Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
VISION III. THE MAN WITH THE MEASURING LINE
A. A Man with a Measuring Line, and its Meaning (Zech 2:1–5). B. Further Promises (Zech 2:6–13)
And 1I lifted up my eyes1 and saw, and behold, a man, and in his hand a measuring-line. 2 And I said, Whither goest thou? And he said to me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its breadth and what its length. 3 And behold the angel 4 that talked with me came forth and another angel went forth to meet him, And said to him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall lie as open country2 for the multitude of men and cattle in the midst of her.
5 And I will be to her, saith Jehovah, a wall of fire around,
And for glory will I be in the midst of her.
6 Ho! ho! flee out of the land of the north, saith Jehovah,
For as3 the four winds of heaven have I scattered you, saith Jehovah.
7 Ho!4 Zion, save thyself,
Thou that dwellest with5 the daughter of Babylon.
8 For thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,
After glory hath He sent me to the nations that plundered you,
For he that toucheth you toucheth the apple6 of his7 eye.
9 For behold, I swing my hand over them,
And they shall become a spoil to their own servants,
And ye shall know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me.
10 Shout and rejoice, O daughter of Zion,
For, behold, I come, and dwell in the midst of thee, saith Jehovah,
11 And many nations shall join themselves8 to Jehovah in that day,
And become a people to me,
And I will dwell in the midst of thee,
And thou shalt know that Jehovah of Hosts hath sent me to thee.
12 And Jehovah shall take Judah as his portion in the holy land,
And shall yet9 choose Jerusalem.
13 Be still, all flesh, before Jehovah,
For He has risen up from his holy habitation.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
As the second vision represented the destruction of Israel’s foes, the third makes an advance by setting forth the enlargement and security of the Covenant people. (a.) Zech 2:1–5 contain the symbol; (b.), Zech 2:6–13 the fuller explanation of its meaning, namely, the despoiling of the nations (Zech 2:6–9), the indwelling of Jehovah in Zion (Zech 2:10), and the ingathering of many nations (Zech 2:11–13).
(a.) The Symbol and its General Sense (Zech 2:1–5). Zech 2:1, 2. And I lifted up my eyes. … what its length. The prophet sees a man with a measuring-line in his hand advancing upon the scene, and he asks whither he is going. The answer is that he is about to measure the length and breadth of Jerusalem. This man is not to be identified with the interpreting angel (Rosenmüller, Maurer, etc.), for the latter is plainly distinguished from him in Zech 2:3; nor does the passage furnish any reason for regarding him as the Angel of the Lord (Keil, Hengstenberg, etc.). He is rather simply a person introduced to perform the symbolical action of the vision, and having done this, he passes out of view. His mission is to ascertain by measurement the present size of Jerusalem, with a view to its prospective indefinite enlargement. This view is not stated by him. but is clearly to be inferred from Zech 2:4, and the general tenor of the chapter.
Zech 2:3. After the measuring angel has gone away to do his office, behold, i. e., the prophet sees “the angel that talked with me” coming forth, i. e., from the back-ground of the scene, and probably, as Köhler suggests, from the direction in which the measuring angel had disappeared. Before, however, the interpreting angel can either address or be addressed by the prophet, he is met by a third angel coming from the opposite direction. The character of this third angel is not further described, but from the tone of authority, “Run, speak,” etc., and from Zech 2:8, 9, it seems not unlikely that he is the Angel of the Lord (Neumann, Pressel, etc.). There are no data for a positive opinion.
Zech 2:4. And said to him. The subject here can only be, whether grammatically or logically, the third angel. His direction tells the angelus interpres to do just what his function required. This young man=the prophet himself, as most of the earlier and later expositors conceive. Zechariah is thus styled because of his age, and not, as Jerome, Vitringa, and Hengstenberg think, because of his subordinate relation to the angels, which is nowhere else thus expressed. Run, because it is good news. The substance of the good news is that Jerusalem is to have a vast influx of men and cattle, so that it shall no longer be confined by narrow walls and fixed limits, but be spread out like the open country. Cf. Is. 49:19, 20.
Zech 2:5. And I will be to her, etc. But it might be feared that great danger would result from this unwalled extension. This is met by the promise that Jehovah would be a wall of fire around, perhaps in allusion to the pillar of fire in the wilderness (cf. Is. 4:5). The fire would consume every invader. There should be, however, not only protection without, but glory within. This splendor is to arise from the manifested presence of God (cf. Is. 60:19). The full force of this promise is to be gathered from the following verses.
(b.) Fuller Explanation of the Symbol (Zech 2:6–13). Zech 2:6, 7. Ho, ho, flee out. … daughter of Babylon. An assurance of Jehovah’s presence and blessing with his people is given in the announcement of judgment upon Babylon; and this is expressed very strikingly in the form of a summons to the Jews still remaining in the Chaldæan capital to flee away in haste lest they should be overtaken by the coming storm. There were, no doubt, many Jews who, because of age or infirmities or ties of property, preferred to remain in Babylon rather than risk the hardships of the restoration; but the call of the text seems intended not so much for their benefit as to show to the desponding people in Palestine how severe a blow impended over their former oppressors. Land of the north. Babylon was so called because armies and caravans coming thence to Jerusalem entered the Holy Land from the north For as the four winds, etc., assigns the reason why such a return was possible. God had scattered Israel not to the four winds, but as them, i. e., with a violence and fury such as would result from the combined force of all the winds of heaven. Keil’s explanation of פָרַשׂ as=a beneficent diffusion, is not sustained by the usage of the verb, and is against the context. Ho! Zion! etc. Zion stands for the inhabitants of Zion, i. e., the people of God, who are now still dwelling with the daughter of Babylon, i. e., the people of that city personified as a woman (Ps. 9:14, 137:8).
Zech 2:8, 9. Further reason of the call to flee from Babylon. After glory. Gesenius, Maurer, and others strangely construe this, He hath sent me after glory, in the sense of with a view to acquire it. This is quite inadmissible, not because אַחַר is not used as a preposition (Moore), for it is often so employed, but because it is never construed with a verb of motion in this sense, and the verb in the text has its appropriate object and preposition immediately following. We must therefore, following the LXX. and the Vulgate, render “after glory”=after the bestowment of the glory stated in Zech 2:5. The speaker was sent to these plundering nations to execute God’s judgments upon them. The reason for this mission is announced in the last clause of the verse by a beautiful and touching image, borrowed from Ps. 17:8; cf. Deut. 32:10. The apple, literally, the gate, through which light enters the eye, hence=pupil. The pupil or apple of the eye is a proverbial type of that which is at once most precious and most easily injured, and which therefore has a double claim to the most careful protection. The pronominal suffix his is to be referred to Jehovah, and not to the enemy himself.
Zech 2:9. For, behold. … servants, furnishes an additional explanation of the sending after glory. The Angel of the Lord would swing his hand (cf. Is. 11:15, 19:16), as a gesture of menace or a symbol of miraculous power, over the nations, so that they should become—וְהָיוּ expresses consequence—a spoil to the Israelites, who had before been obliged to serve them. A close parallel is found in Is. 14:2. And ye shall know. … sent me. By the execution of this judgment it would be made clear to Israel that Jehovah had sent his angel. They would know the fact not only by faith, but by experience.
Zech 2:10–12. The people are summoned to rejoice over the Lord’s indwelling and its happy results. Behold, I come. The glorification is about to commence. Jehovah comes to Zion to take up his abode, and this is the pledge of all conceivable blessedness The close resemblance of the language used here to that in Zech 9:9, suggests that both refer to the same, form of Jehovah’s tabernacling with men, namely, the incarnation. Even Kimchi refers the passage to “future events in the times of the Messiah.” This is further confirmed by the next verse. And many nations, etc. The Kingdom of God, instead of being confined to Israel, will be enlarged by the reception of numerous heathen peoples (Zech 8:20, 21; Is. 2:3, 16:1; Micah 4:2). The two latter clauses of this verse are emphatic repetitions of what has been said in the same words in Zech 2:9, 10.
Zech 2:12. And Jehovah will take, etc. The speaker reverts to the ancient declaration, Deut. 32:9, “Jehovah’s portion is his people, Jacob the lot of his inheritance,” and announces its complete fulfillment through the coming of the Lord. The holy land is of course, Palestine, but only in the first instance. Wherever the people of God are found, there is the holy land. Israel is to overflow by the large additions made to it, so that its original territory will be too small. The new aggregate shall inherit all the blessings promised to the original chosen nation. The same thought is conveyed in the other member of the parallelism.
Zech 2:13 furnishes a sublime close to the chapter. Be still … habitation. All flesh is summoned to wait in reverential silence the coming of the Lord to his work, and the reason assigned is that it is soon to begin. For Jehovah has risen up from his holy habitation, which is heaven (cf. Deut. 26:15; 2 Chron. 30:27). Illustrative parallels of the sentiment are found in Ps. 76:8, 9: “The earth feared and was still, when God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth,” and Zeph. 1:7: “Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God, for the day of the LORD is at hand.” Here the contrast is emphatic between men, even all of them, who are but flesh, and the everliving Jehovah. Calvin thinks that the temple rather than heaven is meant by the holy habitation, and that the point is, that even from that desolated place, exposed to the derision of the ungodly, God would come forth to judgment. But it is better to adhere to the usual meaning of the expression, and to understand the contrast as being between God rising up in heaven, and all flesh on the earth. The divine majesty has seemed to be asleep, but now it is roused up; let men therefore beware.
THEOLOGICAL AND MORAL
1. Pressel justly remarks that although at first view this vision appears to resemble those which were received by Ezekiel (40:3 ff.), and John (Rev. 11:1), yet in reality it is very different. In the latter cases the imagery seems to have a fixed and definite meaning, however difficult it may be to ascertain and state that meaning; in the former the symbolical action is of the simplest kind, and serves merely to give vividness to the subsequent oral statement. Whenever a house or a city is to be enlarged, the first step is to make an adequate survey of the existing buildings. The divine condescension uses this preliminary measurement outwardly represented, as a token of a future indefinite expansion which would leave the surveyor’s lines far in the rear as a thing of the past. The entire chapter is an admirable illustration of the germinant nature of prophecy. In its primary aspect it met directly the situation of the Prophet’s contemporaries and animated them to new zeal and hope in their endeavors to restore the national capital, and reëstablish the former civil and ecclesiastical institutions. Yet it manifestly cannot be restricted to this. The incorporation of many nations with the Jews, as set forth in Zech 2:11, had no counterpart in the actual experience of the Jewish commonwealth as such. It was fulfilled only in the rapid and general diffusion of the Gospel by which multitudes of the heathen were turned from dumb idols to serve the living God. Yet the prophet passes without a break from the narrower to the larger scope of his prediction. They to whom it was first given may have found it difficult to see the exact nexus of events; but to us who live at a time when Providence has interpreted promise, it is easy to trace the way in which the Spirit leads Zechariah from a temporary act of consolation to a declaration which sets forth one of the chief glories of Messiah’s blessed reign. The narrow walls of the Mosaic forms were to be thrown down, and the church’s limits extended to those who were then far beyond those boundaries. Moore speaks of it as at least a curious coincidence that when this enlargement did take place the centres of population were the first to experience the blessing, and so the dwellers in villages (pagani) became synonymous with those who still remained in heathenism; but at last the Gospel reached and converted those very paganos (pagans); and then in very deed Jerusalem inhabited the villages or was spread out as the open country.
2. The twofold blessing of Jehovah to his Church. Nowhere even in Scripture is this set forth with so much beauty and force as in the concise statement that He is a wall of fire without and a glory within. What deep moats or massive walls or elaborate defenses are comparable to a circle of flame, fed by no human hands, ensuring destruction to the assailant before he can even reach the presence of those he seeks to attack? The Psalmist uses a striking figure when he says (125:2), “As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even forever.” But the hills which arose around Jerusalem might be scaled, or commanded from a still higher elevation. Not so with devouring fire; that is an impassable barrier. The promise then is complete; all that is needed is faith to appropriate it. As Luther says, “If we were surrounded by walls of steel and fire, we would feel secure, and defy the devil. But the property of faith is not to be proud of what the eye sees but of what the word reveals.” The one prayer suitable for times of darkness or despondency, is that of the disciples, Lord, increase our faith.
But the assurance of Jehovah is not only for outward, but also for inward wants, and that in a most remarkable and comprehensive way. He Himself will be for a glory within. As the Psalmist says, God is in the midst of her. Zion’s true boast is not in buildings or services, in music or eloquence, in numbers or popularity, but in the manifested presence of her great Head. If his Holy Spirit reveal his power in cheering the bowed down, in sanctifying the afflicted, in quickening penitence, prayerfulness, holy living, and the usual expressions of a gracious character, in calling dead sinners from their living tombs, in elevating the general tone of piety, in renewing the lost image in which man was originally created, then there is glory far, far beyond what earth can give. The Psalmist said (102:16), “When the Lord shall build up Zion, He will appear in glory.” We may reverently reverse the clauses, and affirm that when He appears in glory, Zion shall be built up. Let Him come when He will and as He will, his presence is enough.
3. God’s people are unspeakably dear to Him. They are like the apple of his eye. He chooses them as his portion, He guards them as his jewels. The pupil of the eye is peculiarly delicate and sensitive. It is not necessary to pierce it with a knife to make the owner shrink; a mote, or even a touch will startle and grieve. So the blessed Lord feels toward those whom He has chosen and called. In all their affliction He is afflicted. When Jesus remonstrated with Saul of Tarsus for his furious enmity toward the infant Church, the language was, “Why persecutest thou me?” Every blow, struck at the least or humblest member of the body, reaches its invisible but glorious head. In like manner whatever is done for the people of God is regarded by God as done for Himself. He “is not unrighteous to forget your work and labor of love which ye have showed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints and do minister” (Heb. 6:10). This is not the estimate of the world at large. They look down upon believers as deluded visionaries, or at best amiable enthusiasts, while sometimes the carnal heart finds expression in much harsher terms. So much the more necessary is it to remember the Lord’s judgment in the case, and to feel and act toward those who bear the Christian name and walk accordingly, as to those who, whatever their outward surroundings, are loved by their Lord with an affection beyond what even a mother bears to the son of her womb.
The whole history of the Church is a comment upon this utterance. From the time of its institution in the household of Abraham, when latent in Egypt, wandering in the desert, militant in Canaan, triumphant in Jerusalem, captive in Babylon, oppressed under the Syrians and Romans, it was sustained by heavenly food, by visions and inspirations, by miracles and portents, by God’s effective support on the right hand and the left. Afterwards, when revived and renewed by the personal ministry and blessed sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, it was brought into still closer fellowship with the Most High, fitted for unlimited diffusion, proclaimed to all the world, and established alike among the loftiest and the lowliest of the earth. And though tried in every possible way by malice and envy, it was only purged by suffering, confirmed and rooted by the storms of persecution, and protected against all the powers of earth and hell by an arm which even the blind may see belongs to none but the living God.
4. The introduction of nations into the fellowship of the people of God is one of the grand peculiarities of the later dispensation. In earlier days the Church was far less restrictive that it is often supposed to have been. Not a few outside of the chosen line obtained entrance to the community. Not only Hobab, and Rahab, and Ruth, and Gittai, but many others found a home in Zion; still in all cases they were required to leave their original home, to forget their father’s house, and transplant themselves to the seat of the theocracy. But now the good news goes to the heathen instead of their coming to it. The various tribes and families whom God so carefully separated (Acts 17:26), although they were of one blood, still retain their distinct national existence, but on receiving the Gospel are counted as seed of the promise. A very remarkable Psalm (87:4) speaks of these collective bodies as subjects of regeneration. “I will mention Rahab and Babylon as knowing me. Lo, Philistia and Tyre with Ethiopia. (As to each of these it shall be said,) This one was born there.” These ruling powers among the heathen, most of them hereditary enemies of Israel, are given as samples of the whole Gentile world. Not individuals, alone, but whole nations are to experience a spiritual birth, and in consequence join themselves to Jehovah. Not by force of outward compulsion, but by the power of an inward conviction. The flocks of Kedar and the rams of Nebaioth with good will (or of their own accord) ascend the altar of Jehovah (Is. 60:7). It is of course true that conversions are effected individually and not en masse, but these are to be so multiplied that a little one becomes a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. The history of modern missions has furnished repeated instances in which a whole people has been revolutionized and made as distinctively Christian as it before had been heathen. It needs only a farther development of divine grace in the same direction to fill out in reality the most glowing pictures sketched on the prophetic canvass.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
PRESSEL: A fine illustration of the defense which Jehovah is to his people is furnished in the experience of a widow who alone with her daughter occupied a house standing by itself in the direct way of the Russian army on its march to Schleswick, and comforted her weeping, despairing daughter with the assurance that the Lord could and would protect them from all harm. The same night a heavy fall of snow so covered all approaches to the house that when the army marched on the next day it was not visited or apparently seen by even one of the licentious soldiery. A wall of snow was as effectual as a wall of fire.
MOORE: The true glory of the Church is not in any external pomp or power of any kind. Her outward rites and ceremonies, therefore, should only be what the earth’s atmosphere is to the rays of the sun,—a pure, transparent medium of transmission.
—Delay of punishment is no proof of impunity. God often seems asleep when He is only awaiting the appointed time; but in the end, when all seems as it was from the foundation of the world, the herald cry shall go forth, Be silent, O earth, for Jehovah is roused to his terrible work, and the day of his wrath is come.
JAY: If God regards his people so kindly and is so jealous for their welfare (Zech 2:8), it becomes them on the other hand to be equally concerned for his cause and his glory. We are to regard his Word as we keep the tenderest part of the tenderest member of our body. He says, “Keep my commandments and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye” (Prov. 7:2).
HODGE: I will dwell in the midst of thee (Zech 2:5, 10, 11). God is said to dwell wherever He specially and permanently manifests his presence. And since He thus specially and permanently manifests his presence in his people collectively and individually, He is said to dwell in all and in each. … The human soul is said to be full of God when its inward state, its affections and acts are determined and controlled by Him, so as to be a constant manifestation of the divine presence. Then it is pure, and glorious, and free, and blessed. …. There is unspeakably more in the promises of God than we are able to understand.
Zech 2:1.—There is nothing in Hebrew to correspond to the “again” in the E. V.
Zech 2:4.—פּרָזוֹת, lit=plains, here denotes open level ground, in contrast with walled and fortified cities. See the full expression in Ezek. 38:11.
Zech 2:6.—The various reading ב in כְאַר׳׳, is sustained by a number of MSS. and the Vulgate, but is inferior to the Textus Receptus.
Zech 2:7.—This verse begins with the same interjection, הוֹי, which occurs at the beginning of the preceding verse, and should be so rendered, and not confounded, as in the E. V., with the mere sign of the vocative.
Zech 2:7.—יַשָׁב, construed directly with the accusative, is found also in Ps. 22:4, 2 Sam. 6:2.
Zech 2:8.—בֽבַת. The prevailing opinion derives this from בוּב or נָבַב, and makes it=entrance, or gate to the eye, its centre-point.
Zech 2:8.— The reading עֵינִי, though given in several MSS. and sustained by the Vulgate, appears to be due to a copyist’s correction.
Zech 2:11.—The reflexive sense of the Niphal in נִלְררּ is much more suitable and expressive than the simple passive.
Zech 2:12.—עוֹד, in the same connection, in 1:17, is rendered in E. V. yet, while here it appears as again. It is better rendered yet in both places, the sense being not that God will make a new choice, but that He will demonstrate again in actual experience his old choice. Ps. 78:68, 87:2.
I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.