Zechariah 5:3
Then said he to me, This is the curse that goes forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that steals shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that swears shall be cut off as on that side according to it.
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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.Over the face of the whole earth - primarily land, since the perjured persons, upon whom the curse was to fall Zechariah 5:4, were those who swore falsely by the name of God: and this was in Judah only. The reference to the two tables of the law also confines it primarily to those who were under the law. Yet, since the moral law abides under the Gospel, ultimately these visions related to the Christian Church, which was to be spread over the whole earth. The roll apparently was shown, as written on both sides; the commandments of the first table, in which perjury is forbidden, on the one side; those relating to the love of our neighbor, in which stealing is forbidden, on the other. Theodoret: "He calleth curse that vengeance, which goeth through the whole world, and is brought upon the workers of iniquity. But hereby both prophets and people were taught, that the God of all is the judge of all people, and will exact meet punishment of all, bringing utter destruction not on those only who live ungodly toward Himself, but on those also who are unjust to their neighbors. For let no one think that this threat was only against thieves and false-swearers; for He gave sentence against all iniquity. For since all the law and the prophets hang on this word, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself," He comprised every sort of sin under false swearing and theft. The violation of oaths is the head of all ungodliness. One who so doeth is devoid of the love of God. But theft indicates injustice to one's neighbor; for no one who loves his neighbor will endure to be unjust to him. These heads then comprehend all the other laws."

Shall be cut off - Literally, "cleansed away" , as something defiled and defiling, which has to be cleared away as offensive: as God says, "I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, until it be all gone" (1 Kings 14:10, add 1 Kings 21:21), and so often in Deuteronomy, "thou shalt put the evil away from the midst of thee" (Deuteronomy 13:5 (6 Heb.); Deuteronomy 17:7; Deuteronomy 19:19; Deuteronomy 21:21; Deuteronomy 22:21, Deuteronomy 22:24; Deuteronomy 24:7), or "of Israel" Deuteronomy 17:12; Deuteronomy 23:22, and in Ezekiel, "I will disperse thee in the countries and will consume thy filthiness out of thee" Ezekiel 22:15. Set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the brass of it may be hot and may burn, and the filthiness of it may be molten, that the scum of it may be consumed" Ezekiel 24:11.

3. curse … earth—(Mal 4:6). The Gentiles are amenable to the curse of the law, as they have its substance, so far as they have not seared and corrupted conscience, written on their hearts (Ro 2:15).

cut off—literally, "cleared away."

as on this side … as on that side—both sides of the roll [Vatablus]. From this place … from this place (repeated twice, as "the house" is repeated in Zec 5:4) [Maurer]; so "hence" is used, Ge 37:17 (or, "on this and on that side," that is, on every side) [Henderson]. None can escape, sin where he may: for God from one side to the other shall call all without exception to judgment [Calvin]. God will not spare even "this place," Jerusalem, when it sins [Pembellus]. English Version seems to take Vatablus' view.

according to it—according as it is written.

Then said he; the angel, which instructed the prophet.

This is the curse; this roll or book containeth the curse, the menaced punishment due to sinners, of which too many were still among the Jews.

That goeth forth; that goeth speedily, for it flieth.

Over the face of the whole earth; either the whole land of Judea, or over all the world; wherever these sins are found, this curse will come upon the sinners, unless they repent.

Every one that stealeth: theft is here first mentioned, a sin that had abounded among them, and front which they were not free then; they robbed one another, and they robbed God, they were sacrilegious.

Shall be cut off; shall be punished with an extermination of his house, as well as with cutting off his life.

According to it; according to the just threats of the law.

Every one that sweareth, profanely, or falsely, the perjured person,

shall be cut off too. Then said he unto me, This is the curse,.... So the law of Moses is called, because it has curses written in it, Deuteronomy 27:15 which curse is not causeless, but is according to law and justice; it is from the Lord, and is no other than the wrath of the Almighty; and, wherever it lights, it will remain and continue for ever. Vitringa, on Isaiah 24:6 says, this is the curse which Isaiah there prophesies of, which had its accomplishment in the times of Antiochus; but there the prophet is speaking, not of the land of Judea, but of the antichristian states.

That goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: over the whole land of Judea, and the inhabitants of it, for their breach of the law, contempt of the Gospel, and the rejection of the Messiah; and which had its accomplishment when wrath came upon them to the uttermost, in the destruction of their nation, city, and temple; and is the curse God threatened to smite their land with, Malachi 4:6 and this curse also reaches to the whole world, and the inhabitants of it, who lie in wickedness; and to all sorts of sinners, particularly those next mentioned:

for everyone that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side, according to it; as it is written and declared on one side of the roll:

and everyone that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it; as is written and declared on the other side of the roll; which two sins of theft and false swearing, the one being against the second, and the other the first table of the law, show that the curse of the law reaches to all sorts of sins and sinners; to all who do not keep it in every respect: and, indeed, to all but those who are redeemed from it by the blood of Christ; and that it is proportioned according to a man's sins: and those two are particularly mentioned, because they are sins which prevailed among the Jews at the time Christ was on earth. Theft did, both in a literal and figurative sense, Matthew 23:14 and so did vain swearing, Matthew 5:33.

Then said he to me, This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that {b} stealeth shall be cut off as on this {c} side according to it; and every one that {d} sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it.

(b) That is, does any injury toward his neighbour.

(c) Meaning, wherever he is in the world.

(d) He that transgresses the first table of the ten commandments, and does not serve God correctly but abuses his name.

3. earth] Rather land, i.e. the land of Judah.

every one that stealeth] The breach of one commandment of each table of the law, every one that stealeth, and so breaks the eighth commandment in the second table, every one that sweareth (i.e. falsely by God’s name Zechariah 5:4), and so breaks the third commandment in the first table, is singled out, perhaps because these were then the most prevalent sins amongst the Jews, as typical of all transgression. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10-11.

on this side according to it] If we retain this translation (or, on the one side, on the other side, R. V.) it will mean that the roll was written on both sides, and that on the one side was inscribed the curse against those who broke the first table of the law, and on the other side the curse against those who broke the second table. Some however translate for every thief shall be driven out hence (from hence, R. V. margin), i.e. from this land, according to it, and every swearer shall be driven out hence according to it. The objection to this is, that in the following verse we learn that the mission of the curse is not to expel sinners from the land, but to consume them in it. If with Pusey we take the word “cut off,” A. V. to mean “cleansed away” (purged out, R. V.), as something defiled and defiling, which has to be cleared away as offensive, the objection would be removed. The sinner is cleansed away from the land when he is utterly destroyed.Verse 3. - This is the curse. The roll contained the curse written upon it on both sides. (For the curse of fled upon guilty nations, comp. Isaiah 24:6; Daniel 9:11.) Earth; land; for Judaea is meant. The curse was ready to fall on all who might come under it by their transgressions. This would be a warning also to exterior nations. Every one that stealeth...every one that sweareth. Thieves and perjurers are especially mentioned as incurring the curse. Perjury is a chief offence in one table of the Law, theft in the other; so these sins may stand for all offences against the Decalogue (comp. James 2:10, etc.). But probably they are named because they were particularly rife among the returned Jews. Daring their long sojourn in Babylon they had engaged in commercial pursuits and had fallen into the lax morality which such occupations often engender. These bad habits they had brought with them and practised in their new home (comp. ch. 8:17, and note there). Shall be out off as on this side according to it; Revised Version, shall be purged out on the one side (margin, from hence) according to it; Ewald, "driven hence like it." The reference is to the two sides of the roll, answering to the two tables of the Decalogue. Sinners shall be i.e. utterly consumed, cleansed away, i.e. according to the tenor of the roll. The Vulgate has judicabitur; the LXX., ἕως θανάτου ἐκδικηθήσεται "shall be punished unto death." That sweareth; i.e. falsely, as is plain from ver. 4; Septuagint, πᾶς ὁ ἐπίορκος, "every perjurer." Zephaniah 1:1 contains the heading, which has been explained in the introduction. Zephaniah 1:2 and Zephaniah 1:3 form the preface. - Zephaniah 1:2. "I will sweep, sweep away everything from the face of the earth, is the saying of Jehovah. Zephaniah 1:3. I will sweep away man and cattle, sweep away the fowls of heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the offences with the sinners, and I cut off men from the face of the earth, is the saying of Jehovah." The announcement of the judgment upon the whole earth not only serves to sharpen the following threat of judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem in this sense, "Because Jehovah judges the whole world, He will punish the apostasy of Judah all the more;" but the judgment upon the whole world forms an integral part of his prophecy, which treats more fully of the execution of the judgment in and upon Judah, simply because Judah forms the kingdom of God, which is to be purified from its dross by judgment, and led on towards the end of its divine calling. As Zephaniah here opens the judgment awaiting Judah with an announcement of a judgment upon the whole world, so does he assign the reason for his exhortation to repentance in Zephaniah 2:1-15, by showing that all nations will succumb to the judgment; and then announces in Zephaniah 3:9., as the fruit of the judgment, the conversion of the nations to Jehovah, and the glorification of the kingdom of God. The way to salvation leads through judgment, not only for the world with its enmity against God, but for the degenerate theocracy also. It is only through judgment that the sinful world can be renewed and glorified. The verb אסף, the hiphil of sūph, is strengthened by the inf. abs. אסף, which is formed from the verb אסף, a verb of kindred meaning. Sūph and 'âsaph signify to take away, to sweep away, hiph. to put an end, to destroy. Kōl, everything, is specified in Zephaniah 1:3 : men and cattle, the birds of heaven, and the fishes of the sea; the verb 'âsēph being repeated before the two principal members. This specification stands in unmistakeable relation to the threatening of God: to destroy all creatures for the wickedness of men, from man to cattle, and to creeping things, and even to the fowls of the heaven (Genesis 6:7). By playing upon this threat, Zephaniah intimates that the approaching judgment will be as general over the earth, and as terrible, as the judgment of the flood. Through this judgment God will remove or destroy the offences (stumbling-blocks) together with the sinners. את before הרשׁעים cannot be the sign of the accusative, but can only be a preposition, with, together with, since the objects to אסף are all introduced without the sign of the accusative; and, moreover, if את־הרשׁ were intended for an accusative, the copula Vv would not be omitted. Hammakhshēlôth does not mean houses about to fall (Hitzig), which neither suits the context nor can be grammatically sustained, since even in Isaiah 3:6 hammakhshēlâh is not the fallen house, but the state brought to ruin by the sin of the people; and makhshēlâh is that against which or through which a person meets with a fall. Makhshēlōth are all the objects of coarser and more refined idolatry, not merely the idolatrous images, but all the works of wickedness, like τὰ σκάνδαλα in Matthew 13:41. The judgment, however, applies chiefly to men, i.e., to sinners, and hence in the last clause the destruction of men from off the earth is especially mentioned. The irrational creation is only subject to φθορά, on account of and through the sin of men (Romans 8:20.).
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