Zechariah 4
Pulpit Commentary
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
Verses 1-14. - 7. The fifth vision: the golden candlestick. Verse 1. - The angel that talked with me. The interpreting angel is meant. Came again, and waked me. It is thought that the angel, who is said (Zechariah 2:3) to have gone forth, now rejoined the prophet and renewed his colloquy with him. But the expression in the text is probably only equivalent to "aroused me again" (comp. Genesis 26:18; 2 Kings 1:11, 13, etc.). Absorbed in awe and wonder at the contemplation of the preceding vision, the prophet had fallen into a state of exhaustion and torpor, as Daniel slept after his great visions (Daniel 8:18; Daniel 10:8, 9), and the apostles were heavy with sleep on the Mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:32). From this mental prostration the angel arouses him to renewed attention. Or what is meant may be that the change wrought on the faculties by the Divine influence was as great as that between natural sleeping and waking.
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:
Verse 2. - What seest thou? The angel does not show the vision to the prophet, but makes him describe it, and then explains its import. This vision of the candlestick, with its seven lamps fed by two olive trees, signifies that the work of rebuilding the temple, and preparing the way for the Church of the true Israel, was to be accomplished by relying, not on human resources, but on Divine aid. Thus were Zerubbabel and his people roused to perseverance and energy in their good work, of which the final sucess is assured. I have looked; ἑώρακα (Septuagint), "I have seen." A candlestick all of gold. The candelabrum as described differs in some particulars from that in the tabernacle, though the same word, menorath, is used in both cases (Exodus 25:31; Exodus 37:17, etc.). In Solomon's temple there were ten candelabra (1 Kings 7:49), which were carried away to Babylon when Jerusalem was taken (Jeremiah 52:19). The single candelabrum of Zerubbabel's temple is mentioned in 1 Macc. 1:21 1 Macc. 4:49, 50. The one sculptured on the arch of Titus may be a truthful representation of that in Herod's temple, but probably is not the same as that in the second edifice (comp. Josephus, 'Ant.,' 14:04, 4). The candelabrum in the vision differed from the original one in three particulars: it had a central reservoir; it had also seven pipes; and it was supplied with oil by two olive trees. With a (its) howl upon the top of it. The "bowl" (gullah) is a reservoir for oil placed at the top of the candelabrum; and from it tubes led the oil for the supply of the lamps. In the tabernacle each lamp was separate, and trimmed and filled by the ministering priests; the mystic lamps needed no human agency to keep them supplied. They were fed by the "bowl." The word is translated in the Septuagint, λαμπάδιον: in the Vulgate, lampas; hence some have supposed that, besides the seven lamps, there was another large light in the centre; but the Greek and Latin rendering is mistaken, the word meaning "a fountain" (Joshua 15:19), or "a ball" (1 Kings 7:41), or "a round bowl" (Ecclesiastes 12:6). And seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof. The Hebrew is, literally rendered, seven and seven pipes to the lamps which are upon its top. The LXX. translates, Καὶ ἑπτὰ ἐπαρυστρίδες τοῖς λύχνοις τοῖς ἐπάνω αὐτῆς, "And seven vessels for the lamps which are upon it;" so the Vulgate, Septem infusoria lucernis, quae erant super caput ejus. These versions imply that there was one supply pipe to each of the lamps, which seems most natural. In this case, the first "seven" in the text must be an interpolation. Commentators who regard the present reading as correct have taken various ways in explaining it. Some multiply the number into itself, and make the pipes forty-nine; but this is unwarranted by Hebrew usage (Henderson). Others add the numbers together, making fourteen; but here again the copulative vau, which implies diversity, is an objection. The Revised Version has, "There are seven pipes to each of the lamps, taking the words distributively; but the number of tubes seems here to be unnecessarily large. Dr. Wright considers that there were two pipes to each lamp, one set connecting each to the central bowl, and one connecting the several lamps together. One, however, does not see of what particular use the second set is. Dr. Wright, p. 84, gives a drawing of the candelabrum with its appurtenances, according to his notion of the vision. The Authorized Version seems to give the correct idea of the passage, whether we arrive at it by rejecting the first "seven," or by considering that it is repeated for emphasis' sake, as Cornelius Lapide and Pressel think: "Seven are the lamps upon it - seven, I say, and seven the pipes." Take it as we may, the point is that the oil is well and copiously supplied to the several lights.
And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
Verse 3. - Two olive trees. These, as explained in ver. 12, discharged the oil from their fruit-bearing branches into conduits which led to the central reservoir. Without man's agency the oil is separated from the berry and keeps the lamps constantly supplied (comp. Revelation 2:4).
So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
Verse 4. - What are these, my lord? The question may refer to the two olive trees, which were a novelty to the prophet, who, of course, was well acquainted with the form and use, if not the symbolism, of the candelabrum. But it may also be taken as desiring information about the whole vision.
Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Verse 5. - Knowest thou not? The angel speaks not so much in surprise at the prophet's slowness of comprehension (comp. John 3:10) as desirous of calling his most serious attention to the coming explanation.
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.
Verse 6. - This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel. The Lord's message unto Zerubbabel is the purport of the vision, viz. that his work will be accomplished through the grace of God alone. Not by might. Septuagint, "not by great might;" but the Vulgate, "not by an army." The word is almost synonymous with the following, translated power; and the two together mean that the effect is to be produced, not by any human means, however potent. Doubtless Zerubbabel was dispirited when he thought how much there was to do, how feeble the means at his disposal (Nehemiah 4:2), and how formidable the opposition; and nothing could better reassure him than the promise of Divine aid. But by my Spirit. The angel does not say expressly what is to be done; but the purpose that filled the minds of Zechariah and Zerubbabel applied the word. The operations of the Spirit are manifold, and his aid alone could bring these mighty things to pass. The oil is a figure of the grace of the Holy Spirit; and as the lamps are not supplied by human hands, but directly from the olives, so the good work now undertaken shall be supported by Divine means (see on ver. 14).
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.
Verse 7. - Who art thou, O great mountain? The "mountain" is a figurative expression to denote the various difficulties that stood in Zerubbabel's way and impeded the carrying out of his great design. Before Zerubbabel. The Vulgate affixes these words to the former part of the clause, but the accent is in favour of the Authorized Version. Thou Shall become a plain; literally, into a plain! A command. All obstacles shall be removed (comp. Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 49:11; Matthew 17:20; Luke 3:4, 5). Septuagint, τοῦ κατορθῶσαι (intrans.), "that thou shouldst prosper;" "ut corrigas" (Jerome). He shall bring forth the headstone thereof. "He" is evidently Zerubbabel. He shall commence and put the finishing stroke to the work of rebuilding the temple. Many commentators take this stone to be the one that completes the building, "the topstone." But it may well be questioned whether a building like the temple could have any such stone. An arch or a pyramid may have a crowning stone, but no other edifice; nor is there any proof that such a topstone was known or its erection celebrated. It may be a mere metaphor for the completion of the work. It is better, however, to take it as the cornerstone, to which we know great importance was attached (comp. Job 38:6; Psalm 118:22, etc.). This stone, on which the building rests, Zerubbabel will bring forth from the workshop; as the next verses say, his hands have laid the foundation. That action, already past, is represented as future, the regular commencement of the work under Zerubbabel's direction being intimated, and its happy conclusion promised. Septuagint, Καὶ ἐξοίσω τὸν λίθον τῆς κληρονομίας, "And I will bring forth the stone of the inheritance" - the meaning of which is obscure, though Jerome explains it by considering it an allusion to Christ. With shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it! All the by standers, as the stone is placed, shout in acclamation, "God's favour rest upon it!" (Ezra 3:10). The LXX. seems to have mistaken the sense, rendering, Ἰσότητα χάριτος χάριτα αὐτῆς, "The grace of it the equality of grace" (John 1:16); and to have led St. Jerome astray, who translates, "Et exsaequabit gratiam gratiae ejus," and comments thus: "We all have received of his fulness, and grace for grace, that is, the grace of the gospel for the grace of the Law, in order theft the Israelites and the heathen who believe may receive equal grace and a like blessing." The Targum recognizes here a Messianic prophecy: "He will reveal the Messiah whose Name is spoken of from all eternity, and he shall rule over all the kingdoms."
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
Verse 8. - The word of the Lord came unto me. The word came through the interpreting angel, as is clear from the expression in ver. 9, "The Lord hath sent me unto you." He explains more fully what had been already announced figuratively.
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.
Verse 9. - Have laid the foundation. Zerubbabel had commenced the rebuilding in the second year of the return, in the second month (Ezra 3:8); it had been hindered by the opposition of the neighbouring people (Ezra 4:1-5, 24), and was not resumed till the second year of Darius. Shall finish it. The temple was finished in Darius's sixth year (Ezra 6:15). Thou shalt know, etc. The truth of the angel's mission would be proved by the event, viz. the successful issue (comp. ch. 2:9, 11; 6:15; Deuteronomy 18:22). The completion of the material temple was a pledge of the establishment of the spiritual temple, the Church of God.
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.
Verse 10. - For who hath despised the day of small things? The "small things" are the weak and poor beginning of the temple (Haggai 2:3); as the Targum glosses, "on account of the edifice, because it was small." Small as the present work was, it was a pledge of the full completion, and was therefore not to be despised. So the question is equivalent to, "Can any one, after these promises and prophecies, presume to be doubtful about the future?" For they shall rejoice, etc. The subject of the verbs is that which comes last in position, the seven eyes of Jehovah; and the verse is best translated thus: "For (i.e. seeing that) these seven eyes of Jehovah, which run through all the earth, behold with joy the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel." The work is not contemptible, since the Lord regards it with favour, watches, and directs it. The LXX. and Vulgate (followed nearly by the Authorized Version) make the despisers the subject of the verbs, and lamely dissociate the final clause entirely from the preceding. The version given above is in accordance with the Masoretic accentuation. The plummet; literally, the stone, the tin; τὸν λίθον τὸν κασσιτέρινον (Septuagint); lapidem stanneum, "the stone of tin" (Vulgate). Tin is not found in Palestine; it was imported by the Phoenicians in great abundance, and from them the Jews obtained it. The supply must have come from Spain or Britain. With those seven. The preposition is an interpolation of the Authorized Version. It should be, "even these seven," explaining who are "they" at the head of the clause. The eyes of the Lord. The "seven eyes" have been already mentioned (Zechariah 3:9, where see note). They are expressive of God's watchful providence and care. Which run to and fro. This clause further enforces the previous image (2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3).
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?
Verse 11. - Then answered I. The prophet had received a general explanation of the vision; he had probably understood that the candelabrum represented the theocracy, of whose restoration and life the temple was the symbol and vehicle. One point was still obscure, and he asks, What are these two olive trees? (ver. 3). To this question no answer is immediately forthcoming, the answer being delayed in order to augment the prophet's desire of understanding the vision, and to induce him to make the question more definite.
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?
Verse 12. - The prophet perceives the chief point in the mystic olive trees, so he alters his question the second time, asking, What be these two olive branches? (shibbolim); Vulgate, spicae, "ears," as of corn, so called, as Kimchi supposes, because they were full of berries, as the ears are full of grains of corn. Which through the two golden pipes, etc.; rather, which by means of two golden tubes are emptying the golden oil out of themselves. The oil dropped of itself from the fruit-bearing branches into two tubes, spouts, or channels, which conveyed it to the central reservoir. The Revised Version renders, "which are beside the two golden spouts;" like the Vulgate, quae sunt juxta duo rostra aurea. The LXX. has, οἱ κλάδοι οἱ ἐν ταῖς χεροὶ τῶν δύο μυξωτήρων ("beaks," "noses") τῶν χρυσῶν - where "in the hands" or "by the hands" may be a Hebraism for "by means of." The golden oil; Hebrew, the gold. The oil is so called from its colour. The Greek and Latin versions lose this idea altogether, In quibus sunt suffusoria ex auro (Vulgate); "leading to the golden vessels" (Septuagint).
And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
Verse 13. - Knowest thou not? (comp. ver. 5). The angel wishes to impress upon the prophet whence came the power of the theocracy and the Divine order manifested therein.
Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
Verse 14. - The two anointed ones; literally, the two sons of oil; so the Revised Version; Vulgate, filii olei; Septuagint, υἱοὶ τῆς πιότητος, "sons of fatness" (comp. Isaiah 5:1). By them are intended the two powers, the regal and the sacerdotal, through which God's help and protection are dispensed to the theocracy. Oil was used in appointing to both these offices (comp. Leviticus 21:10; 1 Samuel 10:1). The expression, "son of," in many cases denotes a quality or property, like "son of Belial," "son of might;" so here Dr. Alexander considers that "sons of oil" means people possessed of oil, oil bearers, channels through which the oil flowed to others. Zerubbabel and Joshua are representatives of the civil and priestly authorities, but the text seems expressly to avoid naming any human agents, in order to show that the symbol must not be limited to individuals. Nor, indeed, must it be confined to the Jewish Church and state; it looks forward to the time when Jew and Gentile shall unite in upholding the Church of God. That stand by the Lord of the whole earth; i.e. ready as his ministers to do him service. There is a reference to this passage in Revelation 11:4, where the "two witnesses" are called "the two olive trees.., standing Before the Lord of the earth" (Perowne). The vision, as we have seen, prefigures primarily the completion of the temple and the restoration of its worship, and secondly the establishment of the Christian Church by the advent of Messiah. The several parts of the vision may be thus explained. The candelabrum is a symbol of the Jewish Church and theocracy, in accordance with the imagery in the Apocalypse, where the seven candlesticks are seven Churches (Revelation 1:20). It is made of gold as precious in God's sight, and to be kept pure and unalloyed; it is placed in the sanctuary, and has seven lamps, to indicate that it is bright with the grace of God, and is meant to shed its light around at all times, as Christian men are bidden to shine like lights in the world (Matthew 5:16; Philippians 2:15). The oil that supplies the lamps is the grace of God, the influence of the Holy Spirit, which alone enables the Church to shine and to accomplish its appointed work. The two olive trees are the two authorities, viz. the civil and sacerdotal, through which God communicates his grace to the Church; these stand by the Lord Because, instituted by him, they carry out his will in the ordering, guiding, extending, and purifying his kingdom among men. The two olive branches remit their oil into one receptacle, because the two authorities, the regal and priestly, are intimately connected and united, and their action tends to one end, the promotion of God's glory in the salvation of men. In Messiah these offices are united; he is the channel of Divine grace, the source of light to the whole world.

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