By Edward Dennett
The connection of this with the next four chapters may be concisely stated in the words of another. "From chapter 2 to the end of chapter 6 the Spirit presents the circumstances, the principles, and the result of the reestablishment of Jerusalem and of the house [the temple]; and also the judgment of that which was wicked and corrupt. Each chapter has a distinct subject — a vision detached from the others — while forming a portion of the whole. The present responsibility on which the blessing depended, and the sovereign grace that would assuredly accomplish all, are both set before us, each in its place."1 This will be more fully seen as we pursue the details.
The subject of our chapter (chapter 2) is the restoration of Jerusalem — full and complete deliverance from the nations which had spoiled her, and her consequent blessing as the result of being once more the dwelling-place of Jehovah And it will help the reader if he remember that this final deliverance flows out of, and is connected with, the partial deliverance enjoyed by the remnant as returned from Babylon. This has already been touched upon in chap. 1, for it has ever been the way of God with His people to use their partial deliverances as shadows of their full blessing under the promised Messiah.
In verses 1, 2 we have the introductory vision: "I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof." Two similar passages are found in the Scriptures — the first in Ezekiel 40; and the Second in Revelation 11, and a reference to them will aid in the interpretation. In both of these cases measuring would seem to be preparatory to appropriation for blessing; that is to say, it is an action directed by God on the eve of His once more coming in to re-establish His dwelling-place, and to own His people. It is so also in Zechariah. Jerusalem had been, as indeed it is at the present moment, trodden down by the Gentiles, made desolate for her sins. But the eye and the heart of God were perpetually upon her; and now that the time of her warfare was drawing to a close, now that she was draining the last drops of the cup of her judgment (for the seventy years of the promised desolations were now ended), He remembers His former mercies towards her, and He sends the "man with a measuring line in his hand" to ascertain the breadth thereof, and the length thereof, before taking possession, and establishing in her His royal throne for righteous government in blessing.
That this is the meaning of the symbolical vision is evident, from the following action: "And behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to this young man,2 saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her." (vv. 3-5).
To understand the import of this magnificent promise, the reader must place himself in the circumstances, at that moment, of the prophet and his people. They had been permitted to return from Babylon, and they were laboriously engaged, under every form of discouragement and active opposition, in rebuilding the temple, and a temple which, from its contrast to that of Solomon amid the former splendours of the kingdom, only reminded them of their weakness and poverty. The Lord saw the hearts of His people, their fears, faithlessness, and despondency; and He sent them the blessed encouragement of the future — unveiled before their eyes the glory of Messiah's presence, which would eclipse the glory of the past far more than the past did that of their then condition. We should do well to heed this divine method, and learn that the antidote to all despondency, arising out of the confusion and weakness of the present state of the Church, lies in the contemplation of the future, that it is thence we are to draw our sustainment and hope; for just as the joy set before us is given for individual encouragement (see Heb. 12:2; Rom. 5:2), so is the presentation of the bride to Christ in her perfect beauty held out for the comfort and consolation of the Church in her widowed condition. (Eph. 5, Rev. 21) To compare the present with the past is always a source of weakness; but the contemplation of the future — of the future in glory with Christ — is as surely the efficacious remedy for all fear and apprehension.
Two things are contained in this glowing prediction — the fact and character of Jerusalem's future prosperity; and its source and means of preservation. The time of this prosperity is plainly indicated from its character. Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls; a population that should increase and break out on every side beyond all restraining limits; and the cattle should share in this illimitable blessing — a prosperity which loudly speaks of full earthly blessing under the peaceful sway of Emmanuel. Isaiah, dwelling upon the same period, says, "Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes; for thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left." (Isaiah 54:2-3.) But the secret of all is found in the next verse. Jehovah Himself will be a wall of fire round about her; a sure protection therefore from her foes, and will also be the glory in the midst of her. It is always so. Jehovah's presence has ever been the source of all blessing for His earthly people, just as the Lord's presence is now in the midst of those who are gathered unto His name. And while His presence is the source of blessing, it is also protection; the wall of fire and the glory are ever connected. (Compare Exodus 14:24-25; Isaiah 4:5.)
Another paragraph commences with verse 61 extending to end of verse 9, and contains an address to those who were still in the land of their captivity. The connection with the previous verses is very striking. In the prophetic vision Jerusalem, once more restored and inhabited, is again the dwelling-place of Jehovah; and thereon an appeal is made, a summons issued, to those who had not yet returned, to come and share in the blessing. And not only this, but it is also a warning to escape from the judgments about to fall upon those whose captives they at this time were. (Compare Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 51:6, etc.) The land of the north is thus clearly Chaldea, the Babylonian empire, throughout which the Jews were scattered — "spread abroad as the four winds of heaven." (See Esther 3:8.)3 In this way God sounds the trumpet-call for the assembling of His outcast people; and in the next verse, addressing them collectively as Zion, He cries, "Deliver thyself, O Zion, that dwellest with the daughter of Babylon." (v. 7.) Many thoughts are suggested by this remarkable combination of words. First, we learn that whatever the state and condition of the people they never lose their character before God, neither their place nor their corporate existence. Not only do they belong, equally with the restored remnant, to Zion, but together with them they are Zion. What a seeming contradiction therefore lies in the fact that Zion was dwelling with the daughter of Babylon! What had God's people to do with such an alliance in such a scene of corruption? Alas! they had long since become Babylonian in character; and hence it was that Jehovah had permitted them to be enslaved, and to be transported to this region of man's corruption and power. But now the cry is raised, "Deliver thyself." So also Jeremiah had cried, "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." (Jer. 51:6.) And would that God's people today might hear the same mighty voice, "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (2 Cor. 6:17-18.) There is no other way of deliverance from that which ensnares and enslaves us than by coming outside altogether of the scene of its authority and power. Overcoming, even within the sphere of the professing Church, can only be by complete separation in the power of the Spirit from its evil and corruption. In this way alone could the daughter of Zion deliver herself, and return to the dwelling-place of Jehovah Mount Zion, which He loved, where He displayed His glory, and where He encircled the habitation of His holiness as with a wall of fire.
The ground of the appeal then is given: "For thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you; for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye." (v. 8.) The expression — after the glory — has been, owing to ignorance of dispensational truth, a source of great perplexity to many teachers and readers. But to those who understand that it is not until after the appearing of the Lord in glory that He will gather His scattered people from the four winds of Leaven (Matthew 24:30-31), and thereafter judge the nations (Matthew 25:31-32), it is a beautiful example of the exactitude of Scripture. This is then the order:4 after the glory, after the appearing of the Lord, His manifestation to Israel, when, as we read in Zech. 12:10, they will look on Him whom they had pierced, He will establish His earthly throne in Jerusalem, and He will use His people as His battle-axe and weapons of war to break in pieces the nations, and to destroy kingdoms. (Jer. 51:20.) The reason is given, "For he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye"; i.e., will do himself irreparable damage, or injure himself in the most sensitive part.5 "For, behold," the Lord proceeds, "I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants: and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me." (v. 9.) Jehovah will in this manner execute judgment upon the nations, and His people, in the words of another prophet, "shall take them captives, whose captives they were; and they shall rule over their oppressors." (Isaiah 14:2.) And this verification of the message of the prophet should convince the people of the divine mission of the angel of the Lord. (Compare John 17:21-23).
According to a frequent manner of prophecy the prediction is no sooner uttered than it is regarded as fulfilled; and hence the prophet proceeds to call upon Zion to sing and rejoice, "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord." (v. 10) As the departure of the Lord from Zion, His rejection of the holy city as His habitation, was in consequence of His people's sins (Ezekiel 9, 10), so His return would, at the same time, mark their restoration to His favour, and be the consummation of all His purposes of blessing towards "the mountain of His holiness." It is in anticipation of this, faith being the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not, seen, that the prophet seeks to awaken the daughter of Zion to rejoice — thus teaching, as before pointed out, that our springs of energy and gladness are to be found in the revelation of the accomplished purposes of God.6 It should also be again noticed that the source of all blessing for God's people lies in His dwelling in their midst. From the very first this was the sign of their being His redeemed people (Exodus 25:8), and of their having found favour in His sight (Exodus 33:16), even as having His tabernacle with men is the distinctive blessedness in the new heavens and the new earth wherein righteousness will dwell. (Rev. 21) The Church should also be able to prove this blessedness, as the two or three gathered unto the name of the Lord Jesus Christ have ever done and do. (Matt. 18:19-20) But when Jehovah dwells again in Zion it will be in manifested glory and connected with the splendours of His millennial kingdom.
It will be, moreover, a source of blessing for the nations, as the prophet speaks, "And many nations shall be joined [or shall join themselves] to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people." (v. 11) The prophet Isaiah, speaking of the same period when the glory of the Lord shall have risen on Zion, says, "And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." (Isa. 60:3.) It is for this period, indeed, the nations are waiting and unconsciously longing (see Haggai 2:7), although they are ignorant that their blessing is dependent upon the restoration of the despised race of Israel. Yet it is so; and no sooner will Jehovah have returned to Zion, judged His enemies and founded His kingdom, than the nations will be attracted to the scene of His power and glory, and count it their highest honour to be enrolled amongst His people. (Compare Isaiah 2:1-5, 19:23-25, etc.) For, as David speaks, Messiah's "name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed." (Psalm 72:17). Thereon the promise is repeated, "I will dwell in the midst of thee," the repetition affording a double security for His people's faith, as well as an immutable guarantee of its accomplishment; and the fulfilment of this promise of blessing, even as that of judgment upon the nations, is appealed to in proof that Jehovah of hosts had sent His angel. (v. 11)
There is still more: "And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again." (v. 12.) God had ever spoken of Israel as His inheritance — His portion (Deut. 4:20, Deut. 9:26, 29; 1 Sam. 26:19, and numberless passages; compare as to the Church, Ephesians 1:18); and though His ancient people are now scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth, He will yet gather them, re-establish them in their own land, and then it is that He will, in the purposes of His grace, inherit Judah — the tribe out of which Christ came according to the flesh — as His portion. The expression is to be observed — "in the holy land" not holy merely on the ground of its being the land of promise; but because its iniquity will be removed in one day (Zech. 3:9), and thus cleansed from all its defilement, it will again be holy to the Lord — set apart for Him and for His use and service. And He "shall choose Jerusalem again." Ages have passed since these words were uttered, but they have never been, and will never be, recalled, and thus faith knows that, though Jerusalem is trodden down at this moment under the foot of the Gentile, these words will have their fulfilment, and Jerusalem will, in the future, become "the perfection of beauty, the joy of the whole earth," because the object of Jehovah's favour and the seat of His throne.
The chapter concludes with a solemn address to all flesh: "Be silent [or hush] O all flesh, before the Lord: for He is raised up out of His holy habitation." (v. 13). It is a striking appeal. The prophet sees Jehovah in the act of rising up, as it were, out of the habitation of His holiness, coming out in judgment for the accomplishment of the purposes just announced, and, in view of the effect upon men, the prophet cries, "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord." for when the day of His wrath shall come who will be able to stand? It is at that time the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together, when every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him. (Isa. 40; Rev. 1:7; compare Matt. 24:29-30.) Well, then, might all flesh be hushed in the presence of Him who comes forth to smite the earth in judgment as well as to deliver His people. It is in the prospect of the same event that Isaiah cries, "Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty" (Isa. 2:10); and that Habakkuk says, "The Lord is in His holy temple, let all the earth keep silence before Him." (Hab. 2:20; see also Zeph. 1:7.)
1) Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, by J. N. Darby, vol. ii., third edition.
2) This young man is the prophet himself; and it has been contended from the word employed — the same as is used of Jeremiah (Jer. 1:6) — that Zechariah was but a youth when called to the prophetic office. But as the word is sometimes applied to those who are older, expressive perhaps of affection, as in the cases of Benjamin and Absalom, it would be unsafe to draw any definite conclusion.
3) There are several passages in Jeremiah that help to fix the interpretation of the land of the north (Jer. 1:13-14; Jer. 3:18; Jer. 4:6, &c.), and which will thus enable the reader to enter more intelligently upon the study of the events of the last days in which the king of the north plays such a conspicuous part.
4) The reader may be interested in comparing the exact translation of Psalm 73:24: "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and after the glory thou shalt receive me."
5) It is contended by many that "the apple of his eye" refers to God. (Compare Deut. 32:10). It is a question of interpretation, not of translation, and while in no wise objecting to this, the above is preferred as more in harmony with the context.
6) There are three other instances in which Zion is similarly addressed — Isaiah 12:6, 54:1; Zephaniah 3:14.