Today’s Chocolate: Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans
Today’s Passage: Zechariah 5
I’ve read Zechariah before, but I hadn’t remembered how vision-intensive it was until I opened it up for this study. Seriously, it’s like Ezekiel in microcosm up in here. On the docket for today we have a flying scroll, an ephah, and three women, two of whom have stork wings because how else are they going to fly while carrying the third woman and the ephah.
The scroll, as Zechariah’s angelic guide explains, carries a curse. “This is the curse that is going forth over the face of the whole land; surely everyone who steals will be purged away according to the writing on one side, and everyone who swears will be purged away according to the writing on the other side” (3), he says, predicting judgment for thieves and liars. The angel and the scroll aren’t talking about four-letter words here; they’re talking about swearing false oaths, making promises you don’t keep or don’t intend to keep, especially oaths in God’s name. That’s two commandments broken in one hit: bearing false witness and taking the Lord’s name in vain! It’s been awhile since we saw overt judgment in Zechariah’s vision, so if you were waiting for some straight-up truth and prophetic consequences, your patience has paid off.
Then comes the ephah. What’s an ephah? It’s not a priestly garment; that’s an ephod. And it’s not a letter of the Hebrew alphabet. (I’m not going to tell you how many letters of the Hebrew alphabet I went through trying to figure out if it was.) No, it’s a unit of measurement, equal to roughly one bushel or 35 liters. And if you’re having trouble visualizing that, the lead cover of the ephah is lifted off, and the angel explains: “This is a woman sitting inside the ephah” (7). The ephah is not just a unit of volume, it’s the container that contains a particular volume, and it’s big enough to contain a woman.
The woman is bad news. The angel exclaims, “This is Wickedness!” (8) and seals her back in the ephah, which is promptly carried off by two women with stork wings. Zechariah asks the angel where they’re taking her, and the angel answers, “To build a temple for her in the land of Shinar; and when it is prepared, she will be set there on her own pedestal” (11). Doing some research, it seems Shinar is Babylon. The Wickedness that this woman represents will be taken out of Judea, deposited in the idolatrous nation whose evil has infiltrated God’s people.
Visions have points to their weirdness, though. The point of this vision is simple: evil is serious business. Lying is the kind of thing that flying scrolls dismantle entire houses over, and whatever the Ephah Woman’s wickedness is (materialism? worship of false gods? something else entirely?) is the kind of thing that doesn’t belong among the children of God. The weird imagery is there to engage your mind, get your attention, and get the point through your head: don’t mess with evil.