Zechariah 2 Commentary: So, in our national news today we hear a lot about a certain wall that needs to be built – or, doesn’t – depending on your perspective of things. We’ve also just come out of a season marked by the phrase “ho, ho, ho.”
And if you thought that you could escape these realities by coming to this Sunday School class then you were mistaken. Because in Zechariah chapter 2, we’re going to see both of these realities. We’re going to be hearing the familiar phrase “ho, ho” followed by a subsequent “ho” and we’re going to be considering the necessity of building a wall.
So, let’s turn our attention to the second chapter of the book of Zechariah. Zechariah, chapter 2 is where we find the third vision given to the prophet Zechariah in one night around the year 520 BC.
This follows the second vision he received where God communicated with him that he will destroy the enemies of God’s people. And before that in the first vision Zechariah was shown that God was very concerned for the suffering of his people while the nations around them lived careless and easy lives. And that was after the introduction where God called for the Jews of Zechariah’s time to turn to him so that he could turn to them. And those people did end up turning to the Lord, which allowed the Lord to turn to them.
And so, now in this third vision, the Lord is expressing similar realities to what he’s already expressed in the first two visions and the introduction. And that is that the Lord is going to bless his people and punish their enemies.
So, let’s read the entirety of Zechariah 2. And then we’ll study in detail verses 1-7 after that.
[Read Zec 2]
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verses 1-5
So, we just read about Zechariah seeing a man with a measuring line in his hand and asking him where he’s going. The man responds that he’s going to measure Jerusalem to determine its dimensions. The angel that speaks with Zechariah then leaves and is met by another angel who tells that angel to speak with Zechariah and tell him that Jerusalem will need walls no more because the Lord himself will be her external wall and her internal glory.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 1
That’s the summary of verses 1-5. So, let’s look at the details of each of those verses. Starting with verse 1.
KJV Zechariah 2:1 ¶ I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: I lifted up mine eyes again
So, Zechariah here becomes aware of a reality that he was previously unaware of. He lifts up his eyes here just like he did before when he saw the four horns in vision #2 and just like we’ll see him doing as he becomes aware of a flying scroll in a subsequent vision or the woman in the basket or the four chariots between the two mountains later on.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand
But here, Zechariah is becoming aware of a man. And the man has something in his hand. It’s a line – like a rope. And this rope would be used to measure distance. Now this rope must have been fairly long because of what we’re going to hear that its intended use is to measure the length and width of an entire city.
But, this is all that Zechariah sees so far. A man with a measuring line in his hand.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 2
And that prompts Zechariah to ask this man a question in verse 2.
2 Then said I,
[Whither goest thou/Where are you going]?
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Whither goest thou?
So, apparently, this man is walking. We didn’t know it before. We were only made aware that he had something in his hand. But now we hear that he’s going somewhere.
And he explains his destination and purpose to Zechariah.
And he said unto me,
To measure Jerusalem, to [see/determine/find out] [what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof/how wide it is and how long it is/its width and length].
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Ezekiel 40-41
Now, the prophet Ezekiel receives a similar vision in the 25th year of the exile. So, that would be about 40 years before Zechariah’s vision here.
In Ezekiel’s vision in the 40th and 41st chapters of his book, that prophet sees a man that looks like he’s made of bronze. And his activity is to measure the new Temple in Jerusalem.
Now, this is not the same Temple as the one that Zechariah is encouraging the people to build. Ezekiel’s temple has not yet been constructed even in our time. One reason we know this is because Ezekiel’s temple is on top of a very high mountain – which is apparently a reference to other prophesies that God has made concerning Jerusalem in the Millennium being physically elevated. Actually, one of those prophesies is given in Zechariah 14:10 where we’re told that Jerusalem will be “lifted up” which seems to be a reference to a topographical heightening of that city in the end times.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: To measure Jerusalem
Anyway, the man in Ezekiel’s vision is doing the same activity that this man in Zechariah’s vision is doing. He’s measuring with a line to determine the width and length of something.
And yet, the two visions are different. Ezekiel’s vision has a man measuring the Temple. Zechariah’s vision has a man measuring the whole city of Jerusalem.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 3
Now, so far in this vision we’ve been aware of two entities. There’s Zechariah and there’s this man.
But now in verse 3 we’re introduced to two angels that are part of the scene as well.
3 [And, behold,/At this point/Then] the [angel/angelic messenger] [that talked/who was speaking] with me [went forth/was going out/went out/left],
and another [angel/messenger] [went out/was coming out/came] to meet him,
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Two angels
So, there are two beings here – two angels.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: the angel that talked with me
The first is a familiar one. It’s “the angel that talked with me.” He’s the one who has served as a guide for Zechariah throughout the first two visions so far and is now going to play a role in guiding the prophet through this third vision.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: another angel
The second being introduced in this verse is just referred to as “another angel.” And his responsibility as we’ll see in subsequent verses is to give a message to “the angel that talked with me” which then that angel is supposed to deliver to Zechariah.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: What the angels do
Now, both of these angels in this verse are engaged in one activity each.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: went forth
The “speaking angel” “went forth” or “was going out.” And you wonder – from where was this angel “going out?” My assumption is that he was leaving the prophet’s presence. He was going out from being beside Zechariah. Like a river goes out of a land, this angel was going out of Zechariah’s presence.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: went out to meet him
And why did that angel go out from or leave Zechariah’s presence? Well, it’s apparently to go and get this message from this other angel. And so, this other angel comes out to meet the speaking angel.
Now, from where does this other angel come? We have no idea. He comes from some unknown place with the express purpose of meeting the speaking angel.
This is the kind of action that Laban did to Jacob when he heard that he had come to his city. He went out to meet him. It’s the action of the king of Sodom toward Abraham when Abraham came back from rescuing him and his stuff. The other angel goes out in order to meet the speaking angel. That’s his purpose.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 4
And he fulfills his purpose in verse 4 and is then able to give a message to the speaking angel.
4 And [the other angel…] said unto [him/the speaking angel],
[Run/Hurry], [speak to/tell] [this/that] young man, [saying/as follows],
Jerusalem [shall be inhabited as towns without/will no longer be enclosed by/will be a city without] walls [for/because of] the [multitude/great number] of [men/people] and [cattle/animals/livestock] [therein/within it/there/in it]:
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Run
So, the message is urgent. The other angel tells the speaking angel to “run.” That’s a command.
It’s like when Jonathan – David’s friend – told his young lad to run and go get the arrows he was about to shoot. Or the command given to the man who was going to bring news to David of his son’s death. It’s the command that Elisha gave to his servant Gehazi to find out how the Shunamite’s son was.
It’s a command with some urgency attached to it. There’s a task that needs to be fulfilled and quickly!
Zechariah 2 Commentary: speak to…saying
And the task related to speech. This speaking angel will have another thing to relate to Zechariah.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: this young man
And Zechariah is referred to as “this young man.” And this makes us wonder how young the prophet was at this time.
Well, the word translated here as “young man” is used of Ishmael when he was an adolescent. It’s the word used of Isaac when he was going to Mount Moriah with his father Abraham. So, maybe you’d think of a small boy with these examples.
But this is also the word used of the young man who was interested in marrying Jacob’s daughter Dinah. And I mention this last instance to indicate the range of this word.
The word is used to describe a young boy who is still wholly dependent on his mother for help. But it’s also a word that’s used of a young man who can have a romantic interest in a woman.
So, when Zechariah is referred to as a young man, he’s probably not as young as an adolescent. He’s probably in his late teens or early twenties.
And in our culture we unfortunately might tend to associate that age range with immaturity. We might not be inclined to give an important message to a male of that age. And yet, Zechariah was ready for this message. He was mature enough to receive it and send it on to God’s people.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Jerusalem
And the message that he receives centers once again around a city – Jerusalem.
Now, we see around the time of Zechariah that there was great importance attached to building the wall around Jerusalem. The people needed protection from the enemies outside. Building that wall was a top priority. This was Nehemiah’s main purpose and goal! There’s a whole book in the Old Testament devoted to that task.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: inhabited as towns without walls
And in that context – of a wall being needed to be built – God gives this message – through one angel to another angel and eventually to Zechariah – that Jerusalem actually won’t be able to be contained within walls in the future.
And this is indeed going to happen in the future – not just in relation to Zechariah’s day but also to our day.
There’s a prophecy in the book of Ezekiel in which the nation and/or ruler named Gog is going to attack Jerusalem. And when he does, he’s going to be saying the following in his mind:
“I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will go against those who are at rest, that live securely, all of them living without walls and having no bars or gates, to capture spoil and to seize plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places which are now inhabited, and against the people who are gathered from the nations, who have acquired cattle and goods, who live at the center of the world.” (Eze 38:11-12)
And later on in that prophecy, God identifies this land that Gog will invade as Israel.
So, in the future – in the end times – Israel will dwell securely. They will not need a wall and so they’ll have no wall. Just like this prophecy in Zechariah states.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: for the multitude of men and cattle therein
And the reason given for the lack of a wall around Jerusalem in future times is not so much that they’ll have no enemies. The emphasis at least here in Zechariah is more on the fact that Jerusalem will have so many people and animals that they can’t be contained any more by a wall.
But the reality in this world is that you do need walls. You need to defend yourself. You need protection from harmful people.
Israel of our modern day had to build a wall in order to protect itself against Palestinian terrorists. And it’s done a great deal to reduce the number of incidents of terrorism in that land.
Our own country has a president who was voted into office not just because of the numerous flaws and deficiencies of his opponent – but also because he promised to build a wall!
This is reality in this life – the need to protect from harm – oftentimes by means of a wall.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verse 5
Read about Zechariah 2:5 at our Zechariah 2 5 Meaning article.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Verses 6-7
And all of this talk of fire and cloud and the exodus is a good lead-in for what the Lord is going to speak of next. Because in verses 6 and 7 of Zechariah 1 the Lord exhorts his scattered people to escape and return to Israel – the promised land!
6 ¶ [Ho, ho, come forth, and/Ho there!/You there!/Come! Come!] flee from the [land of the north/northland], [saith/declares] the LORD:
for I have [spread/dispersed/scattered] you abroad [as/to] the four winds of the heaven, [saith/declares] the LORD.
7 [Deliver thyself, O Zion,/Ho, Zion! Escape, you/Escape, Zion, you/Come O Zion! Escape, you] [that/who] [dwellest/are living/live] [with the daughter of Babylon/among the Babylonians/in the daughter of Babylon].
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Ho, ho
Now, I think the first thing we need to do as we come to verse 6 is figure out what the Lord means when he says, “ho, ho.” Because we don’t really use that kind of phrase – except in the context of the time of year that we call Christmas. And in that context of course, the phrase “ho, ho” is used of a large man in a red suit. And when he utters that phrase its basically the equivalent of a jolly laugh. Now, I can assure you that that’s not what the Lord is doing here. He’s not laughing.
It’s actually an interesting word. In Hebrew he’s saying hoi, hoi! Not like “ahoy!” but actually this word is usually translated as “woe” – W-O-E.
It’s a word that’s used by someone who is mourning the death of his brother. God uses this word as he mourns for the fate of his chronically sinful people. He also uses this word to warn people – he warns them of a dire fate with the use of this word. He tells them that he’s about to rise up and take action.
And it’s this reality – that this word is used so much in the context of judgement and regret and doom – that explains why almost all of the 51 times this word is used in the Old Testament, it’s used in the prophets – especially Isaiah and Jeremiah.
And yet, there are a few unusual uses of this word. In Isaiah 55:1 God says, “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
And so, on a rare occasion this word is used to invite someone to do something incredibly beneficial for himself. It’s a personal invitation from the Lord. It’s a welcoming message of blessing.
And that’s how it’s used in Zechariah 2 as well. God is welcoming and inviting his scattered people to do something that will result in blessing for them.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: flee from the land of the north
Well, what is it that’s going to be so beneficial and blessed for the Jews? God tells his scattered people to flee from Babylon.
And we see this same command given to God’s people in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah was giving his message before the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC – 46 years before Zechariah received the same basic message – to flee from Babylon.
Jeremiah 51:1-6 says this:
KJV Jeremiah 51:1 ¶ Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will raise up against Babylon, and against them that dwell in the midst of them that rise up against me, a destroying wind; 2 And will send unto Babylon fanners, that shall fan her, and shall empty her land: for in the day of trouble they shall be against her round about. 3 Against him that bendeth let the archer bend his bow, and against him that lifteth himself up in his brigandine: and spare ye not her young men; destroy ye utterly all her host.
4 Thus the slain shall fall in the land of the Chaldeans, and they that are thrust through in her streets.
5 For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of the LORD of hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel.
6 Flee out of the midst of Babylon, and deliver every man his soul: be not cut off in her iniquity; for this is the time of the LORD'S vengeance; he will render unto her a recompence.
So, I suppose the question would be – what time frame are these two prophets looking at? When Jeremiah is moved to write his prophecy and when Zechariah receives a very similar message, when is this going to happen? When do the Jews need to flee from Babylon?
Zechariah 2 Commentary: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven
Well, at least according to Zechariah it’s going to be in a context toward the end of a period of time during which the Jews had been scattered or dispersed or spread abroad.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: In Zechariah’s Time?
This could have been after the Babylonian captivity following the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon starting in 586 BC. If that’s the case, then Zechariah would be calling for the Jews who had remained in Babylon to leave and come to Jerusalem where God was interested in the re-building of the Temple.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Today?
But in light of the verses that came right before verses 6 and 7 here, this also could be a reference to a time that’s yet future to us. Jews today are still scattered. Of course, Babylon as a named nation doesn’t exist at this point – though I think there’s some reason to believe that it will exist again in the future. Or even if perhaps God is speaking of Babylon in terms of its present-day territory – which is a conglomeration of parts of present-day Iran and Iraq – there are still some Jews living in this area right now that perhaps are the intended recipients of this prophecy.
And here’s a brief history of how many Jews have lived in this territory that was once Babylon.
In 1947 – one year before the reconstitution of the Jewish state – there were 156,000 Jews in Iraq. As of 2008, the estimate is… seven. Not seven thousand – seven Jews in Iraq.
The situation for Jews in Iran is somewhat similar. When the Jewish state was reconstituted in 1948, there were about 145,000 Jews living in Iran. But as of 2012 there were only about 8,700 Jews living in that nation. That’s more than Iraq, but it’s still quite a reduction.
So, could this prophecy in Zechariah be a call for these people – around 8,700 of them – to return to Israel? It could be!
Zechariah 2 Commentary: The future?
Or will there be a further dispersion of the Jews out to the four corners of the world that this prophecy is anticipating? That’s another possibility, though I hope this isn’t the case.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: Escape
Whatever the timeline, these Jews of Zechariah’s day or of our day or of a future day are told to escape.
That’s the word that Lot heard from the angels because Sodom was about to be burned. It’s the action David took to get away from Saul who was bent on destroying him. It’s a word used to describe the action that a person or group must take if they are to avoid certain death.
Zechariah 2 Commentary: the daughter of Babylon
And this is what God wants the Jews to do in relation to Babylon. They need to escape. They need to flee. Why?
Because something bad is coming upon Babylon – which is just what we heard from Jeremiah’s prophecy of the destruction of Babylon. And it’s just what we’ll hear next time in verse 8 and following.
There is punishment coming for the nations – including Babylon – for Israel’s sake. And this punishment – which makes fleeing from these nations necessary for the Jews – will also vindicate Zechariah or some other mysterious messenger. We’ll study that next time, Lord-willing.