In Zechariah 2:5, God sends a message to the Israelites through the prophet Zechariah, saying, “I myself will be a wall of fire” around Jerusalem. The “wall of fire” symbolically refers to God’s protection and presence. To better understand the phrase in its biblical context, we must turn to the book of Zechariah for some background.
Zechariah’s prophetic ministry was set in the time after the people of Israel had experienced captivity in Babylon. While in exile, their homeland had been laid waste and completely taken over by foreign nations. Zechariah served a small population of returned Jews living within the ruined city of Jerusalem.
The Israelites were re-organizing to resume their work of rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. The initial reconstruction had already begun (Ezra 3:10–12) but was stopped when opposition from neighboring enemies arose (Ezra 4:4–5). So Zechariah, along with the prophet Haggai, encouraged the Jews to restart their efforts (Ezra 5:1–2; Zechariah 4:9).
It was at this time that Zechariah experienced a series of night visions. The third vision (Zechariah 2:1–13) highlights the significance of Jerusalem in God’s restoration plan for Israel. In this vision, a man begins to measure the city’s perimeter to reconstruct its ruined walls. But an angel stops him with a message from the Lord: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the LORD, ‘and I will be its glory within’” (verses 4–5).
Part of the message of the vision is that God’s plans and purposes stretch beyond the boundaries of what humans believe is possible (Matthew 19:26). The Lord’s plan for the future of Jerusalem involved an exceedingly large population dwelling in safety and security. The vision tinged not only the current rebuilding of the city but also pointed to the New Jerusalem—a future, heavenly city protected not by stone walls but by God’s powerful, all-consuming presence (Revelation 21:1–4).
In ancient times, a city without walls was vulnerable to enemy attacks (Ezekiel 38:11). The “wall of fire” around Jerusalem in Zechariah’s vision illustrated God’s protective presence. When the Babylonians demolished Jerusalem and its temple, it had nothing to do with the city’s physical fortifications. The city was overtaken because God had withdrawn His shielding presence (Ezekiel 10:18–19).
Thus, the primary message of this vision is that God’s people should be encouraged, because God Himself would be “a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem.” Likewise, God promises that He Himself will be the glory filling the inside of the city (Zechariah 2:5). The vision continues with the Lord reassuring His people, “Anyone who harms you harms my most precious possession. I will raise my fist to crush them, and their own slaves will plunder them” (verses 8–9, NLT). “Shout and rejoice, O beautiful Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you,” promises the Lord (verse 10, NLT).
Throughout the Old Testament, fire is associated with the Lord’s presence. The Lord speaks to Moses through a burning bush (Exodus 3:1–22). God appears as a consuming fire at the summit of Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:17). The Lord’s presence materializes as “a pillar of fire” to lead and guide the Israelites (Exodus 13:21–22).
In the New Testament, the writer of Hebrews says that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29, ESV) and His angelic messengers are “a flame of fire” (Hebrews 1:7). On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit rested on the disciples as “tongues of fire” (Acts 2:3).
When we remember God’s promise to be a wall of fire around Jerusalem, we can be assured that He takes care of His own. We can believe the Lord’s protection and the fullness of His life and power dwelling within us (Romans 8:11). By His power, He accomplishes infinitely more than we can imagine (Ephesians 3:19–20). What’s more, God’s pledge to be a wall of fire around Jerusalem makes us look forward with hope to a glorious future city: “And now the LORD says: I am returning to Mount Zion, and I will live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will be called the Holy Mountain” (Zechariah 8:3, NLT).