Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
Zec 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."
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:
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," Mt 5:14, 16; Php 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 (Ps 45:13).
bowl upon the top—In the candlestick of the tabernacle the plural is used, bowls (Ex 25:31). 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 (Joh 1:16).
his seven lamps—united in one stem; so in Ex 25:32. But in Re 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 (Ro 11:16-24). The "seven lamps," in Re 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 Zec 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.
And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
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 Zec 4:12, 14.
So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
4. The prophet is instructed in the truths meant, that we may read them with the greater reverence and attention [Calvin].
Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
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.
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.
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 Hag 2:5) of God, man's weakness is no obstacle, for God's might will perfect strength out of weakness (Ho 1:7; 2Co 12:10; Heb 11:34). "Might and power" express human strength of every description, physical, mental, moral. Or, "might" is the strength of many (an "army," literally); "power," that of one man [Pembellus]. God can save, "whether with many, or with them that have no power" (2Ch 14:11; compare 1Sa 14:6). So in the conversion of sinners (1Co 3:6; 2Co 10:4). "Zerubbabel" is addressed as the chief civil authority in directing the work.
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.
7. All mountain-like obstacles (Isa 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 (Jer 51:25; Da 2:34, 44; Mt 21:44).
bring forth the head-stone—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 Ezr 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 Ro 11:26; Heb 11:40; 12:22, 23; Re 7:4-9).
Grace, grace—The repetition expresses, Grace from first to last (Isa 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 (Ezr 3:11, 13). So shoutings of "Hosanna" greeted the Saviour in entering Jerusalem (Mt 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 (Joh 2:20, 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" (Re 19:1, 6). Ps 118:22 regards Him as "the head-stone of the corner," that is, the foundation-stone. Compare the angels acclamations at His birth, Lu 2:14. Here it is the top-stone. Messiah is not only the "Author," but also the Finisher (Heb 12:2). "Grace" is ascribed "unto it," that is, the stone, Messiah. Hence the benediction begins, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ" (2Co 13:14).
Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
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.
9. Zerubbabel … shall … finish it—(Ezr 6:15) in the sixth year of Darius' reign.
Lord … sent me unto you—(Zec 2:9). The Divine Angel announces that in what He has just spoken, He has been commissioned by God the Father.
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.
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" (Ho 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 Zec 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" (Zec 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 (Ezr 3:12; Hag 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 (Pr 15:3; 1Co 16:9).
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?
11, 12. Zechariah three times (Zec 4:4, 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 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 (Zec 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" (Zec 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 (Zec 14:9; Da 2:44; Re 11:15). Compare the description of the offices of the "priests" and the "prince" (Isa 49:23; Eze 44:1-46:24). As in Re 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 (compare the transfiguration, Mt 17:3, 11, with Mal 4:4, 5; Joh 1:21) with Moses. Re 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 Ex 7:19; 1Ki 17:1; Lu 4:25; Jas 5:16, 17). The period is the same, "three years and six months"; the scene also is in Israel (Re 11:8), "where our Lord was crucified." It is supposed that for the first three and a half years of the hebdomad (Da 9:20-27), God will be worshipped in the temple; in the latter three and a half years, Antichrist will break the covenant (Da 9:27), and set himself up in the temple to be worshipped as God (2Th 2:4). The witnesses prophesy the former three and a half years, while corruptions prevail and faith is rare (Lu 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. Zec 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 (Joh 3:34). But this does not exclude the primary application to Joshua and Zerubbabel, "anointed" (Zec 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.
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?
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 (Ps 52:8; Ro 12:1) fed by God.
And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
13. Knowest thou not—God would awaken His people to zeal in learning His truth.
Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
14. anointed ones—literally, "sons of oil" (Isa 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 1Jo 2:20, 27).