|The symmetry of
John’s writing is apparent here; there
are a dozen “12’s” in this passage.
|• In verse 12, gates,
angels and tribes
|• In verse 14,
foundations and apostles
|• In verse 16,
length, breadth and height
|• In verse 17, the
wall is a multiple of 12
|• In verses 19 and
20, the 12 foundations are described
|• and in verse 21,
the 12 gates and pearls.
|The shape is most
interesting to English readers; the
Greek reader would have understood the play on words. The phrase translated (KJV) “foursquare”
(from which Foursquare Gospel Church, for example) means both a cube and also
is a an adjective for one who is completely trustworthy (parallel to English,
“square deal.”). The shape has
|• Altars in the
Temple were cubes
|• The Holy of Holies
was a cube
|The size is about
1500 miles to the side, a distance which in the original may be taken
symbolically, but is now taken quite literally by futurists (since World War
II). It is interesting to note what is
not stated: the edges of this cube,
added together, would total 144,000 stadia.
|The stones have
occasioned much comment. Most (but not
all) commentators recognize that they are not identical to the 12
stones on the breastplate of the High Priest (Exodus 28:17-20). Some have woven such theology, however,
that they have forced some of the less well identified stones (there are
several) into being identical.
|The explanation may
be as simple as the idea that these stones illustrate the splendor of
God. The gold is described as
transparent; this is clearly (pun
intended) not a characteristic of gold.
In fact, the statement should probably be taken symbolically,
representative of purity.
suggestion has been made about these stones.
The Greeks identified these stones with the signs of the Zodiac. Indeed, the match is quite precise -- but
John gives them in exactly the reverse order of the Zodiac. It may be a way of proclaiming God’s truth
triumphing over the forces of astrology and witchcraft.
|As usual, we have a
number of wild ideas stated as fact.
McGee tells us that it must be surrounded by a crystal sphere (all
heavenly bodies are spherical).
Lindsey repeats an old suggestion (discarded by more serious students
of the Greek) that the dimensions would apply equally well to a pyramid. Smith (contrary to McGee, who makes it the
center of the universe) says it will orbit the earth -- just inside the orbit
of the moon.