Zechariah 4:12

12 And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through[a] the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?

Zechariah 4:12 Meaning and Commentary

Zechariah 4:12

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, ( Psalms 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 ) ( Revelation 3:18 ) 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 2 Corinthians 3:8 ) 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.

Zechariah 4:12 In-Context

10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
11 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?
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?
13 And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.

Footnotes 1

  • [a]. through: Heb. by the hand of