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. 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. And behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead. And this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah. And he said, This is Wickedness. And he cast her into the midst of the ephah; and he cast the weight of lead upon the mouth thereof. Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked, and behold,. there came forth two women; and the wind was in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork: and they lifted up the ephah between the earth and the heaven. Then said I to the angel that talked with me, Whither do these bear the ephah? And he said unto me, To build it a house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base.-ZECHARIAH v. 5-11.
THE text. is a revelation that, in the perverted Jewish Church, even its external good was inwardly filled with the love of evil, which had perverted its goodness, and would still further profane the Divine Truth.
The ephah was the largest of the dry measures in common use among the Israelites, It was about equal to our modern bushel measure. “As solids represent the things of goodness, and liquids represent the things of truth, a dry measure-represents the measure of goodness, the test of the quality of goodness, in the thing measured. Thus, in a general sense, the ephah represented goodness. The ephah is said to “go forth,” when it is put into practical use.
Speaking .of the ephah, the angel said, according to the Authorized Version, “This is their resemblance through all the earth.” But the Hebrew literally says, “This is their eye through all the earth.” The eye
represents the understanding, the intellect, which is the eye of the mind, by which mental things are seen intelligently. The reference seems to be to the fact that the ephah was of the usual kind, with the usual appearance. But, spiritually, it refers to the fact that this ephah represents the general kind of natural good, as in the church, that is, goodness as measured in the outward conduct, especially in the acts of piety and elevation.
This ephah had a leaden cover, or lid. Lead, as a base metal, represents goodness of the lowest degree, i.e., natural and corporeal good, good as known to the natural senses, sensuous good. The leaden cover was said to be it “a talent of lead.” The Hebrew talent was a large weight, which varied in different times, but which was about one hundred pounds of our common avoirdupois weight. A talent of gold, and a talent of silver, became common amounts for great enterprises, requiring large sums. In the parable of the talents, in Matthew xxv. 14-30, we have an instance of the use of the term. A talent, thus used in the way of a coin, represented knowledge of truth and of goodness; for knowledge, like money, is not goodness, nor is it truth, but it is only a means of procuring these things. As this large leaden cover represented corporeal and sensuous goodness, the fact that it was a “talent” of lead indicates that there was, in the mind represented, a knowledge of the things which form corporeal goodness. This leaden cover was lifted up, or off, to expose the contents of the ephah.
In this case, the contents happened to be a woman, sitting in the ephah. A woman represents the affectional life, good or evil, according to the character of the individual. Here, as the perverted church is pictured, the woman represented the love of evil. And, to indicate this fact, the angel, in speaking of her, said, “This is Wickedness” [literally “evil”]. This evil woman represented the general state of the corrupted church. The ephah represented natural good, good in the external action: and the woman represented evil in the heart, the love of evil, dwelling within the external goodness of the piety and devotion of those who constituted the church. The Jewish Church, although still very punctilious about mere externals of worship, very pious, and apparently devoted to the forms of the church, yet indulged all kinds of evils, in the heart.
We remember how forcibly Jesus exposed those evil conditions, in His denunciation of the “Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” who thus represented the Jewish nation in general: “Ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which, indeed, appear beautiful, outwardly, but are, within, full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.” These statements expose the evil character of the Jews, even in the midst of their outward piety and professions. And this is the meaning symbolized by the evil woman in the ephah.
That she was ” sitting” in the ephah, means that her will was fixed in such evil; for sitting indicates a position somewhat permanent, and one in which the person is at rest, and not merely in a transient, changing state of mind. And that she was “in the midst” of the ephah, means that she was thoroughly and fully fixed in such condition.
After the angel had shown the woman to the prophet, he cast her down again, or crowded her down, into the ephah, and closed the ephah with its leaden cover. This action denoted that the Jewish Church, represented by the woman, was fixed and confirmed in its evils of heart, which existed within all its external goodness of piety and devotion; and that such inward evils were shut in, and covered up, by the sensuous and corporeal good, in which such men placed religion. And such joining of evil in the heart with outward good in the action, constitutes profanation of, goodness.
When the angel closed the ephah, it is said that “he cast the weight upon the mouth” of the ephah. But in the Hebrew, literally, it is called a “stone of lead.” Ancient weights were often made of stone. And the weight was commonly called a stone. And, even in our day, in Great Britain, a weight of fourteen pounds is called a “stone.” A stone represents truth on the natural plane, natural truth; or, if used in a bad sense, it represents natural truth perverted into falsity. And thus the term “a stone of lead,” meaning sensuous falsity, is in agreement with the lead, itself, which represented sensuous evil, from which such falsities are derived.
After the ephah was closed, there appeared two women, who lifted the ephah, and carried it away. As a woman represents affection, these two women represented affection existing in other churches, other conditions of the church, which perceived the evil character of the Jewish Church, represented by the woman shut up in the ephah; and so they were directed by the Lord to banish her from among them, and to thrust her away, where she could be by herself, without contaminating the other churches. For some of the Gentile churches, although ignorant of clear spiritual truth, were in a state of simplicity, and well disposed towards the Lord.
And their natural good affections were protected from contamination by the hypocrisy of the Jews, by allowing them to recognize such hypocrisy, and to reject it from their own life. And there were two of these women, to represent their good natural affections in a state of union. And, individually, when our good natural affections are united with such truths as we know, our Lord can protect us against the spirit of hypocritical piety, by exposing to us its character.
These women “had wings, like the wings of a stork.“ Wings, which are the arms of birds, represent power, because they are the chief means by which the bird exerts its power. And as birds represent our thoughts, their wings represent the power of thought. And flying represents using the power of thought. And the banishment of the evil spirit of hypocritical piety was effected by thinking over these things; i.e. using the power of thought, which is represented by flying away with the ephah in which was the evil woman.
And that these two women “had wings like the wings of a stork,” means, literally, that their wings were long, powerful, and capable of swift and extended flight. The stork represents natural thought, such as is capable of strong and continued thinking.
It is also said of these two women, that “the wind was in their wings,” which is a figurative way of saying that their wings made use of the wind. But, spiritually, the meaning is more profound. In physical nature, the blowing of the wind, by which many necessary purposes are accomplished, represents the operation of the Divine Providence, especially in flowing into men’s minds with the Divine Truths, by which men are regenerated. And so, in the account of the creation of man, in Genesis ii. 7, it is said that” Jehovah God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” And the same Hebrew word is the root-word from which we translate wind, breath, and spirit.
THE LAND OF SHINAR.
These women were to carry away the woman in the ephah, to “the land of Shinar,” where they were to build her a house for herself, and where they would set the ephah in order, on its “own base.” The land of Shinar was the ancient name of Chaldea, or Babylonia, as is known from Genesis x. 10, where, speaking of Nimrod, “a mighty hunter,” it is said; ” The beginning of his kingdom was Babel and Erech, and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.” It is said of the descendants of Noah, “and it came to pass, as they journeyed from the East, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there.” (Genesis xi. 2.) And there they began to build the great tower of Babel.
The land of Shinar represents a state of merely external worship, joined with evil in the heart, which produces profanation of all goodness and truth. It is, for instance, the devoted external piety of the man who believes that he will be saved from the wrath of God by the “Vicarious Sacrifice” of Christ, and who depends on such a salvation, and does not have the desire, or intention, to co-operate with the Lord, in changing his own character from evil to good, by repentance, instruction and regeneration, whereby the Lord saves a man from, the man’s own evils.
The evil woman in the ephah, carried to the land of Shinar, is a representative picture of the removal and separation of the Church of hypocritical piety, filled with evil in the heart, so that it shall not be mingled and confused with other forms of the church, but shall stand by itself, to fill up the measure of its own destiny. And, in the land of Shinar, a house shall be built for that Church. The house is a man’s home, where he lives in private. And it represents the man’s interior will, in which he lives to himself. And thus, the banishment of the evil woman from her associates, and having a house built for her, in a distant land, where she could be “established and set there upon her own base,” represent the separation of hypocritical goodness, and its building up of itself, upon its own foundations of character, and thus being known as to its qualities.
Literally, our text seems to be a prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem, and of the nationality of the Jews which, in fact, soon came about, through the, Roman conquest of Judea. But, spiritually, the text depicts a judgment upon the Jewish dispensation, and also a judgment upon similar mental conditions, in the individual minds of men, in all ages.
The Jewish Church, as a dispensation, long ago came to an end, banished by its own evils. Individual members still exist, and its organizations exist in scattered fragments. But, for many centuries, the Jews have been religious outcasts among the Christian nations, and also, to some extent, even political outcasts. Some of the Jews, perhaps many of them, still look forward to the restoration of Israel, and the literal fulfilment of the prophecies of their national return to Jerusalem. But these things will never come, physically. The prophecies of the Scriptures are fulfilled spiritually, but not often literally. And where there are literal fulfilments, these are but the results of the spiritual fulfilments. These prophecies were not meant finally for the Jews as a people, but for the renewed and regenerated Church of the Lord, the New Jerusalem, of which ancient Jerusalem and its people were merely literal and figurative representatives; as with men at all times, the things of our bodily life are merely figurative symbols of the things of our mental life.
In every age of the church, from the Most Ancient Church to the present times, the evil in man has been the failure to love the Lord and His Divine Goodness and Truth, and to trust in His Divine Providence. But men have sunk into the love of self, and into trust in their own abilities; and thus they have destroyed spiritual love and faith and righteousness, in their own hearts and lives. And then, by their own evils and falsities, they are carried away from a state of spiritual freedom, in which they might be regenerated, and they are taken into a state in which they plunge into all kinds of perversions of goodness, and falsifications of truth; and they dwell in their own self-derived notions, in the practical denial of ill the qualities of character which distinguish the God whom they pretend to worship. They are carried to the spiritual Shinar, the mental state of self-love and hypocritical worship; and there, like their ancient prototypes, the descendants of Noah, they seek to build a great tower, which shall be based on their own natural senses, and yet reach up to heaven, But such a tower for self-worship will always end, as did the old one, in confusion of ideas, and in the dispersion of all things which would constitute spiritual manhood. “It is not in man, that walketh, to direct his steps.” – (Jeremiah x. 23.) “For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him.” (Isaiah xxviii. 26.)
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903