Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Zechariah 4

Verse 1



(1) Came again, and waked.—Better, possibly, again waked me, the construction being similar to that of Zechariah 5:1. But it is not impossible that the angel had gone forth, as before (Zechariah 2:3), to receive some fresh instruction from a higher angel, or from God, and that now he came back again. From this verse it would appear that between some of the visions the prophet fell into a state of lethargy, and that the angel roused him; or it may be that all the visions are seen in a dream, and that he only seemed in his dream to be woke up. (See Note on Zechariah 1:8.)

Verse 2

(2) This visionary candlestick differed in four points from the original of the Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple—viz., in having “a bowl,” “pipes,” and “olive trees” each side of it, and “two golden spouts.”

With a bowl upon the top of it.—This is better than the marg., her bowl—i.e., its bowl—because this was one (a) of the points of difference between the visionary candlestick and its original. But the “seven lamps,” on the other hand, were in agreement with the original; therefore the prophet says, “and his seven,” i.e., its seven lamps, viz., the seven lamps proper to it. So, again, when he comes to the next point of difference, (b) the pipes, he does not say “his pipes,” nor does he (Zechariah 4:3) say (c) “his two olive-trees.”

Seven pipes.—Better, seven pipes apiece. There were, then, forty-nine pipes, but as the candlestick is only visionary, we need not trouble ourselves about the difficulties of its construction. The number seven in the original candlestick was, perhaps, mystical, in which case the forty-nine pipes in the vision would be so too. At any rate, it would seem that a great number of pipes is mentioned to indicate the unlimited nature of the supply of oil: “My strength is sufficient for thee.” The distributive use of the numerals in this passage has been much disputed, but we have, we think, satisfactorily established it in our Hebrew Student’s Commentary, in loc. The only other admissible interpretation is that of Koehler—viz., that the number is “seven and seven,” not “fourteen,” because one group of seven lamps was for supplying the lamps from the reservoir, and the other group of seven to connect the seven lamps. The English version follows LXX., Syriac, and Vulg., in omitting the first word “seven.” Hitzig cancels the numeral before “its lamps,” and renders “and its lamps upon it were seven, and there were seven pipes to the lamps,” &c. But all such emendations are arbitrary and unnecessary. Pressel thinks that “seven” is repeated on account of its importance, as corresponding to “the seven eyes of the Lord;” he renders “seven was the number of its lamps above the same—seven—and seven the number of its pipes.”

Verse 4

(4) These does not refer merely to the olive-trees, though in Zechariah 4:11-12 they are shown to be the salient point in the vision, but to everything described in Zechariah 4:2-3.

Verse 6

(6) This . . . word.—The vision is called “the word,” as being a symbolical prophecy. (Comp. Zechariah 1:7.) As the golden candlestick was placed in the holy place of the Tabernacle (and the Temple) “before the LORD, as an everlasting statute for their generations on behalf of the children of Israel” (Exodus 27:21), so did the congregation on whose behalf (or as a symbol of which) was the candlestick, require a sanctuary in which to let their light shine before the Lord, and from which it might shine before men. This sanctuary Zerubbabel had founded, and his hands were to complete (Zechariah 4:9); but not by any merit or strength of his own or of Israel, but simply by the Spirit of the Lord of Hosts, which would revive “the dry bones” of the house of Israel, “that they should live, and be placed in their own land” (Ezekiel 37:11-14).

Verse 7

(7) O great mountain?—This is figurative of the colossal difficulties put in the way of the completion of the building of the Temple by the neighbouring powers. (Comp. Matthew 21:21.)

Thou shalt become a plain.—This certainly gives the true meaning of the original, which, however, is singularly graphic, and consists of but one word—literally, to a plain: i.e., thou shalt become. LXX. mistake the word for an Aramaic infinitive, and render τοῦ κατορθῶσαι, “that thou shouldest bring it to a successful issue.” In the preceding vision, Joshua, as the high priest—in this, Zerubbabel, as the Prince of Judah—is the representative of the nation; in Zechariah 4:14 the two are referred to simultaneously.

Grace, grace unto it—i.e., unto the head stone which, as being the crowning stone of the building, is used to represent the whole Temple. The words are a prayer, which takes the form of a shout of triumph (like Hosanna!), and mean, May God’s grace or favour rest on the house for ever!

Verse 8

(8) Me.—The word of the Lord now comes directly to the prophet, as, possibly, in Zechariah 2:6-13.

Verse 9

(9) Thou . . . unto you.—Such a change in number is common in Hebrew, especially when addressing a nation, which at one time is looked on as a corporate unity, at another as a collection of individuals. Or “thou” may have been addressed to Zerubbabel, and “you” to the people, when the prophet delivered his oracle to them.

Verse 10

(10) For who hath . . . small things?—i.e., Surely no one, who intended to do great things, ever despised the day of small things. The interrogative sentence is practically a prohibition: “Let none despise the day of small things.”

For they shall rejoice . . . whole earth.—Better, Then these seven shall with joy behold the plummet line in the hand of Zerubbabel; the eyes of the Lord—they sweep through the whole earth—i.e., if ye despise not this day of small things, when ye see but the foundation of the Temple laid, the providential care of the Lord (comp. Zechariah 3:9) shall rejoice to see Zerubbabel taking the last perpendicular of the completed work; but if ye doubt the possibility of this, know that God’s providence extends over the whole earth, and that, therefore, He can make all things and all nations work together for the good of His chosen, Israel.

Verse 11

(11) Then answered I . . .—The prophet is not yet quite satisfied as to the meaning of the vision; he desires to know why there are two olive-trees. For as yet only Zerubbabel has been mentioned, and he could hardly be represented by two olive-trees.

Verse 12

(12) Olive branches.—Better, bunches of olives. Two important points in the vision are here incidentally introduced for the first time: viz., the bunch of fruits on each olive-tree, and the “two golden pipes,” or rather, spouts.

Which through . . . themselves.—Better, Which are resting in the two golden spouts, which pour out from themselves the gold [en oil]. The meaning appears to be that on each side of the golden bowl at the top of the candlestick was a golden spout turned upwards, into which the two clusters of olives poured their oil spontaneously, and from which the oil flowed into the bowl, and thence through the forty-nine pipes to the seven lamps. “The gold” stands for pure bright oil. Though the word which we render “resting in” (LXX., ἐν ταῖς χερσὶ, “in the hands “) might mean “through”—i.e., “by means of”—the rendering of the English version is inadmissible, because the definite article (equivalent here to the relative) is prefixed to the participle, “empty,” or “pour out.” LXX., τῶν ἐπιχεόντων καὶ ὰπαναγόντων τας ἐπαρυστρίδας τὰς χρυσᾶς, “which pour into, and lead up into the golden funnels,” taking the words “from themselves as” an active participle, and understanding “the gold” as “golden funnels,” and not “golden oil,” as we do.

Verse 14

(14) Two anointed ones.—Literally, as margin, two sons of oil: viz., Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the Prince of Judah, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” as His appointed instruments, and through whom He causes His Spirit to flow to His congregation. Thus, as by the preceding vision it was signified that the religious head of the nation was accepted by God and purified, so in this vision the civil head receives the assurance of God’s assistance in his work. The anointed priest and the anointed prince are mentioned together in the last verse to show that it is by their joint efforts that the prosperity of the nation is to be brought about. It shows too that “in religious development, outward or inward, the efficient cause always lies behind what is seen. God uses human instruments, and rarely, if ever, operates independently of them, but when they effect their aim, the power comes from above” (Chambers).

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.