Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2002 James Melough
5:1. “Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes,
and looked, and behold a flying roll.”
This chapter appears to be the symbolic revelation of what would emerge in an
era which it would have been impossible for Israel to envisage in that distant
day when the vision was given, i.e., the development of the evil religious
monstrosity that has evolved out of the true Christianity which replaced the
empty ritualistic form of Judaism after the death and resurrection of the Lord
Jesus Christ. It is Roman Catholicism and her twin sister, apostate
The roll or scroll seen flying through the air is identified in verse three.
5:2. “And he said unto me, What seest thou? And
I answered, I see a flying roll; the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the
breadth thereof ten cubits.”
The speaker is the same angelic messenger who had revealed God’s word to the
prophet in the preceding chapters; and here the scroll is obviously unrolled
so that its contents could be read.
The size of the scroll - about thirty feet long and fifteen feet broad - is
significant, for its large size appears to indicate, not only the importance
of its contents, but possibly also the magnitude of the evil being portrayed,
and also the great geographic scope of that evil influence. It has, in fact,
spread itself virtually over the greater part of the earth for almost two
Since ten is the biblical number associated with God as the Governor of
all things - just as twelve is the number associated with those under
that government - the dimensions, ten and twenty cubits, have also a lesson to
teach. Twenty is simply a multiple of ten, so that the second lesson
connected with these two numbers is that God is in control, and the evil He
permits is never beyond that control, but is for His glory and the ultimate
blessing of His people.
A further lesson related to these numbers lies in their being used here to
measure length and breadth, for in Scripture length is always associated with
the duration of the thing being discussed, while breadth is associated with
the nature or character of the thing being discussed. The evil would be of
long duration, and of diabolic character.
5:3. “Then said he unto me, This is the curse
that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth: for every one that stealeth
shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth
shall be cut off as on that side according to it.”
The scroll was written upon on both sides, the writing on one side pronouncing
a curse upon every thief; and that on the other side, a curse upon everyone
who used God’s name to swear falsely; the curse itself being the death of the
It may seem strange that these two sins should be singled out when it is easy
to think of others usually considered more heinous, e.g., murder and adultery;
but the reason is made clear in the next verse.
5:4. “I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of
hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of
him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his
house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.”
Notice that the curse is to enter into and destroy the house of both
the thief and the false swearer. The house represents the great false
religious system housed in Roman Catholicism and in apostate Protestantism.
Both systems are marked by theft and lies. Both have stolen the glory that
belongs to God alone. Look, for example, at the worldly glory centered
architecturally in Rome and Westminster Cathedral; and in the vestments and
titles of the priests of both. All of this is a far cry from the scriptural
simplicity of the apostolic Church which had neither buildings nor gorgeously
attired and titled clerics.
But they have stolen also from men, taking from them not only their money, but
the knowledge of the true way of life, each presenting itself as the source of
life, and membership in it as the only means of salvation.
And they have lied in that they have covered up scriptural truth, and taught
instead, as did the Jewish leaders of Christ’s day, “the commandments of men,”
see Mt 15:3-9.
These sins are far worse than murder or adultery! They destroy men’s souls!
But the destruction of both “houses” is imminent. The work of ecumenism, that
is fast bringing about the return of apostate Protestantism to the evil fold
of Rome, is almost complete. The next great event on God’s calendar is the
rapture of the true Church, an event that will be synchronous with the removal
of the Holy Spirit’s restraint of evil, and after a brief interval of
unspecified duration, the beginning of the seven-year Tribulation era in which
God’s Word will be fulfilled: both evil houses will finally be destroyed!
5:5. “Then the angel that talked with me went
forth, and said unto me, Lift up now thine eyes, and see what is this that
The prophet was about to be shown another symbolic view of the same evil
system as has just been discussed.
5:6. “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.”
An ephah was a container or measure, particularly for holding or measuring
grain; and here it is presented as another symbol of the two evil systems we
have been discussing. The their of “their resemblance (guilt,
transgression)” obviously refers to the two houses which represent Roman
Catholicism, and apostate Protestantism, a further insight into their evil
character being given in what is written now concerning this symbolic ephah.
The propriety of this new symbol, a container or measure for grain, will be
apparent when we remember that the Word, of which grain is one of the biblical
symbols, is that upon which the teaching of these two evil systems is
5:7. “And, behold, there was lifted up a talent
of lead: and this is a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.”
The cover of the ephah was of lead weighing about a talent (sixty-six pounds),
and when it was lifted up, the prophet saw a woman sitting inside the ephah,
and there is no doubt that she is the OT counterpart of the evil woman
described in Rev 17, a chapter the reader is urged to read carefully before
continuing this present study. (The present author’s verse-by-verse
commentary on Revelation is also available on this web site).
No scripturally instructed mind can fail to see in both these women - the one
in the ephah, and “the great whore that sitteth upon many waters,” Re 17:1,
and that sat upon “a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy, having
seven heads and ten horns,” Re 1:3, having “upon her forehead a name written,
MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE
EARTH,” Re 1:5 - an amazingly clear picture of Roman Catholicism, which in the
Tribulation will have gathered back into her fold all her harlot daughters:
the denominations of apostate Christendom.
It is also significant that virtually every scriptural reference to lead is in
a bad connotation related to God’s judgment upon sin.
5:8. “And he said, This is wickedness. And he
cast it into the midst of the ephah; he cast the weight of the lead upon the
The “he” who spoke with Zechariah was the angel who had been explaining the
meanings of the other symbols used in the vision; and other translations
clarify the ambiguity of the KJ rendering of this verse, e.g., “He said, ‘This
is wickedness’. And he forced her back into the bushel and closed its mouth
with the mass of lead,” The Jerusalem Bible. “Then said he, This is
lawlessness. So he thrust her back into the ephah, and then thrust the leaden
weight into the mouth thereof,” Rotherham. The evil woman thrust back
into the ephah, and kept there by means of the leaden cover, is the
personification of wickedness.
This is the symbolic picture of the evil system which has been centered in
Rome for two millennia, being reserved by God for the execution of His
judgment in the now imminent Tribulation.
5:9. “Then lifted I up mine eyes, and looked,
and, behold, there came out 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.”
It is ominously significant that in Le 11:19 the stork is declared by God to
be unclean, an abomination, and not to be eaten by His people Israel, the
proscription being repeated in De 14:18; so clearly these two women with the
wings of a stork are also representative of evil. There can be little
question that they are another symbol of Roman Catholicism and her twin sister
Wind is one of the biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, but it is to be noted
that the same symbol may portray evil as well as good, e.g., the lion, the
context making clear which meaning is to be understood. The Lord Jesus Christ
is spoken of as “the Lion of Judah” Re 5:5, but Satan is also described as a
lion, “... your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking
whom he may devour,” 1 Pe 5:8. And so with the wind: it may portray the Holy
Spirit, or as here, Satan, for obviously the context is evil.
Their lifting up the ephah “between the earth and the heaven,” i.e., into the
air, the realm of the spirit world, continues to emphasize that this is
spiritual evil, see Eph 2:2, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the
course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air,
the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.”
5:10. “Then said I to the angel that talked with
me, Whither do these bear the ephah?”
5:11. “And he said unto me, To build it an house
in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own
This takes us back to the home of Roman Catholicism: Babylon, for which Shinar
is simply another name. As the late Doctors Tatford and Ironside, and others,
have pointed out, when Babylon, founded by the rebel Nimrod, began to fall
into decay, the evil religious system centered there and begun by his widow,
the vile Semaramis, moved into the Etruscan plain, and from there to Rome.
The Babylonian system centered around the worship of Semaramis and her infant
son, whom she presented as the reincarnation of her late husband Nimrod. It
wasn’t long until the mother and son were deified, she being regarded as the
queen of heaven, icons bearing the image of the mother, with the infant son in
her arms, being found among the artifacts of virtually every ancient
civilization including Egypt, Greece, and Rome.
The system of worship involved a high priest, a college of cardinals, a
hierarchical priesthood, auricular confession, priestly absolution, holy
water, prayers for the dead, etc., all the things which still, in fact,
characterize the “worship” of the Roman Catholic system.
How did this come about? Very simply. With the alleged conversion of
Constantine the Great c.320 AD, Christianity became the popular religion, and
the ritual of the old Babylonian worship was simply dressed up in Christian
garb: thus began Roman Catholicism! (For a fuller treatment of this, see the
present author’s commentary on Revelation chapters 17-19, available on this