Then the angel who was speaking with me came forward and told me, "Now lift up your eyes and see what is approaching."
I. SADLY PREVALENT. "This is their eye" - what they mind and what they lust after. There is a climax. First two classes of sinners are figured, next one great indistinguishable mass. Then "wickedness" is personified, as one woman. This teaches how worldliness is:
3. Debasing - corrupting all that is beautiful and fair.
II. SPECIALLY OFFENSIVE. Bad in the world; infinitely worse in the Church.
1. Opposed to the Spirit of Christ.
2. Incompatible with the service of God.
3. Obstructive to the progress of the gospel.
III. RIGHTEOUSLY DOOMED. Even now restrained. Limited as to place and power. But the end cometh. The judgment set forth implies:
1. Disinheritment. They defrauded others, and will themselves be impoverished. Like Satan, cast out. Like Esau, lose their birthright.
2. Banishment. Judgment based on sympathies. What is right in law is true to feeling. Society cleansed. The bad go with the bad. Ungodliness is driven to the land of ungodliness. Captivity leads to captivity. Judas went "to his own place."
3. Abandonment. Judgment swift, thorough, irresistible. There is a terrible retention of character. "The wicked are driven away in their wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death." - F.
And this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephaheye) in all the land" (ver. 6), simply means, this represents that to which the people are looking, or tending, namely, to fill up the measure of their sin, and when they have done that, God will lay upon them their punishment. When the prophet perceives the woman in the measure, he is told that this is (represents) wickedness, even that of the Jewish people. Henderson thinks that the wickedness here represented was idolatry, and that the vision predicted the removal of idolatry from Palestine to Babylon. But there is no reason at all to limit it thus, but rather the contrary. Idolatry had not been a sin of the Jews for a century, and would hardly be represented as an existing thing, as this vision does. It did not exist in the land, and so could not be removed out of it. Moreover, it was not removed to Babylon, in any sense, literally or figuratively, and did not remain there as the vision declares (ver. 11), for the Mohammedan occupants of that region were not idolaters. Hence the explanation that refers it to the entire wickedness of the Jewish people of all kinds, is more consistent with the preceding vision, and gives a better sense. The mass of lead symbolises the heavy judgments that God was holding over them, and which at the fulness of time He would allow to fall. Accordingly, the wicked woman is thrust down into the small measure, crushed and doubled together, and the heavy weight laid upon her to keep her thus prostrate. Then there appear two winged messengers, with outstretched pinions, as if the wind was raising them up, and their wings were strong for flight like those of the stork. There were two, because it required two persons to lift such a measure. They symbolised the messengers of God's wrath that should desolate Judea, and banish the people. They were to carry it into Shinar, which is here the symbol for an enemy's country, and not the exact country to which they were to be exiled. There it was to be put in a house, shut up, and this house to be built strongly and securely for a permanent habitation, to show that this exile would not be, like the first, a brief sojourn, but a long, weary, and enduring banishment from the land of their fathers; when their resting should not be on God, or on the rock Christ Jesus, but "on their own base"; they should be left to themselves, weighed down like lead with judicial blindness, stupidity, darkness, and hardness of heart. The vision predicted what happened four hundred years afterwards, when the measure of their iniquity being full by the rejection and murder of the Messiah, their hearts being gross, and their care heavy, the hour of vengeance came. Then appeared the Roman eagles, and after the most desperate struggle, the Jewish nation was crushed, and scattered to the four winds, wandering in enemies' countries, not resting on the promise of God, but weighed down with leaden obstinacy, and resting on their own works and righteousness. Learn —
1. Every individual, and every nation, has a measure of sin; and until that measure is filled up, God's longsuffering will wait for repentance and reformation.
2. There hangs above every sinner a crushing weight of wrath, poised and ready to descend with overwhelming destruction.
3. If the measure is filled up, the weight shall fall, and crush the sinner with its ponderous mass of punishment.
4. The finally impenitent shall be driven from God into loomy exile, and left to himself, "to rest on his own base," to be subject to the thrall of his own lawless lusts that he has so long pampered into strength, and to reap as he has sowed, through a long and limitless banishment.
(T. V. Moore, D. D.)
1. At the symbol as seen by the prophet. The ephah was a well known Jewish measure, represented by our word "bushel." The prophet saw' such a measure moving forth as if it were a thing of life, and in the midst of it sat a woman with a talent of lead lifted up before her. The whole picture was a composite symbol, in which were prominent the measure, the woman, and the talent of lead.
2. The meaning of the symbol. In ver. 8 the Hebrew emphatic ally declares — "This is the wickedness." The most obvious suggestion is, that form of wickedness most likely to ensnare and ruin the people to whom Zechariah prophesied. The symbols point most naturally to the sin of unrighteous traffic, the root and essence of which is covetousness (1 Timothy 6:10; Colossians 3:5). Why a woman rather than a man appears in the symbol is somewhat difficult to say, but probably because of her power as a temptress. The ensnaring images which have been most prominent in the great systems of idolatry have borne the female form. This woman's throne was an empty measure, and her sign an uplifted talent of lead, thus aptly representing the sin of those who would "swallow up the needy, and cause the poor of the land to fail" (Amos 8:4-6). This iniquity of unrighteous traffic appears to have ever been a besetting sin of the Jewish people. The preceding oracle of this prophet (vers. 1-4) was directed against thieves, and those who swore falsely by Jehovah's name; and the obscure expression in ver. 16 (lit., "this is their eye in all the land") is perhaps best explained as alluding to the fact that in all the land the eyes of thieves, extortioners, and false swearers, turned longingly towards this tempting goddess of covetousness.
3. The removal of this ephah to the land of Shinar indicates some kind of retribution which will visit this form of wickedness. The woman was cast down into the empty measure, and the leaden weight was cast upon her mouth (or on the mouth of the ephah), and ephah, woman, and talent were lifted up, and carried off into a foreign land; and the removal was effected by two women, who had wings like the stork, and who were helped by the force of the wind. This part of the vision sets forth God's penal judgment upon this sin and its devotees. Among the various elements of this judgment we note the following —(1) Such wickedness as this composite symbol represented cannot abide in the holy land of Israel, or inherit the kingdom of God. There must be, and there will be, a renewal.(2) The instruments of this woman's sin are made to contribute to her punishment. Her being cast into the ephah, with the leaden stone upon her mouth, suggests the image of a covetous soul, cramped and crushed into the narrow world of self, with nothing else to know or talk about than weights and measures. Thus sold to covetousness one makes his own place, and goes to it; his heaven is made his hell. He is made to live inside his own little half bushel, and talk of nothing else than talents, stocks, bonds, corner lots, etc.(3) By an irreversible law such natures are taken out of the fellowship of the pure and good, and removed far from them, by others of their own kind. The world will love his own, and when selfish interests are at stake, men and women of an adulterous and sinful generation aim to help those who have helped them. So this one woman was taken up and carried away by her like — aiders and abettors in unrighteous traffic. When the angel had cast her into the ephah and put the stone upon her mouth, these other women came to her rescue, and, for a season at least, remove her to a more congenial place. The stork is mentioned probably for no other reason than for being a well-known bird of passage, having notably large wings, and abounding in the land of Shinar, in the Euphrates valley. The money lovers of this world move rapidly in each other's selfish interest, as if borne upon the wings of the wind.
4. The land of Shinar is to be understood as the opposite of the land of Israel, which in Zechariah 2:12 is called "the holy land." It was the Babylonian plain, where the descendants of Noah settled after the flood, and builded the city and tower, which was the occasion of their being confused and scattered by the curse of Jehovah (Genesis 11:2). It was a land of idolatry, whither the Jewish people had, according to Zechariah 2:6, been scattered as by the four winds of heaven. So this vision symbolised the penal scattering abroad into an unclean land of all whose eye admired the goddess of weights and measures more than Jehovah. The great moral lesson of the vision is therefore a warning against covetousness and unrighteous traffic. Where the love of money is so strong as to employ "balances of deceit," and make "the ephah small and the shekel great," there will come curse and exile. The covetous man will suffer in ways he little dreams of, and the very instruments of his sin may be turned into modes of punishment. He who will serve Mammon must leave the house and land of the Lord, and so all those Jews who loved the wages of unrighteousness might expect sooner or later to be again scattered as by the winds of heaven. Their aiders and abettors might come to their help, and even build for them a house in the foreign land; but, like the tower of Babel, built by selfish ambition in the plain of Shinar, even that house will be likely to prove a curse. This process of separating and removing the lovers of this world from truth and holiness is ever going on in the development of the kingdom of God. Judas loved silver, and was cut off and went to his own place. Demas forsook the Apostle Paul from love of the world. John, the apostle, speaks of those who went out from the godly because they were not of them (1 John 2:19), and Jude significantly mentions the sensual, having not the Spirit, as they who separate themselves, or make separations. So, by the necessary antagonism of opposite natures, the covetous must remove from the holy; for the narrow-minded, self-centred worldling cannot inherit the kingdom of God.
(Milton S. Terry, D. D.)
Outlines by London Minister.The question of the angel, and the answer of the prophet, suggest —
1. That the medium of Divine thought may be obscure to human understanding.
2. That which we are to communicate to others must be seen clearly by ourselves.
3. That what is difficult to one servant of God may be clear to another. The vision probably refers to the general sin of the nation, which reached its height in the rejection of Messiah, after which the nation was entirely removed from the land. It suggests —
I. THAT TIME IS NEEDED FOR A NATION TO COMPLETE ITS DESTRUCTION, AS WELL AS FOR ITS CONSTRUCTION. The ephah is a measure of considerable size; the idea conveyed is that, when it is full, it is lifted up and carried away. The filling takes time, and the nation to which the vision pointed did not all at once fill up the measure of its iniquity. Wickedness is allowed to go on unchecked for a certain period, but only to give space for repentance.
II. SIN FIRST IMPRISONS THE SINNER, AND THEN SEPARATES HIM FROM THE DIVINE PRESENCE. A talent of lead shuts the woman into the ephah, which is then borne into the land of Shinar. This foretells the constant dwelling of the Jews among the Gentile nations. The man who finds himself in a condemned cell is really shut in and banished from his own choice. So it was with the Jewish nation, and so it is with every man who rejects God's plan of regenerating him. He is self-imprisoned and self-banished.
III. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD'S PLAN OF RESTORATION WILL BE LEFT TO THEIR OWN. God offered to the Jewish nation a sure foundation upon which to rebuild their national greatness (see Isaiah 28:16). This they would not accept. Therefore they were banished from their land, and, in the words of this prophecy, "set there upon their own base." They were left to be their own national architects and defenders, and the history of their bitter sufferings for many centuries, and their present inability to gather themselves into a national whole, shows how ill they succeed who prefer their own way to that which God offers to them. This truth applies equally to every man who rejects the only foundation upon which his character can be rebuilt into its original greatness.
(Outlines by London Minister.)
Homilist.Utter mercenariness is an abhorrent object to an angel's eye. The prophet still looks, and what does he see? The meaning of the new scene may be easily discovered. The ephah, with the woman in it, is carried away between earth and heaven, i.e. through the air. Women carry it because there is a woman inside; and two women, because two persons are required to carry so large and heavy a measure, that they lay hold of it on both sides. These women have wings, because it passes through the air; and a stork's wings, because these birds have broad pinions, and not because the stork is a bird of passage or an unclean bird. "The wings are filled with wind, that they may be able to carry their burden with greater velocity through the air. The women denote the instruments or powers employed by God to carry away the sinners out of His congregation, without any special allusion to this or the other historical nation. This is all that we have to seek in these features, which only serve to give distinctness to the picture." — Thiel and Delitzsch.
I. Such a community is ENCASED BY THE MATERIAL. This woman, the emblem of the worldly Jews, was not only "in the midst of the ephah," but was closely confined there. "He cast the weight of the lead upon the mouth thereof." To an utterly worldly man matter is everything. He is utterly shut out from the spiritual; there is no glimpse of it, no interest in it. Like the woman in the ephah, he is encompassed by that which shuts him in. The bright heavens and the green fields of the spiritual world are over and around him, but they are nothing to him. He is in the ephah.(1) Your secular scientist is in the ephah. He sees nothing but matter, believes in nothing but matter.(2) Your sensuous religionist is in this ephah. He judges after the flesh.(3) Your man of the world is in this ephah. All his ideas of wealth, dignity, pleasure are material.
II. Such a community is being DISINHERITED BY THE MATERIAL. This woman in the ephah, emblem of the worldly Hebrew, is borne away from Palestine, her own land, into a foreign region. Materialism disinherits man. His true inheritance as a spiritual existent is "incorruptible, undefiled, that fadeth not away." But materialism carries him away from it, away to the distant and the gross.(1) The process was rapid. No bird so fleet with wing and foot as the stork, and with this fleetness this woman in the ephah was borne. How rapidly do animalism and worldliness bear away the spirit of man from the realm of spiritual realities, from a love of the true and the beautiful!(2) The process was final. "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." "To be carnally minded is death. He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption." What ruined Simon Magus? The world. What ruined Demas? The world. And, "What shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
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