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Clarke's Commentary on the Bible
The vision of the large flying roll, with the angel's explanation, Zechariah 5:1-4. The vision of the ephah, and of the woman sitting on it, with the signification, Zechariah 5:5-11.
1Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.
Behold a flying roll - This was twenty cubits long, and ten cubits broad; the prophet saw it expanded, and flying. Itself was the catalogue of the crimes of the people, and the punishment threatened by the Lord. Some think the crimes were those of the Jews; others, those of the Chaldeans. The roll is mentioned in allusion to those large rolls on which the Jews write the Pentateuch. One now lying before me is one hundred and fifty-three feet long, by twenty-one inches wide, written on fine brown Basle goat-skin; some time since brought from Jerusalem, supposed to be four hundred years old.
2And 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.
3Then said he unto me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.
Every one that stealeth - and every one that sweareth - It seems that the roll was written both on the front and back: stealing and swearing are supposed to be two general heads of crimes; the former, comprising sins against men; the latter, sins against God. It is supposed that the roll contained the sins and punishments of the Chaldeans.
4I 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: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.
Into the house of him - Babylon, the house or city of Nebuchadnezzar, who was a public plunderer, and a most glaring idolater.
5Then 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.
6And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.
This is an ephah that goeth forth - This, among the Jews, was the ordinary measure of grain. The woman in the ephah is supposed to represent Judea, which shall be visited for its sins; the talent of lead on the ephah, within which the woman was enclosed, the wrath of God, bending down this culprit nation, in the measure of its sins; for the angel said, "This is wickedness;" that is, the woman represents the mass of iniquity of this nation.
7And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.
8And he 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.
9Then 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.
There came out two women - As the one woman represented the impiety of the Jewish nation; so these two women who were to carry the ephah, in which the woman Iniquity was shut up, under the weight of a talent of lead, may mean the desperate Unbelief of the Jews in rejecting the Messiah; and that Impiety, or universal corruption of manners, which was the consequence of their unbelief, and brought down the wrath of God upon them. The strong wings, like those of a stork, may point out the power and swiftness with which Judea was carried on to fill up the measure of her iniquity, and to meet the punishment which she deserved.
Between the earth and the heaven - Sins against God and Man, sins which heaven and earth contemplated with horror.
Or the Babylonians and Romans may be intended by the two women who carried the Jewish ephah to its final punishment. The Chaldeans ruined Judea before the advent of our Lord; the Romans, shortly after.
10Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?
11And 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 build it a house in the land of Shinar - The land of Shinar means Babylon; and Babylon means Rome, in the Apocalypse. The building the house for the woman imprisoned in the ephah may signify, that there should be a long captivity under the Romans, as there was under that of Shinar or Babylon, by which Rome may here be represented. That house remains to the present day: the Jewish woman is still in the ephah; it is set on its own base - continues still as a distinct nation; and the talent of lead - God's displeasure - is still on the top. O Lord, save thy people, the remnant of Israel!