The foregoing vision was very plain and easy, but in this are things dark and hard to be understood; and some think that the scope of it is to foretel the final destruction of the Jewish church and nation and the dispersion of the Jews, when, by crucifying Christ and persecuting his gospel, they should have filled up the measure of their iniquities; therefore it is industriously set out in obscure figures and expressions, “lest the plain denunciation of the second overthrow of temple and state might discourage them too much from going forward in the present restoration of both.” So Mr. Pemble.
The prophet was contemplating the power and terror of the curse which consumes the houses of thieves and swearers, when he was told to turn and he should see greater desolations than these made by the curse of God for the sin of man: Lift up thy eyes now, and see what is here, Zech. 5:5. What is this that goeth forth? Whether over the face of the whole earth, as the flying roll (Zech. 5:3), or only over Jerusalem, is not certain. But, it seems, the prophet now, through either the distance or the dimness of his sight, could not well tell what it was, but asked, What is it? Zech. 5:6. And the angel tells him both what it is and what it means.
I. He sees an ephah, a measure wherewith they measured corn; it contained ten omers (Exod. 16:36) and was the tenth part of a homer (Ezek. 45:11); it is put for any measure used in commerce, Deut. 25:14. And this is their resemblance, the resemblance of the Jewish nation over all the earth, wherever they are now dispersed, or at least it will be so when their ruin draws near. They are filling up the measure of their iniquity, which God has set them; and when it is full, as the ephah of corn, they shall be delivered into the hands of those to whom God has sold them for their sins; they are meted to destruction, as an ephah of corn measured to the market or to the mill. And some think that the mentioning of an ephah, which is used in buying and selling, intimates that fraud, and deceit, and extortion in commerce, were sins abounding much among them, as that people are known to be notoriously guilty of them at this day. This is a proper representation of them through all the earth. There is a measure set them, and they are filling it up apace. See Matt. 23:32; 1 Thess. 2:16.
II. He sees a woman sitting in the midst of the ephah, representing the sinful church and nation of the Jews in their latter and degenerate age, when the faithful city became a harlot. He that weighs the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance measures nations and churches as in an ephah; so exact is he in his judicial dealings with them. God’s people are called the corn of his floor, Isa. 21:10. And here he puts this corn into the bushel, in order to his parting with it. The angel says of the woman in the ephah, This is wickedness; it is a wicked nation, else God would not have rejected it thus; it is as wicked as wickedness itself, it is abominably wicked. How has the gold become dim! Israel was holiness to the Lord (Jer. 2:3); but now this is wickedness, and wickedness is nowhere so scandalous, so odious, and, in many instances, so outrageous, as when it is found among professors of religion.
III. He sees the woman thrust down into the ephah, and a talent, or large weight, of lead, cast upon the mouth of it, by which she is secured, and made a close prisoner in the ephah, and utterly disabled to get out of it. This is designed to show that the wrath of God against impenitent sinners is, 1. Unavoidable, and what they cannot escape; they are bound over to it, concluded under sin, and shut up under the curse, as this woman in the ephah; he would fain flee out of his hand (Job 27:22), but he cannot. 2. It is insupportable, and what they cannot bear up under. Guilt is upon the sinner as a talent of lead, to sink him to the lowest hell. When Christ said of the things of Jerusalem’s peace, Now they are hidden from thy eyes, that threw a talent of lead upon them.
IV. He sees the ephah, with the woman thus pressed to death in it, carried away into some far country. 1. The instruments employed to do it were two women, who had wings like those of a stork, large and strong, and, to make them fly the more swiftly, they had the wind in their wings, denoting the great violence and expedition with which the Romans destroyed the Jewish nation. God has not only winged messengers in heaven, but he can, when he pleases, give wings to those also whom he employs in this lower world; and, when he does so, he forwards them with the wind in their wings; his providence carries them on with a favourable gale. 2. They bore it up in the air, denoting the terrors which pursued the wicked Jews, and their being a public example of God’s vengeance to the world. They lifted it up between the earth and the heaven, as unworthy of either and abandoned by both; for the Jews, when this was fulfilled, pleased not God and were contrary to all men, 1 Thess. 2:15. This is wickedness, and this comes of it; heaven thrust out wicked angels, and earth spewed out wicked Canaanites. 3. When the prophet enquired whither they carried their prisoner whom they had now in execution (Zech. 5:10) he was told that they designed to build it a house in the land of Shinar. This intimates that the punishment of the Jews should be a final dispersion; they should be hurried out of their own country, as the chaff which the wind drives away, and should be forced to dwell in far countries, particularly in the country of Babylon, whither many of the scattered Jews went after the destruction of their country by the Romans, as they did also to other countries, especially in the Levant parts, not to sojourn, as in their former captivity, for seventy years, but to be nailed down for perpetuity. There the ephah shall be established, and set upon her own base. This intimates, (1.) That their calamity shall continue from generation to generation, and that they shall be so dispersed that they shall never unite or incorporate again; they shall settle in a perpetual unsettlement, and Cain’s doom shall be theirs, to dwell in the land of shaking. (2.) That their iniquity shall continue too, and their hearts shall be hardened in it. Blindness has happened unto Israel, and they are settled upon the lees of their own unbelief; their wickedness is established upon its own basis. God has given them a spirit of slumber (Rom. 11:8), lest at any time they should convert, and be healed.