Walls are mentioned many times throughout the Bible, both literally and symbolically. Walls had important functions in ancient cities, providing security, protection and privacy. They also represented division, obstacle and resistance. When used symbolically, walls in the Bible can have both positive and negative connotations. For Christians today, reflecting on the biblical symbolism of walls can provide insight into God’s purposes and how we should respond in our lives.
- Walls symbolize protection, security and resistance to outside threats
- God Himself is described as a wall offering refuge
- Sin is depicted as a dividing wall separating us from God
- Breaking down walls represents unity and reconciliation
- Walls could prevent progress and blessing when God commanded their destruction
- Jesus’ death broke down the wall dividing Jews and Gentiles
- Heaven has walls depicting the protection and glory of God
Protective Purpose of Walls
The most basic purpose of walls in ancient cities was to provide protection and security. Without walls, cities were vulnerable to attack and invasion. Tall, thick walls presented a formidable obstacle to Israel’s enemies:
“And when all the nation finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)
The walls of Jericho were so formidable that the Israelites had to rely on God’s supernatural power to bring them down (Joshua 6). Nehemiah led an effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls that had been destroyed, knowing that restoring the walls was essential to make the city secure again (Nehemiah 1-7). Walls provided a line of defense, a physical barrier protecting a city from potential danger and uncontrolled access.
God as a Wall of Protection
Not only did physical walls provide security, but God Himself is described as a protective wall shielding His people:
“For I,” says the Lord, “will be a wall of fire all around her, and I will be the glory in her midst.” (Zechariah 2:5)
You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established. The Lord shall reign forever and ever. (Exodus 15:17-18)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” (Psalm 91:1-2)
These verses portray God as a strong tower or refuge to those who put their trust in Him. He provides supernatural protection that shields His people. Christians can feel secure knowing God guards them and cares for them as one of His prized possessions.
Walls as Barriers Between God and Man
While walls could provide protection and security, they also represented barriers, division and separation in the Bible. Sin is depicted as a dividing wall blocking people off from God:
Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isaiah 59:1-2)
Sin cuts people off from God’s presence and blessings. Unrepentant sin forms an impenetrable barrier between man and the holy God. Even His people Israel experienced times when their disobedience caused a wall blocking God’s provision and communication:
And when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:15)
Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; You refuse to be ashamed. (Jeremiah 3:3)
“But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden His face from you, So that He will not hear.” (Isaiah 59:2)
Walls represented the obstacle of sin separating people from the presence and blessings of God. Only through repentance and return to the Lord could those barriers be broken down.
Unity Through Broken Down Walls
When used figuratively, the destruction or breaking down of walls symbolized unity and reconciliation. Ephesians 2 describes how Jesus’ death brought unity between Jews and Gentiles by removing the dividing wall of hostility:
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
By His death, Jesus removed the ceremonial laws that had kept Jews and Gentiles separated. He reconciled both groups into one body of believers. The breakdown of the wall signified the opening of equal access to God for all people through faith.
WhenJames and Peter met with Paul and Barnabas in Jerusalem, they agreed that in order to have fellowship as one body, the ceremonial wall needed to come down:
And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:7-11)
By not requiring the Gentiles to adhere to Jewish customs, they affirmed the walls had been removed through faith in Christ alone. The breakdown of dividing walls in the Bible represents the unification of God’s people under Christ.
Walls as Obstacles to Blessing
At key moments in Israel’s history, God supernaturally intervened to bring down fortified walls that had prevented His people from progressing and taking hold of His promises.
When Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land, the walls of Jericho blocked their access. God had to dramatically demolish the formidable walls in order to open the way for Israel to conquer the land:
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all youmen of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him. (Joshua 6:1-5)
In a miraculous manner, God demolished the walls that prevented Israel from entering the land He had promised. Centuries later, Nehemiah led the effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls that had been destroyed by earlier invaders. The broken walls left the people vulnerable to attack and inhibited their safety and prosperity. By rebuilding the walls, Nehemiah sought to remove that obstacle hindering God’s purpose for His people in the promised land.
Sometimes God broke down metaphorical walls in order to open up His blessing. In 2 Kings 3, the kings of Israel, Judah and Edom faced a Moabite army and desperately needed water during a wilderness journey. The Lord miraculously provided an abundance of water, signifying the breakdown of their barrier:
And he said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Make this valley full of ditches.’ For thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not see wind, nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you, your cattle, and your animals may drink.’ And this is a simple matter in the sight of the Lord; He will also deliver the Moabites into your hand. Also you shall attack every fortified city and every choice city, and shall cut down every good tree, and stop up every spring of water, and ruin every good piece of land with stones. (2 Kings 3:16-19)
The Lord destroyed the Moabite cities that had posed a threat. Breaking down walls was necessary when God’s people faced obstacles to taking hold of God’s promises.
The Eternal Walls of Heaven
Walls could symbolize God’s divine protection and majestic glory. The walls of the New Jerusalem described in Revelation portray the beauty, security and permanence of God’s eternal city:
Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: three gates on the east, three gates on the north, three gates on the south, and three gates on the west. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. And he who talked with me had a gold reed to measure the city, its gates, and its wall. The city is laid out as a square; its length is as great as its breadth. And he measured the city with the reed: twelve thousand furlongs. Its length, breadth, and height are equal. Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. (Revelation 21:12-18)
The permanence, grandeur and beauty of the New Jerusalem’s walls convey the glory and security that will last for eternity in God’s holy city. The walls distinguish between those who belong there and those shut outside:
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. (Revelation 22:14-15)
The Bible’s first mention of walls in Genesis and its last mention in Revelation display walls positively representing God’s protection and magnificent glory.
From protecting cities to blocking blessing, physical and metaphorical walls carry spiritual symbolism throughout Scripture. As Christians reflect on the meaning found in biblical walls, we can grow in understanding God’s protective care, the barriers sin creates, Christ’s power to unify, and God’s promises to provide access to eternal security in His presence. Rather than obstacles to God’s purposes, walls in the Bible ultimately point us to Christ and the unity, protection and glory found in Him.