Revelation 21:16
And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.
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(16) And the city lieth foursquare . . .—The city is foursquare, because the length and breadth are equal; but it is added that the height also is equal to the length and breadth, the city thus presents the symbol of perfect symmetry; this is all that is needed. Many interpreters are nervously anxious about the monstrous appearance of a city whose walls measured three thousand stadii (the word rendered “furlongs” is properly stadii); but there is no need to be nervous about the symbols; the city is not designed, any more than the vision of Revelation 4, or the vision of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 1) to be represented by painting to the eye: the attempt to do so only ends in the production of grotesque and profane pictures. It is not needful, however, in this case to suppose the actual wall to have been 3,000 stadii in height; the city is placed on a hill, the foundations are upon the holy hill, and the deep strong mountain foundations may be included in the measurement. The main thought, however, is to realise the harmony and proportion of that community, in which broad and low and high will meet, and in which no truth will be exaggerated or distorted; in which no disproportioned adjustments will mar its social order; in which all those who are inbuilt as living stones will be measured, not by the false estimates of worldly thoughts (comp. James 2:4), but by the golden reed of the sanctuary.

21:9-21 God has various employments for his holy angels. Sometimes they sound the trumpet of Divine Providence, and warn a careless world; sometimes they discover things of a heavenly nature of the heirs of salvation. Those who would have clear views of heaven, must get as near to heaven as they can, on the mount of meditation and faith. The subject of the vision is the church of God in a perfect, triumphant state, shining in its lustre; glorious in relation to Christ; which shows that the happiness of heaven consists in intercourse with God, and in conformity to him. The change of emblems from a bride to a city, shows that we are only to take general ideas from this description. The wall is for security. Heaven is a safe state; those who are there, are separated and secured from all evils and enemies. This city is vast; here is room for all the people of God. The foundation of the wall; the promise and power of God, and the purchase of Christ, are the strong foundations of the safety and happiness of the church. These foundations are set forth by twelve sorts of precious stones, denoting the variety and excellence of the doctrines of the gospel, or of the graces of the Holy Spirit, or the personal excellences of the Lord Jesus Christ. Heaven has gates; there is a free admission to all that are sanctified; they shall not find themselves shut out. These gates were all of pearls. Christ is the Pearl of great price, and he is our Way to God. The street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass. The saints in heaven tread gold under foot. The saints are there at rest, yet it is not a state of sleep and idleness; they have communion, not only with God, but with one another. All these glories but faintly represent heaven.And the city lieth four-square - It was an exact square. That is, there was nothing irregular about it; there were no crooked walls; there was no jutting out, and no indentation in the walls, as if the city had been built at different times without a plan, and had been accommodated to circumstances. Most cities have been determined in their outline by the character of the ground - by hills, streams, or ravines; or have grown up by accretions, where one part has been joined to another, so that there is no regularity, and so that the original plan, if there was any, has been lost sight of. The New Jerusalem, on the contrary, had been built according to a plan of the utmost regularity, which had not been modified by the circumstances, or varied as the city grew. The idea here may be, that the church, as it will appear in its state of glory, will be in accordance with an eternal plan, and that the great original design will have been fully carried out.

And the length is as large as the breadth - The height also of the city was the same - so that it was an exact square.

And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs - As eight furlongs make a mile, the extent of the walls, therefore, must have been three hundred and seventy-five miles. Of course, this must preclude all idea of there being such a city literally in Palestine. This is clearly a figurative or symbolical representation; and the idea is, that the city was on the most magnificent scale, and with the largest proportions, and the description here is adopted merely to indicate this vastness, without any idea that it would be understood "literally."

The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal - According to this representation, the height of the city, not of the walls (compare Revelation 21:17), would be three hundred and seventy-five miles. Of course, this cannot be understood literally, and the very idea of a literal fulfillment of this shows the absurdity of that method of interpretation. The idea intended to be conveyed by this immense height would seem to be that it would contain countless numbers of inhabitants. It is true that such a structure has not existed, and that a city of such a height may seem to be out of all proportion; but we are to remember:

(a) that this is a "symbol"; and,

(b) that, considered as one mass or pile of buildings, it may not seem to be out of proportion. It is no uncommon thing that a house should be as high as it is long or broad.

The idea of vastness and of capacity is the main idea designed to be represented. The image before the mind is, that the numbers of the redeemed will be immense.

16. twelve thousand furlongs—literally, "to twelve thousand stadii": one thousand furlongs being the space between the several twelve gates. Bengel makes the length of each side of the city to be twelve thousand stadii. The stupendous height, length, and breadth being exactly alike, imply its faultless symmetry, transcending in glory all our most glowing conceptions. The church militant, measured by the reed of the word, is unequal in its parts; some parts of it are purer than others; but in the new Jerusalem all parts shall be equal in perfection and purity, as all the sides of a thing four square are equal.

And the city lieth four square,.... To the four corners of the world, from whence its inhabitants come, and denotes the regularity, uniformity, perfection, and immovableness of it.

And the length is as large as the breadth; this church state will be all of a piece, perfect, entire, and wanting nothing.

And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs; or fifteen hundred miles; a monstrously large city indeed! such an one as never was upon earth; see Ezekiel 48:35 and which shows, that this is not to be understood literally, but mystically; and intends the capaciousness of it, here being room enough for all the twelve tribes of Israel; that is, for all the elect of God; for as in Christ's Father's house, so in this kingdom state of his, there will be many mansions, or dwelling places, enough for all his people. This city will hold them all. The Jews (h) say of Jerusalem, that in time to come it shall be so enlarged, as to reach to the gates of Damascus, yea, to the throne of glory.

The length, and the breadth, and the height of it are equal. A perfectly uniform state! according to the Ethiopic version, it is in length twelve thousand furlongs, and every measure equal, so that it is so many furlongs in length, breadth, and height.

(h) Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 24. 1.

{14} And the city lieth {b} foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth: and he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal.

(14) The measure and form most equal, in two verses.

(b) A foursquare figure has equal sides, and outright corners, and therefore the Greeks call by this name those things that are steady, and of continuance and perfect.

16. he measured the city] It is doubtful whether this is the measurement of the side of the square, or of the whole circumference. The twelve-fold measure is in favour of the former view: thus from each gate to the next would be 1000 furlongs; the outmost gate on each side being 500 from the angle.

with the reed] He has not, as in the parallel passages of Ezekiel and Zechariah, a line for the long measurements (like our “chains” and “poles”).

twelve thousand furlongs] The construction is peculiar, but the sense clear. The measure would be about 1378 English miles, making the City 344 miles square, according to the lower computation.

the length and the breadth and the height of it are equal] It seems inconsistent with the pictorial vividness of this book, to imagine that the City is described as forming a cube of over 300 miles each way; and we are told in the next verse that the wall was of a great but not unimaginable or disproportionate height. Yet no other interpretation has been proposed that seems fairly reconcileable with the words; and passages are quoted from the Rabbis, that seem to prove that this notion, of Jerusalem being elevated to an enormous height, did commend itself to Jewish habits of thought. Would it be admissible to suppose that the City, which almost certainly lies on a mountain, forms not a cube but a pyramid? The height of it, equal to one side of the base, may then be conceived to be measured along the slope, either at the angle, or at the centre of one side: the conception of vertical height is rather too abstruse to be looked for, and it could not be measured with the reed. The vertical height would on one view be about 2121 stadia, or 243 miles: on the other, about 2598 stadia, or 298 miles.

Revelation 21:16. [231] ἘΠῚ ΣΤΑΔΊΩΝ ΔΏΔΕΚΑ ΧΙΛΙΆΔΩΝ) Thus the Latin Translator reads; for he has, per stadia duodecim millia: but if he had read, ἐπὶ σταδίους δώδεκα χιλιάδας, he would have had to translate, per stadia, duodecim millium.[232] Stupendous magnitude! Alexandria is said by Josephus to have had a length of XXX. stadia, a breadth of not less than X. stadia. According to the same, the circuit of Jerusalem is defined by XXXIII. stadia; that of Thebes, according to Dicæarchus, by XLIII. stadia; that of Nineveh, according to Diodorus Siculus, by CCCC. stadia. Herodotus, in his first Book, says that Babylon had CXX. stadia in each side, and CCCCLXXX. stadia in its circuit, and that its wall was L. cubits thick and CC. cubits high. All the cities in the world are mere villages in comparison with the new Jerusalem. Ἐπὶ has here a distributive force, as in tactics, ἐφʼ ἑνὸς, ἐπὶ τεττάρων, ἐπʼ ὀκτὼ, singly, in parties of four [by fours], in parties of eight [by eights]. See Budœus Comm. Linguæ Gr. col. 881. And thus ἐπὶ is used in this verse, but not in the following, and signifies that 12,000 stadia [that is, more than 250 German miles at the least.—V. g.] is the extent of each side of the city, not of the whole circuit.

[231] 14. θεμελίους, foundations) One being placed beside another.—V. g.

[232] AB read σταδίους δώδεκα χιλιάδων. So Lachm. and Stephens’ Rec. Text, except that the latter has σταδίων; whereas Elzev. Rec. Text has σταδίους. h has “stadiorum duodecim millia:” Tisch. has δεκαδύο for δώδεκα.—E.

ἀποστόλων, apostles) They, to wit, belonged to these, who had practised the craft of fishermen at the Lake of Gennesareth.—V. g.

Verse 16. - And the city lieth foursquare, and the length is as large as the breadth. The shape is doubtless typical of that which is complete and symmetrical, to which nothing is wanting to render the shape perfect. The word τετράγωνος, "foursquare," is thus used by Greek philosophic writers. And he measured the city with the reed, twelve thousand furlongs. That is, in each direction. (On στάδιον, "furlong," see Revelation 14:20.) The number twelve thousand, which is the number of the sealed in each tribe (Revelation 7.), is typical of

(1) a large number,

(2) a complete number (see on ver. 12).

There seems to be in this description a designed reference to the literal Babylon (see Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' art. "Babylon"). The length and the breadth and the height of it are equal. The plain meaning seems to be that the city forms a vast cube, and this is typical of its perfect nature. The account given is that of a vision, and not of a reality, and therefore there is no need to attempt to reduce the enormous dimensions given here, as is done by some writers. The holy of holies was thus cubical in shape (1 Kings 6:20). Revelation 21:16Four square (τετράγωνος)

From τέτρα four and γωνία an angle. Only here in the New Testament. Compare Ezekiel 48:16, Ezekiel 48:20. Twelve-thousand furlongs (ἐπὶ σταδίων δώδεκα χιλιάδων). Strictly, to the length of (ἐπί) twelve, etc. For the collective term χιλιάδες thousands, see on Revelation 5:11. For furlongs see on Revelation 14:20. The twelve-thousand furlongs would be 1378.97 English miles. Interpretations vary hopelessly. The description seems to be that of a vast cube, which may have been suggested by the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, which was of that shape. But opinions differ as to whether the twelve thousand furlongs are the measure of the four sides of the city taken together, in which case each side will measure three thousand furlongs; or whether the twelve-thousand furlongs are intended to represent the length of each side. The former explanation is prompted by the desire to reduce the vast dimensions of the city. Another difficulty is raised about the height. Dsterdieck, for example, maintains that the houses were three-thousand stadia in height. The question arises whether the vertical surface of the cube includes the hill or rock on which the city was placed, a view to which Alford inclines. These are enough to show how utterly futile are attempts to reduce these symbolic visions to mathematical statement. Professor Milligan aptly remarks: "Nor is it of the smallest moment to reduce the enormous dimensions spoken of. No reduction brings them within the bounds of verisimilitude; and no effort in that direction is required. The idea is alone to be thought of."

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