Zechariah 4
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
Ch. Zechariah 4:1. came again and waked me] Or, returned and waked me, i.e. waked me again. Comp. Zechariah 5:1. “The prophet intimates that he lay as one weighed down with ecstatic sleep, through wonder and astonishment at the preceding vision.” Rosenm. Comp. Daniel 8:18; Daniel 8:27; Luke 9:32The Fifth Vision. The Golden Candlestick, Zechariah 4:1-14. Roused by the Interpreting Angel from a sleep or stupor, into which he appears to have fallen, Zechariah 3:1, the prophet sees a golden candlestick or lamp-stand. Like that originally placed in the Tabernacle, it has seven lamps, but they are fed by a bowl placed above them, from which the oil is conveyed into them by pipes, Zechariah 4:2. The bowl itself is supplied with oil by two olive-trees, standing one on either side of the lamp, which empty their oil into the bowl, each through a golden tube, Zechariah 4:3; Zechariah 4:12. At the request of Zechariah, Zechariah 4:4, the Interpreting Angel, with some show of surprise that explanation should be needed, Zechariah 4:5, explains to him the meaning of the vision. It is intended to encourage Zerubbabel in the work of re-building the Temple, by impressing upon him the truth, that as that candlestick gave forth its light, in silent, ceaseless splendour, unfed and untended by human agencies, so the work in which he was engaged, of restoring the material Temple and setting the golden candlestick in its place again, and so preparing the way, first for the Jewish Church, and then for the Christian Church, which that candlestick symbolised (Revelation 1:20), to shine in the world, should be accomplished, not by human resources, but by the Spirit of God, Zechariah 4:6. The great principle involved in the symbol and thus enunciated is now applied to the case in hand. The mountain of difficulty, which stands in the way of Zerubbabel, shall sink down into a plain. With shouts of festive joy he shall set in its place the crowning stone of the edifice, Zechariah 4:7 Yet again, by a repeated assurance conveyed to the prophet through the Angel, Zechariah 4:8, Jehovah confirms the promise to Zerubbabel, that his hands which have begun shall complete the work, and prove in doing so the divine mission of the angel, Zechariah 4:9. Despicable as it might appear in its feeble beginnings in the sight of man, the eyes of Jehovah, which were not only fixed upon it with unceasing watchfulness (Zechariah 4:9), but ran to and fro through the whole earth to take cognisance of and deal with every hindering and every helping influence, rejoiced to see the progress of that house, Zechariah 4:10. Not satisfied with this exposition of its main scope, the prophet asks for information as to some of the details of the vision. What, he would fain know, is the significance of the two olive-trees, Zechariah 4:11, or yet more precisely, of the two branches of them, which through the two golden tubes empty their oil into the bowl of the lamp, Zechariah 4:12. The answer, again given with some show of surprise at the question, Zechariah 4:13, by the Interpreting Angel, is calculated by its obscurity rather to fix attention on the chief lesson of the vision, than to interpret the details to which reference is made. Suffice it to know that the olive trees represent agencies, by which the Lord of the whole earth is pleased to supply the requirements of His Church, Zechariah 4:14.

And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
2. I have looked] Rather, I have seen, the word being the same as in the Angel’s question, What seest thou?

A candlestick all of gold] The word here used for candlestick (though not restricted to that, 2 Kings 4:10) is always used of the candlestick in the Tabernacle. That too, like this, was “all of gold.” Exodus 25:31. “It has been calculated to have been worth £5,076, exclusive of workmanship.” Dict. of Bible, Art. Candlestick. In Solomon’s Temple there were ten candlesticks (1 Kings 7:49; 2 Chronicles 4:7; comp. Jeremiah 52:19), either in addition to, or instead of, the one in the Tabernacle. In Zerubbabel’s Temple one candlestick only again was seen, as we learn from this passage and 1Ma 1:23; 1Ma 4:49; as well as from the sculpture on the Arch of Titus.

a bowl] Rather, its bowl, or reservoir. The candlestick in the Tabernacle had no bowl of this kind. The “bowls” which it had (Exodus 25:31; Exodus 25:33-34; Exodus 37:17; Exodus 37:19-20;—quite a different Heb. word from that here used, and rendered cups in R. V.) were ornaments like scallop-shells, or the calix of a flower, on the shaft and branches of the candlestick. The lamps were trimmed daily by the priests (Exodus 27:21). “They were each supplied with cotton and half a log of the purest olive-oil (about two wine-glasses) which was sufficient to keep them burning during a long night.” Dict. of Bible. The use of the same word as here for the bowl of a hanging lamp, suspended from the ceiling by a “silver cord,” the giving way of which causes the lamp to fall to the ground and be shattered, Ecclesiastes 12:6, has led some to think that the lamp in Zechariah’s vision was hanging also. This, however, is improbable. The addition of the bowl to the holy candlestick has its obvious meaning: “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,” Zechariah 4:6. No human agency is now needed. The bowl yields a ceaseless supply of oil.

seven pipes to the seven lamps] This has been variously interpreted to mean either one, two, or seven pipes connecting each lamp with the oil-bowl. The most natural interpretation of our present Hebrew text is, that each lamp of the candlestick was connected by seven pipes with the bowl which fed it with oil, and that the large and perfect number of pipes is intended to symbolise the plentifulness of the supply. There are seven pipes to each of the lamps. R. V.

And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
3. two olive trees] We learn afterwards (Zechariah 4:11-12) that each of these had a fruit-bearing “branch,” which “emptied itself” (its oil) by a golden tube into the oil-bowl of the candlestick. Human agency is again set aside. The berries become oil without the aid of man.

So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
6. Not by might, &c.] This is the teaching of the vision, its message from Jehovah to Zerubbabel. Fed “without hands” (Daniel 2:34) with oil the lamp in the vision shone brightly. So without the resources of human “might and power,” which to “these feeble Jews” (Nehemiah 4:2) were altogether wanting, but by the “Spirit” of Jehovah, of which the oil was a symbol, should the Church shine yet again on Mount Sion, and eventually as the Church of Christ throughout the world.

Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
7. great mountain] Comp. Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 49:11; Matthew 17:20; Matthew 21:21; 1 Corinthians 13:2. So had the mountain-like obstacles of the power of their captors (Ezra 1:1), and the unwillingness of the people, first to return (Zechariah 4:5), and then to persevere in the work (Haggai 1:14), already “become a plain,” by the “Spirit of the Lord,” stirring up the spirit of man.

Grace, grace unto it] i.e. all favour rest upon it! “Faveat ei Deus, faveant homines.” Maurer.

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
9. thou shalt know, &c.] It is again asserted that the divine mission of the angel shall be proved by the accomplishment of that which he predicts. Comp. Zechariah 2:11; Deuteronomy 18:22.

For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
10. with those seven] Rather, even these seven, as in R. V.

The meaning of the verse is: For who hath despised the day of small things? (comp: Haggai 2:3) For (seeing that) these seven eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro throughout all the earth, shall rejoice to see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. Since, then, God beholds the progress of the work with joy and favour, who will venture to despise it?

Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
12. olive branches] Having seen the vision (1–3), and received a general explanation of it (4–10), Zechariah now desires a further explanation of one particular feature (11–14). What, he asks, are the two olive trees (11)? and then, immediately recasting his question in more exact terms, the two olive branches? The word is allied to, if not identical with, that used for “ears of corn.” It may refer to the pointed shape of the twigs of the olive tree, or to the fact that these branches were studded thick with berries, like the grains in an ear of corn. (Kimchi.)

pipes] Rather tubes, or spouts; the word being different from that translated “pipes,” Zechariah 4:2. Which are beside the two golden spouts, that empty, &c. R. V.

And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
14. the two anointed ones] Rather, sons of oil (as in R. V.). “Probably not as themselves anointed (for another word is used for this, and the whole vision has turned on the use of oil as an instrument of light, not of anointing) but as themselves abundantly ministering the stream which is the source of light.” Pusey, who compares the expression “son of oil,” i.e. fertile in producing oil, Isaiah 5:1. The reference here is generally supposed to be to Zerubbabel and Joshua, as representing the kingly and priestly offices, the channels through which God supplies His Church. It may be doubted, however, whether the angel does not purposely avoid giving a definite, and especially a human meaning to these symbols. The tenor of the whole vision is, “by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.” These “sons of oil,” then, are agents or agencies, near to God and beyond our ken, “that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” With this view would seem to accord the fact, that the two mysterious “Witnesses,” in the Book of Revelation (Zechariah 11:4), are spoken of as being “the two olive trees … standing before the God of the earth”; with an obvious reference to Zechariah’s vision.

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