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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Zechariah 5

 

 

Verse 1

Zechariah 5:1 Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.

Ver. 1. Then I turned me, and lifted up mine eyes] i.e. I prepared me to the receiving of a new vision; nothing so comfortable as the former, but no less necessary; that the people, by sense of sin and fear of wrath, might be taken off their wicked practices, redeem their own sorrows, and be accounted worthy to escape all those things that should (otherwise) come to pass, as Zechariah 5:11, and to stand before the Son of man at that dreadful day, Luke 21:36. This seemeth to be the mind of the Holy Ghost, in these two visions here recorded; which while some interpreters attend not, in toto vaticinio neque coelum, neque terrain attingunt, saith Calvin, they are utterly out.

And behold a flying roll] Or, volume, as Psalms 40:7, or scroll of paper, or parchment, usually rolled up, like the web upon the pin, uti convolvuntur nostrae Mappae Geographicae, as our maps are rolled up, saith a Lapide; and as in the public library at Oxford the book or roll of Esther (a Hebrew manuscript) is at this day to be seen; but here flying, Volans velocissimum ultionis incursum significat (Chrysost.). Not only becanse spread wide open, as Rabshakeh’s letter, 2 Kings 19:14, and as that book of the prophet Isaiah, Luke 4:17, but also as fleeting along swiftly, like a bird ready to seize on her prey. Nemo scelus gerit in pectore, qui non idem Nemesin in tergo. No man bears evil in his heart who does not show the same revenge on the outside. The heathens named Nemesis (their goddess of revenge, to take punishment of offenders) Aδραστεια, because no man can possibly escape her, οτι ουκ αν τις αυτην αποδρασαιτο. They tell us also that their Jupiter writeth down all the sins of all men in a book, or scroll, made of a goat’s pelt, which they call διφθερα; the very word whereby Aquila and Theodotion (two Greek translaters) do render the Hebrew of this text. [Daniel 7:18 Revelation 20:12] Symmachus turns it Kεφαλις, a chapter, or abstract of a larger book, full of sins and woes; and yet it is of an unheard of size, Zechariah 5:2, and of very sad contents, like that book of Ezekiel, Ezekiel 2:9-10, lamentation, and mourning, and woe; or the first leaf of Bishop Babington’s book (which he turned over every morning), all black; to remind him of hell and God’s judgments due unto him for his sins.


Verse 2

Zechariah 5:2 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.

Ver. 2. What seest thou?] q.d. Mark it well, and let thine eye affect thine heart; let these things be oculis commissa fidelibus.

I see a flying book] {See Trapp on "Zechariah 5:1"} Some read it, A double book (according to the Chaldaic signification of the word), as containing double, that is, manifold, menaces and punishments of sin. But the Chaldee paraphrast, Septuagint, and others, render it flying; as hasting and hovering over the heads of wicked persons.

The length thereof is twenty cubits, &c.] Ten yards long, and five broad. Neither let men say that words are but wind, as they did, Jeremiah 5:13. For, 1. Even wind, when gotten into the bowels of the earth, may cause an earthquake; as when into the bowels of the body a heartquake. 2. God threateneth those scoffers, Jeremiah 5:14, that he will make that word, which they termed wind, to become fire, and themselves fuel to feed it. And as fire grows quickly upon fuel fully dried, Nahum 1:10, and consumeth it in an instant, so God’s flying roll will lick up the evildoers, no otherwise than the fire from heaven after it had consumed the sacrifice, the wood, the stones, and the dust, licked up also the water that was in the trench, 1 Kings 18:38. The threatenings of God’s law (the same with this roll) are (as Erasmus saith of Ezekiel 3:18) fulmina non verba, lightbolts rather than words; or if words, yet they are (as one saith) verba non legenda sed vivenda, words not to be read only, but lived; at least, not to be read as men do the old stories of foreign wars, wherein they are nothing concerned (but as threatening themselves in every threat, cursing themselves in every curse, &c.), nor as they read the predictions of an almanack for wind and weather, which they think may come to pass, and it may be not; but be confident of this very thing, that God who hath denounced it will surely do it, and that he will execute the judgment written in this roll, Psalms 149:9, yea, every sickness and every plague which is not written in the book of this law, them will the Lord cause to descend upon the disobedient, until they be destroyed, Deuteronomy 28:61.


Verse 3

Zechariah 5:3 Then 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.

Ver. 3. This is the curse] Or oath, with execration and cursing. Cursing men are cursed men, and God hath sworn that swearers shall not enter into his rest. {Numbers 5:21. אלה, ut et αρα Graece, iuramentum et execrationem significat. Mercer}

That goeth forth] Yea, flieth, Zechariah 5:2, more swiftly than an eagle, an arrow, a flash of lightning. Or, if not, yet

Poena venit gravior, quo mage sera venit.

Over the face of the whole earth] Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doth evil; but of the Jew first ( Ingentia beneficia flagitia, supplicia), who is therefore the worse, because he ought to have been better; and then of the Gentile also, Romans 2:9. Theodoret, Lyra, and Vatablus think that Judaea is hinted in the measure of the book (twenty cubits long, and ten broad) as being twice so long (and somewhat more) as it is broad: witness Jerome in his epistle to Dardanus (Epist. 129). But let the whole earth here be taken in its utmost latitude, since the Gentiles that sin without the law are yet liable to the punishments of the law. And some of them by the light of nature saw the evil of swearing; but all generally of stealing; but especially of perjury and sacrilege, here principally meant. Confer Malachi 3:8, Nehemiah 13:10.

For every one that stealeth shall be cut off] By stealing understand all sins against the second table; as by swearing, all against the first; and so the sense is the same with that of the apostle, "Every transgression and disobedience receiveth a just recompence of reward," Hebrews 2:2. And "cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them," Galatians 3:10. Howbeit because these two sins were more frequently and more impudently committed in those days, therefore are they, by a speciality, instanced. The Jews, coming poor out of Babylon, held it no great sin to steal for supply of their necessities; and then to forswear themselves for the better hiding of their theft. "Give me not poverty," said holy Agur, "lest, being poor, I steal, and" (as one sin draws on another) "I take the name of my God in vain," Proverbs 30:9. {See Trapp on "Proverbs 30:9"} Hunger is an evil counsellor, necessity a hard weapon, a sore temptation, when it comes to this, Either I must steal or starve. But then to this must be opposed that of the law, Thou shalt in no case steal. Thou must rather die than do wickedly. Aut faciendum aut patiendum, Either obey the law or suffer the curse.

As on this side according to it] i.e. According to the curse, described in the roll, the thief shall be cut off as well as the swearer; they shall speed alike. The tares shall be bound up in bundles, thieves with thieves, and swearers with swearers, and burnt in the fire, Matthew 13:30; Matthew 13:40. According to the prediction shall be the execution. Whether on this side, that is, in Judaea (so some sense it), or on that side, in other parts of the world, such persons appear, they shall have their payment.

And every one that sweareth] Not only falsely, as Zechariah 5:4, but lightly, vainly, causelessly, in jest and not in judgment; whether by God, or by creatures and qualities; Iudaeis et Pharisaeis vulgare vitium, saith Paraeus on James 5:12, a common fault among the Jews and Pharisees, Matthew 5:34-35; Matthew 23:16; Matthew 23:18. {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:34"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 5:35"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 23:16"} {See Trapp on "Matthew 23:18"} Among the Christians in Chrysostom’s time, as appears by his many sermons against it at Antioch; and in these days, if ever, because of oaths the land mourneth, God hath a controversy, Hosea 4:1-2. We have lived to see iniquity in the fulness of oaths and blasphemies unparallelled darted with hellish mouths against God and our Saviour so ordinarily and openly, that some of them are become very interjections of speech to the common people, and other some mere phrases of gallantry to the bravo. I knew a great swearer, saith a great divine (Mr Bolton), who, coming to his death bed, Satan so filled his heart with a madded and enraged greediness after that most gainless and pleasureless sin, that though himself swore as fast and as furiously as he could, yet, as though he had been already among the bannings and blasphemies of hell, he desperately desired the bystanders to help him with oaths, and to swear for him.


Verse 4

Zechariah 5:4 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: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.

Ver. 4. I will bring it forth] sc. Out of my treasuries or storehouses of plagues and punishments, Deuteronomy 32:34. Or, That which thou hast seen in vision I will put in action; I will produce it into the open light, into the theatre of the world; their faults shall be written in their foreheads, their sins shall go before to judgment, my visible vengeance shall overtake them.

And it shall enter into the house of the thief] Which he calleth his castle; and where he thinks himself most secure, as out of the reach of God’s rod; as if he could mote himself up against God’s fire. But what saith Bildad? "His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. It shall dwell in his tabernacle, because it is none of his: brimstone shall be scattered upon his habitation," Job 18:14-15, so that if the fire of God’s wrath do but touch it, all is on a light flame. He will unkennel these foxes; and drag Cacus out of his den, to his deserved punishment. Dioclesian, the persecutor (one of those Latrones publici, public robbers, as Cato called them), giving over his empire, after he had sufficiently feathered his nest, decreed to lead the rest of his life quietly. But he escaped not so; for after that his house was wholly consumed with lightning and a flame of fire that fell from heaven, he, hiding himself, for fear of the lightning, died within a while after.

And into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name] Hence Ribera gathereth that by the whole earth in the former verse is meant Judaea only: because none but Jews swore by the name of the true God, who is indeed the proper object of an oath, Isaiah 65:16, Jeremiah 12:6. Howbeit in lawful contracts with an infidel or idolater oaths by false gods may be admitted, and are binding. As for perjury, it is a provoking sin; as containing three great evils. 1. The uttering or upholding of a lie. 2. The calling upon God to testify and justify a lie. 3. The praying for a curse upon a man’s self; and beseeching God to be a swift witness against him, Malachi 3:1-7; as he was indeed against Zedekiah, Narcissus in the ecclesiastical history, Earl Godwin in Polydor, Virgil, Rodulphus, Duke of Suevia, Ladislaus, King of Hungary, Dr London (Act. and Mon. fol. 1114), Richard Long, a soldier at Calais in King Henry VIII’s days; who, deposing falsely against William Smith, curate of Calais shortly after, upon a displeasure of his wife, desperately drowned himself. And within the memory of man, Feb. 11, A. D. 1574, Anne Averies forswore herself at a shop in Wood Street, London; praying God she might sink where she stood if she had not paid for the wares she took. Hereupon she fell down presently speechless, and with horrible stench died.

And it shall remain in the midst of his house] And be a troublesome inmate with him, such as he cannot rid his hands of though never so fain; there it shall roost and rest, in despite of him. If it distaste not his dough or empty his basket, yet will it fill his store with strife, or mix the wrath of God with his sweet morsels; his meat shall be sauced, his drink spiced, as Job 20:23. It is a moth in his wardrobe, murrain among his cattle, mildew in his field, rot among his sheep, and often times maketh the fruit of his loins his greatest heartbreak.

With the timber thereof and the stones thereof] As in case of treason or other horrible crimes, the very houses of the offenders were pulled down and made a dunghill, Daniel 2:5; Daniel 3:29. The Popish Council of Toulouse, gathered together against those ancient Protestants, the Albigenses, made a decree that the very house wherein a heretic was found should be pulled down, Illam domum in qua fuerit inventus haereticus diruendam decernimus. The manor house of Milcot, in Warwickshire, built by Lodovike Greevil, deeply guilty of these two grand evils mentioned in the text, and lately burnt to the ground, is commonly looked upon as a speaking monument of God’s just judgment against sacrilege and perjury, whether men personally commit these sins or love them in others, Zechariah 1:17, Revelation 22:15.


Verse 5

Zechariah 5:5 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.

Ver. 5. Lift up now thine eyes and see] No doubt. saith Calvin here, the prophet was frighted at the sight of the flying roll, full of curses "My flesh trembleth for fear of thee," saith David, "and I am afraid of thy judgments," Psalms 119:120. And Habakkuk, when he considered the cursed condition of the Church’s enemies, "my belly trembled," said he, "when I heard it: nay lips quivered at the voice, rottenness entered into my bones," Habakkuk 3:16. Daniel was more afflicted and troubled for Nebuchadnezzar’s calamity than himself was, Daniel 4:19. Here therefore the angel encourageth the prophet: and biddeth him look up and see a further vision; and not through dulness or dejectedness to let pass without due observation the notable works and witnesses of God’s providence and power. Curious artisans, when they set forth some special piece to public view, they take it ill when notice is not taken of it; so here. {See Trapp on "Zechariah 5:1"}


Verse 6

Zechariah 5:6 And 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.

Ver. 6. And I said, What is it?] i.e. What meaneth it? for the vision is very hard and mysterious lest (saith one) the plain denunciation of the second overthrow of temple and state might discourage them too much to go forward in the present restoration of both. Hugh Broughton, on Daniel 2:4, observeth that while the visions are general, and cause the Jews no danger, so far Daniel writeth in the Syriac tongue, general over the East. But when the oppressors be named, and the Jews plainly described the people whom God defendeth, then the eighth chapter and all after he writes in Hebrew (a tongue less known and studied), and hath commandment to keep close the plain exposition Daniel 12:4. There is a great deal of wisdom required of those that are intrusted with the dispensation of divine truths. Our Saviour spake as the people could hear, and not as he could have spoken. See Hebrews 5:11-12.

This is an ephah that goeth forth] The ephah was the greatest and most common measure among the Jews; and is therefore generally put for any measure whatsoever, Deuteronomy 25:14. By false measures (one kind of theft) they had sinned (whence the Chaldee here, Isti sunt populi qui aceipiebant, et dabant mensura falsa, These are the people that bought and sold by false measures), by the same, therefore, their punishment is set forth and signified: a piece of their punishment it was that they were bounded and limited; that wickedness was confined and kept within her ephah. The Vulgate translates it amphora, a pitcher; which, when it is once filled with the bitter waters of wickedness, will soon sink to the bottom. Sinners, as they are stinted, so, when they have filled up their measure, they are sure to be punished; when they are ripe in the field God will come with his sickle; when their grapes of Sodom are full ready he will cast them into the winepress of his wrath, Revelation 14:19, Genesis 15:16, Matthew 23:32.

This is their resemblance through all the earth] Heb. their eye, their aspect, their colour. This, that is, this ephah, is their resemblance; sc. that when they have filled up their sins they shall have their fill of punishment. Or this, meaning some apparition representing God’s providence showed by the angel to the prophet, is their eye, that is, the eye of the three persons in Trinity, God’s universal providence, which presideth over his judgments, Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10; Zechariah 9:1. Or thus: This ephah or measure of their punishment, proportionate to their sin, in killing Christ especially, Matthew 23:32, shall be their eye through all the earth, i.e. shall be conspicuous and apparent to all sorts; so that all men shall hate them, and hoot at them for a company of kill-Christs, shall look upon them as a people of God’s curse. Thus the Chaldee here, Behold, they are made manifest before all the inhabitants of the earth; for all men shall be witnesses of their horrible both sins and plagues.


Verse 7

Zechariah 5:7 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this [is] a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.

Ver. 7. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead] A lump of lead, the weightiest metal; noting the immoveable and immutable decree of God for the punishment of the wicked. Say to the wicked, tell him so from me, it shall go ill with him, Isaiah 3:11; iniquity shall be his ruin. This lump of lead is first lifted up, and then let down upon the ephah as an adequate covering; and betokeneth the grievousness and long continuance of the Jews’ punishment and banishment for their parricide, or rather deicide, in crucifying the Lord of glory. A day of grace they had, but they knew it not; therefore is wrath come upon them to the utmost, or, until the end, or finally, so as it shall never be removed; so some interpret it ( εις τελος, 1 Thessalonians 2:16).

And this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah] In medio modii: and so she went forth or moved forward with an open face, and upper parts appearing, as not ashamed; the show of her countenance witnessed against her, she declared her sin as Sodom, Isaiah 3:9, and as Lot’s daughters, who savoured too much of Sodom when, glorying in their shame, they called their incestuous brats Moab, that is, the begotten of my father, and Benammi, which sounds to the same sense. This woman is also said to sit, as resolved of her course. Confer Psalms 1:1; Psalms 50:20 : the Jews are still a stubborn and refractory people. Antiquum obtinent: "Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion!" &c., Psalms 14:7. Deus nos dignabitur clarissima visione cum reducet Zion, saith Jachiades, one of their Rabbis. I add, Fiat, Fiat. Do it, do it.


Verse 8

Zechariah 5:8 And 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.

Ver. 8. And he said, This is wickedness] viz. This woman, a figure of the whole sinful nation of the Jews; as were Aholah and Aholibah, Ezekiel 23:36; Ezekiel 23:44, and Babylon the Great, the mother of fornications and abominations, Revelation 17:5, to whom I may add that grand-daughter of hers, Katherine de Medicis, Queen mother; who by her wickedness wonderfully troubled all France for thirty years together.

And he cast it into the midst of the ephah] The angel, as an executioner of Divine justice, throws her down who before sat perking and priding herself; and claps her up close prisoner as it were in the ephah.

Casting the weight of lead into the mouth thereof] That is, of the ephah, or of the woman, according to that, Psalms 107:42 "The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth." Montanus, one of the Talmud, addeth, that this woman is compelled to take this lead into her mouth; that molten lead was poured down her throat, for a punishment of her frauds and thefts, Zechariah 5:3. But the wicked shall not be so excused; for upon them God shall rain snares, fire, brimstone, and a burning tempest: this shall be the portion of their cup, Psalms 11:6, and this is far worse than molten lead, or burning bell metal. Compare with this text Jeremiah 51:64, Revelation 18:21; cf. Revelation 20:1. An angel, a strong angel, for better assurance of Rome’s irreparable ruin, taketh a stone, a great stone, which he throweth, and with force thrusteth into the bottom of the sea, whence it cannot be buoyed up, whence nothing ordinarily is recovered, much less a millstone thrust from such a hand with such a force. "What do ye imagine against the Lord?" saith Nahum; "he will make an utter end: affliction shall not rise up the second time," Nahum 1:9; that is, the wicked shall be totally and finally consumed at once; neither will God make another doing of it. "I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah," Amos 4:11 : wickedness is here crushed together, as it were, in a narrow vessel, covered with lead, and carried into a strange country.


Verse 9

Zechariah 5:9 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.

Ver. 9. Behold, there came out two women] Winged women, and carried through the air with a pleasant wind, to note their ready and speedy obedience, prompt and present. Women they are said to be, to keep proportion with the present vision; lest the meeting and mixing together of men and women in the same matter might minister occasion to some impure surmisings. But that they were men, and not women, that are here meant is agreed upon by all. These were Ezra and Nehemiah (saith Willet on Leviticus 11:1-47., after Junius and Piscator on the text), those great reformers of the Jewish Church. But this stands not with the last verse. I rather subscribe to those that expound the text of the Romans, who with great celerity and violence destroyed the Jews’ state; and so, that which they feared befell them, John 11:48. The Romans, said they, shall come to take away both our place and our nation; and within a few years it proved accordingly; as if God had taken them at their word, as he did those murmuring miscreants, Numbers 14:28 "As truly as I live, saith the Lord, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do unto you." Hereunto the Chaldee paraphrast consenteth, when by these two women thus described he understandeth, populos leves et expeditos, such agents and instruments as God would employ in the speedy execution of his wrath upon the Jewish nation; such as were Titus, Vespasian, and Aelius Adrian. Diodati maketh these two women a figure of God, two properties, namely, mercy towards his elect, and justice towards his enemies, wherewith he transports upon these last the judgments by which he had punished his own people; which is done with admirable celerity. Thus he. Danaeus makes those two women to be the anger and justice of God, which do always follow and wait upon one another, and take vengeance on men’s wickedness. Iudicium sit penes lectorem.

And the wind was in their wings] A masculine affix referred to a feminine noun: to intimate that these women were indeed types of men, saith Mr Pemble. The Romans were men every inch of them, as the proverb is; and therefore of cowards they were wont to say that they had nothing Roman in them; and of Brutus, that he was the last of the Romans.

And they lift up the ephah between the earth and the heaven] This betokeneth a deportation and dissection of the Jewish nation; being tossed as a tennis ball into all nations, and scattered into the four winds, as Jeremiah 49:36. Rupertus hence concludeth them rejected of both earth and heaven. Out of the earth they are as it were banished, by a common consent of nations; and heaven admitteth them not, as those that please not God, and are contrary to all men, 1 Thessalonians 2:15. And as their guide Judas, when they took Jesus, was hanged between heaven and earth, being coelo terraeque perosus; so fares it with that wretched people, and will do till God shall call them a people which were not a people, and her beloved which was not beloved, Romans 9:25.


Verse 10

Zechariah 5:10 Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah?

Ver. 10. Whither do these bear the ephah?] That is, saith Ribera, Quamdiu duratura est populi huius impietas? How long shall this people’s wickedness last? like as Isaiah 6:10-11, when the prophet had heard, "make the heart of this people fat, and shut their eyes," &c., he cries out, "How long, Lord?" the answer whereunto is the same in effect with this of the angel; until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate; and the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land.


Verse 11

Zechariah 5:11 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.

Ver. 11. To build it an house in the land of Shinar] That is, of Babylon, Genesis 10:10; Genesis 11:2, where various of the Jews still remained in wilful exile, as loth to leave their houses and gardens, which they had builded and planted there, Jeremiah 29:5, preferring captivity before liberty, see 1 Chronicles 4:22-23. Hence, upon their final dispersion by the Romans, various of them resorted there for entertainment. There Peter, the apostle of the circumcision, had collected an elected Church, 1 Peter 5:13, and thence he writeth his epistle to the sojourning Jews scattered through those eastern parts, 1 Peter 1:1, from whence also those kings of the east, Revelation 16:12, the converted Jews (as some expound it), are expected. And who can tell whether this land of Shinar be not the same with that land of Sinim? Isaiah 49:12; confer Isaiah 11:16, Zechariah 10:11. Or, by the land of Shinar here, may be meant exilium totius orbis, their general rejection by all nations; the whole world being to them Shinar, that is, a land of excussion.

And it shall be established, &c.] This denoteth the diuturnity or perpetuity of their punishment.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Zechariah 5:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/zechariah-5.html. 1865-1868.

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