MENU

Where the world comes to study the Bible

Zechariah 2

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Vision of the Measuring Line The Third Vision: A Man Going to Measure Jerusalem The Vision of the Measuring Line (NJB uses MT chapter and verse)
(2:5-9)
2:1-5 2:1-5 1:1-2a  
    2:2b  
    2:3-5  
Future Joy of Zion and Many Nations An Appeal to the Exiles The Exiles are Called to Come Home  
2:6-7 2:6-12 2:6-8a  
2:8-13      
    2:8b-9a  
    2:9b Two Exhortations to the Exiles
    2:10 2:10-17
    2:11-12  
  2:13 2:13  

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the four modern translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:1-5
 1Then I lifted up my eyes and looked, and behold, there was a man with a measuring line in his hand. 2So I said, "Where are you going?" And he said to me, "To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide it is and how long it is." 3And behold, the angel who was speaking with me was going out, and another angel was coming out to meet him, 4and said to him, "Run, speak to that young man, saying, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the multitude of men and cattle within it. 5'For I,' declares the Lord, ‘will be a wall of fire around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.'"

2:1 "Then I lifted up my eyes and looked" See full note at 1:8. In the Masoretic Hebrew text this verse is 2:5 because the second vision (the four horns) starts chapter two.

"a man" This apparently refers to an angelic being (cf. 1:8,10 compared to 1:11,12). Angelic beings often appear as male humans (only once in Zech. 5:9 are they depicted as female).

▣ "a measuring line" This is a construction metaphor (BDB 286 and 551, cf. 1:16, different Hebrew word, BDB 876), used of (1) judgment/destruction (cf. II Kgs. 21:13; Isa. 34:11; Lam. 2:8) or (2) restoration (cf. 1:16; Jer. 31:38-40; Ezek. 41; Rev. 21:15-17).

2:2 "So I said, ‘Where are you going'" In Zechariah's visions many people speak.

1. the prophet himself (e.g. 1:9,21; 2:2)

2. the interpreting angel (e.g. 1:14,19,21; 2:3,4,12-15)

3. angels in the vision (e.g. 1:10,11,13; 2:2,4)

4. the Lord Himself (e.g. 1:13,14,15,16,17; 2:5,6-11)

These numerous speakers caused the texts to record several levels of direct quotes.

"to measure Jerusalem" The time factor is crucial, but uncertain: (1) current Jerusalem; (2) restored post-exilic Jerusalem; or (3) heavenly, end-time Jerusalem (cf. Rev. 21:2,15).

2:4 "Run" Here is one angel commanding (Qal IMPERATIVE) another angel to change an action because of fuller information about God's purposes. Angels do not fully understand God's plans (cf. I Pet. 1:12; Eph. 2:7; 3:10; I Cor. 4:9).

"that young man" The NET Bible (and the NIV Study Bible footnote) identifies him as a reference to Zechariah, but this does not fit the context. This seems to be "the man" of v. 1 (i.e. angel, cf. 1:8, 10, 11, 12), although a different Hebrew term is used (BDB 654).

▣ "without walls" The Hebrew term (BDB 826) means "open region" or "open country" (cf. Ezek. 38:11) with the implication of no fortifications for protection (i.e. walls, ditches, earth works, etc.). The very structures used for protection would limit the potential population.

There was no need for physical protection. This was possibly an answer to the nervous critics of Zechariah's day about rebuilding the Temple when there was no way to protect it (i.e. no wall around Jerusalem, cf. Nehemiah). This is the OT source for Rev. 21:25, where the new Jerusalem does not need gates for protection because God is present!

It is also possible in this universal context of all peoples being invited to come to worship YHWH and His representative that "without walls" may reflect the inclusiveness of "the gospel of Jesus Christ." The NT does not reaffirm the geographical or racial prophecies of the OT, but expands them into a world-wide invitation to "whosoever will." The issue is no longer Jew vs. Gentile, but believer vs. unbeliever!

▣ "because of the multitude of men and cattle" This does not fit the historical conditions of the prophet's day, so obviously it refers to the future, but the time is uncertain. Some see v. 11 (universal gospel invitation of Isa. 49; Matt. 28:18-20 Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) as the reason for so many people being in Jerusalem. The Jews of the post-exilic period did not want to live in the city because of bitter memories of the siege of Nebuchadnezzar. In Nehemiah's day they had to cast lots to see who would live in the rebuilt, walled Jerusalem (cf. Neh. 7:4; 11:1-2).

▣ "cattle" This was a symbol of great prosperity (cf. Deut. 28:4,11,51; 30:9). This is the opposite of Hag. 1:10-11.

2:5 "wall of fire" This seems to refer to the Shekinah (to dwell with permanently, cf. v. 11) cloud of the glory which accompanied the Israelites during the Exodus experience (cf. Exod. 14:19-20; Isa. 60:18). See SPECIAL TOPIC: FIRE at Daniel 7:10.

SPECIAL TOPIC: GLORY (DOXA)

▣ "I will be the glory in her midst" God's presence with His people is referred to here (cf. v. 11; Exod. 25:8; 40:34; Ezek. 43:1-5). This is the ultimate hope of the restoration of initiate fellowship with God (cf. Rev. 21:3,23). It also shows that the Covenant is restored and fulfilled! Immanuel is with His people (cf. Isa. 7:14; 8:8,10).

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:6-12
 6"Ho there! Flee from the land of the north," declares the Lord, "for I have dispersed you as the four winds of the heavens," declares the Lord. 7"Ho, Zion! Escape, you who are living with the daughter of Babylon." 8For thus says the Lord of hosts, "After glory He has sent me against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. 9For behold, I will wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me. 10Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst," declares the Lord. 11"Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. 12The Lord will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem."

2:6-13 These verses distinct from 2:1-5 are in poetic parallelism and meter (cf. NJB). Joyce Baldwin, Tyndale OT Commentaries, says, "there is a change, not only of genre, but also speaker and destination. Instead of the angel it is now Zechariah who speaks, first to the exiles in Babylon, then to the Jerusalem Jews, and there is nothing now to suggest a vision" (p. 107).

Many commentators think that this poetic section interprets and reemphasizes the second and third visions. YHWH will destroy the plundering nations (the four horns and craftsmen) and He will indwell and protect His people (the measuring line).

2:6

NASB"Ho there"
NKJV, NRSV"Up, up"
TEV-----
NJB"Look out! Look out!"

This Hebrew exclamation (BDB 222) is repeated for emphasis. This is not the Hebrew "woe," but often functions as a prelude to judgment (cf. 11:17; Isa. 10:5; 17:12; 28:11).

BDB mentions that it often functions as a way of denoting "a touch of sympathy," p. 223 (cf. Isa. 18:1; 55:1; Jer. 47:6; Zech. 2:10,11).

Who is the speaker in vv. 6-13? It could be one of the angels, but it seems best to see Zechariah as speaking for YHWH. The words are YHWH's promises and purposes. The vision had become a divine proclamation!

Another question is to whom are these verses addressed? There seem to be three target groups.

1. Jews exiled and remaining in surrounding lands (vv. 6-9)

2. Jews who returned to the Promised Land (vv. 10-12)

3. all humanity ("all flesh," cf. v. 13)

God uses Abraham's seed, and more specifically, David's, to address and affect all the sons and daughters of Adam (cf. Gen. 3:15; Ex. 19:5). God's actions for Jews is, in reality, God's action for humanity (cf. Gen. 12:3). God's city without walls may be a symbol of universal inclusion (Jews and Gentiles, cf. Eph. 2:11-3:13).

"Flee" This is a Qal IMPERATIVE of a Hebrew term (BDB 630, KB 681) used predominantly by Isaiah and Jeremiah. It is also used twice in Zech. 14:5.

In this context people are to leave the boundaries of the pagan empires which exiled Israel and Judah and return to the Promised Land. Only about 50,000 Jews returned under Sheshbazzar and Zerubbabel (cf. Ezra 1-2).

"from the land of the north" This refers to Babylon (cf. v. 7). "The north" (BDB 860) became an OT metaphor for trouble and invasion (cf. Isa. 14:31; Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6; 6:1,22; 10:22) because this was the only accessible land route into Palestine. Although Assyria and Babylon were to the east, the invasion route and return route were always northerly. This phrase and v. 7 warn the Jews to return to Palestine because the judgment of God is about to fall on the nations which God used to punish His people.

▣ "I have dispersed" This VERB (BDB 831, KB 975, Piel PERFECT) could refer to the exiles of 722 or 586 b.c., but possibly also to the last days (cf. 1:17; 2:4,11).

The key theological point is that God Himself initiated (i.e. Assyria, cf. Isa.10:5; Babylon, cf. Jer. 51:20) the exile and He Himself will restore His people (cf. Jer. 31:10; Ezek. 11:16). YHWH was not defeated by the gods of the nations, but He used the military of pagan countries to discipline His people.

▣ "the four winds" The number four is used to symbolize the entire known world (e.g. 1:8,18,20; Dan. 7:2; 11:4). These same "four winds" are mentioned in a military sense (BDB 924 #2a), as in Jer. 49:36; Ezek. 37:9; Dan. 8:8; and Zech. 6:5.

2:7 "Ho" See note at 2:6.

"Zion" This was the name of the Canaanite stronghold located on one of the hills within the city of Jebus (cf. II Sam. 5:7), which was not captured until David's day. It is not the same hill on which the temple was built (Mt. Moriah). It is often used as a synonym for Jerusalem or as a way to accentuate the religious life of the city versus the political life of the city. It is used extensively by Isaiah, Jeremiah (also Lamentations) and Zechariah (cf. 1:14,17; 2:7,10; 8:2,3; 9:9,13).

Here it is used to designate (1) the place to which the Jewish people who had not returned from exile must escape to (cf. LXX) or (2) the majority of Jewish people themselves (cf. Isa. 51:16; 52:1,2,7,8) who had not returned to Palestine.

"Escape" This is a Niphal IMPERATIVE (BDB 572, KB 589) used in a REFLEXIVE sense. It parallels "flee" of v. 10.

"living with" This is literally "dwell with" (BDB 442, KB 444, Qal PARTICIPLE). This is a word play related to God's promise to dwell with them from v. 5. They must choose YHWH or their settled, comfortable lives in foreign lands!

This was a way of encouraging and confirming that small group of returnees to Judah! God was with them! The irony is that during the exile God left Jerusalem (cf. Ezek. 8) and went to dwell with the exiles (cf. Ezek. 1 and 10). But now, He has returned to Jerusalem (cf. vv. 10-11).

"the daughter of Babylon" This is a Semitic way of referring to the people of the empires of Mesopotamia (the land between the rivers), also called the Fertile Crescent.

2:8 "the Lord of hosts" This is the most common post-exilic title for God. This refers to God as the Captain of the Army of Heaven (cf. Josh. 5:13-15) or the leader of the angelic council (cf. I Kgs. 22:19). It is first used in I Sam. 1:3. Because of Exod. 12:41 some relate it to Israel, but in contexts related to Babylon it seems to relate to God's supremacy over the astral deities. See SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY at Dan. 4:2.

NASB"After glory He has sent me"
NKJV"He sent Me after glory"
NRSV"(after his glory sent me)"
TEV"sent me with this message"
NJB"since the Glory commissioned me"
NIV"after he has honored me and has sent me"
JPSOA"He who sent me after glory"
NET"says to me that for his own glory he has sent me"
REB"spoken when he sent me on a glorious mission"

There are three main issues involved in trying to understand the original intent of this phrase.

1. What does "after" mean?

a. ADVERB (temporal)

b. PREPOSITION (purpose)

c. CONJUNCTION

2. What does "glory" mean?

a. honor to the prophet (NIV)

b. authority to the prophet

c. glory as a quality of God

3. To whom was it addressed?

a. a powerful angel (Keil and Delitzsch, Pulpit Commentary)

b. the prophet (NASB Updated, TEV, NIV, REB)

c. the Messiah (NKJV, NASB)

What do we know?

1. The Lord is the speaker (Lord of Hosts)

2. The term "glory" (BDB 458) is used earlier in the vision (cf. v. 5, UBS, Handbook for Translators) and seems to refer to YHWH Himself (NJB, NRSV, cf. Hag. 2:7), but this does not fit the "He has sent." However, the same VERB in the next verse has YHWH as the speaker.

Herein lies the interpretive problem. It seems that if one takes these visions as Messianic then the return from exile does not fit the expectations. If one takes them as eschatological then there is an obvious mixing of temporal and future references, which is common in the prophets. It is difficult to relate Messianic texts historically into the post-exilic period. However, the return of the Davidic and Aaronic seeds are a foreshadowing of a Priest/King Messiah (cf. Ps. 110, Zech.4), as is the inclusion of "the nations" within the people of God, which will become the gospel of Jesus Christ. The ultimate exodus and return are future and for all who believe (cf. v. 13).

My best guess is that "after" means "with" and "glory" means "with God's honor," "with God's message," or "with God's authority." The prophet/priest Zechariah proclaimed God's word to Jews in exile (cf. vv. 6-7), Jews in Palestine (cf. vv. 10-12), and the surrounding nations (cf. vv. 8-9).

▣ "He has sent me" This "Me" is capitalized in NASV (1970) and KJV (1982), which shows that those translators thought it referred to the Messiah, so too, Kimchi (Jewish exegete from the Middle Ages in Europe). The NET Bible and the TEV interpret this as another reference to Zechariah (this would make vv. 9-11; 4:9; and 6:15 also refer to Zechariah). There is no doubt that the Messiah is mentioned in 3:8; 6:12-13 in the first division of Zechariah (chapters 1-8), but here the context implies the prophet (cf. NASB, 1995 Update).

Zechariah asserts this conviction that prophetic fulfillment of YHWH's message and promises are sure and certain. The phrase "you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me" (cf. 2:9,11; 4:9; 6:15) is an idiom of confidence!

▣ "against the nations" This refers to 1:15, where God promises to restore His people to the Promised Land (cf. Gen. 12:1-3) and punish the surrounding nations.

Zechariah is to address YHWH's judgment against the surrounding plundering nations who attacked and took advantage of the exile of God's people. This does not imply that Zechariah ever directly addressed these nations. This is very similar to Isaiah's, Jeremiah's, and Ezekiel's denunciations of the surrounding nations (e.g. Isa. 13-24; Jer. 46-51; Ezek. 25-32).

NASB, NKJV"apple of His eye"
NRSV, NJB"the apple of my eye"
TEV"what is most precious to me"

This is an affectionate idiom referencing God's Covenant people (cf. Deut. 32:10; Prov. 7:2). "Little man" or "daughter" is the usual idiomatic form (cf. Ps. 17:8). The term "apple" is really "gate" (i.e. opening) or "pupil."

2:9 "I will wave My hand" This is a physical gesture for divine judgment (BDB 631, KB 682, Hiphil PARTICIPLE, cf. Isa. 11:15; 19:16).

NASB"they will be plunder for their slaves"
NKJV"they shall become spoil for their servants"
NRSV"they shall become plunder for their own slaves"
TEV"and you will be plundered by the people who were once your servants"
NJB"they will be plundered by those whom they have enslaved"

"then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me" The Jews who returned to Judah will be fully confident ("You will know" - BDB 393, KB 390, Qal PERFECT) of YHWH's care, presence, and protection. The roles will be reversed. The Jews were made slaves and servants, but now the conquering pagan nations are conquered! Their demise and Judah's prosperity are confirming evidence of YHWH's promises being fulfilled and the Covenant completely restored.

2:10 "Sing for joy" This (BDB 943, KB 1247) is a Qal IMPERATIVE. It is an allusion to the "new day" promises of Isaiah (cf. 65:18-19; note 25:8; 30:19; 35:10; 51:11; and Rev. 21:4).

▣ "be glad" This (BDB 970, KB 1333) is another Qal IMPERATIVE. It is also reflected in the Messianic passage of 9:9.

"O daughter of Zion" This is a Semitic idiom like v. 7. This refers to the people of God. See note on "Zion" at 1:7.

▣ "dwell" This (BDB 1014, KB 1496, Qal PERFECT) is the same root as Shekinah (cf. v. 11). The greatest blessing of the Covenant was the presence of the Lord with His people (cf. 8:3; 9:9; Ezek. 37:27). The concept is expressed in the Messianic title "Emmanuel," which means "God with us" (cf. Isa. 7:14; 8:8).

2:11 "many nations" This was a startling message that the Gentiles would be included with God's people (eg. 8:20-23; 14:16; Eph. 2:11-3:13). This was always YHWH's purpose (e.g. Gen. 12:3; Isa. 2:2-4; 11:10; 19:19-22; 24:13-16a; 25:6-7; 42:6-7,10-12; 49:6-23; 51:4; 56:3-8; Mic. 4:1-3). As a Gentile follower of Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, it is hard to put into words the joy this verse brings to my heart!

"will join themselves" This (BDB 530 I, KB 522) is a Niphal form. This is the grammatical question, is the VERB meant to be PASSIVE (cf. NKJV, NJB) or REFLEXIVE ( NRSV, cf. Jer. 50:5)? This same theological issue is seen in Gen. 12:3 (cf. Isa. 56:3,6). See SPECIAL TOPIC: ELECTION/PREDESTINATION AND THE NEED FOR A THEOLOGICAL BALANCE Versus Human Free Will at 1:4

"in that day" This phrase is a prophetic idiom for God's coming for blessing or judgment. In this context it seems to refer to an eschatological future as it does in Isa. 55-56. These texts in Zechariah 1-8 are quoted extensively by John in the book of the Revelation.

"they will become My people" This is standard covenant terminology (BDB 766 I, cf. 13:9; Jer. 30:22; 31:33; 32:38). Non-Jews who believe and obey are fully included in God's covenant (cf. Rom. 1:16; 2:28-29; Gal. 3:7-9,29; 6:16; Phil. 3:3).

"I will dwell in your midst" This is a recurrent theme (cf. vv. 5, 10).

"you will know that the Lord has sent Me to you" This is a repeated emphasis from v. 9. Fulfilled prophecy is one way to confirm God's word/promises to future generations of both believing Jews and Gentiles.

God promises in this context three evidences.

1. Judah restored to prosperity

2. the overthrow of the surrounding nations that plundered Israel and Judah

3. YHWH's prophetic spokesman among His people

A good reference on how to understand and apply these prophecies to the NT is found in the book by D. Brent Sandy, Plowshares and Pruning Hooks: Rethinking the Language of Biblical Prophecy and Apocalyptic.

2:12 "the Lord will possess Judah as His portion" Both the VERB (BDB 635, KB 686, Qal PERFECT) and "His Portion" (BDB 324) relate to inheritance (cf. Exod. 19:5; 34:9; Deut. 4:20; 7:6; 9:26,29; 14:2; 32:9; Ps. 33:2; Titus 2:14; I Pet. 2:9). The historical allusion is to the dividing of Palestine among the Jewish tribes by lot (cf. Josh. 12-19).

▣ "in the holy land" This is the only place in the OT where this phrase is used for Palestine. Jerusalem is holy because YHWH is present (cf. 8:3).

▣ "and will again choose Jerusalem" This (VERB, BDB 103, Qal PERFECT) is the emphasis in Deuteronomy on Jerusalem as the place of God's unique presence above the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies of the Temple (cf. Deut. 12:5,11). See note on "choose" at 1:17.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT:2:13
 13"Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord; for He is aroused from His holy habitation."

2:13 "be silent" This is an INTERJECTION (BDB 245), not a VERB (cf. Hab. 2:20; Zeph. 1:7). The VERB form is found in Neh. 8:11.

▣ "all flesh" Here is that universal element again (cf. v. 11).

"for He is aroused from His holy habitation" God has seemed to be inactive (i.e. asleep, BDB 734, cf. 4:1) during the period of the seventy year judgment, but that time has ended and YHWH emerges from His heavenly throne room (cf. Deut. 26:15; Isa. 63:15; Jer. 25:30) to act on behalf of His people and all people!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Does this chapter relate to Zechariah's day or another? Why?

2. To whom is the "Me" of vv. 8,9,&11 referring?

3. What is the meaning of v. 8?

4. Why is v. 11 so significant?

5. How does this chapter relate to Revelation 21?