Zechariah 4:14
Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
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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.These are the two sons of oil - Probably not as themselves anointed, (for another word is used for this. Which stand by the Lord of the whole earth, as His servants and ministers. The candlestick is almost authoritatively interpreted for us, by the adoption of the symbol in the Revelation, where our Lord is exhibited "as walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" Revelation 1:13; Revelation 2:1, and, it is said, "the seven candlesticks are the seven Churches" Revelation 1:20; and our Lord says to the Apostles, on whom He founded the Church; "Ye are the light of the world: men light a candle, and put it on a candlestick, and it giveth light to them that are in the house" (Matthew 5:14-15, compare Philippians 2:15). Cyril: "The golden candlestick is the Church, as being honored in the world, most bright in virtues, raised on high exceedingly by the doctrines of the true knowledge of God. But there are seven lamps, having light, not of their own, but brought to them from without, and nourished by the supplies through the olive tree. These signify the holy apostles, evangelists, and those who, each in their season, were teachers of the churches, receiving, like lamps, into their mind and heart the illumination from Christ, which is nourished by the supplies of the Spirit, casting forth light to those who are in the house."

Theodoret: "The pipes of the lamps, which pour in the oil, signify the unstinted prodigality of the loving-kindness of God to man." The most difficult of explanation (as is plain from the variety of interpretations) is this last symbol of the spikes of the olive-tree, through whom flows the oil of the Holy Spirit to the candlesticks, and which yet represent created beings, ministers, and servants of God. Perhaps it represents that, in the church, grace is ministered through men, as Paul says, "Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, when He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men. And He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastor's and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ - that we - may grow up into Him in all things which is the Head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love" Ephesians 4:7-8, Ephesians 4:11-12, Ephesians 4:14-16.

What Paul expresses by "all the body, having nourishment ministered and being knit together by joints and bands, from the Head, and so increasing with the increase of God" Colossians 2:19, (as he elsewhere speaks of "the ministration of the Spirit" 2 Corinthians 3:8; "he that ministereth to you the Spirit" Galatians 3:5) "that" Zechariah may express by the oil being poured, through the living tubes, the bowl, the sevenfold pipes, into the lamps, which shone with the God-given light. So Paul speaks again, of "having this treasure in earthen vessels" 2 Corinthians 4:7. Joshua and Zerubbabel, as representatives of the priestly and royal offices, shadowed forth what was united in Christ, and so, in their several offices, they might be included in the symbol of the olive-tree, they could not exhaust it; for people who, having served God in their generation, were to pass away, could not be alone intended in a vision, which describes the abiding being of the church.

Osorius: "Christ is both all-holy Priest and supreme eternal King. In both ways He supplies to us the light which He brought. For from Him piety and righteousness flow unceasingly to the Church, that it never lack the heavenly light. The oil is expressed into tubes; thence passed through pipes into the vessel which contains the lamps; to designate the various suppliers of light, which, the nearer they are to the effluence of the oil, the more they resemble Him by whom they are appointed to so divine an office. The seven lamps are the manifold Churches, distinct in place but most closely bound together by the consent of one faith and by the bond of charity. For although the Church is one, yet it is distinct according to the manifold variety of nations. They are said to be seven, both on account of the seven gifts of the Spirit, mentioned by Isaiah, and because in the Numbers 3 and 4, is contained an emblem of piety and righteousness. There are 7 pipes to each lamp, to signify that each has need of many instruments, that the light may be maintained longer. For as there are diversities of gifts, so must there needs be the functions of many ministers, to complete one work. But the lamps are set in a circle, that the oil of one may flow more readily into others, and it, in turn, may receive from others their superabundance, to set forth the communion of love and the indissoluble community of faith."

14. anointed ones—literally, "sons of oil" (Isa 5:1, Margin). Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel the civil ruler, must first be anointed with grace themselves, so as to be the instruments of furnishing it to others (compare 1Jo 2:20, 27). Not Enoch and Elias, nor the two witnesses, nor Peter and Paul, nor the two churches of Jew and Gentile; nor principally Zerubbabel and Joshua, though perhaps the exposition may glance upon them, and the two orders, magistracy and ministry, in them; as these are types of Christ in his two offices. King and Priest, or Christ and the Comforter: in this I determine nothing.

Then said he, These are the two anointed ones,.... Or "sons of oil" (t). Some think the gifts and graces of the Spirit are meant, which come from the God of all grace, remain with Christ, are given freely by him to the sons of God, and are always for the service of the church, and sufficient for it; others, Christ the Son of God, and the Holy Spirit. Christ is the anointed One, or son of oil, being anointed with the Holy Ghost to the office of Prophet, Priest, and King; and with which oil he has supplied his candlestick, the church, in all ages. The Holy Spirit is the oil of gladness, and that anointing which teacheth all things. And this is the sense of Capellus, as has been observed on Zechariah 4:2. And the learned and judicious Pemble makes a "query" of it, whether Christ and the Comforter; or Christ in his two natures; or Christ in his two offices of King and Priest of his church; or how else the words are to be understood: and this was the sense of Origen long ago, though censured by Jerom; it may be the rather, because he interprets the candlestick of the Father. But these epithets, "anointed ones", and "sons of oil", are very suitable to them; the one being called the Messiah, or anointed; and the other the unction, and the oil of gladness: and indeed, if by the golden oil emptied out of them is meant the grace of God, as it frequently signifies in Scripture, no other can be meant; since they are the inexhaustible fountain of all grace and gifts to the church in all ages, whereby it is supplied and supported; and may be said to "stand before the Lord of the whole earth", God the Father; who does not immediately by himself administer to the church, but by Christ the Head of it; and Christ communicates by his Spirit, whom he sends from himself, and from the Father: and the rather they may be thought to be meant, since the ministers of the word seem to be designed by the seven lamps which receive the oil, or gifts and graces of the Spirit, fitting them for their work, from the bowl on the top of the candlestick, which is supplied with it from these two olive trees; and therefore must be distinct from them, or otherwise they will be said to be supplied from themselves: though, whereas both Christ and the Spirit communicate by the word and the ordinances, administered by the faithful dispensers of the word; hence those witnesses of Christ, in all ages, may with propriety enough be called two anointed ones, and "the two olive trees", as they are in Revelation 11:4 where there is a plain allusion to this passage. The Targum renders the words, "these are the two sons of princes", or "great men". Some Jewish writers interpret them of their two Messiahs, Messiah ben Joseph, and Messiah ben David (u). Some interpreters understand by them Enoch and Elias; others Peter and Paul; others, better, with Kimchi and Ben Melech, Joshua and Zerubbabel, the one anointed for the priesthood, and the other for the kingdom; of which two offices Jarchi interprets them; and others the two churches, Jewish and Christian.

That stand by the Lord of the whole earth; the Creator and Governor of the universe: ministers of the word are on his side, abide by his truths and ordinances, and are faithful to his cause and interest: or, "before the Lord of the whole earth" (w); they are his ministers, and serve him; they "stand", as it becomes them, which shows their work is not done; and that it is the Lord's work they are engaged in; and that they continue and persevere in it: likewise it shows that they are under his eye, notice, dispose, care, and protection; that they are in his favour, and enjoy his presence. How this may be applied to the two divine Persons standing by or before God the Father has been before observed, and to be understood of them as in their office capacity.

(t) "filii olei", V. L. Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, Tigurine version, Vatablus, Cocceius, Burkius. (u) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 114. 3.((w) "super Dominum", Montanus.

Then said he, These are the two {l} anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

(l) Which were always green and full of oil, so that still they poured forth oil into the lamps: signifying, that God will continually maintain and preserve his Church, and endue it still with abundance and perfection of grace.

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.

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.

Zechariah 4:14This 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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