A vision of a candlestick, with two olive trees. (1-7) Further encouragement. (8-10) An explanation respecting the olive trees. (11-14)
Verses 1-7 The prophet's spirit was willing to attend, but the flesh was weak. We should beg of God that, whenever he speaks to us, he would awaken us, and we should then stir up ourselves. The church is a golden candlestick, or lamp-bearer, set up for enlightening this dark world, and holding forth the light of Divine revelation. Two olive trees were seen, one on each side the candlestick, from which oil flowed into the bowl without ceasing. God brings to pass his gracious purposes concerning his church, without any art or labour of man; sometimes he makes use of his instruments, yet he needs them not. This represented the abundance of Divine grace, for the enlightening and making holy the ministers and members of the church, and which cannot be procured or prevented by any human power. The vision assures us that the good work of building the temple, should be brought to a happy end. The difficulty is represented as a great mountain. But all difficulties shall vanish, and all the objections be got over. Faith will remove mountains, and make them plains. Christ is our Zerubbabel; mountains of difficulty were in the way of his undertaking, but nothing is too hard for him. What comes from the grace of God, may, in faith, be committed to the grace of God, for he will not forsake the work of his own hands.
Verses 8-10 The exact fulfilment of Scripture prophecies is a convincing proof of their Divine original. Though the instruments be weak and unlikely, yet God often chooses such, to bring about great things by them. Let not the dawning light be despised; it will shine more and more to the perfect day. Those who despaired of finishing the work, shall rejoice when they see Zerubbabel giving directions what to do, and taking care that the work be done. It is a comfort to us that the same all-wise, almighty Providence, which governs the earth, is in particular conversant about the church. All that have the plummet in their hands, must look up to the eyes of the Lord, have constant regard to Divine Providence, act in dependence on its guidance and submission to its disposals. Let us fix our faith on Christ, and view Him carrying on his work according to his own glorious plan, and daily bringing his spiritual building nearer to completion.
Verses 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.
Zechariah 4:1-14 . FIFTH VISION. The golden candlestick and the two olive trees. The temple shall be completed by the aid of God's Spirit.
1. waked me--The prophet was lying in a state of ecstatic slumber with astonishment at the previous vision. "Came again, and waked me," does not imply that the angel had departed and now returned, but is an idiom for "waked me again."
2. candlestick--symbolizing the Jewish theocracy; and ultimately, the Church of which the Jewish portion is to be the head: the light-bearer (so the original is of "lights," Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:16 , Philippians 2:15 ) to the world.
all . . . gold--all pure in doctrine and practice, precious and indestructible; such is the true ideal of the Church; such she shall be ( Psalms 45:13 ).
bowl upon the top--In the candlestick of the tabernacle the plural is used, bowls (Exodus 25:1-31:18'). The Hebrew implies that it was the fountain of supply of oil to the lamps. Christ at the head ("on the top") of the Church is the true fountain, of whose fulness of the Spirit all we receive grace ( John 1:16 ).
his seven lamps--united in one stem; so in Exodus 25:32 . But in Revelation 1:12 the seven candlesticks are separate. The Gentile churches will not realize their unity till the Jewish Church as the stem unites all the lamps in one candlestick ( Romans 11:16-24 ). The "seven lamps," in Revelation 4:5 , are the "seven Spirits of God."
seven pipes--feeding tubes, seven apiece from the "bowl" to each lamp (see Margin) [MAURER and CALVIN]; literally, "seven and seven": forty-nine in all. The greater the number of oil-feeding pipes, the brighter the light of the lamps. The explanation in Zechariah 4:6 is, that man's power by itself can neither retard nor advance God's work, that the real motive-power is God's Spirit. The seven times seven imply the manifold modes by which the Spirit's grace is imparted to the Church in her manifold work of enlightening the world.
3. two olive trees--supplying oil to the bowl. The Holy Ghost, who fills with His fulness Messiah (the anointed: the "bowl"), from whom flow supplies of grace to the Church.
by it--literally, "upon it," that is, growing so as somewhat to overtop it. For the explanation of the "two" see Zechariah 4:12 Zechariah 4:14 .
4. The prophet is instructed in the truths meant, that we may read them with the greater reverence and attention [CALVIN].
5. Knowest thou not, &c.--Not a reproof of his ignorance, but a stimulus to reflection on the mystery.
No, my lord--ingenious confession of ignorance; as a little child he casts himself for instruction at the feet of the Lord.
6. Not by might . . . but by my Spirit--As the lamps burned continually, supplied with oil from a source (the living olive trees) which man did not make, so Zerubbabel need not be disheartened because of his weakness; for as the work is one to be effected by the living Spirit (compare Haggai 2:5 ) of God, man's weakness is no obstacle, for God's might will perfect strength out of weakness ( Hosea 1:7 , 2 Corinthians 12:10 , Hebrews 11:34 ). "Might and power" express human strength of every description, physical, mental, moral. Or, "might" is the strength of many (an "army"); "power," that of one man [PEMBELLUS] God can save, "whether with many, or with them that have no power" ( 2 Chronicles 14:11 ; compare 1 Samuel 14:6 ). So in the conversion of sinners ( 1 Corinthians 3:6 , 2 Corinthians 10:4 ). "Zerubbabel" is addressed as the chief civil authority in directing the work.
7. All mountain-like obstacles ( Isaiah 40:4 , 49:11 ) in Zerubbabel's way shall be removed, so that the crowning top-stone shall be put on, and the completion of the work be acknowledged as wholly of "grace." Antitypically, the antichristian last foe of Israel, the obstacle preventing her establishment in Palestine, about to be crushed before Messiah, is probably meant ( Jeremiah 51:25 , Daniel 2:34 Daniel 2:44 , Matthew 21:44 ).
bring forth the headstone--Primarily, bring it forth from the place where it was chiselled and give it to the workmen to put on the top of the building. It was customary for chief magistrates to lay the foundation, and also the crowning top-stone (compare Ezra 3:10 ). Antitypically, the reference is to the time when the full number of the spiritual Church shall be completed, and also when "all Israel shall be saved" (compare Romans 11:26 , Hebrews 11:40 , Hebrews 12:22 Hebrews 12:23 , Revelation 7:4-9 ).
Grace, grace--The repetition expresses, Grace from first to last ( Isaiah 26:3 , Margin). Thus the Jews are urged to pray perseveringly and earnestly that the same grace which completed it may always preserve it. "Shoutings" of acclamation accompanied the foundation of the literal temple ( Ezra 3:11 Ezra 3:13 ). So shoutings of "Hosanna" greeted the Saviour in entering Jerusalem ( Matthew 21:9 ), when about to complete the purchase of salvation by His death: His Body being the second temple, or place of God's inhabitation ( John 2:20 John 2:21 ). So when the full number of the saints and of Israel is complete, and God shall say, "It is done," then again shall "a great voice of much people in heaven" attribute all to the "grace" of God, saying, "Alleluia! Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unto the Lord our God" ( Revelation 19:1 Revelation 19:6 ). Psalms 118:22 regards Him as "the headstone of the corner," that is, the foundation-stone. Compare the angels acclamations at His birth, Luke 2:14 . Here it is the top-stone. Messiah is not only the "Author," but also the Finisher ( Hebrews 12:2 ). "Grace" is ascribed "unto it," that is the stone, Messiah. Hence the benediction begins, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 13:14 ).
9. Zerubbabel . . . shall . . . finish it--( Ezra 6:15 ) in the sixth year of Darius' reign.
Lord . . . sent me unto you--( Zechariah 2:9 ). The Divine Angel announces that in what He has just spoken, He has been commissioned by God the Father.
10. who . . . despised . . . small things--He reproves their ungrateful unbelief, which they felt because of the humble beginning, compared with the greatness of the undertaking; and encourages them with the assurance that their progress in the work, though small, was an earnest of great and final success, because Jehovah's eye is upon Zerubbabel and the work, to support Him with His favor. Contrast, "great is the day of Jezreel" ( Hosea 1:11 ) with "the day of small things" here.
they shall rejoice . . . with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord--rather, "they, even those seven eyes of the Lord (compare Zechariah 3:9 ), which . . . shall rejoice and see (that is, rejoicingly see) the plummet (literally, the 'stone of tin') in the hand of Zerubbabel" [MOORE]; the plummet in his hand indicating that the work is going forward to its completion. The Hebrew punctuation, however, favors English Version, of which the sense is, They who incredulously "despised" such "small" beginnings of the work as are made now, shall rejoicingly see its going on to completion under Zerubbabel, "with (the aid of) those seven," namely, the "seven eyes upon one stone" ( Zechariah 3:9 ): which are explained, "They are the eyes of the Lord which," &c. [PEMBELLUS]. So differently do men and Jehovah regard the "small" beginnings of God's work ( Ezra 3:12 , Haggai 2:3 ). Men "despised" the work in its early stage: God rejoicingly regards it, and shall continue to do so.
run to and fro, &c.--Nothing in the whole earth escapes the eye of Jehovah, so that He can ward off all danger from His people, come from what quarter it may, in prosecuting His work ( Proverbs 15:3 , 1 Corinthians 16:9 ).
11, 12. Zechariah three times ( Zechariah 4:4 Zechariah 4:11 Zechariah 4:12 ) 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 ( Zechariah 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" ( Zechariah 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 ( Zechariah 14:9 , Daniel 2:44 , Revelation 11:15 ). Compare the description of the As in Revelation 11:3 Revelation 11:4 , 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, Matthew 17:3 Matthew 17:11 , with Malachi 4:4 Malachi 4:5 , John 1:21 ) with Moses. Revelation 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 Exodus 7:19 , 1 Kings 17:1 , Luke 4:25 , James 5:16 James 5:17 ). The period is the same, "three years and six months"; the scene also is in Israel ( Revelation 11:8 ), "where our Lord was crucified." It is supposed that for the first three and a half years of the hebdomad ( Daniel 9:20-27 ), God will be worshipped in the temple; in the latter three and a half years, Antichrist will break the covenant ( Daniel 9:27 ), and set himself up in the temple to be worshipped as God ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4 ). The witnesses prophesy the former three and a half years, while corruptions prevail and faith is rare ( Luke 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. Zechariah 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 ( John 3:34 ). But this does not exclude the primary application to Joshua and Zerubbabel, "anointed" ( Zechariah 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.
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 ( Psalms 52:8 , Romans 12:1 ) fed by God.
13. Knowest thou not--God would awaken His people to zeal in learning His truth.
14. anointed ones--literally, "sons of oil" ( Isaiah 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 1 John 2:20 1 John 2:27 ).