Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Hitherto all had been bright, full of the largeness of the gifts of God; of God's favor to His people ; the removal of their enemies ; the restoration and expansion and security of God's people and Church under His protection ; the acceptance of the present typical priesthood and the promise of Him, through whom there should be entire forgiveness : the abiding illumining of the Church by the Spirit of God . Yet there is a reverse side to all this, God's judgments on those who reject all His mercies. Augustine, de Civ. Del. 17:3. Ribera: "Prophecies partly appertain to those in whose times the sacred writers prophesied, partly to the mysteries of Christ. And therefore it is the custom of the prophets, at one time to chastise vices and set forth punishments, at another to predict the mysteries of Christ and the Church."
And I turned and - Or, "Again I lifted up my eyes" Gen 26:18; Kg2 1:11, Kg2 1:13; Jer 18:14, having again sunk down in meditation on what he had seen, "and behold a roll flying;" as, to Ezekiel was shown "a hand with a roll of a book therein, and he spread it before me." Ezekiel's roll also was "written within and without, and there was written, therein lamentation and mourning and woe" Eze 2:9-10. It was a wide unfolded roll, as is involved in its flying; but its "flight signified the very swift coming of punishment; its flying from heaven that the sentence came from the judgment-seat above" (Ribera).
And he - (the interpreting angel) said unto me It cannot be without meaning, that the dimensions of the roll should be those of the tabernacle , as the last vision was that of the candlestick, after the likeness of the candlestick therein. The explanations of this correspondence do not exclude each other. It may be that "judgment shall begin at the house of God" Pe1 4:17; that the punishment on sin is proportioned to the nearness of God and the knowledge of Him; that the presence of God, which was for life, might also be to death, as Paul says; "God maketh manifest the savor of this knowledge by us in every place; for we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ in them that are saved and in them that perish; to the one we are the savor of death unto death, and to the other the savor of life unto life" Co2 2:14-16; and Simeon said, "This child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel" Luk 2:34.
Over the face of the whole earth - primarily land, since the perjured persons, upon whom the curse was to fall Zac 5:4, were those who swore falsely by the name of God: and this was in Judah only. The reference to the two tables of the law also confines it primarily to those who were under the law. Yet, since the moral law abides under the Gospel, ultimately these visions related to the Christian Church, which was to be spread over the whole earth. The roll apparently was shown, as written on both sides; the commandments of the first table, in which perjury is forbidden, on the one side; those relating to the love of our neighbor, in which stealing is forbidden, on the other. Theodoret: "He calleth curse that vengeance, which goeth through the whole world, and is brought upon the workers of iniquity. But hereby both prophets and people were taught, that the God of all is the judge of all people, and will exact meet punishment of all, bringing utter destruction not on those only who live ungodly toward Himself, but on those also who are unjust to their neighbors. For let no one think that this threat was only against thieves and false-swearers; for He gave sentence against all iniquity. For since all the law and the prophets hang on this word, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself," He comprised every sort of sin under false swearing and theft. The violation of oaths is the head of all ungodliness. One who so doeth is devoid of the love of God. But theft indicates injustice to one's neighbor; for no one who loves his neighbor will endure to be unjust to him. These heads then comprehend all the other laws."
Shall be cut off - Literally, "cleansed away" , as something defiled and defiling, which has to be cleared away as offensive: as God says, "I will take away the remnant of the house of Jeroboam, as a man taketh away dung, until it be all gone" (Kg1 14:10, add Kg1 21:21), and so often in Deuteronomy, "thou shalt put the evil away from the midst of thee" (Deu 13:5 (6 Heb.); Deu 17:7; Deu 19:19; Deu 21:21; Deu 22:21, Deu 22:24; Deu 24:7), or "of Israel" Deu 17:12; Deu 23:22, and in Ezekiel, "I will disperse thee in the countries and will consume thy filthiness out of thee" Eze 22:15. Set it empty upon the coals thereof, that the brass of it may be hot and may burn, and the filthiness of it may be molten, that the scum of it may be consumed" Eze 24:11.
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" Jer 10:13; Jer 51:16; and, "Is not this laid up in store with Me, sealed up among My treasures?" To Me belongeth "vengeance and recompense" Deu 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" Luk 19:44. This resteth upon them these" 1800 "years."
Then the angel went forth - From the choirs of angels, among whom, in the interval, he had retired, as before (Zep 2:3 (7 Hebrew)) he had gone forth to meet another angel.
This is the ephah that goeth forth - Theodoret: "We too are taught by this, that the Lord of all administers all things in weight and measure. So, foretelling to Abraham that his seed should be a sojourner and the cause thereof, He says, "for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full" Gen 15:16, that is, they have not yet committed sins enough to merit entire destruction, wherefore I cannot yet endure to give them over to the slaughter, but will wait for the measure of their iniquity." The relation then of this vision to the seventh is, that the seventh tells of God's punishment on individual sinners; this, on the whole people, when the iniquity of the whole is full.
This is their resemblance, as we say, their look, that is, the look, appearance, of the inhabitants "in all the land." This then being the condition of the people of the land, at the time to which the vision relates, the symbolical carrying away of the full measure of sin cannot be its forgiveness, since there was no repentance, but the taking away of the sin with the sinner. Cyril: "The Lord of all is good and loving to mankind; for He is patient toward sinners and endures transgressors, waiting for the repentance of each; but if one perseveres long in iniquity, and come to the term of the endurance allowed, it remains that he should be subjected to punishment, and there is no account of this long forebarance, nor can he be exempt from judgment proportioned to what he has done. So then Christ says to the Jewish people, rushing with unbridled phrensy to all strange excess, "Fill ye up the measure of your fathers" Mat 23:32. The measure then, which was seen, pointed to the filling up of the measure of the transgression of the people against Himself." Jerome: "The angel bids him behold the sins of the people Israel, heaped together in a perfect measure, and the transgression of all fulfilled - that the sins, which escaped notice, one by one, might, when collected together, be laid open to the eyes of all, and Israel might go forth from its place, and it might be shown to all what she was in her own land." Ribera: "I think the Lord alluded to the words of the prophet, as though He would say, "Fill up the measure of sins" which your fathers began of old, as it is in Zechariah, that is, ye will soon fill it; for ye so haste to do evil, that ye will soon fill it to the utmost."
And behold there was lifted up a talent of lead - the heaviest Hebrew weight, elsewhere of gold or silver; the golden talent weighing, 1,300,000 grains; the silver, 660,000; here, being lead, it is obviously an undefined mass, though circular , corresponding to the Ephah. The Ephah too was the largest Hebrew measure, whose compass cannot now, with certainty, be ascertained . Both probably were, in the vision, ideal. Theodoret: "Holy Scripture calleth the punishment of sin, lead, as being by nature heavy. This the divine David teacheth us, "mine iniquities are gone over my head: as an heavy burden, they are too heavy for me" Psa 38:4. The divine Zechariah seeth sin under the image of a woman; for most evils are engendered by luxury. But he seeth the punishment, like most heavy lead, lying upon the mouth of iniquity, according to a Psalm, "all iniquity shall stop her mouth" Psa 107:42. Ambr. in Ps. 35. n. 9. Opp. i. 769: "Iniquity, as with a talent of lead, weighs down the conscience."
This is a woman - Literally, "one woman," all sin being concentrated and personified in one, as he goes on to speak of her as the, personified, wickedness. The sitting may represent her abiding tranquil condition in her sins, according to the climax in Psa 1:1-6, "and hath not sat in the seat of the scornful" Psa 1:1; and, "thou sittest and speakest against thy brother" Psa 50:20; (Lap.), "not standing as by the way, but sitting, as if of set purpose, of custom and habit." "Whoso hath peace in sins is not far from lying down in them, so that, oppressed by a spirit of slumber, he neither sees light, nor feels any blow, but is kept down by the leaden talent of his obduracy."
And cast her into the midst of the Ephah - As yet then the measure was not full. Ribera: "She had the lower part within the Ephah, but the upper, especially the head, without. Though the Jews had slain the prophets and done many grievous things, the greatest sin of all remained to be done. But when they had crucified Christ and persecuted the Apostles and the Gospel, the measure was full; she was wholly within the Ephah, no part remained without, so that the measure was filled."
And he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof - that is, doubtless of the Ephah; as in Genesis, "a great stone was on the mouth of the well" Gen 29:2, so that there should be no access to it.
There came out two women - It may be that there may be no symbol herein, but that he names women because it was a woman who was so carried; yet their wings were the wings of an unclean bird, strong, powerful, borne by a force not their own; with their will, since they flew; beyond their will, since the wind was in their wings; rapidly, inexorably, irresistibly, they flew and bore the Ephah between heaven and earth. No earthly power could reach or rescue it. God would not. It may be that evil spirits are symbolized, as being like to this personified human wickedness, such as snatch away the souls of the damned, who, by serving them, have become as they.
To build it an house in the land of Shinar - The name of Shinar, though strictly Babylonia, carries back to an older power than the world-empire of Babylon; which now too was destroyed. "In the land of Shinar" Gen 11:2 was that first attempt to array a world-empire against God, ere mankind was ye dispersed. And so it is the apter symbol of the antitheist or anti-Christian world, which by violence, art, falsehood, sophistry, wars against the truth. To this great world-empire it was to be removed; yet to live there, no longer cramped and confined as within an Ephah, but in pomp and splendor. A house or temple was to be built for it, for its honor and glory; as Dagon Sa1 5:2-5 or Ashtaroth Sa1 31:10, or Baal Kg2 10:23 had their houses or temples, a great idol temple, in which the god of this world should be worshiped.
And it - - "The house," "shall be established" firmly on its base, like the house of God, and it, (wickedness) shall be tranquilly rested on its base, as an idol in its temple, until the end come. In the end, the belief of those of old was, that the Jews would have great share in the antagonism to Christ and His empire. At the first, they were the great enemies of the faith, and sent forth, Justin says, , those everywhere who should circulate the calumnies against Christians, which were made a ground of early persecutions. In the end, it was believed, that antichrist should be from them, that they would receive him as their Christ, the last fulfillment of our Lord's words, "I am come in My Father's name and ye receive Me not; another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive" Joh 5:43.