In Zechariah, a plumb line is referenced as the "eyes of the Lord" which survey "throughout the whole earth." Discover the meaning and application of a plumb line and why it is used in the Bible as a representation of God's moral standard.
What Is a Plumb Line?
Merriam-Webster's definition of plumb line:
1. a line (as of cord) that has at one end a weight (such as a plumb bob) and is used especially to determine verticality.
2. a line directed to the center of gravity of the earth; a vertical line.
A plumb line also called a plummet, is a string with a non-magnetic weight connected to one end. When the line is held so that the weight can fall freely, an exact vertical measurement can be defined. Painters and carpenters use plumb lines to make precise vertical lines for their work.
A plumb line utilizes the law of gravity to discover proper angles, reveal the most forthright path from top to bottom, and keep things plumb, or level. A plumb line doesn’t alter or shift with the impulses of the carpenter. It remains true, and all work must line up with it or gamble being crooked. Today, tradesmen normally use a level tool to find true horizontal and vertical lines which likewise employs the reliability of gravity.
Plumb Line Bible Meaning
We see the phrase "plumb line" in only a few Old Testament passages. The most extensive reference occurs in the book of Amos.
Amos receives a vision of “the Lord standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand.” The Lord explains to Amos that “I am setting a plumb line among my people Israel; I will spare them no longer” (Amos 7:7-8).
The plumb line indicates the coming judgment upon Israel. Often, when a plumb line is mentioned in scripture, we see a forthcoming judgment of Israel. This comes from a failure to live by the Commandments of God, the plumb line of faith and devotion.
According to Rev. Kyle Norman, "The plumb line is the image of God’s righteous and holy standard that Israel failed to embody in their lives. The plumb line physically represented Israel’s waywardness. Due to Israel’s failure to live “true to plumb” God brings about the necessary consequences of Israel’s sinful behavior."
Furthermore, the phrase plumb line is found in Scripture within multiple contexts. The Lord portrays Himself as a builder in Isaiah 28: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16). This is an assurance of the unmoveable kingdom, with Christ as the foundation. Jesus Christ is the “precious cornerstone” (see Mark 12:10; Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6).
As the Lord builds His kingdom, He will ensure it is perfect in every way: “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” (Isaiah 28:17). There is no crookedness or corruption in the Kingdom of Heaven.
As a plumb line is not dependent on the thoughts or the convenience of the tradesman, so is God’s moral law not subject to the beliefs of man. The standard of righteousness remains true and clearly defined as God's revelation has been delivered to us. Wise men accommodate their lives to God's "plumb line" like diligent workers who modify their work according to true vertical and horizontal.
Plumb Line Bible Verses
Emphasis is added to the "plumb line" references in each Bible verse.
"And I will stretch over Jerusalem the measuring line of Samaria, and the plumb line of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down." ~ 2 Kings 21:13 ESV
"And I will make justice the line, and righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter." ~ Isaiah 28:17 ESV
But the hawk and the porcupine shall possess it, the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. He shall stretch the line of confusion over it, and the plumb line of emptiness. ~ Isaiah 34:11 ESV
"Thus He showed me: Behold, the Lord stood on a wall made with a plumb line, with a plumb line in His hand." ~ Amos 7:7 NKJV
"And the Lord said to me, "Amos, what do you see?" And I said, "A plumb line." Then the Lord said: "Behold, I am setting a plumb line In the midst of My people Israel; I will not pass by them anymore." ~ Amos 7:8 NKJV
For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth." ~ Zechariah 4:10 NKJV
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