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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zechariah 5:2-4. The length thereof is twenty cubits, &c. — Such scrolls for writing were usually longer than they were broad; so this was represented as ten yards in length, and five in breadth. The roll was very large, to show what a number of curses would come upon the wicked. Then said he, This is the curse, &c. — This roll, or book, contains the curses, or judgments, due to sinners, particularly sinners of the Jews, who have been favoured with greater light and privileges than other people, and whose sins, therefore, are the more inexcusable. That goeth over the face of the whole earth — Or rather, of the whole land; for the land of Judea only seems to be here meant. Every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side, &c. — The roll was written on both sides, as that mentioned Ezekiel 2:10 : and on one side were contained the judgments against stealing, and on the other against false swearing. These two sins are joined together, because in the Jewish courts men were compelled to purge themselves by oath, in case they were accused of theft; and they often would forswear themselves rather than discover the truth. Considering the time when Zechariah prophesied, it seems probable, that those who made use of fraud with respect to what had been dedicated to the rebuilding of the temple, and restoring the service of God, are here particularly referred to. According to Calmet, under the two names of theft and false swearing, the Hebrews and Chaldeans included all other crimes; theft denoting every injustice and violence executed against men, and perjury all crimes committed against God. Instead of on this side, and on that side, Newcome reads, from hence, namely, from the land. And instead of shall be cut off, the Vulgate reads, judicabitur, shall be judged; and Houbigant, shall be punished. It must be acknowledged, however, that the Hebrew word נקה, so rendered, rather means, carries himself as innocent, or, asserts himself to be innocent; or, is declared innocent, or, left unpunished, namely, by the magistrate. Blayney therefore translates the clause, Because, on the one hand, every one that stealeth is as he that is guiltless; and, on the other hand, every one that sweareth is as he that is guiltless. On which he observes, “The reason assigned for the curse going forth through the whole land is, that the good and the bad, the innocent and the guilty, were in every part of it looked upon and treated alike; so that it was time for the divine justice to interpose, and make the proper distinction between them.” And it shall enter, &c. — This curse shall come with commission from me; into the house of the thief — Where he had laid up that which he got by theft, thinking to enjoy it to his satisfaction. Or, by his house may be understood his family, estate, and goods: it shall take hold of him, and all that belong to him, and shall never leave them till their are utterly destroyed. And it shall remain in the midst of the house — It shall stick close to them and theirs, as Gehazi’s leprosy did to him and his posterity; or, like the leprosy that infects a house, and cannot be purged till the house itself be pulled down.

5:1-4 The Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are rolls, in which God has written the great things of his law and gospel; they are flying rolls. God's word runs very swiftly, Ps 147:15. This flying roll contains a declaration of the righteous wrath of God against sinners. Oh that we saw with an eye of faith the flying roll of God's curse hanging over the guilty world as a thick cloud, not only keeping off the sunbeams of God's favour, but big with thunders, lightnings, and storms, ready to destroy them! How welcome then would the tidings of a Saviour be, who came to redeem us from the curse of the law, being himself made a curse for us! Sin is the ruin of houses and families; especially the doing hurt to others and false witness. Who knows the power of God's anger? God's curse cannot be kept out by bars or locks. While one part of the curse of God ruins the substance of the sinner, another part will rest on the soul, and sink it to everlasting punishment. All are transgressors of the law, so we cannot escape this wrath of God, except we flee for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel.And he - (the interpreting angel) said unto me It cannot be without meaning, that the dimensions of the roll should be those of the tabernacle , as the last vision was that of the candlestick, after the likeness of the candlestick therein. The explanations of this correspondence do not exclude each other. It may be that "judgment shall begin at the house of God" 1 Peter 4:17; that the punishment on sin is proportioned to the nearness of God and the knowledge of Him; that the presence of God, which was for life, might also be to death, as Paul says; "God maketh manifest the savor of this knowledge by us in every place; for we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish; to the one we are the savor of death unto death, and to the other the savor of life unto life" 2 Corinthians 2:14-16; and Simeon said, "This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" Luke 2:34. 2. length … twenty cubits … breadth … ten cubits—thirty feet by fifteen, the dimensions of the temple porch (1Ki 6:3), where the law was usually read, showing that it was divinely authoritative in the theocracy. Its large size implies the great number of the curses contained. The Hebrew for "roll" or "volume" is used of the law (Ps 40:7). And he; the angel, Zechariah 4:1,5.

What seest thou, O Zechariah?

The length thereof is twenty cubits; that is, ten yards long; by this it appears the roll was spread out, for had it been rolled up he could not have seen the length, though he did the breadth, five yards.

And he said unto me,.... That is, the angel:

What seest thou? and I answered, I see a flying roll, the length whereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits; so that it was a very large one, a volume of a very uncommon size, especially it may so seem to us; but in other nations they have very long rolls or volumes, even longer than this: the Russians write their acts, protests, and other court matters, on long rolls of paper, some twenty ells, some thirty, and some sixty, and more (x): and this being the length and breadth of the porch before the temple, 1 Kings 6:3 hence the Jewish writers conclude that this flying roll came from thence: it may design either the roll or book in which the sins of men are written; which is very large, and will quickly be brought into judgment, when it will be opened, and men will be judged according to it; which shows the notice God takes of the sins of men; the exact knowledge he has of them; his strict remembrance of them; and the certain account men must give of them another day: or, the book of God's judgments upon sinners, such as was Ezekiel's roll, Ezekiel 2:9 which are many and great; are rolled up, and not at present to be searched into; but are flying, coming on, and will be speedily executed: or rather the book of the law, called a roll or volume, Psalm 40:7 and which will be a swift witness against the breakers of it, as more fully appears from the explanation of it in the next verse Zechariah 5:3. It is a mere fancy and conceit of some that the Talmud is meant by this roll, the body of the Jewish traditions, which make void the commands of God, take away the blessing, and leave a curse in the land, as they did in the land of Judea.

(x) Eskuche apud Burkium in loc.

And he said to me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying {a} scroll; its length is twenty cubits, and its breadth ten cubits.

(a) Because the Jews had provoked God's plagues by condemning his word, and casting off all judgment and equity, he shows that God's curses written in this book had justly happened both to them and their fathers. But now if they would repent, God would send the same among the Chaldeans and their former enemies.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. the length thereof &c.] The roll was unfolded and opened out. The dimensions of the roll seem merely to be mentioned as an expression of the prophet’s wonder at its size. The beholder of such a strange apparition in the heavens would not unnaturally say how large he took it to be.

Verse 2. - 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. Zechariah 5:2Zechariah 5:1. "And I lifted up my eyes again, and saw, and behold a flying roll. Zechariah 5:2. And he said to me, What seest thou? And I said, I see a flying roll; its length twenty cubits, and its breadth ten cubits. Zechariah 5:3. And he said to me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the whole land: for every one that stealeth will be cleansed away from this side, according to it; and every one that sweareth will be cleansed away from that side, according to it. Zechariah 5:4. I have caused it to go forth, is the saying of Jehovah of hosts, and it will come into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth by my name for deceit: and it will pass the night in the midst of his house, and consume both its beams and its stones." The person calling the prophet's attention to the vision, and interpreting it, is the angelus interpres. This is not specially mentioned here, as being obvious from what goes before. The roll (book-scroll, megillâh equals megillath sēpher, Ezekiel 2:9) is seen flying over the earth unrolled, so that its length and breadth can be seen. The statement as to its size is not to be regarded as "an approximative estimate," so that the roll would be simply described as of considerable size (Koehler), but is unquestionably significant. It corresponds both to the size of the porch of Solomon's temple (1 Kings 6:3), and also to the dimensions of the holy place in the tabernacle, which was twenty cubits long and ten cubits broad. Hengstenberg, Hofmann, and Umbreit, following the example of Kimchi, assume that the reference is to the porch of the temple, and suppose that the roll has the same dimensions as this porch, to indicate that the judgment is "a consequence of the theocracy" or was to issue from the sanctuary of Israel, where the people assembled before the Lord. But the porch of the temple was neither a symbol of the theocracy, nor the place where the people assembled before the Lord, but a mere architectural ornament, which had no significance whatever in relation to the worship. The people assembled before the Lord in the court, to have reconciliation made for them with God by sacrifice; or they entered the holy place in the person of their sanctified mediators, the priests, as cleansed from sin, there to appear before God and engage in His spotless worship. The dimensions of the roll are taken from the holy place of the tabernacle, just as in the previous vision the candlestick was the mosaic candlestick of the tabernacle. Through the similarity of the dimensions of the roll to those of the holy place in the tabernacle, there is no intention to indicate that the curse proceeds from the holy place of the tabernacle or of the temple; for the roll would have issued from the sanctuary, if it had been intended to indicate this. Moreover, the curse or judgment does indeed begin at the house of God, but it does not issue or come from the house of God. Kliefoth has pointed to the true meaning in the following explanation which he gives: "The fact that the writing, which brings the curse upon all the sinners of the earth, has the same dimensions as the tabernacle, signifies that the measure will be meted out according to the measure of the holy place;" and again, "the measure by which this curse upon sinners will be meted out, will be the measure of the holy place." With this measure would all sinners be measured, that they might be cut off from the congregation of the Lord, which appeared before God in the holy place.

The flight of the roll symbolized the going forth of the curse over the whole land. כּל־הארץ is rendered by Hofmann, Neumann, and Kliefoth "the whole earth," because "it evidently signifies the whole earth in v. Zechariah 4:10, Zechariah 4:14, and Zechariah 6:5" (Kliefoth). But these passages, in which the Lord of the whole earth is spoken of, do not prove anything in relation to our vision, in which כּל־הארץ is unmistakeably limited to the land of Canaan (Judah) by the antithesis in Zechariah 5:11, "the land of Shinar." If the sinners who are smitten by the curse proceeding over כּל־הארץ are to be carried into the land of Sinar, the former must be a definite land, and not the earth as the sum of all lands. It cannot be argued in opposition to this, that the sin of the land in which the true house of God and the true priesthood were, was wiped away by expiation, whereas the sin of the whole world would be brought into the land of judgment, when its measure was concluded by God; for this antithesis is foreign not only to this vision, but to the Scriptures universally. The Scriptures know nothing of any distribution or punishment of sins according to different lands, but simply according to the character of the sinners, viz., whether they are penitent or hardened. At the same time, the fact that כּל־הארץ denotes the whole of the land of Israel, by no means proves that our vision either treats of the "carrying away of Israel into exile," which had already occurred (Ros.), or "sets before them a fresh carrying away into exile, and one still in the future" (Hengstenberg), or that on the coming of the millennial kingdom the sin and the sinners will be exterminated from the whole of the holy land, and the sin thrown back upon the rest of the earth, which is still under the power of the world (Hofmann). The vision certainly refers to the remote future of the kingdom of God; and therefore "the whole land" cannot be restricted to the extent and boundaries of Judaea or Palestine, but reaches as far as the spiritual Israel or church of Christ is spread over the earth; but there is no allusion in our vision to the millennial kingdom, and its establishment within the limits of the earthly Canaan. The curse falls upon all thieves and false swearers. הנּשׁבּע in Zechariah 5:3 is defined more precisely in Zechariah 5:4, as swearing in the name of Jehovah for deceit, and therefore refers to perjury in the broadest sense of the word, or to all abuse of the name of God for false, deceitful swearing. Thieves are mentioned for the sake of individualizing, as sinners against the second table of the decalogue; false swearers, as sinners against the first table. The repetition of מזּה כּמוה points to this; for mizzeh, repeated in correlative clauses, signifies hinc et illinc, hence and thence, i.e., on one side and the other (Exodus 17:12; Numbers 22:24; Ezekiel 47:7), and can only refer here to the fact that the roll was written upon on both sides, so that it is to be taken in close connection with כּמוה: "on this side ... and on that, according to it" (the roll), i.e., according to the curse written upon this side and that side of the roll. We have therefore to picture the roll to ourselves as having the curse against the thieves written upon the one side, and that against the perjurers upon the other. The supposition that mizzeh refers to כּל־הארץ is precluded most decidedly, by the fact that mizzeh does not mean "thence," i.e., from the whole land, but when used adverbially of any place, invariably signifies "hence," and refers to the place where the speaker himself is standing. Moreover, the double use of mizzeh is at variance with any allusion to hâ'ârets, as well as the fact that if it belonged to the verb, it would stand after כּמוה, whether before or after the verb. Niqqâh, the niphal, signifies here to be cleaned out, like καθαρίζεσωαι in Mark 7:19 (cf. 1 Kings 14:10; Deuteronomy 17:12). This is explained in Zechariah 5:4 thus: Jehovah causes the curse to go forth and enter into the house of the thief and perjurer, so that it will pass the night there, i.e., stay there (lâneh third pers. perf. of lūn, from lânâh, to be blunted, like zûreh in Isaiah 59:5, and other verbal formations); it will not remain idle, however, but work therein, destroying both the house and sinners therein, so that beams and stones will be consumed (cf. 1 Kings 18:38). The suffix in כּלּתּוּ (for כּלּתהוּ, cf. Ges. 75, Anm. 19) refers to the house, of course including the inhabitants. The following nouns introduced with ואת are in explanatory apposition: both its beams and its stones. The roll therefore symbolizes the curse which will fall upon sinners throughout the whole land, consuming them with their houses, and thus sweeping them out of the nation of God.

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