Zechariah 4:12
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?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.What are the two spikes of the olive? - Comparing the extreme branches of the olive-tree, laden with their fruit, to the ears of corn, which "were by or in the hand of the golden pipes, which empty forth the golden oil from themselves." Zechariah's expression, in the hand of or, if so be, by the hand of the two pipes, shows that these two were symbols of living agents, for it is nowhere, used except of a living agent, or of that which it personified as such. 12. through—literally, "by the hand of," that is, by the agency of.

branches—literally, "ears"; so the olive branches are called, because as ears are full of grain, so the olive branches are full of olives.

golden oil—literally, "gold," that is, gold-like liquor.

out of themselves—Ordinances and ministers are channels of grace, not the grace itself. The supply comes not from a dead reservoir of oil, but through living olive trees (Ps 52:8; Ro 12:1) fed by God.

I answered; I went on to discourse, which is the signification of the Hebrew phrase here used.

Again, Heb. a second time. Said unto him, the angel that talked with the prophet.

What be these two olive branches? two principal branches, one in each tree, fuller of berries, higher than the rest, and hanging over the golden pipes.

Which through the two golden pipes: these were fastened to the golden bowl, on each side one, with a hole through the sides of the bowl, to let the oil that distilled into them from those olive branches run into the bowl, and out of that bowl it was, through so many golden pipes, conveyed into the seven lamps.

Empty; freely, without any violence offered, drop the oil out of themselves, yet so that still they are full of oil for perpetual supply to the lamps.

Golden oil, because of its preciousness, or from its colour.

Out of themselves: a supernatural work, and, emblem of supernatural grace: these branches, filled from the true olive tree, ever empty themselves, and are ever full; so are the gospel ordinances, filled by Christ, always filling his members, true Christians, and ever full for all believers.

And I answered again, and said unto him,.... Before he could have an answer to the former question, he puts the following, as being of the same import:

What be these two olive branches; which grew upon the olive trees, and were nearest to the candlestick, and the pipes that were to the lamps: these, in Zechariah 4:14, are interpreted of the two anointed ones, or sons of oil, and may design the ministers of the word, if, by the "golden oil" after mentioned, is meant the Gospel; even a set of evangelical preachers in Gospel times, in the various periods of the church; Christ's faithful witnesses, who stand on each side of the bowl, and receive out of Christ's fulness gifts and grace to fit them for their work; and on each side of the candlestick, the church, to impart the oil of the Gospel to it. These may be compared to "olive trees" for their beauty and comeliness in the eyes of saints, to whom they bring the good news of salvation by Christ, Hosea 14:6 and for their greenness and flourishing condition, being filled with the gifts and graces of the Spirit, Psalm 52:8 and for their fruitfulness; for, as the olive tree produces an oil used both for light and food, so they bring the Gospel with them, which is the means of spiritual light, and contains in it refreshing and delightful food, Deuteronomy 8:8 and for their fatness, with which they honour God and men, Judges 9:9 so ministers of the Gospel honour Jehovah, Father, Son, and Spirit, by ascribing the contrivance, obtaining, and application of salvation to each of them; and they honour men, by acquainting them what honour all the saints have through Christ, being made kings and priests by him; and by showing them what honour they shall have hereafter. And they may be compared to "olive branches", with respect to Christ the good olive tree, in whom they are as branches; are bore by him, and subsist in him; receive all they have from him, and do all they do in his strength: and also for their tenderness and weakness in themselves, and for their fruitfulness from him.

Which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? if by the "two" olive trees and branches, or anointed ones, ministers of the Gospel are intended; then, by the "golden oil", is meant, not the Spirit and his grace, which is sometimes compared to oil; nor inward spiritual joy and peace, the oil of gladness, for ministers cannot communicate either of these to others; but the Gospel, and the precious truths of it, compared to "oil", because of a healing, cheering, and refreshing nature; and because beautifying, feeding, and fattening; and because of a searching and penetrating nature, and being pure, unmixed, and good for light: and to "golden" oil, or oil, that, being poured out, is like liquid gold, for colour, value, splendour, purity, and duration: and this they "empty out"; which phrase denotes the fulness of the blessing of the Gospel they come with; their free and ready delivery of it; their faithfulness in giving out all, and keeping back nothing that may be profitable; and their ease and satisfaction of mind in so doing and this they do, not out of the corrupt fountains of moral philosophy; nor from the writings of others; nor out of their own heads, or from mere notional knowledge; but out of their hearts, and from their inward experience of Gospel truths; and which is not to be understood exclusive of Christ, or of the Scriptures of truth, from whence they fetch all truth; nor have they this knowledge and experience of or from themselves. The means by which they communicate the golden oil of the Gospel are "the two golden pipes", the ministry of the word, and administration of ordinances; which are like "pipes" or canals, through which Gospel grace is conveyed; and are "golden", are valuable, to be kept pure, and are durable; they are but "pipes", or means, and not to be depended on, yet they are "golden", and not to be despised. But if by the two olive trees, or anointed ones, are meant two divine Persons, of which see Zechariah 4:14 then by the "golden oil" may be intended the grace of God, often compared to "oil" in Scripture, in allusion to oil in common, or to the anointing oil, which was made of precious spices; or rather, as here, to the lamp oil for the candlestick in the tabernacle, which was pure oil olive: grace, like oil, is of a cheering and refreshing nature, hence called "oil of gladness"; very beautifying and adorning; like oil, it makes the face to shine; and by it the church, and all believers, become "all glorious within": it is of a searching nature; like oil, it penetrates into the heart, and has its seat there; and as oil will not mix with other liquid, so neither will grace with sin and corruption: but chiefly, as here, may it be compared to oil olive, because it burns and gives light, as that does in the lamp. The lamp of a profession, without the oil of grace, is a dark and useless thing. Grace is a light in the inward parts, and causes the light of an outward conversation to shine in good works before men; and this may be truly called "golden", being exceeding valuable, yea, much more precious than gold that perisheth; it being as durable, nay, much more durable than that, for it will last for ever, and can never be lost; see 1 Peter 1:7 and of this the word and ordinances are the means; and so may be designed by the pipes, through which it is conveyed to the souls of men; for "faith", and other graces of the Spirit, "come by hearing, and hearing by the word of God", Romans 10:17 hence says the apostle to the Galatians, Galatians 3:2, "received ye the Spirit"; that is, the special gifts and graces of the Spirit, comparable to the best oil and purest gold; "by the works of the law", or through the preaching of that, through the doctrine of justification by the works of it, "or by the hearing of faith?" by the doctrine of justification by faith in the righteousness of Christ, or by the Gospel preached and heard: this is the usual way in which the Spirit and his grace are communicated to men; hence the Gospel is called the "Spirit", and "the ministration of the Spirit", 2 Corinthians 3:6 and this seems to be a further confirmation of this sense of the words, since this golden oil is distinct from the pipes through which it flows; as grace is from the Gospel, through which it is received; whereas, in the other sense, they seem to coincide.

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?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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.

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). Zechariah 4:12This gave to the prophet a general explanation of the meaning of the vision; for the angel had told him that the house (or kingdom) of God would be built and finished by the Spirit of Jehovah, and the church of the Lord would accomplish its mission, to shine brightly as a candlestick. But there is one point in the vision that is not yet quite clear to him, and he therefore asks for an explanation in Zechariah 4:11-14. Zechariah 4:11. "And I answered and said to him, What are these two olive-trees on the right of the candlestick, and on the left? Zechariah 4:12. And I answered the second time, and said to him, What are the two branches (ears) of the olive-trees which are at the hand of the two golden spouts, which pour the gold out of themselves? Zechariah 4:13. And he spake to me thus: Knowest thou not what these are? and I said, No, my lord. Zechariah 4:14. Then said he, These are the two oil-children, which stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The meaning of the olive-trees on the right and left sides of the candlestick (‛al, over, because the olive-trees rose above the candlestick on the two sides) is not quite obvious to the prophet. He asks about this in Zechariah 4:11; at the same time, recognising the fact that their meaning is bound up with the two shibbălē hazzēthı̄m, he does not wait for an answer, but gives greater precision to his question, by asking the meaning of these two branches of the olive-trees. On שׁתּי the Masora observes, that the dagesh forte conjunct., which is generally found after the interrogative pronoun mâh, is wanting in the שׁ, and was probably omitted, simply because the שׁ has not a full vowel, but a sheva, whilst the ת which follows has also a dagesh. These branches of the olive-trees were beyad, "at the hand of" (i.e., close by, as in Job 15:23) the two golden tsanterōth, which poured the gold from above into the gullâh of the candlestick. Tsanterōth (ἁπ. λεγ.) is supposed by Aben Ezra and others to stand for oil-presses; but there is no further ground for this than the conjecture that the olive-trees could only supply the candlestick with oil when the olives were pressed. The older translators render the word by spouts or "channels" (lxx μυξωτήρες, Vulg. rostra, Pesh. noses). It is probably related in meaning to tsinnōr, channel or waterfall, and to be derived from tsâmar, to rush: hence spouts into which the branches of the olive-trees emptied the oil of the olives, so that it poured with a rush out of them into the oil vessel. The latter is obviously implied in the words hammerı̄qı̄m, etc., which empty out the gold from above themselves, i.e., the gold which comes to them from above. Hazzâbâbh, the gold which the tsanterōth empty out, is supposed by most commentators to signify the golden-coloured oil. Hofmann (Weiss. u. Erf. i.-344-5) and Kliefoth, on the contrary, understand by it real gold, which flowed out of the spouts into the candlestick, so that the latter was thereby perpetually renewed. But as the candlestick is not now for the first time in process of formation, but is represented in the vision as perfectly finished, and as the gold comes from the branches of the olive-trees, it is impossible to think of anything else than the oil which shines like gold. Accordingly the oil (yitsâr, lit., shining) is called zâhâbh, as being, as it were, liquid gold. Hence arises the play upon words: the spouts are of gold, and they pour gold from above themselves into the candlestick (Hitzig and Koehler).

The angel having expressed his astonishment at the prophet's ignorance, as he does in Zechariah 4:5, gives this answer: These (the two bushes of the olive-tree, for which the olive-trees stood there) are the two benē yitshâr, sons of oil, i.e., endowed or supplied with oil (cf. Isaiah 5:1), which stand by the Lord of the whole earth, namely as His servants (on ‛âmad ‛al, denoting the standing posture of a servant, who rises above his master when seated, see 1 Kings 22:19, also Isaiah 6:2). The two children of oil cannot be the Jews and Gentiles (Cyril), or Israel and the Gentile world in their fruitful branches, i.e., their believing members (Kliefoth), because the candlestick is the symbol of the church of the Lord, consisting of the believers in Israel and also in the Gentile world. This is just as clear as the distinction between the olive-trees and the candlestick, to which they conduct the oil. Others think of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (J. D. Mich., Hofm., Baumg., etc.); but although there is no force in Koehler's objection, that in that case there would be a double order of prophets in Israel, since two prophets, both influenced by the Spirit of God, would not imply a double order of prophets, this explanation is decidedly precluded by the fact that two mortal men could not convey to the church for all ages the oil of the Spirit of God. The two sons of oil can only be the two media, anointed with oil, through whom the spiritual and gracious gifts of God were conveyed to the church of the Lord, namely, the existing representatives of the priesthood and the regal government, who were at that time Joshua the high priest and the prince Zerubbabel. These stand by the Lord of the whole earth, as the divinely appointed instruments through whom the Lord causes His Spirit to flow into His congregation. Israel had indeed possessed both these instruments from the time of its first adoption as the people of Jehovah, and both were consecrated to their office by anointing. So far the fact that the olive-trees stand by the side of the candlestick does not appear to indicate anything that the prophet could not have interpreted for himself; and hence the astonishment expressed in the question of the angel in Zechariah 4:13. Moreover, the vision was not intended to represent an entirely new order of things, but simply to show the completion of that which was already contained and typified in the old covenant. The seven-armed candlestick was nothing new in itself. All that was new in the candlestick seen by Zechariah was the apparatus through which it was supplied with oil that it might give light, namely, the connection between the candlestick and the two olive-trees, whose branches bore olives like bunches of ears, to supply it abundantly with oil, which was conveyed to each of its seven lamps through seven pipes. The candlestick of the tabernacle had to be supplied every day with the necessary oil by the hands of the priests. This oil the congregation had to present; and to this end the Lord had to bestow His blessing, that the fruits of the land might be made to prosper, so that the olive-tree should bear its olives, and yield a supply of oil. But this blessing was withdrawn from the nation when it fell away from its God (cf. Joel 1:10). If, then, the candlestick had two olive-trees by its side, yielding oil in such copious abundance, that every one of the seven lamps received its supply through seven pipes, it could never fail to have sufficient oil for a full and brilliant light. This was what was new in the visionary candlestick; and the meaning was this, that the Lord would in future bestow upon His congregation the organs of His Spirit, and maintain them in such direct connection with it, that it would be able to let its light shine with sevenfold brilliancy.

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