Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
ZECHARIAH CHAPTER 5
In the previous visions concerning Yehoshua the High Priest and the golden Menorah, the prophet received great lessons about the leaders who were to build the new Temple and the spiritual source of their power. Now, in the vision of the Flying Scroll (Zechariah 5:1-4) and the Eiphah-measure (Zech. 5:5-10) the prophet receives lessons about the social justice that must be the foundation of the new order, because it was theft, deception and oppression that caused the exile.
THE FLYING SCROLL
Vv 1-2: "And I looked, and behold a flying scroll. its length twenty cubits and its breadth ten cubits." The scroll came forth from the Holy of Holies in the Temple through the entrance of the Temple vestibule (OOLAM) which was ten cubits wide and twenty cubits high. In other words, this moral lesson that theft, deception and false oaths bring punishment in their wake is bound up with the very essence of the Temple concept. The presence of the Holy Temple demands appropriate standards of conduct between men, particularly in their business dealings with one another. This scroll of reproof is the same scroll that the prophet Ezekiel saw (Ezekiel 2:9-10).
The sages of the Talmud stated that the entire Torah was written on this scroll. The Hebrew word in verse 2 that is translated as "flying" ('APHAH) also has the connotation of "folded" or doubled over, which means that the surface area of the scroll was in fact twenty by twenty cubits. We learn from verse 3 (MI-ZEH. MI-ZEH.) that it had writing on both sides. If the scroll were sliced into two leaves, the total surface area would come out to be doubled again, i.e. twenty by forty cubits = 800 square cubits. Isaiah 40:12 asks, "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and meted out heaven with the SPAN.?" Since God measures heaven (=the created world) with a span, which is a half cubit, 800 sq. cubits consist of 3,200 square spans. This means that the entire world is only 1/3,200 the expanse of the Torah (Talmud Eiruvin 21a, Rashi on Zech. 5:1).
V 3: "Then he said to me, this is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth." The curse - the punishment for the sins enumerated in this verse - is "going out" over the earth because the scroll was going forth from the Temple . One side (MI-ZEH) of the scroll (one aspect of the reproof) is directed against every thief; the other side (MI-ZEH) is directed against everyone who swears falsely. They are two sides of the same reproof because although theft in itself is less serious than taking God's name in vain through a false oath, theft brings a person to lie and swear falsely (RaDaK on v 2).
V 4: "I have taken it forth, says HaShem of hosts." Previously individuals who stole and swore falsely had not been punished, but now God has drawn forth the reproof in the form of the flying scroll and shown it to the prophet, to indicate that the nation has now been warned and that once their measure is complete they will suffer collectively for these sins (Rashi on vv 3-4).
THE EIPHAH MEASURE
The EIPHAH is one of the standard Torah units of measure of weight (cf. Exodus 16:36 etc.). Estimates of the modern equivalent vary between 24.8-43.0 kilograms. The Torah explicitly forbids "double standards": "You shall not have in your house an EIPHAH and an EIPHAH, one big (for measuring what one buys) and one small (for measuring what one sells)" (Deut. 25:14).
Vv 5-6: The EIPHAH-measure is going forth to reprove those "whose eyes are in all the land" - who are looking everywhere to see what they can steal and how they can reduce the weight of what they sell while raising the prices. They will be punished "measure for measure".
Vv 7ff: "And behold, the leaden cover was lifted and there was a woman sitting in the midst of the EIPHAH." The wicked woman represents the nation whose people behaved unjustly in business. The woman is now punished by being enclosed in the EIPHAH-measure - she is punished with the very same measure she meted out to others! A heavy lead lid closes her in: this represents the heavy weight of exile that punishes the sinners by keeping them trapped and silenced. RaDaK (on vv 7-8) explains that this woman represents the Ten Tribes, who were all part of one kingdom and went on the same wicked path, as a result of which they were sent into a long exile.
[The Talmud in Yoma 69b and Sanhedrin 64a darshens this verse in a radically different way as teaching that in the time of Zechariah the sages sought to eliminate the evil inclination by closing it up in a lead container in order to silence it, until they realized that all desire to procreate would dry up, so instead they released it but blinded its eyes so as to reduce the impulse to worship idols and contravene the incest laws, and indeed these sins were less rampant in the time of the Second Temple than they had been in the time of the First.]
Vv 9-11: "And I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold there were two women coming forth, and the wind was in their wings." Again, these women were coming forth from the Temple to give reproof. RaDaK interprets these two women as representing the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, who went into exile in Babylon . Even though by the time of Zechariah's prophecy many of the exiles had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubavel, many others still remained in Babylon . "And they carried the EIPHAH-measure between the earth and the heaven." This is not the same EIPHAH as in verse 8, which was closed in under a heavy lead lid to make it sink into the earth (alluding to the lengthy exile of the Ten Tribes). The EIPHAH of verse 9 borne by the women with wings like a stork's was hanging in mid-air, indicating that the exile of Judah and Benjamin was only temporary until they returned to their land (RaDaK). Nevertheless, as a result of their sins, many still remained in exile in the land of Shin'ar = Babylon (Rashi; Metzudas David).
THE VISION OF THE FOUR CHARIOTS
Following the previous section of this long prophecy evoking the exile of the Ten Tribes to an unknown land and of Judah and Benjamin to Babylon as a result of their sins, the new section (ch 6 vv 1-8) is a vision of four chariots representing the four major powers that have oppressed and exiled Israel throughout history until today: Babylon, Medea-Persia, Greece and Rome-Ishmael.
V 1: The chariots come forth from between two mountains of bronze, symbolizing the great strength of these powers, since they are God's agents (Rashi).
V 2: The horses of the first chariot are red, signifying Babylon (cf. Daniel 2:38; gold is red-colored). The horses of the second are black, signifying Medea-Persia, who "blackened the faces of Israel in the days of Haman" (Rashi).
V 3: The horses of the third chariot are white, signifying the Greeks, who customarily wore white garments. The horses of the fourth are B'RUDIM, "grizzled" or "blotched" (as if with lumps of white hail, BARAD) and AMUTZIM, "ashen". These signify Ishmael and the Romans, who are from the children of Edom and who rule together with Ishmael. The "blotched" horses allude to Ishmael, for they contain whiteness and radiance since their extraction is from Abraham and they hold to some of his instructions since they are circumcised, while the "ashen" horses allude to the Romans, who burned the Temple and turned it into ashes (Metzudas David). RaDaK, who makes similar identifications to those of Metzudas David, adds that the white blotches signifying Ishmael/Rome indicate that they consider themselves faithful to the Torah of Moses which is white as hail, yet they mix it in with many other beliefs.
V 5: "These are the four winds of the heavens." - "These are the guardian angels of the powers that rule over the four directions of heaven" (Rashi). "They are going forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth" - "They came before Him and He gave them permission to rule" - (Rashi).
Verse 6 makes no mention of the chariot with red horses - Babylon - because their rule had already come to an end by the time of Zechariah (Rashi). The black horses - Medea and Persia - went northwards to conquer Babylon . The white horses - Greece - went after them: Alexander of Macedon ( Greece ) defeated Darius of Persia. The blotched horses - Ishmael - went and entrenched themselves in the south, which was where Ishmael dwelled (Metzudas David). In verse 7, the ashen horses - Rome - go forth to walk to and fro throughout the earth, "for they rule over the earth with Ishmael" (Metzudas David).
V 8: "See, those who go out to the land of the north have relieved My spirit in the land of the north" - God is pleased that Medea-Persia have gone to the north, Babylon , and exacted His vengeance from her (Rashi).
CROWNS FOR THE HIGH PRIEST AND KING-MASHIACH
Verse 9 begins a new Parshah Sethumah which runs until the end of this chapter (Zech. 6:15), concluding the lengthy prophecy that began in Zechariah 1:7 evoking the era that was beginning with the building of the Second Temple and the powers that would rule the earth thereafter until the end of days.
In this closing section of the prophecy Zechariah receives instructions from God to take silver and gold from some of the wealthy returnees to Jerusalem from Babylon in order to make two crowns. One of them is explicitly made to place on the head of Yehoshua son of Yehotzadak, the High Priest, one of the two main leaders and builders of the Temple (v 11). Our text does not state explicitly for whom the second crown is intended, but this may be inferred from verse 12, where Zechariah is instructed to tell Yehoshua about the great destiny of Zerubavel, from whose progeny will come the Mashiach=Tzemach (cf. Zechariah 3:8), who will build the future Temple. Zerubavel himself was never crowned king, but already on the threshold of the Second Temple era, Zechariah was told to prepare the crown for Mashiach, who will build the Third Temple , which will stand forever (Metzudas David).
".and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." The Temple will be built when the temporal and spiritual leaders - represented by the king and the priest - will see eye to eye.
V 15: "And they that are far off shall come and build." - "This refers to the future Temple, for then the scattered exiles of Israel (=the Ten Tribes) and Judah will come from far off and build God's Sanctuary, and then you will know that HaShem of Hosts sent me to prophecy these things and that I have not spoken from my own heart. This will come about in your days IF YOU LISTEN TO GOD'S VOICE TO GO IN HIS WAYS!!!" (Metzudas David).
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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