IN OUR LAST STUDY, we noticed that the first vision in Chapter 5 – the FLYING ROLL – describes God’s intolerance of sin individually. The second vision of the chapter – the FLYING EPHAH – describes God’s intolerance of sin nationally. So
THE SEVENTH VISION, Chapter 5. 5-11
Since Zechariah continues to ask questions (v. 6 and v. 10), we will do so too!
Why an Ephah?
An ‘ephah’ was a dry measure and was used inter alia for barley (Ruth 2. 17) and flour (Judges 6.19, 1 Samuel 1. 24). It was a symbol of commerce. See Leviticus 19. 35-36, ‘Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgement, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah and a just hin shall ye have. I am the Lord of your God … ‘. See also Ezekiel 45. 9-12 etc. Through Amos, God charged His people with ‘making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit’. Chapter 8. 5.
Zechariah therefore saw a container which would hold an ephah of grain or flour. A statement follows: ‘This is their resemblance through all the earth (or ‘land’)’. So the people resembled an ephah. More than that, the description is all-embracing - ‘through all the land’. That was how God saw His people. If we take ‘resemblance’ to mean ‘wickedness’ – following the Greek and Syriac version – the point is all the more emphatic: the whole land was immersed in making money – with all the corruption attached to that pursuit. See Haggai 1. 4-7.
So two things hovered over the land: God’s word which would judge them (v. 14), and chronic materialism. F.A Tatford comments as follows: ‘The conditions of the present day are not very dissimilar. Even Christians seem to be completely obsessed by an inordinate and unhealthy desire for gain, and be prepared to sacrifice any principles for personal benefit’. 1 Timothy 6. 6-10 becomes compulsory reading at this juncture.
Why a woman inside the Ephah? v. 7.
The ephah seen by Zechariah contained a woman, and her presence was revealed when the talent of lead which sealed the ephah, was removed. Evidently the woman was attempting to emerge, but was prevented from doing so by the talent of lead. She was restrained from doing what she wanted. We will comment on this shortly. What is particularly clear is that the woman sits at the centre of ‘godless commercialism …by which she is supported and in which she delights’. M.F. Unger.
But who is the woman? The figure of a woman, when used in an evil sense, always symbolises corrupt religion. See Matthew 13. 33, ‘The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal till the whole was leavened’. In Scripture, ‘thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication .. ‘..But it is in Revelation chapters 17/18 that we encounter the main Bible passage dealing with the woman. Note the connection between the woman and commerce. The woman is Satan’s counterfeit of the church - ‘Mystery, Babylon the Great, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth’. She is a great religious movement: the final form of the ecumencial movements: the world ‘church’ embracing all so-called faiths. It originated in ancient Babylon and therefore bears the title assigned to it Rev. 17. 5 The picture now becomes clearer: God’s people, newly returned from Babylon, were infected by the spirit of Babylon. By giving themselves wholly to commerce and trade; they were unwittingly placing themselves under the control and influence of Babylonian custom and practice. God calls this ‘wickedness’. v. 8.
Why is the woman confined to the Ephah? v. 8.
‘And he cast it (JND/R.V., ‘her’) into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof’. Having exerted unseen influence to bring God’s people under the power of commercial greed, the woman next attempts to secure complete domination by displaying her religious charm and seduction. The woman now manifests herself, but is reconfined to the ephah. God will not allow His people to be corrupted further, and this is just the position of the Jews today. Captains of commerce and trade, but without fearful idolatry that characterizes degenerate Christendom. See Hosea 3: 3-4, ‘For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim’.
Why is the Ephah carried by the stork-winged women? v. 9.
It is important to remember that the ephah was not only a symbol of trade and commerce: it was also descriptive of people: ‘this is their resemblance through all the earth (‘land’)’ v. 6. So people are being carried away – people dominated by materialism.
The whole point of the detail given in this verse is to teach us the most solemn and searching lesson, that people who give themselves to materialism, will ultimately be carried off by it. The power that carried the ephah to Shinar is evidently allied to the woman in the ephah – hence ‘two women’. Discussion of the detail will follow, but we must stress the lesson. Here were people, represented by the ephah, whose lives were given to what Paul calls ‘the affairs of this life’. Although they were God’s people in practice. His interests were of little importance to them. It is therefore hardly surprising that they are carried off by the power of the very things in which they had become involved. Court the favour of the world, whether in commerce, entertainment or fashion, and it will make a takeover bid for you. Read carefully Hosea 7. 11 and 9. 3. ‘Ephraim is like a silly dove without heart: they call to Egypt, they go to Assyria … they shall not dwell in the Lord’s land; but Ephraim shall return to Egypt, and they shall eat unclean things in Assyria.’ The lesson is very clear. The lesson is reinforced when we begin to look at the details. We must be impressed by the power with which the ephah is lifted and transported. We must not underestimate the danger of the situation. We expose ourselves to very powerful forces when God’s word and God’s work are replaced by other things. Notice the following:
a) ‘Two woman . .. ‘ We have already suggested that there is a connection between the two women, and the woman in the ephah. There can be little doubt that they are concerned with her interests and welfare. As we have seen, the woman inside the ephah represents the corrupt religious influence which is spread by godless commerce and trade. So the fact that the vision employs the symbol of woman herself. The fact that there are two woman suggests that they bear witness to her. Two, in the Bible, is the number of testimony. In Chapter 4, we have ‘two olive trees (see also Revelation II. 3. ‘My two witnesses: also called ‘the two olive trees’, v. 14): now ‘two women’. Truth has its witnesses, Zechariah 5.
b) ‘The wind was in their wings . .. ‘In the Old Testament, the wind is used as a figure of divine judgement. See Job 1. 19, Isaiah 41. 16 and Isaiah 64. 6. The last of these reads: ‘our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away’. The two women were the instruments of God’s powerful and irresistible judgement upon His people. This is by no means an isolated occasion. God has used other powers to deal with His sinful people. See, for example, Isaiah 10. 5. This very prophecy has already referred to the way in which God had used Gentile nations to afflict his people. See Chapter I. 15.
c) ‘They had wings like the wings of a stork . .. ‘ The stork was an unclean bird so far as diet was concerned: see Leviticus 11. 19 and Deuteronomy 14. 18. It has, of course, huge wings – something like a six foot wingspan – and flies at a high altitude. All this illustrates the power of evil to completely control and direct the lives of those who give themselves to it.
d) ‘They lifted lip the ephah between the earlh and Ihe heaven’. In addition to stressing the power and strength of evil forces, it also stresses the impossibility of escape. Again, there was no escaping the public gaze: all could see what was happening.
We must state the lesson again – It is so important. If we live for ourselves, or if we live for the world – we become subject to takeover. How tragic that this could happen to the people of God. But it did happen, and it still does!
Why is the Ephah carried away to Shinar? vv. 10,11.
‘The land of Shinar’ was the home of ‘Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon’. He carried some of the temple vessels ‘into the land of Shinar to the house of his god’. (Daniel 1). So the ephah containing the woman was taken back to the place from which it had originated – back to Babylon. It didn’t belong In Judah, and look at the welcome it received in Shinar! It was obviously in its right environment there: ‘to build it a house in the land of Shinar’ and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base’. Note
a) The phrase: ‘to build it a house in the land of Shinar’. This contrasts with, for example, Chapter 4.9. ‘the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house . .. ‘ the ‘house in the land of Shinar’ was a temple. So trade and commerce, by which the woman enslaves and corrupts, and those who pursue them, are worshipped. No wonder the ephah is removed: those who worship in the telnple of materialism have no place where God is worshipped.
b) The phrases: ‘It shall be established, and set there upon her own base’. These emphasise a permanent commitment. The pursuit of materialism is not a passing phase: it is a fixed policy. This is perfectly acceptable – more than that, it is positively admired – in the world: but it should be totally foreign to the child of God. We must heed the solemn teaching of Matthew 16:
‘Then said Jesus unto His disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life far my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul’. vv.24-26.
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