Zechariah 4:11
Then answered I, and said to him, What are these two olive trees on the right side of the candlestick and on the left side thereof?
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Zechariah 4:11-14. Then answered I — Or, Then spake I, the Hebrew word ענהbeing not only used of giving an answer to a question, but likewise of beginning or continuing a discourse. What are these two olive-trees, &c. — The prophet had learned the meaning of the candlestick and its lamps, and now wants to know what the two olive-trees signify; and no answer being given to his question, he immediately proceeds to ask another; and in the answer given to it he acquiesces. Observe, reader, those that would be acquainted with the things of God, must be inquisitive concerning them. They must inquire of those who understand them, and they shall receive information; and if satisfactory answers be not given them at first, or quickly, let them renew their inquiries, praying for light from God, and the vision shall at length speak, and not lie. The prophet’s second question differs a little, yet not much, from the former.

I answered again, says he, What be these two olive-branches? — Two principal branches, one from each tree, extending to the golden candlestick, and communicating to it, through two golden pipes, fastened to the golden bowl, the golden oil, out of themselves — That is, the clear, bright oil, the best of its kind, and of great value. And he answered, Knowest thou not what these be? — If thou knowest the candlestick to be the church, must thou not suppose that the olive-trees and the olive-branches are emblems of the means which God hath provided to communicate to it his truth and grace? The prophet having again acknowledged his ignorance, the angel says, These are the two anointed ones — Hebrew, בני היצהר, sons of oil, as in the margin. As by the candlestick we understand the visible church, particularly that of the Jews at that time, for whose comfort this vision was primarily intended, these sons of oil, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth, are the two great ordinances and offices of the magistracy and ministry, at that time lodged in the hands of those two great and good men, Zerubbabel and Joshua. This prince, this priest, were sons of oil, anointed of God, or endued with the gifts and graces of his Spirit, to qualify them for the work to which they were called. They stood before the Lord of the whole earth, to minister to him, and to receive direction from him; and a great influence they had upon the affairs of the church at that time; for their wisdom, courage, and zeal were continually emptying themselves into the golden bowl, to keep the lamps burning; and when they should be removed, others would be raised up to carry on the same work, and Israel should not be left without prince and priest. Thus Grotius, Lowth, Henry, Dodd, and several later interpreters, understand the clause. By the two anointed ones, says Archbishop Newcome, “Zerubbabel and Joshua may be meant; who presided over the temporal and spiritual affairs of the Jews; were the ministers, or vicegerents, of Jehovah; and acted not by their own strength, but by the divine assistance;” Zechariah 4:6. “It is plain,” adds he, “that the golden candlestick is the Jewish state, both civil and religious: and that the oil, with which the lights are supplied, is the Spirit of God, in opposition to human efforts.” But though the candlestick here may primarily signify the Jewish Church, yet, in a secondary sense, it was also undoubtedly intended to be a figure of the Christian Church; and Zerubbabel and Joshua were types of the Messiah, and their offices emblematical of his offices, who, as is said Zechariah 6:13, sits and rules upon his throne, and is a priest upon his throne: who is not only the anointed one himself, but in his mysterious person, as God and man, is the good olive to his church, supplying it with the golden oil of saving grace, and communicating to believers out of his fulness the unction, or anointing of the Holy Spirit, John 1:16; 1 John 2:20-27.

Dr. Blayney, however, gives a different explanation of this passage. By the candlestick, indeed, he understands the church of God, both under the Jewish and Christian dispensations: but, in Zechariah 4:12, instead of two olive- branches, he reads, two orderers of the olive-trees, understanding by the olive-trees “the two dispensations of the law and the gospel, under which were communicated the precious oracles of divine truth, which illuminate the soul, and make men wise unto salvation;” and by the orderers, or directors, of these dispensations, Moses and Christ, the two sons of oil, or anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth, fulfilling his will and executing his commands. “Of the latter of these,” says he, “it is expressly said, Isaiah 61:1, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me, &c. Nor do I conceive that any other can be meant by the two witnesses, appointed to prophesy for a certain time, clothed in sackcloth, Revelation 11:3; the next verse plainly showing, that an allusion is there made to this prophecy of Zechariah, concerning the candlestick and olive-trees, though not with all that accuracy of citation which we should look for at present. These are the two olive-trees and the two candlesticks, standing before the God of the earth, Revelation 11:4.” 4:11-14 Zechariah desires to know what are the two olive trees. Zerubbabel and Joshua, this prince and this priest, were endued with the gifts and graces of God's Spirit. They lived at the same time, and both were instruments in the work and service of God. Christ's offices of King and Priest were shadowed forth by them. From the union of these two offices in his person, both God and man, the fullness of grace is received and imparted. They built the temple, the church of God. So does Christ spiritually. Christ is not only the Messiah, the Anointed One himself, but he is the Good Olive to his church; and from his fulness we receive. And the Holy Spirit is the unction or anointing which we have received. From Christ the Olive Tree, by the Spirit the Olive Branch, all the golden oil of grace flows to believers, which keeps their lamps burning. Let us seek, through the intercession and bounty of the Saviour, supplies from that fulness which has hitherto sufficed for all his saints, according to their trials and employments. Let us wait on him in his ordinances, desiring to be sanctified wholly in body, soul, and spirit.And I answered and said - The vision, as a whole, had been explained to him. The prophet asks as to subordinate parts, which seemed perhaps inconsistent with the whole. If the whole imports that everything should be done by the Spirit of God, not by human power, what means it that there are these two olive-trees? And when the Angel returned no answer, to invite perhaps closer attention and a more definite question, he asks again; 11, 12. Zechariah three times (Zec 4:4, 11, 12) asks as to the two olives before he gets an answer; the question becomes more minute each time. What he at first calls "two olive trees," he afterwards calls "branches," as on closer looking he observes that the "branches" of the trees are the channels through which a continual flow of oil dropped into the bowl of the lamps (Zec 4:2), and that this is the purpose for which the two olive trees stand beside the candlestick. Primarily, the "two" refer to Joshua and Zerubbabel. God, says Auberlen, at each of the transition periods of the world's history has sent great men to guide the Church. So the two witnesses shall appear before the destruction of Antichrist. Antitypically, "the two anointed ones" (Zec 4:14) are the twofold supports of the Church, the civil power (answering to Zerubbabel) and the ecclesiastical (answering to Joshua, the high priest), which in the restored Jewish polity and temple shall "stand by," that is, minister to "the Lord of the whole earth," as He shall be called in the day that He sets up His throne in Jerusalem (Zec 14:9; Da 2:44; Re 11:15). Compare the description of the offices of the "priests" and the "prince" (Isa 49:23; Eze 44:1-46:24). As in Re 11:3, 4, the "two witnesses" are identified with the two olive trees and the two candlesticks. Wordsworth explains them to mean the Law and the Gospel: the two Testaments that witness in the Church for the truth of God. But this is at variance with the sense here, which requires Joshua and Zerubbabel to be primarily meant. So Moses (the prophet and lawgiver) and Aaron (the high priest) ministered to the Lord among the covenant-people at the exodus; Ezekiel (the priest) and Daniel (a ruler) in the Babylonian captivity; so it shall be in restored Israel. Some think Elijah will appear again (compare the transfiguration, Mt 17:3, 11, with Mal 4:4, 5; Joh 1:21) with Moses. Re 11:6, which mentions the very miracles performed by Elijah and Moses (shutting heaven so as not to rain, and turning water into blood), favors this (compare Ex 7:19; 1Ki 17:1; Lu 4:25; Jas 5:16, 17). The period is the same, "three years and six months"; the scene also is in Israel (Re 11:8), "where our Lord was crucified." It is supposed that for the first three and a half years of the hebdomad (Da 9:20-27), God will be worshipped in the temple; in the latter three and a half years, Antichrist will break the covenant (Da 9:27), and set himself up in the temple to be worshipped as God (2Th 2:4). The witnesses prophesy the former three and a half years, while corruptions prevail and faith is rare (Lu 18:8); then they are slain and remain dead three and a half years. Probably, besides individual witnesses and literal years, there is a fulfilment in long periods and general witnesses, such as the Church and the Word, the civil and religious powers so far as they have witnessed for God. So "the beast" in Revelation answers to the civil power of the apostasy; "the false prophet" to the spiritual power. Man needs the priest to atone for guilt, and the prophet-king to teach holiness with kingly authority. These two typically united in Melchisedek were divided between two till they meet in Messiah, the Antitype. Zec 6:11-13 accords with this. The Holy Spirit in this His twofold power of applying to man the grace of the atonement, and that of sanctification, must in one point of view be meant by the two olive trees which supply the bowl at the top of the candlestick (that is, Messiah at the head of the Church); for it is He who filled Jesus with all the fulness of His unction (Joh 3:34). But this does not exclude the primary application to Joshua and Zerubbabel, "anointed" (Zec 4:14) with grace to minister to the Jewish Church: and so applicable to the twofold supports of the Church which are anointed with the Spirit, the prince and the priest, or minister. In this verse the prophet proposeth a question to which no answer is given, but he doth immediately proceed to ask one more question, though somewhat, yet not much, different from the former, and in the answer of this latter question the prophet acquiesceth. The explication of this verse you have Zechariah 4:3. Then answered I, and said unto him,.... To the angel that talked with him, Zechariah 4:1,

What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick, and upon the left side thereof? in Zechariah 4:2 they are said to be on each side of the bowl. The mystery of the candlestick being explained to Zechariah by the angel, the prophet desires to know the meaning of the two olive trees that were on the right and left of it, one on one side, and the other on the other side.

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. Habakkuk 3:16-19 form the second part of the psalm, in which the prophet describes the feelings that are produced within himself by the coming of the Lord to judge the nations, and to rescue His own people; viz., first of all, fear and trembling at the tribulation (Habakkuk 3:16, Habakkuk 3:17); then exulting joy, in his confident trust in the God of salvation (Habakkuk 3:18, Habakkuk 3:19). Habakkuk 3:16. "I heard it, then my belly trembled, at the sound my lips yelled; rottenness forces itself into my bones, and I tremble under myself, that I am to wait quietly for the day of tribulation, when he that attacketh it approacheth the nation. Habakkuk 3:17. For the fig-tree will not blossom, and there is no yield on the vines; the produce of the olive-tree disappoints, and the corn-fields bear no food; the flock is away from the fold, and no ox in the stalls." שׁמעתּי is not connected with the theophany depicted in Habakkuk 3:3-15, since this was not an audible phenomenon, but was an object of inward vision, "a spectacle which presented itself to the eye." "I heard" corresponds to "I have heard" in Habakkuk 3:2, and, like the latter, refers to the report heard from God of the approaching judgment. This address goes back to its starting-point, to explain the impression which it made upon the prophet, and to develop still how he "was afraid." The alarm pervades his whole body, belly, and bones, i.e., the softer and firmer component parts of the body; lips and feet, i.e., the upper and lower organs of the body. The lips cried leqōl, at the voice, the sound of God, which the prophet heard. Tsâlal is used elsewhere only of the ringing of the ears (1 Samuel 3:11; 2 Kings 21:12; Jeremiah 19:3); but here it is applied to the chattering sound produced by the lips, when they smite one another before crying out, not to the chattering of the teeth. Into the bones there penetrates râqâbh, rottenness, inward consumption of the bones, as an effect of alarm or pain, which paralyzes all the powers, and takes away all firmness from the body (cf. Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 14:30). Tachtai, under me, i.e., in my lower members, knees, feet: not as in Exodus 16:29; 2 Samuel 2:23, on the spot where I stand (cf. Ewald, 217, k). אשׁר אנוּח might mean, "I who was to rest;" but it is more appropriate to take 'ăsher as a relative conjunction, "that I," since the clause explains the great fear that had fallen upon him. אשׁר is used in a similar way viz., as a conjunction with the verb in the first person, in Ezekiel 29:29. Nūăch, to rest, not to rest in the grave (Luther and others), nor to bear quietly or endure (Ges., Maurer), but to wait quietly or silently. For it could hardly occasion such consuming pain to a God-fearing man as that which the prophet experienced, to bear misfortune quietly, when it has already come, and cannot be averted; but it might be to wait quietly and silently, in constant anticipation. Tsârâh, the trouble which the Chaldaeans bring upon Judah. לעלות is not subordinate to ליום צרה, but co-ordinate with it, and is still dependent upon אנוּח; and יגוּדנּוּ, as a relative clause (who oppresses it), is the subject to לעלות: "that I am to wait quietly for him that attacketh to approach my nation." For if לעלוי were dependent upon ליום, it would be necessary to supply יום as the subject: "when it (the day) comes." But this is precluded by the fact that עלה is not used for the approach or breaking of day. לעם, to the people, dativ. incomm., is practically equivalent to על עם, against the people. עם, used absolutely, as in Isaiah 26:11; Isaiah 42:6, is the nation of Israel. Gūd, as in Genesis 49:19-20, i.e., gâdad, to press upon a person, to attack him, or crowd together against him (cf. Psalm 94:21). In Habakkuk 3:17 the trouble of this day is described; and the sensation of pain, in the anticipation of the period of calamity, is thereby still further accounted for. The plantations and fields yield no produce. Folds and stalls are empty in consequence of the devastation of the land by the hostile troops and their depredations: "a prophetic picture of the devastation of the holy land by the Chaldaean war" (Delitzsch). Fig-tree and vine are mentioned as the noblest fruit-trees of the land, as is frequently the case (see Joel 1:7; Hosea 2:14; Micah 4:4). To this there is added the olive-tree, as in Micah 6:15; Deuteronomy 6:11; Deuteronomy 8:8, etc. Ma‛asēh zayith is not the shoot, but the produce or fruit of the olive-tree, after the phrase עשׂה פרי, to bear fruit. Kichēsh, to disappoint, namely the expectation of produce, as in Hosea 9:2. Shedēmôth, which only occurs in the plural, corn-fields, is construed here as in Isaiah 16:8, with the verb in the singular, because, so far as the sense was concerned, it had become almost equivalent to sâdeh, the field (see Ewald, 318, a). Gâzar, to cut off, used here in a neuter sense: to be cut off or absent. מכלה, contracted from מכלאה: fold, pen, an enclosed place for sheep. Repheth, ἁπ. λεγ., the rack, then the stable or stall.
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