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(1) A man does not seem to mean “an angel,” as in Zechariah 1:8, for he has no message to deliver or mission to perform; but he is to be considered rather as a mere figure in the vision, performing an action for which, indeed, he is implicitly rebuked.
THIRD VISION.—THE MAN WITH THE MEASURING LINE.
(1-5) This vision is a prophetic realisation of the fulfilment of the promise (Zechariah 1:16): “A line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.”
A SERIES OF SEVEN VISIONS.
Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15. Between the commencement of Zechariah’s prophetic labours and the incidents recorded in Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15, the Prophet Haggai received the revelation contained in Haggai 2:10-23. On the four-and-twentieth day of the eleventh month, just five months after the re-building of the Temple was resumed, Zechariah sees a succession of seven visions in one night, followed by a symbolic action (Zechariah 6:9-15).
(2) What is . . .—Since there is no verb “is” or “will be” expressed in the original, it has been disputed whether the reference is to the actual or to the future condition of Jerusalem. But, we have little hesitation in saying that the whole vision is prophetic of the state of Jerusalem from its restoration to the time when God’s protection should be eventually removed from it. To this latter event, however, no reference is as yet made.
(3) Went forth.—Literally, goes forth, from the prophet’s side, in the direction of the man who went to measure. LXX., εἱστήκει.
Went out.—Literally, comes forth: viz., from the invisible—i.e., appears, reveals himself. The same word in Hebrew means to come and to go forth, according to circumstances. (Comp. Zechariah 5:5-6.)
(4) And said unto him.—Some commentators suppose that it is the angel-interpreter who here speaks; but if this were the case, an “other angel” would be a superfluous figure in the vision, for the angel-interpreter might have addressed “this young man” directly. Accordingly, we agree with the Authorised Version in taking this “other angel” as the speaker.
This young man is by some supposed to be Zechariah: but it gives a much more definite turn to the meaning of the vision to understand the expression as referring to “the man with the measuring line.”
Towns without walls—i.e., unfortified towns. A similar expression in the Hebrew is contrasted with “fortified cities” in 1 Samuel 6:18. The “other angel,” for the instruction of Zechariah, directs the angel-interpreter to inform the man who was measuring that there could be no object in taking an exact measure of Jerusalem, since “for the multitude of men and cattle” it would soon exceed its original limits. It would be an unnecessary forcing of the words to suppose with some commentators that the measurer is called a “young man” on account of his simplicity and ignorance. That this prophecy was fulfilled in the grandeur and extent of Jerusalem may be seen by a reference to the descriptions of it, after its restoration, by Aristéas (Ed. Schmidt), Hecatæus, &c. Josephus (Bell, Jud i. 5. 4, 92) says that in the time of Herod Agrippa Jerusalem had, “by reason of the multitude” or its inhabitants, gradually “extended beyond its original limits,” so that another hill had to be taken in, which was fortified, and called “Bezethá.”
(5) A wall of fire.—This verse is not intended to discountenance the building of walls to Jerusalem, a thing which was actually done under Nehemiah (B.C. 445), but is simply a solemn promise of God’s protection. Many indeed were the troubles which fell on the city in the times which intervened between the days of Zechariah and those of our Lord; but still, abundant proof was given that God had not forgotten His promise to shield it. Such troubles, as at other periods of the history of the Jews, were but chastisements, and even those not in proportion to their transgressions. (For the figurative use of the expression “wall,” see 1 Samuel 25:16.)
(6) The land of the north—i.e., Babylonia, as in Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 6:22; Jeremiah 10:22.
For I have spread you abroad.—This conjugation of this verb occurs nine times in all in the Hebrew Scriptures. Seven times it is used of “stretching forth the hands;” once (Psalms 68:15) it means “to scatter.” If we assign to it this latter meaning here, the tense must be taken as the actual past, and the reference must be to the dispersions which had already taken place. “The Book of Esther (Esther 1:1; Esther 3:8; Esther 3:12-14; Esther 8:5-9) shows that, sixty years after this, the Jews were dispersed over the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the Persian empire, from India (the Punjaub) to Ethiopia, whether they were purposely placed by the policy of the conquerors in detached groups, as the ten tribes were in the cities of the Medes (2 Kings 17:6), or whether, when more trusted, they migrated of their own accord. “God, in calling them to return, reminded them of the greatness of their dispersion. He had dispersed them abroad as the four winds of heaven; He, the same, recalled them” (Pusey). Or, if we take the verb in a good sense, the tense must be regarded as the prophetic perfect, meaning, “for it is my fixed intention to spread you abroad.” According to this interpretation they are encouraged to flee from Babylon by being warned of the judgments which were to come upon her (Zechariah 2:8-9), and because God was determined so to bless them, that they should spread out to all quarters of the globe.
As the four winds of the heaven.—The rendering of some, “for I will scatter you to the four winds,” as referring to a new dispersion of Israel, which loomed darkly in the future, rests on a linguistic error. LXX. deliberately paraphrases, ἐκ τῶν τεσσάρων , “from the four winds of heaven I will gather you.”
(6-13) This address to Zion may be taken as the words of the prophet himself, or of the angel who had been speaking before. In any case, it was intended to be communicated to the people by the prophet, whose mind had been prepared by the foregoing vision for the reception of such a revelation.
(7) Daughter of Babylon means inhabitants of Babylon, as (Zechariah 2:10) “daughter of Zion” means inhabitants of Zion. (With the whole passage comp. Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 51:6; Jeremiah 51:9; Jeremiah 51:45.) LXX. for “O Zion,” εὶς Σιῶν—comp. a somewhat similar mistake in Ezekiel 21:15 (Zechariah 2:10, LXX.).
(8) After the glory—i.e., in search of glory—viz., to display God’s glory upon the heathen in judgment and mercy, by first breaking their power (Zechariah 2:9), and afterwards attaching them to His service (Zechariah 2:11). (Comp. Zechariah 14:0 : when the prophet gives the substance of the Lord’s words, as in this verse and Zechariah 2:9, the first person singular refers to the prophet; but when. as in Zechariah 2:9, he gives the actual words of God, “I” means, of course, the Lord Himself.)
(9) The troubles which overtook Babylon shortly after this time are sufficiently borne witness to by the inscription executed by Darius in the fifth year of his reign (Sir W. Rawlinson) on the great rock of Behistun, near the western frontier of Media. Thereon are recorded two great insurrections in Babylonia, and that Babylon itself was twice taken, once by Darius in person, and again by his general, Intaphres (Records of the Past, Vol. I., pp. 118-125). On the latter occasion, “says Darius the king, I made a decree that Arakha and his principal followers should be put to death in Babylon.”
(10) I will dwell in the midst of thee.—These words (comp. Zechariah 8:3) were, no doubt, meant by the prophet to refer, in the first place, to God’s indwelling in the second Temple (see Note on Haggai 2:9), although the visible manifestation of His presence (the Shekinah) was not again given. This prophecy received a glorious fulfilment, little dreamt of by the prophet, in the great event chronicled in John 1:14.
(10-13) The prophecy contained in these verses is admitted by most Jewish as well as Christian commentators to be of a Messianic character; but opinion is not so unanimous with regard to the nature of its fulfilment. Now, in considering such passages as this, we must bear in mind that the prophets were but men—inspired men, it is true—but still, men with the unrestrained use of their natural faculties preserved to them. When they received a prophetic inspiration, some grand idea of God’s purpose was impressed on their minds, while they were left to work out the details according to the bent of their human imaginations, and in accordance, more or less, with the views current in their times. If we adopt this reasonable view of the nature of prophecy, we shall not be surprised to find that in the fulfilment, while all that is essential to the grand idea of God’s purpose, as revealed to and by the prophet, actually comes to pass, the historical details which surround its accomplishment are not often such as the prophet himself seems to have expected. (See Notes on Zechariah 2:11-12, Zechariah 14:16-19.) Even the Apostles themselves were—at any rate, for a time—in error with regard to the time and manner of Christ’s second advent. Upon the supposition, then, that Zechariah had no certain knowledge of the time, and was in error with regard to the actual manner, of the fulfilment of God’s purpose, of the essential points of which he had, however, a grand and faithful prophetic perception, we shall have no difficulty in interpreting this passage, and others like it, of the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the establishment of the Christian Church.
(11) Many nations.—Comp. Zechariah 8:20-22. This prophecy, which is clothed in Old Testament imagery, was spiritually fulfilled by the gathering-in of the Gentiles to the Church of Christ.
And . . . . shall be joined.—LXX., καὶ καταφεύξονται, “and shall flee for refuge,” as in Jeremiah 1:5 (Jeremiah 27:5, LXX.).
My people.—Heb., to me for a people. LXX., αὐτῷ εἰς λαὸν, “to Him for a people.” Instead of “And I will dwell,” LXX., καὶ κατασκηνώσουσιν, “and they shall dwell.”
And thou . . . unto thee.—The pronouns are in the feminine, and refer to the “daughter of Zion” (Zechariah 2:10).
Sent me.—The person changes (comp. Zechariah 2:8). These words seem to imply an expectation of a near fulfilment of the prophecy, such as would prove to the people the truth of the prophet’s (or angel’s) mission. (Comp. Zechariah 4:9; Zechariah 6:15.) But when the promise was fulfilled in Christ, it was just “the city” that failed to perceive its fulfilment (Luke 19:44).
(12) The holy land.—This is the only passage in which this term is used. This promise has not been literally fulfilled, for, so far from God’s then inheriting “Judah or the Holy Land,” and choosing “again Jerusalem,” the coming of Christ was but the beginning of the rejection of His people, and the destruction of Jerusalem. But such discrepancies between promise and fulfilment (see Note on Zechariah 2:10-13) do not case any suspicion on the prophet’s trustworthiness, or in the least invalidate our Christian interpretation of the passage; they simply afford an illustration of the fact that the prophets, as well as others, saw only “through a mirror in enigma” (1 Corinthians 13:12), and that the truth was never revealed to any one prophet in its entirety, but to all the prophets “in many portions, and in diverse manners” (Hebrews 1:0). We may believe, on the authority of St. Paul, that God hath not cast off His own people, and that a time will come when all Israel shall be saved.
(13) Be silent.—Better, Hush! (Comp. Habakkuk 2:20.)
Raised.—Better, roused. The figure is that of a lion roused up from its lair. (Comp. the still bolder metaphor of Psalms 78:65.) LXX. misread the word for “habitation,” which they render correctly elsewhere, and give ἐκ νεφελῶν ἁγίων αὐτοῦ, “from His holy clouds.”
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 2". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13