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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 5

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Zechariah 5:0


Vision of the Flying ScrollThe Sixth Vision: A Flying ScrollThe Vision of the Flying ScrollThe Sixth Vision: The Flying Scroll
Zechariah 5:1-4Zechariah 5:1-4Zechariah 5:1-2Zechariah 5:1-4
Zechariah 5:3-4
Vision of the Woman in a BasketThe Seventh Vision: A Woman in a BasketThe Vision of the Woman in the BasketThe Seventh Vision: The Woman in the Bushel Basket
Zechariah 5:5-11Zechariah 5:5-11Zechariah 5:5Zechariah 5:5-11
Zechariah 5:6
Zechariah 5:7
Zechariah 5:8-9
Zechariah 5:10
Zechariah 5:11

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 5:1-4 1Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. 2And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” 3Then he said to me, “This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side. 4I will make it go forth,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.”

Zechariah 5:1 “Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked” This is the regular literary introduction for a new vision. See full note at Zechariah 1:8. This chapter contains two visions (cf. Zechariah 5:5).

“a flying scroll” This may imply an outstretched banner (VERB, BDB 733 I, KB 800, Qal ACTIVE PARTICIPLE and NOUN, BDB 166). From Zechariah 5:3 its message is characterized as a “curse.” This same negative connotation connected to a “scroll” is found in Jeremiah 36:2 and Ezekiel 2:9.

Zechariah 5:2 “he said to me” Apocalyptic literature is characterized by dialogue between a human and an angelic being. Zechariah has more angelic interaction than any other book of the OT.

1. angel guide

2. angel of the LORD

3. Satan

4. angel attendants

5. angels active in the visions themselves

“twenty cubits. . .ten cubits” A cubit (BDB 52) is equal to the length from a man's elbow to his longest finger (see Special Topic: Cubit). It was about eighteen inches. The size of this scroll is unusually large, 10 yards by 5 yards. Some commentators see it related to the dimensions of “the Holy Porch” of 1 Kings 6:3, which was the place of religious teaching and judicial administration (cf. Zechariah 5:1 Kgs. 7:67), but here it just seems to denote a readable message. Remember this is apocalyptic imagery!

Zechariah 5:3 “the curse” This Hebrew term (BDB 46) has two related covenantal meanings.

1. swear an oath (cf. Deuteronomy 29:12, Deuteronomy 29:14)

2. the oath broken turns into a curse (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18, Deuteronomy 29:19, Deuteronomy 29:20-21; Jeremiah 21:10; Ezekiel 16:59; Ezekiel 17:16, Ezekiel 17:18, Ezekiel 17:19; Daniel 9:11)

This term is used almost exclusively for God's anger towards His people's unfaithfulness and rebellion. The best summary of the covenant's requirements and consequences is Deuteronomy 27-29. To whom much is given, much is required (cf. Luke 12:48).

“the whole land” This refers to Palestine because this verse and the next one relate to Decalog violations. See Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth.

NASB“purged away” (twice) NKJV“expelled” (twice) NRSV“cut off” (twice) TEV“be removed” “taken away” NJB, NIV“banished”

This Hebrew word (BDB 667, KB 720) in the Niphal form means “to be cleaned out” or “purged.” The problem is that it can also mean “cleansed from guilt” or “made innocent.” However, Zechariah 5:4 confirms the negative connotation in Zechariah 5:3.

As Joshua was cleansed and restored to covenant purity in chapter 3, so too, must the people of God be. Those who refuse to conform (e.g., Zechariah 3:7) will be eliminated (cf. Zechariah 5:4).

“the writing on one side” The cultural symbol of writing on both sides of a scroll implies a full and complete curse (cf. Ezekiel 2:9-10; Revelation 5:1).

Zechariah 5:4 “the one who swears falsely by My name” This covenant violation (i.e., “swear” BDB 989) could involve two different ways of taking God's name in vain.

1. during worship (cf. Deuteronomy 5:11; Deuteronomy 6:13; Deuteronomy 10:20)

2. falsehood in a court proceeding (cf. Exodus 20:16; Exodus 23:7; NJB, NEB, REB)

If in fact these two laws represent the two aspects of the Mosaic covenant, actions and attitudes toward YHWH and YHWH's people (they symbolize the whole covenant), then #1 is better.

“it” The first “it” refers to the flying curse scroll. The scroll is personified as it enters the covenant violator's house. The second “it” refers to the house (i.e., “timbers and stones”).

“consume” This Hebrew term (BDB 477, KB 476) in the Piel PERFECT form means “to finish,” “to bring to an end,” or “complete.” In this context it refers to a complete and total judgment. This same term is used in the covenant cursing and blessing passage in Deuteronomy (cf. Deuteronomy 28:21; see also Jeremiah 14:12). Covenant breakers will be completely and totally destroyed and removed.

Verses 5-11

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Zechariah 5:5-11 5Then the angel who was speaking with me went out and said to me, “Lift up now your eyes and see what this is going forth.” 6I said, “What is it?” And he said, “This is the ephah going forth.” Again he said, “This is their appearance in all the land 7(and behold, a lead cover was lifted up); and this is a woman sitting inside the ephah.” 8Then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he threw her down into the middle of the ephah and cast the lead weight on its opening. 9Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and there two women were coming out with the wind in their wings; and they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heavens. 10I said to the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the ephah?” 11Then he said to me, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal.”

Zechariah 5:5 “Lift up now your eyes and see” This literary phrase (esp. “see”) introduces a new vision. See note at Zechariah 1:8.

Zechariah 5:6 “What is it” Again the prophet asked for an angelic interpretation of the vision, as he did in all but one of the six visions.

“ephah” This is the Hebrew term (BDB 35) for one of the largest dry measure used by the Jews. See Special Topic: Ancient Near East Weights and Volumes. There were possibly two types (cf. Deuteronomy 25:14; Proverbs 20:10). Modern scholarship puts it between five and ten gallons (cf. Ezekiel 45:11). Here it functions in describing a large basket used as a cage. The NIV Study Bible, p. 412, makes an interesting suggestion, “This one is undoubtedly enlarged (like the flying scroll of Zechariah 5:1-2) for like purpose of the vision.”

NASB“appearance” NKJV“resemblance” NRSV, NIV“iniquity” TEV“sin” NJB, NAB, NEV, REB“guilt” JPSOA“eye”

This Hebrew word could be “what is seen” (BDB 744, “eye,” cf. NKJV, NET, JPSOA) or some manuscripts have “iniquity” (BDB 730, cf. LXX, Peshitta, NRSV, TEV, NJB). The only difference between the two terms is between a waw and a yod. The understanding of “iniquity” fits the immediate context best (cf. Zechariah 5:8, Zechariah 5:11), however, the NET Bible asserts that “eye” in this verse is parallel with “eye” in Zechariah 4:10. This one's evil is pervasive in the land as YHWH's knowledge is pervasive in the land.

Zechariah 5:7 “lead cover” There are two views about the lead covered basket.

1. This could refer to a measuring stone used in commerce. This one was as heavy as lead. If this is so it strengthens the view that this vision concerns corrupt commerce and, thereby, fallen economic world systems (cf. Hosea 12:7; Amos 8:5; Micah 6:11).

2. The more likely interpretation is that the “lead” was for the purpose of security. Wickedness was isolated and contained and would be removed from the Promised Land. She tried to escape, but could not (cf. Zechariah 5:6-8).

Zechariah 5:7-8 “woman. . .Wickedness” Wickedness is a FEMININE NOUN (BDB 958, often used in contrast to righteousness. This is probably why it is personified as a woman (cf. Revelation 17:3-8, Revelation 17:18). If the ephah is regular size, then this is a very small woman. Some see her as representing idolatry (cf. Zechariah 5:11), which means this parallels Zechariah 5:3-4. Wickedness will be removed from God's people and God's Promised Land.

Zechariah 5:8 “he threw her down” The woman tried to escape, but the angel forced her into the ephah. The context favors the symbol as sinful Jews (cf. Zechariah 5:3-4).

The same VERB (BDB 1020, KB 1527, Hiphil IMPERFECT) is used to describe how the angel handled both the woman and the lead weight.

“the lead weight on its opening” This is literally “mouth” (BDB 804), but here it refers to the lid of the ephah cage and not the woman's mouth.

Zechariah 5:9 “two women” Some see them as helpers of “wickedness” (cf. Zechariah 5:11). Others see them as God's servants removing the wicked from the Promised Land, but because the word “wickedness” is FEMININE, so too, are these angels. These are the only female angels mentioned in all of the Bible.

“the wind in their wings” Some relate “the wind” to the Spirit (cf. Zechariah 4:6). The word can mean this in both Hebrew (BDB 924) and Greek, but it is probably referring to the proverbial lifting power of stork wings or their speed. Storks were known for their strength and carrying ability.

Zechariah 5:11 “To build a temple for her” This may be sarcasm or typology. The faithful, obedient Jews will have a rebuilt temple to worship YHWH, so will the idolatrous, unfaithful Jews have an apostate place of worship.

“Shinar” This is an ancient name for Babylon (BDB 1042, cf. Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:2, Genesis 11:4; Genesis 14:1; Isaiah 11:11, Isaiah 11:13-14; Isaiah 47:0; Jer. 50-51; Daniel 1:2; Revelation 14:8; Revelation 16:19; Revelation 17:1-7), which is a biblical metaphor for evil. Many relate this to the exilic experience (cf. Zechariah 2:6-7) and also to those Jews who did not return to Palestine!

“she will be set” This means (BDB 628, KB 679 Hophal PERFECT) “set as an idol which cannot move.” This is possibly a metaphor for the cleansing of the land of Palestine from idolatry and the setting of the stage for God's judgment of the empires of the Fertile Crescent.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this vision relate primarily to the future or the past?

2. Who is it addressing?

3. How is it related to the other visions? (Remember to try to relate all eight visions into one unified whole.)

4. To what temple does Zechariah 5:11 refer?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Zechariah 5". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/zechariah-5.html. 2021.
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