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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 4

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes

Verse 1

The angel came again - The angel (as before Zechariah 2:3) had gone forth to receive some fresh instruction from a higher angel or from God.

And awakened me - As a man is awakened out of sleep. Zechariah, overwhelmed by the greatness of the visions, must have sunk down in a sort of stupor, as after the vision of the ram and he-goat, as Gabriel was speaking with him, Daniel says, “I was in a deep sleep on my face toward the ground, and he touched me and set me upright” Daniel 8:18; and again at the voice of the angel, who, after his three weeks’ fast Daniel 10:9, came to declare to him Daniel 10:21 the scripture of truth; and at the Transfiguration, “Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep, and when they were awake, they saw His glory.” Luke 9:32. Osorius: “Wondrous and stupendous mysteries were they which were shown to the divine man. He saw the Branch of the Lord; he saw His invincible might; he saw His brightness of Divine Intelligence and Providence; he saw the amplitude of beauty and dignity. Nailed then and struck still with amazement, while he revolved these things in his mind, sunk in a sort of sleep, he is borne out of himself and, mantled around with darkness, understands that the secret things of Divine Wisdom cannot be perfectly comprehended by the mind of any. This then he attained that, his senses being overpowered, he should see nothing, save that wherein is the sum of wisdom, that this immensity of the divine excellence cannot be searched out. By this sleep he was seized, when he was roused by the angel to see further mysteries.”

Verse 2

And I said, I have looked and behold a candlestick all of gold - The candlestick is the seven-branched candlestick of the tabernacle Exodus 25:31, but with variations purposely introduced to symbolize the fuller and more constant supply of the oil, itself the symbol of God’s Holy Spirit, who:

“Enables with perpetual light

The dullness of our blinded sight.”

The first variation is “her bowl on the top of the candlestick,” containing the oil; then (as dependent on this) the pipes to derive the oil into each lamp, “seven several pipes to the seven lamps,” that is, seven to each; and the two olive trees on either side of the bowl, whose extreme and fine branches poured through two golden pipes the golden oil into the bowl which supplied the lamp. The multiplied conduits imply the large and perfect supply of oil unceasingly supplied, the seven being symbolic of perfection or of the reconciling of God (symbolized by 3) unto the world (symbolized by 4, its four quarters); the spontaneous flow of the golden oil from the olive trees symbolizes the free gift of God.

Verse 4

Osorius: “Awakened from his state of sleep, even thus the prophet seemed slowly to understand what was shown him. He asks then of the instructing angel. The angel, almost amazed, asks if he knowns it not, and when he plainly declares his ignorance, makes clear the enigma of the vision.”

Verse 6

This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel - Osorius: “As if he were to say, the meaning of the vision and scope of what has been exhibited is, ‘God’s doings have almost cried aloud to Zerubbabel that all these visions shall come to an end in their time, not effected by human might nor in fleshly strength, but in power of the Holy Spirit and through Divine Will.’ For the Only Begotten became Man as we are, but He warred not after the flesh, to set up the Church as a candlestick to the world, nor did He, through sensible weapons and armed phalanxes, make those two people His own, or place the spiritual lights on the candlestick; but in the might of His own Spirit He appointed in the Church “first Apostles, then prophets and evangelists” 1 Corinthians 12:28, and all the rest of the saintly band, filling them with divine gifts and enriching them abundantly by the influx of His Spirit.”

Cyril: “Not then in great power nor in fleshly might were the things of Christ, but in power of the Spirit was Satan spoiled, and the ranks of the adverse powers fell with him; and Israel and those who aforetime served the creature rather than the Creator, were called to the knowledge of God through faith. But that He saved all under heaven, not by human arm, but by His own power as God Emmanuel, Hosea too protested, “I will have mercy upon the house of Judah and will save them by the Lord their God, and will not save them by bow nor by sword nor by battle nor by chariots nor by horses nor by horsemen” Hosea 1:7. But exeeeding fittingly was this said to Zerubbabel, who was of the tribe of Judah and at, that time administered the royal seat at Jerusalem. For that he might not think that, since such glorious successes were foreannounced to him, wars would in their season have to be organized, he lifts him up from these unsound and human thoughts, and bids him be thus minded, that the force was divine, the might of Christ, who should bring such things to pass, and not human.”

Having given this key of the whole vision, without explaining its details, God enlarges what He had said to Zerubbabel, as He had in the preceding chapter to Joshua Zechariah 3:8-10.

Verse 7

Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt be a plain - The words have the character of a sacred proverb; “Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased” Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14. Isaiah prophesies the victories of the Gospel in the same imagery, “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight and the rough places plain” Isaiah 40:4. And in the New Testament Paul says, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5. As it is the character of antichrist, that he “opposeth and exalteth himself above everything that is called God” 2 Thessalonians 2:4, so of Satan himself it had been said in the former vision, that he stood at the right hand of Joshua “to to resist him” Joshua 3:1.

So then the mountain symbolizes every resisting power; Satan and all his instruments, who, each in his turn, shall oppose himself anti be brought low. In the first instance, it was Sanballat and his companions, who opposed the rebuilding of the temple, on account of the “exclusiveness” of Zerubbabel and Joshua , because they would not make the temple the abode of a mixed worship of him whom they call your God and of their own idolatries. In all and each of his instruments, the persecuting emperors or the heretics, it was the one adversary. Cyril: “The words seem all but to rebuke the great mountain, that is, Satan, who riseth up and leadeth against Christ the power of his own stubbornness, who was figuratively spoken of before Joshua 3:1. For that as far as it was allowed and in him lay, he warred fiercely against the Saviour, no one would doubt, who considered how he approached Him when fasting in the wilderness, and seeing Him saving all below, willed to make Him his own worshiper, showing Him “all the kingdoms of the world,” saying that all should be His, if He “would fall down and worship him” Matthew 4:8-9. Then out of the very choir of the holy Apostles he snatched the traitor disciple, persuading him to became the instrument of the Jewish perverseness. He asks him, “Who art thou?” disparaging him and making him of no account, great as the mountain was and hard to withstand, and in the way of every one who would bring about such things for Christ, of whom, as we said, Zerubbabel was a type.”

And he shall bring forth the headstone - The foundation of the temple had long been laid. Humanly it still hung in the balance whether they would be permitted to complete it Ezra 5:0: Zechariah foretells absolutely that they would. Two images appear to be used in Holy Scripture, both of which meet in Christ: the one, in which the stone spoken of is the foundation-stone; the other, in which it is the head cornerstone binding the two walls together, which it connects. Both were cornerstones; the one at the base, the other at the summit. In Isaiah the whole emphasis is on the foundation; “Behold Me who have laid in Zion a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, well-founded” Isaiah 28:16. In the Psalm, the building hall been commenced; those who were building had disregarded and despised the stone, but “it became the head of the corner,” crowning and binding the work in one .

Both images together express, how Christ is the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last; the Foundation of the spiritual building, the Church, and its summit and completion; the unseen Foundation which was laid deep in Calvary, and the Summit to which it grows and which holds it firm together. Whence Peter unites the two prophecies, and blends with them that other of Isaiah, that Christ would “be a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence. To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of people but chosen of God and precious, ye also are built up a spiritual house - Whence also it is contained in the Scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious: unto you which believe He is precious, but unto them which be diobedient, the same stone which the builders refused is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence, to them which stumble at the word being disobedient” 1 Peter 2:4-7.

A Jew paraphrases this of the Messiah; Jonathan: “And He shall reveal His Messiah, whose name was spoken from the beginning, and he shall rule over all nations.”

With shoutings, grace, grace unto it - that is, all favor from God unto it, redoubled favors, grace upon grace. The completion of the building was but the commencement of the dispensation under it. It was the beginning not the end. They pray then for the continued and manifold grace of God, that He would carry on the work, which He had begun. Perseverance, by the grace of God, crowns the life of the Christian; our Lord’s abiding presence in grace with His Church unto the end of the world, is the witness that He who founded her upholds her in being.

Verse 8

And the word of the Lord - Keil: “This word of the Lord is not addressed through ‘the interpreting angel,’ but direct from the Lord, and that through the ‘Angel of the Lord’ . For though in the first instance the words, “the hands of Zerubbabel etc.,” relate to the building of the material temple, and announce its completion through Zerubbabel yet the inference, “and thou shalt know theft the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you,” shows that the meaning is not exhausted thereby, but that here too this building is mentioned only as a type of the building of the spiritual temple ; and the completion of the typical temple is but a pledge of the completion of the true temple. For not through the completion of the material temple, but only through the building of the kingdom of God, shadowed forth by it, can Judah know, that the Angel of the Lord was sent to him.”

Verse 10

The simplest rendering is marked by the accents. “For who hath despised the day of small things? and (that is, seeing that there have rejoiced and seen the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, these seven, the Eyes of the Lord, they are running to and fro in all the earth,” 1:e., since God hath with joy and good-pleasure beheld the progress of the work of Zerubbabel, who can despise the day of small things? The day of small things was not only that of the foundation of the temple, but of its continued building also. The old men indeed, “that had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes” Ezra 4:12. But while in progress too, Haggai asks, “Who is left among you that saw this house in its first glory? And how do ye see it now? is not in your eyes such as it, as nothing?” Haggai 2:3. But that temple was to see the day of great things, when “the later glory of this house shall be greater than the former, and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts” Haggai 2:9.

They are the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro - He uses almost the words of the prophet Hanani to Asa, “the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong in behalf of those whose heart is perfect toward Him.” 2 Chronicles 16:9 yet this assurance that God’s watchful providence is over the whole earth, betokens more than the restoration of the material temple, whose only hindrance could be the will of one man, Darius.

The day of small things - is especially God’s day, whose “strength is made perfect in weakness; who raised Joseph from the prison, David from the sheepfold, Daniel from slavery, and converted the world by the fishermen and the tentmaker, having Himself first become the Carpenter. “Wouldest thou be great? Become little.” “Whenever,” said Theresa, (Ribera, vita Ther. ap. Lap.), “I am to receive some singular grace, I first annihilate myself, sink into my own nothingness, so as to seem to myself to be nothing, be capable of nothing.”

Verse 11

And I answered and said - The vision, as a whole, had been explained to him. The prophet asks as to subordinate parts, which seemed perhaps inconsistent with the whole. If the whole imports that everything should be done by the Spirit of God, not by human power, what means it that there are these two olive-trees? And when the Angel returned no answer, to invite perhaps closer attention and a more definite question, he asks again;

Verse 12

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.

Verse 14

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 3:0 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.”

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Zechariah 4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/zechariah-4.html. 1870.
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