those Jews who still lingered in Babylon, that they were dwelling in a land accursed of God, and were liable to be involved in the fate which pursues ungodliness. Orelli and some others see in these two visions an analogy to the two goats on the Day of Atonement, of which one was sacrificed for the sins of the people, and the other bore away their iniquity to the demons' abode, the wilderness (Leviticus 16:1-34.).
The reassertion of the Law.
"Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll," etc. Most of the distinguishing privileges first given to Israel after leaving Egypt for Canaan were gradually restored to Israel on its partial restoration to Palestine after the captivity of Babylon. This illustrated, as noted before, as to the altar (Ezra 3:3); the daily sacrifice (Ezra 3:5); the Feast of Tabernacles (Ezra 3:4); the tabernacle or the temple itself (Ezra 3:10; Ezra 6:15). This also illustrated, as we have just seen, as to the revival of the Levitical priesthood (Zechariah 3:1-5); and also as to the rekindling of that temple "candlestick" which typified the restoration and maintenance of the Jewish Church as a witness for God amongst men (Zechariah 4:1-3, Zechariah 4:11-14). In the present passage we think we perceive a similar reassertion and, as it were, restoration of that written statement of man's duty and God's will which was given originally on Mount Sinai, on the two tables of stone; this second proclamation differing from that, however, according to the differences of the exigency and time. This we hope to show by considering the vision before us
(1) as to its general nature; and
(2) as to its special characteristics,
I. ITS GENERAL NATURE. As with the original Decalogue, so we are shown here in vision:
1. A message in writing from God; a message, therefore, like the other, peculiarly deliberate and explicit in its character, and peculiarly permanent in its form (Exo 34:1; 2 Corinthians 3:7; see also Isaiah 8:1; Jeremiah 36:18; Jeremiah 30:2; Luke 1:8, Luke 1:4; Acts 15:23, etc.).
2. A message of judgment; in other words, containing a "curse," or solemn declaration of anger against sin and wrong doing (Deuteronomy 27:26; Jeremiah 11:3, Jeremiah 11:4; Galatians 3:10).
3. A message of great breadth and extent, being written on a roll of the same dimensions (so it has been noted) as the sanctuary, or temple, and applying, therefore, to the whole duty of man (see again Galatians 3:10); or else, possibly, showing that this proclamation of God's will, like the former one, had to do especially with his "house" (1 Peter 4:17; Amos 3:1, Amos 3:2).
4. A message, however, of universal applicability, as shown by its "flying" "over the whole earth," or land (comp. Romans 2:9, Romans 2:12-16).
5. A message of a twofold purport or form—the words written on one side of the "roll" referring to a commandment contained in the first table of the Decalogue, and those written on the other to a commandment in the second. On all these points we see there is a more or less marked similarity between those tables of stone and this flying roll.
II. ITS SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS. These to be seen, if we mistake not, somewhat remarkably:
1. In the special transgressions here denounced; being just those to which we have reason to believe, from other sources, that the post-Captivity Israelites were especially prone. Note, e.g; in the first table of the Law, with regard to the sin of "false swearing," what evidences we find (as in Romans 2:17, Romans 2:23, Romans 2:24, and elsewhere) of their falsely professing supreme reverence for the very Name of Jehovah, even using a periphrasis instead of it, as in Mark 14:61; but how few evidences, if any—so different from pre-Captivity times—of open violations of the first and second commandments; and what an extreme solicitude, if to some extent a blind one, as to the outward observance of the fourth (Luke 13:14; John 5:16; John 9:16, etc.). Note also, in the second table of the Law, with regard to the sin of "stealing," how many evidences we have, after the return from Babylon, of the special prevalence of that cruel spirit of covetousness which lies at the root of all theft (see Nehemiah 5:1-13; Malachi 3:5, Malachi 3:8-10; Luke 12:15; Luke 16:14; Luke 20:46, Luke 20:47; to say nothing of the modern history of the Jews since the destruction of Jerusalem).
2. In the special punishment here threatened, viz. just that which persons prone to such transgressions would be afraid of the most. The great objects aimed at by such in their lip worship and fraud (observe connection of thought in beginning of Luke 20:47) would be the establishment and enrichment of themselves and their "houses." Instead of this, the very opposite, viz. the total destruction thereof, is described figuratively, but most graphically, as being the result. God himself should "bring forth" the appointed evil or "curse," which should reach its appointed place; and stay there its appointed time; and thoroughly perform there its appointed work, destroying not the house only but its very materials (Mark 14:4). How strikingly suitable, how emphatic a method of re-enacting his Law!
See, in conclusion, from this view of the passage:
1. The immutability of God's Law. In every successive dispensation alike, obedience to it is demanded. In the patriarchal, under Noah. In the legal, under Moses. Here, also after the Captivity; and that in closest connection, as just seen, with prophecies about the priesthood of Christ, and the work of his Spirit. And not less so, finally, in the gospel itself, with its blaze of mercy and love (Matthew 5:17-20, etc.; Romans 3:31; Romans 8:4; Titus 2:12, Titus 2:13; Titus 3:8).
2. The elasticity of its application. In each several case God causes those parts of it which are most needed to be most emphasized too. So in the instance before us, as we think we have shown. So also, under Noah, as shown by comparing Genesis 6:13; Genesis 9:5,
6. Compare, again, as to Moses, the length and emphasis of the second commandment with Exodus 32:1-6, and the subsequent history of the nation. And see, finally, under the gospel, how specially suited such language as that in Matthew 22:36-40 was to the mere formalism of those times.
The vindication of Law.
"Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes," etc. The last vision was one of warning. This, as we take it, is one of judgment. The subject appears, however, to be the same. What the prophet previously dreaded and threatened he now describes as fulfilled. In other words, in a mystical fashion, and in language only partially understood by himself, he foretells how the warning just uttered by him would be, on the one hand, completely despised by the Jewish people and Church; and, on the other hand, completely vindicated by the course of events.
I. THE WARNING DESPISED. This is predicted, in vision, by certain similitudes, which convey to our minds:
1. The idea of measure. An "ephah," a common measure, sometimes put as a representative of all measures, is seen "going forth." What for, except to be used? And how used, unless for measuring? As also—if Dr. Pusey is right in speaking of it as the largest measure in use—for measuring something of very unusual magnitude.
2. The idea of national sin. Of sin, by what is said of the contents of this ephah, viz. (Zechariah 5:8), "This is wickedness." Of nationality, by its being presented to us under the figure of a woman (see Isaiah 37:22; Ezekiel 16:2, Ezekiel 16:4; and other Scriptures; and comp. Isaiah 3:26 with the figure and legend of "Judaea Capta" on the coin struck in commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem), and perhaps, also, by the remarkable declaration in end of Zechariah 5:6.
3. The idea of repletion. This large measure being so filled up as only to require the closing up of its mouth; and that with so heavy a closing as a "talent of lead," as though never requiring to...be opened again. See what our Lord long afterwards said to the Jews in Matthew 23:32 (comp. Genesis 15:16), with apparent reference to this very prophecy, and, as some think (Matthew 23:35), to this very prophet. Also compare what is said concerning the sin of "stealing," in Matthew 23:4 of this chapter, with what our Saviour also said to the Jews of that day in Matthew 21:13; and see Daniel 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:16.
II. THE WARNING FULFILLED. This seems shown us by the following emblems:
1. The emblem of captivity. The "woman," or nation, with its "wickedness," being, as already noted, shut up in the ephah.
2. The emblem of settled purpose. As exhibited by the appearance of "two" persons to effect the same thing. Compare such passages as Amos 3:3; Genesis 19:1; Genesis 41:32; and note how "two" angels declare both the resurrection and the second coming of Christ (John 20:12; Acts 1:10).
3. The emblem of irresistible removal. The "two women" spoken of are naturally able to overcome and lift up the one in the ephah (Ecclesiastes 4:9, Ecclesiastes 4:10). The same idea may also be conveyed by their having the "wings of a stork," the most familiar of all birds of migration (Jeremiah 8:7); also by their having "the wind" in their wings, their natural strength being made stronger still by the appointed course of events (comp. Psalms 147:18; Psalms 148:8); also once more, perhaps, by the ephah being so "lifted up from the earth" that nothing earthly could have the power to prevent its removal.
4. The emblem of permanent stay. The ephah being taken to "Shinar," or Babylon, a land of long captivity to Israel in the past (Jeremiah 29:4, Jeremiah 29:5), and having a house "built" for it there, and being "established" there on a base of its own. All which seems to have been fulfilled when the Romans came, after the "filling up" of the sins of the Jews by their rejection of Christ, and took away their "place and nation" (John 11:48), carrying them away captive by irresistible might and evidently Divine assistance into their long exile in the great city of that mystical "Babylon," which is also, spiritually, "called Sodom and Egypt" (Revelation 11:8; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 17:1, Revelation 17:5,Revelation 17:18, etc.), and settling them there (so it possibly means) on a "base" of their "own," i.e. in a kind of life and under a Divine dispensation peculiar to themselves (comp. Numbers 23:9, end).
We see, in this prophecy so viewed, in conclusion:
1. The cumulative nature of sin. As nations and men continue in disobedience, so also, and even more, does the amount charged against them, as by a terrible kind of compound interest, continue to increase. The sins of yesterday greatly aggravate the sins of today. Besides passages supra, see Romans 2:5; James 5:3; Deuteronomy 32:3, Deuteronomy 32:4.
2. The necessary limits of sin. Sin, in its ultimate essence, is simply rebellion against God (1 John 3:4; Psalms 51:4). Even in the case, therefore, of Israel, who was dealt with in especial mercy and love, there must be some boundary beyond which the accumulation of sin cannot be allowed to proceed. What becomes, else, of God's rule? What of his holiness too? Judex damnatur cum nocens absolvitur (see Genesis 18:25, end).
3. The ultimate issue of sin. If not repented of, if not atoned for, what can this issue be except "banishment"? And what can such banishment mean except "death" (Matthew 25:41; Psalms 16:11; Romans 6:23; Proverbs 29:1)?
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
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."
Worldliness in the Church.
I. SADLY PREVALENT. "This is their eye"—what they mind and what they lust after. There is a climax. First two classes of sinners are figured, next one great indistinguishable mass. Then "wickedness" is personified, as one woman. This teaches how worldliness is:
3. Debasing—corrupting all that is beautiful and fair.
II. SPECIALLY OFFENSIVE. Bad in the world; infinitely worse in the Church.
1. Opposed to the Spirit of Christ.
2. Incompatible with the service of God.
3. Obstructive to the progress of the gospel.
III. RIGHTEOUSLY DOOMED. Even now restrained. Limited as to place and power. But the end cometh. The judgment set forth implies:
1. Disinheritment. They defrauded others, and will themselves be impoverished. Like Satan, cast out. Like Esau, lose their birthright.
2. Banishment. Judgment based on sympathies. What is right in law is true to feeling. Society cleansed. The bad go with the bad. Ungodliness is driven to the land of ungodliness. Captivity leads to captivity. Judas went "to his own place."
3. Abandonment. Judgment swift, thorough, irresistible. There is a terrible retention of character. "The wicked are driven away in their wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death."—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The flying roll: Divine retribution
"Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, a flying roll. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll: the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits," etc. This is the sixth vision of the series of visions which the prophet had during the night. He now saw a "flying roll." We have mention made of such rolls by Ezra, by Isaiah, by Jeremiah, and by Ezekiel. Ezra speaks of search being made in "the book of rolls," the depository of the public archives or records, and of a "roll" being found there in which was recorded the decree of King Darius respecting the Jews; and Jeremiah speaks of "a roll of a book." The book might be considered as consisting of several "rolls," over each other, and forming one volume. This is illustrated by the book which John saw "in the right hand of him that sat on the throne," which was "sealed with seven seals," and of which the contents were brought to view as each of the seals was unfolded. "The ancients wrote on a variety of materials—the papyrus, or paper reed, the inner bark of particular trees, and the dressed skins of animals, forming a kind of parchment. These, when written, were rolled up, for convenience and for preservation of the writing, either singly or in a number over each other. The roll seen by the prophet was a 'flying roll,' but not flying through the air in its rolled up state. It was expanded, and was of extraordinary size. Reckoning the cubit at a foot and a half, it was ten yards in length by five in width, the measurement being guessed by the prophet's eye" (Wardlaw). "This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth." This is the explanation given by the interpreting angel. Without presuming to give an accurate interpretation of all the particulars of the symbolic representation, I think it may be fairly and usefully employed to exhibit the sublimely awful subject of Divine retribution. And this subject it serves to illustrate in two aspects.
I. AS FOLLOWING SIN. Notice:
1. The particular sins which retribution pursues. They are:
(1) Theft and sacrilege. "Every one that stealeth." Stealing, here, refers not only to any property taken from man, but especially to the appropriation of worldly wealth to the decoration of their "celled houses," instead of applying it to the rebuilding of God's house. Hence Jehovah said, "Ye have robbed me in tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with the curse, even this whole nation" (Malachi 3:8). This is the worst of all robberies. In fact, it embraces all robberies, the applying to our own selfish purposes what belongs to God.
(2) Perjury and false swearing. Their sacrilegious conduct appears to have been sustained by false oaths, which increased the heinousness of their offence. The sins here noted 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 "flying 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." No sooner does a man commit a sin than he suffers in some form or other. The Nemesis is at the heels of the criminal. 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. "The flying roll" will reach the sinner everywhere. "There is no darkness or shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves."
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 is a curse that embitters every sweet, and gives more than twofold intensity to every bitter. It dooms to destruction the man and all his. possessions. And from this world it must accompany and follow him to another, and settle with him there forever. "The special reference made to their houses, with the 'stones thereof and the timber thereof,' forcibly points to the care which they had been taking of their own accommodation, in comfort and elegance, while Jehovah's was neglected" (Wardlaw). 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. "Between parents and children," says Jeremy Taylor, "there is so great a society of nature and of manners, of blessing and of cursing, that an evil parent cannot perish in a single death; and holy parents never eat their meal of blessing alone; but they make the room shine like the fire of a holy sacrifice; and a father's or a mother's piety makes all the house festival, and full of joy from generation to generation."
CONCLUSION. Sinner, wouldst thou escape the tremendous curses which Heaven has written on this "flying roll," this book of Divine retribution? Then abandon a sinful life, exorcise the sinful temper, inhale the spirit of him who came to put away sin from humanity and to destroy the works of the devil.—D.T.
A materialistic community.
"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. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth," etc. Here is another (the seventh) vision in the wonderful series of visions which the prophet had that night. This is one of the strangest of the whole, one, perhaps, admitting of no certain interpretation—a "woman in the ephah." We know what an "ephah" was. It was the greatest measure of capacity which the Hebrews had for dry goods, and was about the size of a cubic foot. It contained about an English bushel. The woman is generally regarded, and with probable accuracy used, as the symbol of a Jewish community—a community that had become by this time most mercenary. Mammon was their god. The interpreting angel said, "This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof." "Because it was wickedness or abhorrent worldliness that this woman symbolized, the angel threw her down in the midst of the ephah, and threw the weight of lead on the mouth of it" (Henderson). Utter mercenariness is an abhorrent object to an angel's eye. The prophet still looks, and what does he see? "Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came out two women, and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven." The meaning of this new scene may easily be discovered. The ephah, with the woman in it, is carried away between earth and heaven, i.e. through the air. Women carry it, because there is a woman inside; and two women, because two persons are required to carry so large and heavy a measure, that they lay hold of it on both sides. These women have wings, because it passes through the air; and a stork's wings, because these birds have broad pinions, and not because the stork is a bird of passage or an unclean bird. "The wings are filled with wind, that they may be able to carry their burden with greater velocity through the air. The women denote the instruments or powers employed by God to carry away the sinners out of his congregation, without any special allusion to this or the other historical nation. This is all that we have to seek in these features, which only serve to give distinctness to the picture" (Keil and Delitzsch). "Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah. And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base." There is no necessity for regarding Shinar here as designating any particular geographical spot, such as the laud which Nimrod founded. The idea may be that this utter worldliness bears men away forever from the Divine scenes of life. The most practical use I can turn this mysterious passage to is to employ it to illustrate the condition of a truly materialistic community.
I. SUCH A COMMUNITY IS ENCASED BY THE MATERIAL. This woman, the emblem of the worldly Jews, was not only "in the midst of the ephah," but was closely confined there. "He cast the weight of the lead upon the mouth thereof." To an utterly worldly man matter is everything. He is utterly shut out from the spiritual; there is no glimpse of it, no interest in it. Like the woman in the ephah, he is encompassed by that which shuts him in. The bright heavens and the green fields of the spiritual world are over and around him, but they are nothing to him. He is in the ephah.
1. Your secular scientist is in the ephah. He sees nothing but matter, believes in nothing but matter.
2. Your sensuous religionist is in this ephah. He judges after the flesh. He lives in the horrors of Sinai, in the tragedies of Calvary; his talk is of blood, and fire, and crowns, and white robes, etc. The spiritual is shut out from him, or rather he is shut out from it.
3. Your man of the world is in this ephah. All his ideas of wealth, dignity, pleasure, are material. He judges the worth of a man by his purse, the dignity of a man by his pageantries, the pleasures of a man by his luxuries. Verily a sad condition this for humanity. For a soul that was made to realize the invisible, to mingle with the spiritual, to revel in the infinite, to be shut up like this woman in the ephah of materialism, may well strike us with shame and alarm.
II. SUCH A COMMUNITY IS BEING DISINHERITED BY THE MATERIAL. This woman in the ephah, emblem of the worldly Hebrew, is borne away from Palestine, her own land, into a foreign region; borne away by two women who had "wings like a stork, and whose wings were full of wind." Materialism disinherits man. His true inheritance as a spiritual, existent is "incorruptible, undefiled, and fadeth not away." But materalism carries him away from it—away to the distant and the gross.
1. The process was rapid. No bird so fleet with wing and foot as the stork, and with this fleetness this woman in the ephah was borne. How rapidly do animalism and worldliness bear away the spirit of man from the realm of spiritual realities, from a love of the true and the beautiful!
2. The process was final. "And he said unto me, To build it an house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base." "To be carnally minded is death." "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." Materialism bears the soul away into the "bondage of corruption." Well might the apostle say, "Many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies to the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things" (Philippians 3:19). "As you love your soul," says Mason, "beware of the world; it hath slain its thousands and ten thousands. What ruined Lot's wife? The world. What ruined Achan? The world. What ruined Haman? The world. What ruined Judas? The world. What ruined Simon Magus? The world. What ruined Demas? The world. And, 'What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'"—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25