Then I lifted up my eyes again and looked, and behold, there was a flying scroll. And he said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a flying scroll; its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.” Then he said to me, “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. ‘I will make it go forth,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name; and it will spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.’”
Zechariah’s sixth vision began when he looked up and saw a flying scroll Upon being asked what he saw by the angel from the previous visions, the prophet described the dimensions of the scroll as “twenty cubits” long and “ten cubits” wide. The common measurement of a cubit was about 18 inches, thus making the scroll about 30 feet long by 15 feet wide in dimension. Incidentally, these were the same dimensions as both the Holy Place in Moses’ tabernacle and Solomon’s porch in his temple (1 Kings 6:3). This has caused some to suggest that these measurements at least in part could signify God’s demand that all who would approach His presence in His sanctuary be holy.
The angel told Zechariah that the scroll itself represents “the curse” going over the whole land, likely referring to the land of Canaan which was becoming once again the home of the Jews returning from exile. A broader application could also be made to all of humanity worldwide who live in the sins described here since the Old Testament serves as both an example and instruction to Christians worldwide today (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The scroll was apparently not rolled up because it is implied that Zechariah could see the writing on both sides of it. The angel said that the writing on one side of the scroll promised that “everyone who steals will be purged away,” while the writing on the other side promised that “everyone who swears will be purged away.” There are different ideas behind exactly is meant by the sins of stealing and swearing. Stealing obviously refers to the commandment against taking that which belongs to another (Ex. 20:15), but it is also included in the definition of the sin of coveting (Mic. 2:2; cf. Ex. 20:17). Swearing could refer to taking God’s name in vain and other profanity (Lev. 19:12b; cf. Ex. 20:7; Eph. 4:29; 5:4; Col. 3:8), careless promises or perjury (Lev. 5:4; 19:12a; cf. Ex. 20:16; Eccl. 5:2-7), or even idolatry (Josh. 23:7). It could be that God used just these two violations of His law as being representative of being a transgressor of all of it (cf. James 2:10-11).
I lean towards this last interpretation. After all, Israel had gone into Assyrian captivity and Judah had gone into Babylonian captivity because of their unrepentant disobedience (Hos. 4:2-3; Mic. 2:2-3). By going into captive exile, they had already been “purged away” in those instances, and it seems Zechariah’s vision here servers as both a reminder and a warning for them to not make the same mistakes again. This is made clear by the Lord’s promise that He would make the curse “go forth….(and) enter the house” of those who commit these sins and “spend the night within that house and consume it with its timber and stones.” Taken figuratively, it could be a figure of speech describing the shame and guilt that would be visited upon the family of the one who unrepentantly committed those sins. Taken literally (as I take it), this would be a stark reminder of the destruction rained upon Jerusalem by Babylon just a few decades earlier.
Christians, would God send a curse upon us because of unrepentant sin in our lives (cf. Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17)? Let us examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5).