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Zechariah 5:5-8

5. Then the angel that talked with me went forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that goeth forth.

5. Et egressus est angelus, qui loquebatur mecum, et dixit mihi, Tolle nunc oculos tuos, et aspice quidnam sit illud quod egreditur.

6. And I said, What is it? And he said, This is an ephah that goeth forth. He said moreover, This is their resemblance through all the earth.

6. Et dixi, Quid hoc? et dixit, Hoc modius egrediens (id est, hoc quod egreditur est modius, ad verbum.) Et dixit, Hic oculus eorum in tota terra.

7. And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.

7. Et ecce massa plana plumbi ferebatur (vertunt alii, talentum; et [כבר] significat talentum, et significat planitiam etiam Hebrais; ideo non dubito, quin Propheta intelligat lamaniam plumbi, vel massam planam et contusan malleo, ita ut faceret totum operculum, une planque, ut icinus lingua nostra;) et hoc mulier una habitans in medio modii.

8. And he said, This is wickedness. And he cast it into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof.

8. Et dixit, Haec est impietas, et projecit eam in medium modii, et projecit lapidem plumbi (vel, pondus; id est, massam illam extentam instar operculi; projecit ergo) super os ejus (id est, super os modii.)

 

Here I stop; I intended to add all the verses, but I can hardly finish the whole today. It will be enough for us to understand that this is the second part of the vision, in which the Prophet, in order to relieve or in some measure to mitigate the sorrow of the Jews, shows, that God would not treat them with extreme rigor, so as to punish them as they deserved, but would chastise them with paternal moderation. Hence he says, that a measure appeared to him and a woman in the measure. The woman was wickedness; 5757     Impietas; [הרשעה], rendered “wickedness” in our version, and by Newcome and Henderson; “the wicked one,” by Blayney; and [ανομια]—lawlessness, by the Septuagint. It is a general term, which means what is unjust, wrong, wicked or sinful, everything contrary to the will and command of God. Leigh renders the adjective “Ungodly, lewd, turbelent, wavering, irreligious towards God, debauched in morals, turbelent in the commonwealth, unsettled in all things.” So the noun here may be regarded as including sin universally, as committed against God and man. But Henderson thinks, and perhaps not without reason, that idolatry is what is especially intended, as the article [ה] is prefixed; and this had been the chief sin or wickedness of the people, the mother of many other sins: and this was certainly removed from the people after the Babylonian captivity, as they had never been since guilty of idolatry, though of many other sins.—Ed. there was also a covering of lead, a wide or an extended piece. The plate of lead was borne upwards when the woman was seen in the measure. He then says, that the measure was closed up, and that there impiety was kept hid as a captive in prison. He afterwards adds, that it was driven away into the land of Shinar, very far from Judea, and that wickedness was thus turned over to the enemies of the chosen people.

We see that God, as I have already noticed, gives here a token of favor; for he says that wickedness was shut up in a measure. Though then he had spoken hitherto severely, that he might shake the Jews with dread, it was yet his purpose soon to add some alleviation: for it was enough that they were proved guilty of their sins, that they might humble themselves and suppliantly flee to God’s mercy, and also that repentance might really touch them, lest they should murmur, as we know they had done, but submit themselves to God and confess that they had suffered justly. Since then the angel had already shown that the curse had deservedly gone over the face of the whole land, because no corner was free from wickedness, the angel now adds, that he came to show a new vision, Raise, he says, now thine eyes, and see what this is which goes forth. The Prophet was no doubt cast down with fear, so that he hardly dared to look any longer. As then the curse was flying and passing freely here and there, the Prophet was struck with horror, and not without reason, since he beheld the wrath of God spreading everywhere indiscriminately. This is the reason why the angel now animates him and bids him to see what was going forth. And he tells what was exhibited to him, for he saw a measure; which in Hebrew is איפה, aiphe: 5858     It is translated “[μετρόν]—measure,” by the Septuagint, and “modius—a bushel,” by Grotius; and he says that an ephah was a measure nearly the size of a bushel.—Ed. and some render it measure or bushel; others, firkin or cask; but in this there is no difference. When the Prophet saw this measure, he asked the angel what it was: for the vision would have been useless, had he not been informed what the measure and the woman sitting in it signified, and also the lead covering. He therefore asked what they were.

Then the angel answered, This is the measure that goes forth, and this is their eye in all the earth. By saying that the measure is their eye, he no doubt means that the ungodly could not thus be carried away at their own pleasure, but that God restrained them whenever it seemed good to him; for they could not escape his sight. For by their eyes he understands passively the power of seeing in God, by which he notices all the sins of the ungodly, that he may check them when he pleases, when they hurry on without restraint. 5959     Respecting this “eye” there are various opinions. Newcome and Blayney follow the Septuagint and the Syriac, and render it, “their iniquity,” [עונם]; the difference being only of a vau instead of a iod; and there is one MS. in which it is so found. Then the sentence would be “This is their iniquity in all the land.” But Castalio, Grotius, Dathius, and Henderson follow the received text, only they give to [עיז] a similar meaning to that of our version, — form, appearance, resemblance, or emblem, that is, what is seen, what the eye observes; and this sense it evidently has in Leviticus 13:55; Numbers 11:7; Proverbs 23:31; Ezekiel 1:4,7,16. “The meaning is,” says Grotius, “that which thou seest symbolizes those things which the Jews have done and which they have suffered.”—Ed.

But that the meaning of the Prophet may be made more clear, let us first see what wickedness means, — whether it is to be taken for those sins which provoked God’s wrath against the Jews, — or whether for those wrongs which heathen enemies had done. The last is the view I prefer, though if we take it for the wickedness which had previously reigned in Judea, the meaning would not be unsuitable. For as wickedness is hateful to God, his vengeance against the Jews could not have ceased except by cleansing them from their sins, and by renewing them by his Spirit. For they had carried on war with him in such a way, that there was no means of pacifying him but by departing from their sins. And whenever God reconciles himself to melt, he at the same time renews them by his Spirit; he not only blots out their sins, as to the guilt, but also regenerates those who were before devoted to sin and the devil, so that he may treat them kindly and paternally.

With regard then to the subject in hand, both views may be suitably adopted. We may consider the meaning to be, — that God would take away iniquity from Judea by cleansing his Church from all defilements, since the Jews could not partake of his blessing except iniquity were driven afar off and banished. As God then designed to be propitious to his people, he justly says, that he would cause wickedness to disappear from the midst of them. Yet the other view, as I have said, is more agreeable to the context, — that wickedness would not be allowed freely to prevail as before; for we know that loose reins had been given to the cruelty of their enemies, inasmuch as the Jews had been exposed to the wrongs of all. As then they had been so immoderately oppressed, God promises that all unjust violence should be driven afar off and made to depart into the land of Shinar, that is, that the Lord would in turn chastise the Babylonians and reward them as they had deserved. The import of the whole is, that God, who had chosen the seed of Abraham, would be propitious to the Jews, so as to put an slid at length to their calamities.

Now the Prophet says that wickedness, when first seen, was in mid air, and in a measure; but at the same time he calls the measure the eye of the ungodly, for though wickedness extends itself to all parts, yet God confines it within a hidden measure; and this he designates by eyes, whereby he seems to allude to a former prophecy, which we have explained. For he had said that there were seven eyes in the stone of the high priest, because God would carry on by his providence the building of the temple. So also he says, that God’s eyes are upon all the ungodly, according to what is said in the book of Psalms —

“The eyes of the Lord are over the wicked, to destroy their memory from the earth.”
(Psalm 34:17.)

And this mode of speaking often occurs in Scripture. The meaning then is, that though wickedness spreads and extends through the whole earth, it is yet in a measure; but this measure is not always closed up. However this may be, still God knows how to regulate all things, so that impiety shall not exceed its limits. And this is most true, whatever view may be taken; for when enemies harass the church, though they may be carried along in the air, that is, though God may not immediately restrain their wrongs, they yet sit in a measure, and are ruled by the eyes of God, so that they cannot move a finger, except so far as they are permitted. Let us in a word know, that in a state of things wholly disordered, God watches, and his eyes are vigilant, in order to put an end to injuries. The same also may be said when God gives up to a reprobate mind those who deserve such a punishment; for though he cast them away, and Satan takes possession of them, yet this remains true — that they sit in a measure. They are not indeed shut in; but we ought not, as I have said, to suppose that God is indifferent in heaven, or that sins prevail in the world, as though he did not see them; for his connivance is not blindness. The eyes of God then mark and observe whatever sins are done in the world.

Now the angel adds, that a thin piece of lead was cast over the mouth of the measure, and that wickedness was cast into the measure. The expression, that wickedness was thrown into the measure, may be explained in two ways — either that God would not permit so much liberty to the devil to lead the Jews to sin as before; for how comes it that men abandon themselves to every evil, except that God forsakes them, and at the same time delivers them up to Satan, that he may exercise his tyranny over them? or, that a bridle would be used to restrain foreign enemies, that they might not in their wantonness oppress the miserable people, and exercise extreme violence. God, then, intending to deliver them from their sins, or to check wrongs, shuts up wickedness, as it were, in a measure; and then he adds a cover; and it is said to have been a thin piece, or a weight of lead, because it was heavy; as though the Prophet had said, that whenever it pleased God iniquity would be taken captive, so that it could not go forth from its confinement or its prison. It afterwards follows —


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