Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line in his hand. He is about to measure the length of Jerusalem’s borders, partly for the purpose of erecting a wall around it. Jerusalem needs protection from its enemies. Though Pax Persiana has brought peace among the nations, this does not secure Jerusalem from its regional enemies (cf. Nehemiah 2:7-10; Ezra 3:3; 8:31). Jerusalem is a small city without resources for its own protection. It needs a wall.
Though the man is commissioned to measure Jerusalem and prepare for the building of the temple (cf. Zechariah 1:16), Yahweh denies the builders a wall for Jerusalem. The wall represented, at this point in Judah’s history, a lack of trust in Yahweh’s protection and it also limited the size of the city. Yahweh has bigger plans for Jerusalem than any wall will permit. Yahweh wanted Jerusalem to have a larger vision for itself than it could imagine.
City walls would delimit the population; it would restrict the number of people who could live there. The message of Zechariah envisions a time when the city would overflow with people and animals. The habitation of Jerusalem would far exceed anything in the past or present. God intends to renew life in the city, but a city without walls.
Yahweh will be a “wall of fire” around Jerusalem—it does not need a wall. This language evokes Exodus imagery, particularly the pillar of fire that protected Israel from Egyptian pursuit (Exodus 14:23-25). God is the wall that surrounds the city. Divine presence protects the city because Yahweh “will be the glory within” it. The glory of the Lord is the dwelling, communing presence of God among his people (Exodus 24:17). The hope of exilic Israel was the return of the glory of God to the temple (Ezekiel 43:1-5) and Zechariah’s message promises it. God will again live in Jerusalem.
The report of the vision in Zechariah 2:1-5 is followed by two oracles: (1) the invitation to return to Jerusalem (2:6-9) and (2) the invitation to rejoice over God’s redemptive plan (2:10-12). The first oracle is both a call for return and an assurance of divine judgment against the nations. The second oracle is the assurance of divine presence that contains a promise for the nations.
The first invitation is two imperatives (“flee” and “escape”) followed by two rationales (“for”). The imperatives are parallel—“flee from the land of the north” is parallel with “escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon.” The “land of the north” is a common way of referring to Mesopotamia as the armies from that region approached Palestine from the north. While the primary referent is Babylon, it appears that this is an invitation not only for Jews in Babylon but also for those who had been scattered to the “four winds” by the four horns (second vision). Israel and Judah were not only exiled in Assyrian and Babylon but they were also scattered to Egypt, Ammon, Moab and Edom (cf. Jeremiah 40:11-12; 43:7).
The reason why they should return from the Diaspora (the scattering) is because Yahweh sent the angel of the Lord to the nations to subvert them. The result will be that their slaves will topple those governments. Because the nations treated Israel maliciously (with evil, 1:15) and plundered them, the slaves of those nations will now plunder them. The future of the earth lies with Judah and Jerusalem; it does not lie with the nations, even Persia. God does not invest in Empires to embody his kingdom upon the earth. Israel is the “apple of [God’s] eye”—Yahweh identifies with his people. His covenant faithfulness means that God will always love his people.
When the nations fall, then all the earth will know that Yahweh sent his angel against the nations. Even the nations themselves will confess that Yahweh is God.
The second invitation is a dual imperative: “shout and be glad.” Judah and Jerusalem (the daughter of Zion) are called to rejoice because God is coming to live among them again. The joy of this divine coming in glory—the moment when God again takes up residence in Jerusalem—is heightened by the astounding promise that the nations “will be joined with Yahweh in that day and will become my people.”
Amazingly, even surprisingly, the nations will become the people of God (though this was promised in earlier prophets as well, cf. Isaiah 19:25). The promise made to Israel in Leviticus 26:11-12, that God will live and walk among his people, is now promised to all nations. When the nations become the people of God, God will live and dwell among them. When Israel sees this happen they will know that Yahweh sent the angel of the Lord to them.
Yahweh has chosen Jerusalem. But he did not choose a Jerusalem with walls and boundaries. He chose a place to which the nations would come. He chose a city where the nations would experience the dwelling of God upon the earth. Yahweh inherits the land of Judah—he makes it holy by his presence, and he invites the nations to dwell upon the earth with him.
Israel is called to rejoice in this promise because in this Israel fulfills its mission to the world. They are a people through whom God will bless all nations. Israel is to rejoice in the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise. In “that day” Israel and the nations will become one people of God and God will live among them.
The city without walls that Zechariah envisions is a city without boundaries. It is a city into which the nations are invited and the whole earth participates in the reality of the kingdom of God. Jerusalem has no walls because it is an open city for all nations. The scattering of Israel ultimately bears fruit in the gathering of the nations by which God blesses all nations through Israel.
The third vision ends with a call for universal silence before Yahweh (Zechariah 2:13). God has roused himself from his heavenly dwelling place to fulfill his promise. The earth, literally “all flesh,” must “be still” before the God who is about to act. All flesh bows before the Lord of Hosts.
“Let everything that breathes praise Yahweh” (Psalm 150:6).