Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The vision with which this chapter opens, portended great increase and prosperity to Jerusalem. Accordingly Josephus tells us, (Wars 5:4: 2), that "the city, overflowing with inhabitants, extended beyond its walls," as predicted in the fourth verse, and acquired much glory during the time of the Maccabees; although these promises, and particularly the sublime image in the fifth verse, has certainly a still more pointed reference to the glory and prosperity of the Christian Church in the latter days, Zac 2:1-5. See Revelation 21, 22. In consequence of these promises, the Jews, still inhabiting Babylon and the regions round about, are called upon to hasten home, that they might not be involved in the fate of their enemies, who were destined to fall a prey to the nations which they had formerly subdued; God's great love and zeal for his people moving him to glorify them by humbling all their adversaries, Zac 2:6-9. The most gracious promises of God's presence with his Church, and her consequent increase and prosperity, set forth in the remaining verses, Zac 2:10-13, were to a certain extent fulfilled in the great number of proselytes made to Judaism after the return from the captivity; but shall be more fully accomplished after the restoration of the Jews to the favor of God under the Gospel. "For if the casting away of the natural Israel be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?"
A man with a measuring-line in his hand - Probably a representation of Nehemiah, who got a commission from Artaxerxes Longimanus to build up the walls of Jerusalem; for hitherto it had remained without being enclosed.
Run, speak to this young man - Nehemiah must have been a young man when he was sakee, or cup-bearer, to Artaxerxes.
As towns without walls - It shall be so numerously inhabited as not to be contained within its ancient limits. Josephus, speaking of this time, says, Wars 5:4:2, "The city, overflowing with inhabitants, by degrees extended itself beyond its walls."
I - will be unto her a wall of fire - Her safety shall consist in my defense. I shall be as fire round about her. No adversary shall be permitted to touch her. Much of this must refer to the New Jerusalem.
Flee from the land of the north - From Chaldee, Persia, and Babylon, where several of the Jews still remained. See Zac 2:7.
After the glory - After your glorious deliverance from the different places of your dispersion; He hath sent me unto the nations which spoiled you, that they may fall under grievous calamities, and be punished in their turn. On Babylon a great calamity fell, when besieged and taken by the Persians.
The following note I received from a sensible and pious correspondent: -
Zac 2:5. "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.
Zac 2:8. "For thus saith the Lord of hosts, who hath sent me, the future glory (or the glory which is to come) unto the nations which spoiled you; for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. Behold, 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. Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion; for lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord. And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people; and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.
"If in the eighth verse אחר כבוד may be rendered the future, or the glory that is to come, it will harmonize with the context as a prophecy of the Messiah, whereas in our English translation the words after the glory are unintelligible. And so the Seventy.
"It is evident the person speaking is distinguished from the Lord of hosts, as being sent by him; yet this person sent is also called Jehovah; and the nations who shall be joined to Jehovah in that day are called his people; and he (the person sent) will dwell in the midst of thee, (i.e., Zion), and shall inherit Judah his portion, etc.
"In confirmation of my view of the eighth verse, I think Exodus 33 may be compared with it. Moses besought God that he would show him his glory; upon which it was said to him, "Whilst my glory passeth by,' I will put thee in a cleft of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand whilst I pass by; and I will take away my hand, and thou shalt see my אחר achar. Now as this was a fulfillment of Moses's request, who entreated to behold the glory, it follows that this אחר was the Divine glory, which alone he was capable of seeing.
"'No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, (the Lord Jesus Christ), which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.'" - M. A. B.
Toucheth the apple of his eye - בבבת עינו bebabath eyno, the babet of his eye. This is a remarkable expression. Any person, by looking into the eye of another, will see his own image perfectly expressed, though in extreme miniature, in the pupil. Does our English word babbet or baby come from this? And does not the expression mean that the eye of God is ever on his follower, and that his person is ever impressed on the eye, the notice, attention, providence, and mercy of God?
I will shake mine hand upon them - I will threaten first, and then stretch out my hand of judgment against them.
A spoil to their servants - To those whom they had formerly subjected to their sway. As the Babylonians to the Medes and Persians; and so of the rest in the subversion of empires.
I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord - This must chiefly refer to the Christian church, in which God ever dwells by the power of his Spirit, as he had done by the symbol of his presence in the first Jewish temple.
Many nations shall be joined to the Lord - This most certainly belongs to the Christian church. No nation or people ever became converts to the Jewish religion, but whole nations have embraced the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land - This is a promise of the final restoration of the Jews, and that they should be God's portion in their own land.
Be silent, O all flesh - Let all the nations of the world be astonished at this. God will arise, and deliver this ancient people, and bring them into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.