Revelation 21:17

Friday, 20 August 2021

Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. Revelation 21:17

The previous verse had John noting the length and breadth of the city, along with its height. The description continues with, “Then he measured its wall.”

It is disputed if this is the wall of the city itself, or a wall that surrounds the city. Verse 21:12 seems to indicate a separate border wall. For now, the description says it is “one hundred and forty-four cubits.” The number 144 is the twelfth number in the Fibonacci series. If this is the actual wall of the city, it is referring to its thickness. The “gates” of the city would be within that thickness, leading to the inside of the city.

Or it could be referring to the height of the wall that surrounds the city. If so, it is actually a teeny border wall in comparison to the actual walls of the city. But it is still rather immense. Some believe it is actually a border wall that is twelve cubits by twelve cubits, or 144 square cubits. That would make the wall even teenier in comparison to the main walls of the city. This would not be a “great and high wall” as was noted in verse 21:12.

Either way, the wall is measured in a different scale than the city itself was. The city was measured in stadia ,a Greek unit, but the wall is measured in the unit péchus, another Greek unit, meaning cubits. It is a Hebrew measuring system where the measurement goes from the tip of the middle finger to the bend in the elbow, or about eighteen inches, though its actual length is debated. In Hebrew, it is called the amah, or “mother” measurement. As the wall’s gates are according to the names of the children of Israel, this could be the reason a Hebrew measuring system is used. As far as the use of the cubit, John says it is “according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel.”

Various ideas about what this means are given. A few are –

“It is to be the dwelling-place of men; and even, therefore, when an angel measures it, he measures it according to the measure of a man” (Milligan).

“Men shall then be equal to the angels” (Jamieson-Faucet-Brown).

“According to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel; as men use to measure, and as this angel measured, who appeared as a man in this action” (Matthew Poole).

As can be seen, there is no great consensus as to what John is saying. Robert Young avoids the debate by translating the word literally, saying –

“and he measured its wall, an hundred forty-four cubits, the measure of a man, that is, of the messenger.”

The debates concerning these things will be settled for us someday, but John is describing what he sees, and that is sufficient for us to know that certain truths are being conveyed that will be fully appreciated by us in the future.

Life application: Whatever the provided details actually describe, it is interesting that the measurement of the walls reveals a part of the geometric pattern (Fibonacci series) which is found throughout nature This shows an underlying wisdom and intelligence that is not readily apparent.

Such unusual geometric patterns are found elsewhere in the Bible, in both the text itself and also in what the text describes. As these patterns were unknown to those who received them, we can see that there are hidden treasures from God in His word that are as rich and wonderful as His love is for the people He is speaking to. His hand is upon every detail of His creation – from the form of the galaxies to the form of seashells. His wisdom is displayed in the structure of DNA, and it is revealed in each radiant new sunrise.

It is good to search out the mysteries of the universe, and it is good to search out the mysteries of the Bible as well. In so doing we learn more about the mind of God and the enormity of His wisdom. Let us never become so dulled in our thoughts that we could assume we have learned all there is to know about the Bible. Should we do this, the greatest treasure God has given us would sit gathering dust when it could be used to gather even more understanding of His glory.

So, pick up the word, read it, study it, and cherish it. Above all else that it contains, the main subject of it is God working in the stream of time and within the framework of creation to bring us back to Himself, and He is doing that through His Messiah, our Lord JESUS.

O God, give us the desire to pick up Your word, read Your word, and search out its mysteries all the days of our lives. Help us to use the gifts You have given us in a way that will bring out its hidden secrets. Yes, astonish us, O God, with Your wonderful word! Thank You for the Holy Bible. Amen.