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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Zechariah 4

Verse 1

And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,

The golden candlestick and the two olive trees-The temple shall be completed by the aid of God's Spirit.

And the angel that talked with me came again, and 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."

Verse 2

And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:

Behold, a candlestick - or chandelier with seven lights: borrowed from the candlestick of the Mosaic tabernacle (Ezek. 25:31 , etc.), symbolizing the Jewish theocracy, and ultimately the Church, of which the Jewish portion is to be the head: the light-bearer (so the original [foosteeres] is of "lights," Philippians 2:15, "among whom ye shine as lights in the world;" cf. Matthew 5:14; Matthew 5:16) to the world.

All of 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).

With a bowl upon the top of it - in the candlestick of the tabernacle the plural is used, bowls (Exodus 25:31). The Hebrew [ gulaah (H1543), Song of Solomon 4:12 ] implies that it was the fountain of supply of oil to the lamps. 'A candlestick, with its bowl' or 'spring' for supply. Christ at the head ("upon the top") of the Church is the true fountain, of whose fullness of the Spirit all we receive grace (John 1:16).

And his seven lamps thereon - 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 until 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" - i:e., the Holy Spirit, in His infinite fullness and perfection.

And seven pipes to the seven lamps - feeding tubes, seven a-piece from the "bowl" to each lamp (see margin, Maurer and Calvin) [ shib`aah (H7651) wªshib`aah (H7651)]; literally, seven and seven: 49 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. The seven pipes here answer to "the seven eyes" of Yahweh in the vision (Zechariah 3:9). The seven-fold supply of oil implies the full and perfect supply of the Holy Spirit granted to Zerubbabel (the representative of the Jewish Church), enabling him to overcome all obstacles: so that as his "hands laid the foundation. of the house," so "his hands should also finish" (Zechariah 4:9). Messiah alone, the antitype to Zerubbabel, has the Spirit in infinite fullness; "for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (John 3:34).

Verse 3

And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.

And two olive trees by it - supplying oil to the bowl. The Holy Spirit is meant, who fills with His fullness Messiah (the anointed, the "bowl"), from whom flow supplies of grace to the Church. The Holy Spirit supplies with His infinite fullness Jesus the "bowl," or fount at the head of the Church, for the two-fold function (answering to the two olive trees) of bringing to man the grace of atonement, as our great Priest, and the grace of sanctification and glorification, as our King.

By it, [ `aaleyhaa (H5921)] - literally upon it - i:e., growing so as somewhat to overtop it. For the explanation of the "two," see Zechariah 4:12; Zechariah 4:14.

Verse 4

So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?

What are these, my lord? The prophet instructed in the truths meant, that we may read them with the greater reverence and attention (Calvin).

Verse 5

Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

Then the angel that talked with me answered ... Knowest thou not what these be? Not a reproof of his ignorance, but a stimulus to reflection on the mystery.

And I said, No, my lord - ingenuous confession of ignorance: as a little child, he casts himself for instruction at the feet of the lord.

Verse 6

Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.

This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, 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; because as the work is one to be effected by the living Spirit which God had promised should "remain among" His people (cf. Haggai 2:5), man's weakness is no obstacle; because God's might will perfect strength out of weakness (Hosea 1:7; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10; Hebrews 11:34). "Might" and "power" express human strength of every, description, physical, mental, or moral. Or, "might" is the strength of many combined [an "army," literally, chayil (H2428)]; "power," that of one man (Pembellus). [Others make kowach, "power," to signify strenuousness and mighty exploits: chayil (H2428), "might," valour, ability.] God can save, "whether with many, or with them that have no power" (2 Chronicles 14:11: cf. 1 Samuel 14:6, "There is no restraint to the Lord, to save by many or by few"). So, in the conversion of sinners, the whole work is God's ultimately; ministers are only "mighty through God" (1 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 10:4). "Zerubbabel" is addressed as the chief civil authority in directing the work.

Verse 7

Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain - all mountain-like obstacles (Isaiah 40:4; Isaiah 49:11) in Zerubbabel's way shall be removed, so that the crowning topstone 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, "the stone cut out of the mountain without hands," is probably meant (it is foreshadowed by Babylon, the "destroying mountain," Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:34; Daniel 2:45; Matthew 21:44).

And he shall bring forth the head-stone thereof - primarily, He shall bring it forth from the place where it was chiseled, 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 (cf. Ezra 3:10). Antitypically, the reference is to the time when the full number of spiritual Israel, the Church, shall be completed, and also when "all (literal) Israel shall be saved" (cf. Romans 11:26; Hebrews 11:40; Hebrews 12:22-23; Rev. 7:49 ).

With shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it! The repetition expresses, Grace, perfect; grace from first to last (margin, Isaiah 26:3; Isaiah 57:19). Thus the Jews are urged to pray perseveringly and earnestly that the same grace which completed it may always preserve it. "Shoutings," of acclamation, "with a great shout ... of joy," 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 2:20-21). So, when the full number of the saints and of Israel shall be 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 honour, and power unto the Lord our God" (Revelation 19:1; Revelation 19:6). Psalms 118:22 regards Him as "the head-stone of the corner" - i:e., 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 of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). "Grace" is ascribed "unto it" - i:e., the stone, Messiah. Hence, the benediction begins, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Verse 8

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 9

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.

The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it - (Ezra 6:15). This came to pass "on the third day of the month Adar," in the sixth year of Darius' reign.

And thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath 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 Eather.

Verse 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.

For who hath despised the day of 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 Yahweh's eye is upon Zerubbabel and the work, to support him with His favour. Contrast "great shall be the day of Jezreel" (Hosea 1:11) with "the day small of things" here.

For they shall rejoice ... with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord - rather (as there is no with in the Hebrew), 'they, even those seven eyes of the Lord (cf. Zechariah 3:9), which run to and fro though the whole earth, shall rejoice and see (i:e., shall 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 and collocation of the words, however, favour the English version, of which the sense is, They who incredulously "despised" such "small" beginnings of the work as are made now, shall rejoicingly see it 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," etc. (Pembellus.) So differently do men and Yahweh regard the "small" beginnings of God's work. Thus "many of the priests and Levites, and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice" (Ezra 3:12; Haggai 2:3). Men "despised" the work in its early stage: God rejoicingly regards it, and shall continue to do so.

Which run to and fro through the whole earth. Nothing in the whole earth escapes the eye of Yahweh, so that He can ward off all danger from His people, come from what quarter it may, and can "open great and effectual doors of usefulness," in spite of the "many adversaries," in prosecuting His work (Proverbs 15:3; 1 Corinthians 16:9).

Verses 11-12

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?

What are these two olive trees? Zechariah three times (Zechariah 4:4; Zechariah 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 afterward calls "branches," as, on closer looking, he observes that the "branches" of the trees are the channels through which a continual flow of oil drops 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 two-fold 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," i:e., 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 offices of the "priests" and "prince;" and in Isaiah 49:23, being the nursing fathers of the Church, and of Israel and Jerusalem primarily; and Ezekiel 44:1-31; Ezekiel 45:1-25; Ezekiel 46:1-24. As in Revelation 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 (cf. the transfiguration-the type of the millennial Church-wherein Elijah and Moses appear, Matthew 17:3; Matthew 17:11, with Malachi 4:4-5; John 1:21) with Moses. Revelation 11:16, which mentions the very miracles performed by Elijah and Moses (shutting heaven, so as not to rain, and turning water into blood), favours this (cf. Exodus 7:19; 1 Kings 17:1; Luke 4:25; James 5:16-17). The period is the same, "three years and six months;" the scene also is in Israel-Jerusalem (Revelation 11:8), "where our Lord was crucified."

It is supposed that for the first three and a half years, of the hebdomad (Daniel 9:1-27) 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 worshipper 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 fulfillment 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 Melchizedek were divided between two until they meet in Messiah the antitype. Zechariah 6:11-13 accords with this. The Holy Spirit in this His two-fold power of applying to man the grace of the atonement through Christ our high priest, and that of sanctification and glorification through Christ our King, must in one point of view be meant by the two olive trees which supply the bowl at the top of the candlestick - i:e., Messiah at the head of the Church; because it is He who filled Jesus with all the fullness of His unction (John 3:34). But this does not exclude the primary application to Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two that were "anointed" (Zechariah 4:14) with grace, to minister to the Jewish Church: and so applicable to the two-fold supports of the Church, who are anointed with the Spirit, the prince and the priest, or minister. For as He is the two-fold "tree," so they are the "branches." This probably is the design of the change of phrase from "trees" to "branches" (Zechariah 4:3; Zechariah 4:11-12). So the Lord Jesus saith, "I am the vine, ye are the branches" (John 15:5).

Branches, [shibelet] - literally, ears; so the olive branches are called, because as ears are full of grain, so the olive branches are full of olives.

Which through - literally, by the hand of - i:e., by the agency of "the golden pipes."

Empty the golden oil - literally, gold - i:e., 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.

Verse 13

And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.

And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? God would awaken his people to zeal in learning His truth.

Verse 14

Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the LORD of the whole earth.

Then said he, These are the two anointed ones [ bªneey (H1121) hayitshaar (H3323)] - literally, sons of oil (margin, Isaiah 6:1). 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 (cf. 1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27).

Remarks:

(1) The Church, in both dispensations alike, is compared to a "candlestick" (Zechariah 4:2); because her function in all ages is to be the light of this dark world, by "holding forth the words of life" (Philippians 2:15-16).

(2) The Church is designed to be all pure in her faith, more precious than "gold" indestructible by the fire of persecutions and trials. Her light is not self-derived or self-sustained. She draws all her supply of grace from the "fountain," Christ Jesus, who is her Head. Holy ordinances, prayer, praise, meditation, the Word, Christian communion, ministers, and the sacraments, are the channels whereby the oil of grace flows from the divine "bowl upon the top" of the candlestick, to the several particular churches and their individual members. The perfect number seven implies the perfect completeness of the means of grace vouchsafed for the Church's spiritual life and light.

(3) As the "bowl" or fountain above was ever renewed by the oil from the two living "olive trees," so Messiah as man was filled with the infinite fullness of the Holy Spirit: and out of that fullness flows the two-fold grace whereby as Priest He offered Himself as the atonement for sin, and as King He reigns in the hearts of His chosen people now, and shall at last reign as universal King over all the earth. The earthly civil powers and the religious functionaries, when they fulfill their true ideal, are "the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:14). His true ministers in church and state are the type of Him who, filled with the infinite fullness of the Holy Spirit, shall hereafter visibly, as He now doth invisibly, combine the Kingship and the Priesthood in His own person (Zechariah 6:13).

(4) When we are disheartened in respect to the Lord's work in our own souls and in those of others, let us remember the lesson taught us here. If the candlestick and pipes had to feed themselves, their light would soon go out; but their supply is from the "fountain" above; and that fountain, even the Lord Jesus, the Head of the Church, is never-failing. Ever filled with the fullness of the living Spirit, He is the source at once of atoning grace and of sanctifying and glorifying grace. Let this, then be the watchword and the consolation of the people of God under all discouragements, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zechariah 4:6).

(5) Difficulties, like a "great mountain," seem to be in the way of the completion of the salvation of any one soul, much more so in the way of that of the whole elect Church. But "faith laughs at impossibilities, and says it shall be done." "If ye have faith," saith the Lord, "and doubt not ... if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed and be thou cast into the sea, it shall be done" (Matthew 21:21). To all who take the Lord as their King, before Him who is the antitype to Zerubbabel the mountain of opposition shall "become a plain" (Zechariah 4:7). Before Him "every hill shall be made low" (Isaiah 40:4): for the Spirit of Christ "casteth down every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringeth into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). And in the coming last apostasy even Antichrist, the antitype to Babylon "the destroying mountain" (Jeremiah 51:25-26), shall be "rolled down from the rocks, and made a burnt mountain." And whereas from the latter shall not be taken "a stone for a corner, nor a stone for foundations," Christ Jesus, "the Author and Finisher of our faith, "shall form the crowning "head-stone" of the completed spiritual, building, as He is also its "foundation-stone."

(6) As angels' acclamations hailed His birth into the world in lowliness, so shoutings of joyful Hallelujahs from the innumerable company of angels and the Church of the first-born shall celebrate His coming again to earth in manifested glory. "Grace, grace unto" the redeeming love of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, shall be the theme of their triumphant song. As grace from eternity devised, so grace shall in God's own good time complete the scheme of divine love.

(7) Men are too apt to judge of the character of the whole plan of redemption by the "small" beginnings of it which they see now (Zechariah 4:10). It is the judgment of unbelief which estimates the things of God by present appearances, rather than by the glorious promises of the future which God hath given to His believing people.

(8) In proportion to the greatness of the past unworthy fears of believers shall be the greatness of their joy when they shall see the work being actually brought to its completion by our great Zerubbabel (Zechariah 4:10). The same all-watchful eyes which "run to and fro through the whole earth," are especially vigilant in behalf of the welfare, progress, and final perfecting of the Church. What, then, need we fear, if we be true members of the spiritual Church? To despair of her final triumph would be to doubt the faithfulness, power, and omniscience of God Himself.

(9) The Lord Jesus is filled with the fullness of grace from the double olive tree of the Holy Spirit, so as to be at once our Priest and our King. He atones for our sin by the once-for-all completed sacrifice of Himself, and He rules in our hearts by His Spirit. He is the tree: earthly ministers are but the branches (Zechariah 4:11-12). The duty of ministers is to act as channels of grace, drawing all grace, not from themselves, but from the fountain-head, and "emptying the golden oil out of themselves" for the supply of the Church, and to the glory of the Author of grace.

(10) Christians who desire to be instruments of grace to others must first, like Joshua and Zerubbabel, be "anointed" themselves (Zechariah 4:14). Let us not be ashamed to own our spiritual ignorance before God, but ingenuously confess our natural blindness to the things of God, as the prophet Zechariah did (Zechariah 4:5; Zechariah 4:13); so shall we receive the "unction from the Holy One" which shall "abide in" us, and "teach us of all things" (1 John 3:20,27 ).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Zechariah 4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/zechariah-4.html. 1871-8.