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Zechariah’s Vision of the Ephah (Zech. 5:5-11)

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image of Vetus Testamentum

The vision of the ephah (Zech. 5:5-11) is probably the most obscure of all of Zechariah’s visions. Its symbolic meaning is not mentioned, and the prophet himself does not comprehend it. Some commentators hold that the prophecy is a rebuke to the Judeans, others hold that the intention is to foretell the fall of Judah’s enemies. All interpretations of the vision do not address the problem, namely that wickedness will be reestablished in Shinar and will not be eliminated as expected. Why would the prophet propose that a house be built for the sinner outside the land rather than inflict on wickedness the punishment prescribed in other biblical sources? The thesis advanced in this paper is that the vision of the ephah is an anti-Samaritan prophecy. The woman in the ephah represents the Samaritans; the vision foresees their return to their original home in Babylon, where their temple would be erected. This interpretation provides a full explanation of the tension between the reference to the woman as wickedness and her happy ending in her permanent home in the Land of Shinar. The prophet wanted to advance the theological argument that the ultimate solution of the dispute between the two groups would be for the Samaritans to build their own house, that is, their own separate temple, in Shinar—their original historical homelands, and far away from Yehud.

Affiliations: 1: Bar Ilan University, Israel


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