Zechariah 5:4
I will bring it forth, said the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that swears falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the middle of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.I will bring it forth - Out of the treasure-house, as it were; as he says, "He bringeth forth the wind out of His treasures" Jeremiah 10:13; Jeremiah 51:16; and, "Is not this laid up in store with Me, sealed up among My treasures?" To Me belongeth "vengeance and recompense" Deuteronomy 32:34-35. And it shall remain, literally, "lodge for the night," until it has accomplished that for which it was sent, its utter destruction. Lap.: "So we have seen and see at this day powerful families, which attained to splendor by rapine or ill-gotten goods, destroyed by the just judgment of God, that those who see it are amazed, how such wealth perceptibly yet insensibly disappeared." Chrys. on the statues 15. n. 13. p. 259. Oxford Translation: "Why doth it overthrow the stones and the wood of the swearer's house? In order that the ruin may be a correction to all. For since the earth must hide the swearer, when dead, his house, overturned and become a heap, will by the very sight be an admonition to all who pass by and see it, not to venture on the like, lest they suffer the like, and it will be a lasting witness against the sin of the departed."

Paganism was impressed with the doom of him who consulted the oracle, whether he should foreswear himself for gain. "Swear," was the answer, "since death awaits too the man, who keeps the oath; yet Oath hath a son, nameless, handless, footless; but swift he pursueth, until he grasp together and destroy the whole race and house." "In the third generation, there was nought descended from him," who had consulted about this perjury, "nor hearthstone reputed to be his. It had been uprooted and effaced." A pagan orator relates, as well known, that "the perjurer escapes not the vengeance of the gods, and if not himself, yet the sons and whole race of the foresworn fall into great misfortunes." God left not Himself without witness.

Lap.: "The prophet speaks of the curse inflicted on the thieves and false swearers of his own day; but a fortiori he includes that which came upon them for slaying Christ. For this was the greatest of all, which utterly overthrew and consumed Jerusalem, the temple and polity, so that that ancient and glorious Jerusalem exists no longer, as Christ threatened. "They shall lay thee even with the ground, and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another" Luke 19:44. This resteth upon them these" 1800 "years."

4. The "theft" immediately meant is similar sacrilege to that complained of in Ne 13:10; Mal 3:8. They robbed God by neglecting to give Him His due in building His house, while they built their own houses, forswearing their obligations to Him; therefore, the "houses" they build shall be "consumed" with God's "curse." Probably literal theft and perjury accompanied their virtual theft and perjury as to the temple of God (Mal 3:5). Stealing and perjury go together; for the covetous and fraudulent perjure themselves by God's name without scruple (see Pr 30:9).

enter … the house—In vain they guard and shut themselves up who incur the curse; it will inevitably enter even when they think themselves most secure.

consume … timber … stones—not leaving a vestige of it. So the "stones" and "timber" of the house of a leper (type of the sinner) were to be utterly removed (Le 14:15; compare 1Ki 18:38).

I will bring it forth; so exemplarily will I execute this judgment, that it shall appear I do it, my hand, saith God, shall be seen in it.

It shall enter, none shall be able to keep it out, this curse shall come with commission from me,

into the house of the thief, where he laid up that he got by theft, and thought to rejoice in it; or by house understand all his estate and goods, with his family and posterity. The thief; the robbers of God and of their neighbours, and every other notorious transgressor of the precepts of the second table.

And into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: this doth explain that of the third verse, and it is plain that the perjured person is here threatened, every one that dares call God to witness to a falsehood, and imprecate themselves if they speak not truth.

It shall remain; this curse shall be a long curse, it shall stick close to them and theirs, like Gehazi’s leprosy.

In the midst of his house; as in the heart and centre of their house, like a sword in the midst of the bowels, or like a disease that seizeth the heart.

Shall consume it; though it do not destroy suddenly, it shall destroy surely.

With the timber thereof, and the stones thereof; the strength of it, nothing shall remain, as when both timber and stones of a house are consumed and wasted. Such execution shall be done on those, whose name and place shall be blotted out. I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts,.... The roll was come forth, and was flying abroad; but the curse and wrath of God, signified by it, is what God would bring forth out of his treasures, according to his purposes and declarations, and execute upon sinners; which shows the certainty of it, and that there is no escaping it:

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; when wrath is gone forth from the Lord, there is no stopping it; and where it takes place it will remain, there is no getting rid of it; it makes an utter desolation of goods and estates, and entirely destroys both body and soul in hell: there seems to be an allusion to the plague of the leprosy, Leviticus 14:45. So the son of Sirach says,

"a man that swears much shall be full of iniquity, and the plague shall not depart from his house:''

and again,

"if a man swears in vain, he shall not be innocent or justified, for his house shall be full of calamities (y).''

So the oracle in Herodotus (z), which Grotius has observed, makes an utter destruction of a man's house and family, to be the punishment of the sin of perjury. Moreover, by the house of the thief and swearer may be meant the temple, as in the times of Christ, which was become a den of thieves and perjurers, and for their sins, became desolate, Matthew 21:13.

(y) Ecclesiasticus xxiii. 11. (z) Erato, sive l. 6. c. 86.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. it shall remain] abide, R. V., “until it has accomplished that for which it was sent, its utter destruction.” Pusey.

Mr Wright in his commentary quotes, in illustration of the curse abiding till it has accomplished its mission, the story of Glaucus (Herod. vi. 86), who consulted the oracle as to whether he were at liberty to perjure himself, and retain for his own use a sum of money which had been committed to his trust. The response was that though such a course would be for his present gain, “yet an oath hath a nameless son, handless and footless, yet swift in pursuit till he seize and destroy the whole race and house.” And accordingly, though Glaucus restored the money and asked forgiveness for the thought of his heart, it was observed that, since to design the evil was to incur the guilt of executing it, his family became extinct.

The Seventh Vision. The Woman in the Ephah, Zechariah 5:5-11. Invited again by the Interpreting Angel to contemplate what was coming into view, Zechariah 5:5, Zechariah sees an Ephah, or large measure, appearing on the scene, which he is taught to regard as a representation of the wicked and their doom, Zechariah 5:6. From the mouth of the ephah a circular lid or cover of lead is temporarily lifted up, and a woman is seen sitting in the midst of the ephah, Zechariah 5:7. This woman, the Angel explains, is a personification of wickedness; and he proceeds to cast her down again into the ephah, from which she had attempted to rise, and to press down the weighty leaden cover on the mouth of the ephah, so as to confine her securely within it, Zechariah 5:8. As the prophet gazes again, two women, furnished with stork-like wings, lift up the ephah and bear it swiftly through the air with the woman shut up in it, Zechariah 5:9. On his enquiring its destination, Zechariah 5:10, he learns from the Angel that it is to be carried into the land of Shinar, and there to find an abiding dwelling-place, Zechariah 5:11.Verse 4. - I will bring it forth. God will not keep the curse confined and inoperative (Deuteronomy 32:34, etc.), but it shall enter into the house of the thief. The curse shall not fall lightly and pass quickly by, but shall fix its abode with the sinner till it has worked out its fell purpose. It shall remain; it shall pass the night - take up its lodging; LXX., καταλύσει. With the timber thereof, etc. A hyperbolical expression of the terrible effects of Divine vengeance, which consumes utterly like a devouring fire - an adumbration of the destruction at the day of judgment (comp. Deuteronomy 4:24; Malachi 3:2; Matthew 3:12). The judgment coming upon the whole earth with all its inhabitants will fall especially upon Judah and Jerusalem. Zephaniah 1:4. "And I stretch my hand over Judah, and over all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and cut off from this place the remnant of Baal, the name of the consecrated servants, together with the priests. Zephaniah 1:5. And those who worship the army of heaven upon the roofs, and the worshippers who swear to Jehovah, and who swear by their king. Zephaniah 1:6. And those who draw back from Jehovah, and who did not seek Jehovah, and did not inquire for Him." God stretches out His hand (יד) or His arm (זרוע) to smite the ungodly with judgments (compare Zephaniah 6:6, Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 5:15, with Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 9:11, Isaiah 9:16, Isaiah 9:20; Isaiah 10:4; Isaiah 14:26.). Through the judgment upon Judah and Jerusalem He will cut off שׁאר הבּעל, the remnant of Baal, i.e., all that remains of Baal and of idolatry; for Baal or the Baal-worship stands per synecdochen for idolatry of every kind (see at Hosea 2:10). The emphasis lies upon "the remnant," all that still exists of the Baal-worship or idolatry, even to the very last remnant; so that the emphasis presupposes that the extermination has already begun, that the worship of Baal no longer exists in undiminished force and extent. It must not be limited, however, to the complete abolition of the outward or grosser idolatry, but includes the utter extermination of the grosser as well as the more refined Baal-worship. That the words should be so understood is required by the parallel clause: the name of the consecrated servants together with the priests. Kemârı̄m are not prophets of Baal, but, as in 2 Kings 23:5 and Hosea 10:5, the priests appointed by the kings of Judah for the worship of the high places and the idolatrous worship of Jehovah (for the etymology of the word, see at 2 Kings 23:5). The kōhănı̄m, as distinguished from these, are idolatrous priests in the stricter sense of the word (i.e., those who conducted the literal idolatry). The names of both the idolatrous priests of Jehovah and the literal priests of the idols are to be cut off, so that not only the persons referred to will disappear, but even their names will be heard no more. Along with the idols and their priests, the worshippers of idols are also to be destroyed. Just as in Zephaniah 1:4 two classes of priests are distinguished, so in Zephaniah 1:5 are two classes of worshippers, viz., (1) the star-worshippers, and (2) those who tried to combine the worship of Jehovah and the worship of idols; and to these a third class is added in Zephaniah 1:6. The worship of the stars was partly Baal-worship, the sun, moon, and stars being worshipped as the bearers of the powers of nature worshipped in Baal and Asherah (see at 2 Kings 23:5); and partly Sabaeism or pure star-worship, the stars being worshipped as the originators of all growth and decay in nature, and the leaders and regulators of all sublunary things (see at 2 Kings 21:3). The worship took place upon the roofs, i.e., on altars erected upon the flat roofs of the houses, chiefly by the burning of incense (Jeremiah 19:13), but also by the offering of sacrifices (2 Kings 23:12; see the comm. in loc.). "They offered the sacrifices upon the roofs, that they might be the better able to see the stars in the heavens" (Theodoret). Along with the star-worshippers as the representatives of literal idolatry, Zephaniah mentions as a second class the worshippers who swear partly to Jehovah, and partly by their king, i.e., who go limping on two sides (1 Kings 18:21), or try to combine the worship of Jehovah with that of Baal. Malkâm, their king, is Baal, who is distinctly called king in the inscriptions (see Movers, Phnizier, i. pp. 171-2), and not the "earthly king of the nation," as Hitzig has erroneously interpreted the Masoretic text, in consequence of which he proposes to read milkōm, i.e., Moloch. נשׁבּע with ל signifies to take an oath to Jehovah, i.e., to bind one's self on oath to His service; whereas נשׁבּע with ב (to swear by a person) means to call upon Him as God when taking an oath. The difference between the two expressions answers exactly to the religious attitude of the men in question, who pretended to be worshippers of Jehovah, and yet with every asseveration took the name of Baal into their mouth. In Zephaniah 1:6 we have not two further classes mentioned, viz., "the vicious and the irreligious," as Hitzig supposes; but the persons here described form only one single class. Retiring behind Jehovah, drawing back from Him, turning the back upon God, is just the same as not seeking Jehovah, or not inquiring after Him. The persons referred to are the religiously indifferent, those who do not trouble themselves about God, the despisers of God.
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