Thursday, November 4, 2010

Revelation 21:17-20

Verse 17 “And he measured the wall thereof, an hundred and forty and four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of the angel.”

The wall that surrounds the city is 216 feet (roughly 66 meters) tall if one uses the cubit according to the measure of a man. A cubit (the length of the arm of a man up to his elbow) is generally reckoned to be 18 inches (.5 meter) long. There are some cases when a cubit was as much as 21 inches, but generally 18 inches is the accepted length. This is the height of the wall, which is actually shorter than the recorded height of ancient Babylon's wall, which Herodotus reported as being 350 feet. To a city that is 1500 miles tall, a wall merely 216 feet tall would seem miniscule by comparison. It is roughly 21 ½ stories high if a story is approximately ten feet. This is not that tall considering the height of the city. Grammatically it would appear there are two ways of viewing the statement about the measurement. The first given is the usual way of interpreting it. John says that this measure is according to the measure of a man, which means that the common measurements of man are being used. It seems that John then realizes that he may be confusing the issue by referring to the angel as a man and wants to clarify that he did not mean that the one measuring it is a man, but an angel (most likely in the form of a man). The other possible way to interpret this is that John is describing the process of measuring, and then realizes that he misspoke and said man when he meant angel (the cubit of an angel being much larger, as most angels that have been seen have been reported to be about eight feet or 2.5 meters tall). It does not seem to be an issue either way, as the idea of how high the wall is compared to the city is understood regardless of which way it is taken.

Verse 18 “And the building of the wall of it was of jasper: and the city was pure gold, like unto clear glass.”

The wall is like jasper. While there are many colors of jasper, this jasper would most likely be the clear jasper. God’s glory is to shine through it, so it needs to be transparent to allow that to happen. The city is described as being of pure gold, but clear as glass. Again, the gold is so thin, as in an astronauts helmet, that it is transparent. This city is transparent for a purpose and that is to let God’s glory shine through it.

Verse 19-20 “And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald; the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh; chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.”

The foundations of the wall are decorated with all kinds of precious stones. I am not a gemologist, and even many scholars have trouble when it comes to identifying stones using the ancient names, which is what the Bible does. Many stones had multiple names due to various regions giving them different names, so while there is some idea of what the gems are, especially those with names that are still common such as emerald, topaz, amethyst and sapphire, nobody can say for a certainty exactly what some of the more obscure ones mentioned are. There is a general consensus that these are the same twelve stones, some mentioned by other names, that were used to represent the twelve tribes of Israel on the priest’s breastplate. Some definitely are the same, but again, the use of different names for the same stone make it impossible to say this is absolutely true. God does like to be consistent in what He does, so it is quite probable that these are the same stones. They are an assortment of different colors, so it will be a very beautiful foundation. There is most certainly a reason why each stone was chosen by God for representing the tribes and for putting them in the wall, but a study of that nature would take years to pursue and I am not sure that even then an answer would be forthcoming. I believe there are some people who have tried to do such a study, but not having read what they have written, I cannot say whether what they are saying is upheld by Scripture or not. The obvious idea that God is trying to present is that it will be exceedingly beautiful.


  1. God said it, I believe it, that settles it. It's exactly as descibed because the Bible is the word of God not man. If it was something different then it would have said it!! The most important thing is not to second guess the Bible and the word of God, and keep the faith.

    1. Who is saying it isn't true or second guessing it? Yes, God's Word is true. I have never said otherwise.