Zech 2:5-9 in Hebrew
'I will be to her a wall of fire round about, says the Lord...' (2:5)
'...I will be the Glory within her' (2:5)
Jerusalem lay in ruins even though the Temple continued to be built. Even during the days of Nehemiah (who returned to the city with the commission of rebuilding the city’s defence walls) some eighty years later (7:4), it was recorded that
‘....the people within [Jerusalem] were few and no houses had been built’
The Israelites, therefore, needed the assurance that the restoration of the Temple would be completed with a rehabitation of the city of David. There would have been many, I’m sure, who would have reasoned that what was needed first before a reconstruction of the Temple was a rebuilding of the walls, but this vision answers that sort of reasoning. Not that their logic was in any way irrational - in the natural order of things, this would be the best schedule for the series of tasks that confronted the returned exiles, but, in God’s order, the Temple must come first to provide a return of His people into a covenant relationship with Himself.
Therefore, let the Temple proceed because, as God will show the Israelites through this vision, God is well able to be the city’s protection even if it has no walls of stone with which to ward off any oppressing military or plundering force.
There is a big difference between the ‘measuring line’ of Zech 1:16 (Strongs Hebrew number 6957) and the ‘measuring line’ of Zech 2:1 (Strongs Hebrew numbers 2256 and 4060) as a cursory consideration of the Hebrew words indicates.
Concerning the former word, TWOTOT comments that, in the passage, the implication is that
‘...the city will be zoned for construction projects once again’
and the word is used in conjunction with the plummet in Is 28:17 which, again according to TWOTOT, was employed at a right angle to the plummet to mark out an area or plot of land. This passage in Isaiah speaks of the building plan that the Lord had already determined and the use of both ‘plummet’ and ‘line’ indicates that it is built upon a specific design which is already known to God.
Even though the word can be used to measure distances and circumferences, the context of its use in Zech 1:16 is to show the Israelites that the city of Jerusalem will once again be the object of construction work and houses would be once again built within its walls (even though, at that time, the walls were still derelict and afforded very little protection to the inhabitants of the city - it would not be for around another eighty years that God would raise up Nehemiah to rebuild the walls [Neh 2:17-18] and, even then, Nehemiah recorded that, until that time, very few people had constructed buildings within the walls and few people had come to set up their home there [Neh 7:4]).
The words, then, informed the Israelites that plots would once again be measured out to determine the size of the buildings that were to be constructed and that the city would be laid out in order for that construction work to take place.
Zech 2:1, however, rightly means just a measuring line - like a tape measure - and TWOTOT states that the root word
‘...refers to measuring lengths or distances’
and is used in Nehemiah 3:11, for instance, where it’s recorded that Malchijah
‘...repaired another section [or ‘measure’] and the Tower of the Ovens’
The young man, therefore, who has a measuring line in his hand in 2:1 has a different objective in mind than the prophetic word from God in 1:16 where God speaks concerning the measuring or, better ‘marking out’, line being stretched out once more over Jerusalem. Besides, in the first verse, God is positively encouraging the Israelites that the measuring line is to be used, whereas in chapter 2, the workman is discouraged from performing the task that he’s set himself to do.
This latter action is indicative of an attempt to find out the dimensions of the restored Jerusalem (2:2) - that is, at a future time when Jerusalem will have been fully restored and when the Israelites are once again resident in large numbers on the site.
But the attempt is futile, so an angel is instructed to run and tell him that his task is pointless for the city ‘...shall be inhabited as villages without walls...’ (2:4) because of the multitude of men and cattle who will come to live within it (see also Ezek 38:11 where the ‘final battle’ presupposes a fulfilment of this prophecy, speaking of Gog saying in his own mind that ‘...I will go up against the land of unwalled villages; I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates’).
Even though, in the ancient world, walls defined the boundaries of each and every city and provided a defence against the attacks of enemy forces, with Jerusalem they would not be needed at a future date to the time of the giving of the vision because of two major reasons:
a. ‘I will be to her a wall of fire round about, says the Lord...’ (2:5)
The fire in the cloud of God’s presence that led the Israelites to Sinai came inbetween them and the Egyptians in order to prevent the enemy’s attack and consequent destruction of the nation (Ex 13:22, 14:20) so that
‘...the night passed without one coming near the other all night’
In similar language here in Zechariah, God speaks to His people and asserts that He will be a defence that will keep all their enemies at bay to allow for a large scale expansion of the city. As previously noted, there would have been Jews present building the Temple who would have ‘rightly’ reasoned that there was no point constructing a Temple if the city was to be left defenceless - but the thrust of the prophecy is that, even though their defences are meagre when looked upon and considered, they are reckoning without the spiritual presence of God who will be far more than any physical walls could ever be.
They have no walls currently and this will be left for Nehemiah to complete around eighty years later. But defence walls serve no purpose when God sets Himself as a Divine shield around them. God as protector undermines any foundation in the nation’s life for fear to build on, as Baldwin notes concerning this promise that
‘...timidity is out of place’
Strong walls have the tendency to cause the constructors to be confident in the strength and prowess of their own building work but trust in God undermines self-reliance, throws the nation onto the mercy of God and sparks faith in His promises.
Far from hindering a relationship with God, it both supports and strengthens it.
b. ‘...I will be the Glory within her’ (2:5)
God’s presence took up residence in the midst of His people at Sinai in the Holy of Holies, the central sanctuary of the Tabernacle which was commanded to be constructed. The Glory of God was again to take up residence as He had in former times and this verse is a promise that is repeated twice in the following discourse (Zech 2:10-11).
God has already declared that He has returned (with compassion) to the Israelites through their repentance (see on 1:16 above), but here the promise concerns His habitation of the Temple which was currently under construction. Ezekiel had been given a vision of the new Temple (though its dimensions and descriptions are not even closely related to the current building project) fourteen years after the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed (Ezek 40:1 - 572BC) and saw the glory of the Lord which had departed from Israel return to the inner sanctuary where He was to take up residence (Ezek 43:1-5).
What Zechariah sees here is a repeat - albeit condensed - version of that vision and God is saying through His prophet that a fulfilment of that word is very much alive.
Both these two statements are declarations that God is remaining faithful to the agreement He made with their fathers when they came out of Egypt (to be a protection from the enemy without and the presence of their God within). As such, the Israelites would have realised the implication of the vision - that they, too, were being called upon to remain faithful and obedient. Having forgiven them because of their repentance (see on 1:1-6), He was restoring them into the former promises of old. God will give them an overwhelming increase (2:4), He will give protection to that increase (2:5a) and He will immerse His presence into that increase (2:5b).
The vision was still far from being fulfilled some eighty years later in Nehemiah’s day (Neh 7:4, 11:1-2) but God’s intention remained an open city where He could dwell in the midst and be its wall of protection round about - a vision that was ultimately fulfilled in His Church, a living city (II Cor 6:16).
Smith notes that
‘At a time when others such as Nehemiah were interested in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and excluding from the community those who had divorced their wives and married young foreign girls (Ezra 10:2-3), Zechariah sees a vision of the future Jerusalem as a broad, spreading metropolis with the wall of God’s presence around her and the glory of his presence within her’
Though Nehemiah may have provided protection and a refuge for the inhabitants of the land (Neh 1:3, 2:17), God’s vision went far beyond the world’s expected protection to that which was supernatural.
God envisages a time when the nations shall join themselves to the Lord, presumably in Jerusalem, in the following prophecy (Zech 2:11) and it is this purpose of God which lies behind the unrestricted growth of the city. And, of course, this can only take place if men and women don’t place restrictions upon the city’s growth but allow God to have free course in His work and to expand it as He sees fit.
Elsewhere in the OT, king David was rebuked when he tried to calculate the number of Israelites that served under his throne throughout both Israel and Judah (II Sam 24:1ff). Instead of being content with how God was expanding the nation, he sought to calculate the strength of his throne rather than absorb himself in serving God and allowing Him to provide the increase. What an ego trip it would have been to know that x number were under his throne - but better to know that God will defeat all enemies who come against the nation regardless of natural strength because a right relationship is being maintained with God.
Likewise, in the Church today, man can do great harm to the move of God when he tries to evaluate and gauge the move of God within his own congregation, city, nation or even denomination. Part of the reason we do such things is that we like to know how ‘strong’ we are, something that caters to our own feelings of self-worth and adequacy - especially when the statistics give us evidence of increases.
But the warning from Scripture needs to be heeded - let God give the increase and don’t define His work by phenomena that can be quantified and which restrict the real move and work of God in our midst. The man who ran to measure the city walls in Zechariah’s vision (a fictitious man, no doubt, though some commentators have been so bold as to suggest that it represents the prophet himself) made no provision for the continuing will of God to expand to indeterminable boundaries the city and move of God out into the areas round about - so, too, by our definitions of the area that God has claimed for Himself, we confine God to work only within those boundaries.
So, when we look at areas of our society or spheres of influence we fail to see God working because we impose our own criteria upon what evidence constitutes His presence - we even exclude sections of society from ever being able to be reached by Him and, with confidence, say that God is not on the move there. But we can’t be so sure...God will not be restricted by any man-made boundaries that we impose upon Him whether they be natural boundaries or ones of our own making.
Finally, as Baldwin notes
‘Together, the second and third visions [1:18-21 and 2:1-5] guarantee the safety of Jerusalem. God is both dealing with potential enemies and protecting His people...’
We noted in the previous section that the vision was given to the Israelites to alleviate their very real fears of the nations who had already plundered them - that they would soon fall at the hand of God in judgment. And here the resultant effect is similar. Even if new nations were to rise in the place of the others, God would be a wall of protection around them and a presence within - that is, no matter the size of the enemy or the change in their identity, God will still afford them adequate protection.
Fear, then, need not be entertained if they shun the ways of their forefathers and believe the word of God as spoken to them by the prophets of God (see on 1:1-6).
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