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[Lam 2:8 KJV] (8) The LORD hath purposed to destroy the wall of the daughter of Zion: he hath stretched out a line, he hath not withdrawn his hand from destroying: therefore he made the rampart and the wall to lament; they languished together.

2:8 חָשַׁב יְהוָה לְהַשְׁחִית חֹומַת בַּת־צִיֹּון נָטָה קָו לֹא־הֵשִׁיב יָדֹו מִבַּלֵּעַ וַיַּֽאֲבֶל־חֵל וְחֹומָה יַחְדָּו אֻמְלָֽלוּ׃ ס

2:8 καὶ ἐπέστρεψεν κύριος τοῦ διαφθεῗραι τεῗχος θυγατρὸς Σιων ἐξέτεινεν μέτρον οὐκ ἀπέστρεψεν χεῗρα αὐτοῦ ἀπὸ καταπατήματος καὶ ἐπένθησεν τὸ προτείχισμα καὶ τεῗχος ὁμοθυμαδὸν ἠσθένησεν

In Lamentations it appears to be a negative thing.

However, in Zechariah it appears to be a positive thing:

[Zech 1:16 KJV] (16) Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.


I always thought from context that "stretching out a line" was a positive thing but that does not appear to be so. Is is possible that it was used to mark off trees, old structures and such for demolition before new building?

It seems to me to match both contexts.

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    Good question +1. I have always assumed it is a building line, with chalk on it, which is stretched out and sprung to draw a straight line on the ground. But I wait with interest to see if there is agreement to this. I don't have any evidence, so cannot post an answer.
    – Nigel J
    Mar 18 '19 at 19:50
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It's a way of saying a measuring line, or measuring tape. A measuring line was used in both building construction and demolition, so it could be either positive or negative.

Matthew Poole's Commentary:

"He hath stretched out a line: artificers use with lines not only to mark out places for building, but also for destruction, to direct them what to cut off; such a line is here meant." (1)

Gill's Exposition:

"he hath stretched out a line; a line of destruction, to mark out how far the destruction should go, and bow much should be laid in ruins; all being as exactly done, according to the purpose and counsel of God, as if it was done by line and rule; see Isaiah 34:11; " (1)

Jamieson-Fausett-Brown on Lam. 2:8:

"8. stretched … a line—The Easterns used a measuring-line not merely in building, but in destroying edifices (2Ki 21:13; Isa 34:11); implying here the unsparing rigidness with which He would exact punishment." (1)

We typically use a measuring tape, or yard stick. Similar to the measuring reed the angel instructed John to use in Rev. 11:1-2 to measure the temple before its destruction.

"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein.

2 But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months." (KJV)

Notes:

1) Commentary Sources - Biblehub

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