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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Zechariah 5

 

 

Verse 1

The next thing Zechariah saw in his visions was an unrolled scroll flying through the air. This was a scroll that contained writing, the equivalent of a modern book.

"A scroll (or roll), in Scripture symbolism, denotes the written word, whether of God or man ( Ezra 6:2; Jeremiah 36:2; Jeremiah 36:4; Jeremiah 36:6, etc.; Ezekiel 3:1-3, etc). Zechariah"s sixth vision is of the rebuke of sin by the Word of God. The two sins mentioned [in Zechariah 5:3] really transgress both tables of the law. To steal is to set aside our neighbor"s right; to swear is to set aside God"s claim to reverence." [Note: The New Scofield ..., p967.]


Verses 1-4

F. The flying scroll5:1-4

The priests and the kings in Israel were responsible for justice in the nation (cf. Deuteronomy 17:9; 2 Samuel 15:2-3), though neither group could prevent wickedness from proliferating. The sixth and seventh visions deal with the removal of wickedness. This sixth one deals with the elimination of lawbreakers, and the next one with the removal of wickedness from the land. What God promised in the preceding two visions required the purging predicted in these two visions.

"At this point the series of visions takes a sharp turn from that which heretofore has been comforting, to a stern warning that the Lord (Yahweh) is a holy God and cannot brook evil." [Note: Unger, p83.]

". . . before the blessing of the first five visions will be actualized, there will intervene in the life of the nation a period of moral declension and apostasy. God must and will purge out all iniquity, though He has promised untold glory for the godly in Israel." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p82.]


Verse 2

The prophet replied to the interpreting angel, who asked him what he saw, that he saw a flying scroll that was20 cubits long and10 cubits wide (30 feet by15 feet). Several commentators made connections between this scroll and the tabernacle and the temple since these were the dimensions of the holy place of the tabernacle ( Exodus 26:8) and the porch in front of the holy place of Solomon"s temple ( 1 Kings 6:3). But this correspondence seems to be coincidental. The scroll that Zechariah saw was open and large so people could read it easily. During the restoration period the returnees demonstrated an increased interest in the Mosaic Law, which was written on scrolls (cf. Nehemiah 8). No one could plead ignorance because the scroll in Zechariah"s vision was large enough for all to see and read.


Verse 3

The angel explained that the scroll represented the curses that God had decreed against the Israelites who stole and who swore falsely in the Lord"s name ( Zechariah 5:4; cf. Deuteronomy 28). According to what God had previously written in the Law, those who stole and profaned His name would die, thus purging the land of sin. The Hebrew word ha"arets can mean either "the earth" or "the land." Here and in Zechariah 5:6 the primary meaning seems to be "the land," namely, the land of Israel. Writing was on both sides of the scroll, as it had been on the stone tables that contained the Ten Commandments ( Exodus 32:15). On one side there was a curse against Israelites who broke the eighth commandment ( Exodus 20:15), and on the other side was a curse for breaking the third commandment ( Exodus 20:7). These two commandments, from the first part of the Decalogue and the second part, which Zechariah"s contemporaries were apparently breaking frequently, probably represent by synecdoche the whole Law (cf. James 2:10). Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which the writer uses a part or parts to represent the whole or the whole to represent a part.


Verse 4

Yahweh then promised to cause His curse to seek out the guilty and to bring judgment on them. He personified the curse and pictured it going throughout the land, even into homes, to seek out law-breakers. God"s Word still had its ancient power even in post-exilic Judaism. Even the privacy of their homes would not afford protection from the judgment that the Lord would send on those of His people who broke His law.

In spite of the glorious promises of the future just revealed in the previous visions, the Israelites needed to realize that sin would still bring inevitable divine punishment on them. They needed to remain pure so they could avoid the Lord"s curses and enjoy His promised blessings (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:1). They were still under the Mosaic Law, including the Decalogue.

"It is striking that this vision plays down any human activity." [Note: Merrill, p166.]

"This whole passage is very valuable as a commentary on the nature of Christ"s rule in righteousness in the millennial period as well as the severity of His dealing with sinners once the day of grace is ended and the day of wrath and judgment is ushered in with the opening of the seven-sealed roll of Revelation 5:1-9, loosing the seals, trumpets, and bowl judgments that dispossess Satan, demons, and the wicked men from the earth preparatory to the advent of the King of kings and Lord of lords to establish His rule and kingdom." [Note: Unger, p89.]

Amillennialists hold that "there is no allusion in our vision to the millennial kingdom and its establishment within the limits of the earthly Canaan." [Note: Keil, 2:281.]


Verse 5

The angelic guide next proceeded to instruct Zechariah to view something else that was happening in his vision.

"So little is human nature capable of readily appropriating divine revelation that it is not only necessary for God to let the necessary visions appear but also to stimulate the recipient"s attention step by step lest, overcome by the power of the heavenly, he fail to appropriate all that God desires to offer." [Note: Leupold, p103.]


Verses 5-11

G. The woman in the basket5:5-11

The preceding vision described the future removal of individual sinners from the land through divine judgment, and this one pictures the eventual removal of all wickedness from the future "holy land" ( Zechariah 2:12; cf. Zechariah 3:9).

"In line with the scope of all eight of Zechariah"s night visions, the fulfilment [sic] of this likewise extends into the millennial kingdom. Nevertheless the immediate application of the vision to the prophet"s time and to the conditions then prevailing is plain." [Note: Unger, p91.]


Verse 6-7

The prophet asked what he saw was, and the angel replied that it was an ephah, a basket that held about a half bushel (or five gallons) of dry (or liquid) material (cf. 1 Samuel 1:24; Ruth 2:17). Some authorities contend that an ephah was slightly more than a bushel. The ephah was the largest dry measure among the Hebrews , and its use here suggests that Israel"s sins had accumulated greatly in Zechariah"s day. [Note: The New Scofield ..., p967.] The angel lifted up the lead cover on top of the basket and revealed a woman sitting inside. A lead cover would be heavier than the customary stone cover and would guarantee that what was inside would not get out. Either the ephah was oversized, like the flying scroll, or the woman was a miniature in Zechariah"s vision. Perhaps God used an ephah in the vision simply because it was a standard container that people used to carry things in, similar to a barrel. Some commentators have seen in the ephah a particular allusion to commercial malpractice, since the ephah was used in commerce, but this may be over exegeting the text.

"The woman, made visible by the lifting of the lead cover, is still, like the evil she represents, mostly hidden from sight." [Note: Baldwin, p128.]

The angel further explained that this is what the ephah and its contents would resemble as they went forth in all the earth.

"As in the preceding vision, the earth (ha"arets) designates not merely Palestine, although this is the primary reference, and the removal of godless commercialism is first and foremost from "the land," which will then be in reality "the Holy Land" ( Zechariah 2:12 16]); but more broadly the term points to the entire millennial earth." [Note: Unger, p94.]


Verse 8

The angel explained that the woman personified wickedness. Some have interpreted the woman as covenant-breakers, a particular form of wickedness. [Note: E.g, McComiskey, p1101.] The angel picked her up, threw her down into the middle of the basket, and shut the lead cover over her (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:6-8). Obviously some conflict was involved; "Wickedness" did not want to be restricted. Perhaps Zechariah saw a woman, instead of a Prayer of Manasseh , because the word "wickedness" in Hebrew is feminine. It was not uncommon to represent wickedness as a woman (e.g, Proverbs 7; Revelation 17; et al.). Here the woman represents the sum total of Israel"s sins, wickedness being the opposite of righteousness (cf. Proverbs 13:6; Ezekiel 33:12). Another view is that she represents Babylon ( Revelation 17-18), but this seems unlikely since she ends up in Babylon ( Zechariah 5:11).


Verse 9

The prophet next saw two other women flying through the air with stork wings. Perhaps they were women and not men because of the motherly attention they brought to their task. [Note: Merrill, p175.] Storks are strong, motherly birds that are capable of carrying loads a long distance in flight. They were common in Palestine in the spring months when they migrated to Europe ( Jeremiah 8:7). [Note: Smith, p211.] The word "stork" (Heb. sida) means "faithful one." These women would faithfully carry the ephah and its contents to God"s appointed destination. Some believe they represent agents of evil, perhaps demonic forces. [Note: E.g, Unger, p98.] If they were that, however, would they not try to help Wickedness escape? Storks were unclean birds for the Israelites ( Leviticus 11:19; Deuteronomy 14:18), so these stork-like women were appropriate carriers of the contaminated basket. They lifted up the ephah into the air flying off from earth to heaven with the divine assistance of the wind (Spirit, Heb. ruah).

"The removal of Wickedness, like the removal of Joshua"s filthy garments ( Zechariah 3:4), was an act of free grace on the part of the covenant-keeping (hasid) God." [Note: Baldwin, p129.]


Verse 10-11

When Zechariah asked the angel where the two flying women were taking the basket, his interpreter responded that they were taking the woman to the land of Shinar (Babylonia, cf. Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:2; Genesis 14:1; Genesis 14:9).

"Shinar, besides taking the theme of Babylon as antagonist back to the very beginning ( Genesis 10:10), creating thereby a kind of "historical inclusio," lends a more trans-historical sense to the message." [Note: Merrill, p178. Cf. Revelation 14:8; 17:1 , 5 , 18; 18:8 , 10 , 19 , 21.]

Leupold took Shinar as representing the world in contrast to the church. [Note: Leupold, p108.] These two women with storks" wings were God"s agents carrying out His will (cf. Psalm 103:11-12; Jeremiah 32:39-40; Ezekiel 36:25). At the appointed time the woman Wickedness would set atop a pedestal as an object of worship, an idol (cf. Revelation 17-18).

"Thus where Judah had been exiled was a fitting place for wickedness to be worshipped, but not in the land where God had placed his name. The idolatry of Babylon must once and for all be separated from the worship of the God of Israel." [Note: David J. Ellis, " Zechariah ," in The New Layman"s Bible Commentary, p1034.]

"We understand the passage to speak of the heaping up of the full measure of Israel"s sins prior to the time of God"s separation of the wicked from the midst of the righteous remnant of the last days." [Note: Feinberg, God Remembers, p89.]

"The two cleansing acts of this chapter are complementary, like the two goats on the Day of Atonement, Leviticus 16 , of which the first must give its blood as an expiation before the Lord, while the second carries away the guilt of the people, and the impurity springing from it, to the region of the impure desert-demon. The cleansing judgment, despite the terror, is a benefit to the land, which is thus purified and fitted to receive the blessing pictured in the former visions." [Note: C. von Orelli, The Twelve Minor Prophets, p335.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Zechariah 5:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/zechariah-5.html. 2012.

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