Would you please explain Zechariah's vision of the "measuring line," as recorded in Zechariah 2:1-5.


As explained in previous Updates, when discussing Zechariah’s visions of the “woman in the basket,” “the flying scroll,” “the four chariots,” and the “four horns and the four craftsmen,” as recorded in chapters 6, 5 and 1, respectively, of the book of Zechariah, Zechariah’s visions are to be viewed together and contain foremost prophecies for us today and for our immediate future.

While commentaries are divided as to the intended timing of some of the visions, virtually all agree that the vision of the “measuring line” applies to the future Millennium, when God’s Kingdom will be established on this earth.

Zechariah 2:1-5 reads as follows:

“(1) Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. (2) So I said, ‘Where are you going?’ And he said to me, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to see what is [better: will be] its width and what is [better: will be] its length.’ (3) And there was the angel who talked with me, going out; and another angel was coming out to meet him, (4) who said to him, ‘Run, speak to this young man, saying, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it. (5) ‘For I,’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.'”‘”

(1) As stated, virtually all commentaries agree that this is foremost a millennial prophecy.

Unger’s Bible Handbook states: “This vision presents Jerusalem in millennial glory… [The surveyor’s] activities intimate the growth and prosperity of Jerusalem… ultimately to be fulfilled in the Kingdom Age.”

The “New Scofield Reference Edition” contains the following annotation: “The measuring line (or reed) is used by Ezekiel (40:3, 5) as a symbol of preparation for rebuilding the city and Temple in the Kingdom Age. Here [in Zechariah 2:1-5] it has that meaning… The subject of the vision is the restoration of nation and city. In no sense has this prophecy been fulfilled.”

The Nelson Study Bible agrees, stating that “These words refer ultimately to the future Jerusalem under the rule of its glorious king…”

Charles Feinberg writes in “The Minor Prophets,” page 280: “Surely it will not be denied that the fulfillment of this prophecy is in millennial times.”

(2) We are told in this vision that Jerusalem, which will be largely destroyed just prior to the return of Christ, will be rebuilt, and Jerusalem’s boundaries will be enlarged because of the multitude of people and livestock in it. This shows that the prophecy does not deal with the New Jerusalem, which will come down from heaven AFTER the Millennium and the Great White Throne Judgment period, when there will be no more physical beings and animals, but it describes the rebuilt or restored city of Jerusalem at the time of the Millennium.

Regarding its future boundaries, Matthew Henry’s Commentary states: “… it shall extend far beyond the present dimensions.”

(3) We read that the city of Jerusalem will have no physical walls. This is confirmed in Ezekiel 38:11-12, where not only the city of Jerusalem, but also the entire Promised Land, is described as a “land of unwalled villages,” which are occupied by “a peaceful people, who dwell safely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having neither bars nor gates… a people gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell in the midst of the land…”

(4) Even though the city and the entire country will not have physical walls or gates for defense purposes, it won’t be helpless or defenseless. In fact, we read in Ezekiel 38 that at the very beginning of the Millennium, Asiatic hordes will attempt to invade and occupy the Promised Land. But God will intervene and defeat this enemy by fire (Ezekiel 38:22; 39:6). We find a similar event occurring at the very end of the Millennium, when God will destroy invading armies with fire (compare Revelation 20:7-9). And so, it is God who is described in Zechariah’s vision as “a wall of fire” for His people, indicating His ability and willingness to supernaturally defend His people.

Whatever physical “walls” or “gates” may exist surrounding Jerusalem and the entire Promised Land (compare Isaiah 60:10), they will not exist for the purpose of defense, and their gates will be continuously open (Isaiah 60:11). We read in Isaiah 60:18 that, with the exception of the attack of the Asiatic hordes at the beginning of the Millennium, and a similar event at its end, “Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, Neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; But you shall call your walls Salvation, And your gates Praise.”

In addition, God will be “their glory in [Jerusalem’s] midst.”

The commentary of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown offers the following explanation:

“The same combination of ‘glory and defense’ is found in Isaiah 4:5, alluding to the pillar of cloud and fire which defended and enlightened Israel in the desert… As God is to be her ‘glory,’ so she is to be His ‘glory’ ([Isaiah] 62:3).”

(5) With this insight into Jerusalem’s glorious future, Zechariah, who is described as a “young man” (Zechariah 2:4), was inspired to encourage the people at his time to become zealous and diligent in fulfilling their obligation and duty–to rebuild physical Jerusalem.

The Broadman Bible Commentary explains:

“This message has direct application to the task at hand. If the most important aspect of the rebuilt and reinhabited city will be the presence of God, attention to the building of the house must command top priority.”

In the same way, God’s people today must be diligent to fulfill their task and commission–to preach the gospel of the glorious Kingdom of God in all the world as a witness, announcing the time soon ahead of us when the Messiah–Jesus Christ–will restore and rebuild Jerusalem here on earth and make it His royal dwelling place during the Millennium (compare Isaiah 2:1-4).

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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