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.
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.