And the angel who talked with me came again, and waked me, like a man that is wakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps which are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts. 7 What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” 8 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” 11 Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” 12 And a second time I said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the oil is poured out?” 13 He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 14 Then he said, “These are the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Zech. 4:1 -14
Lampstands and olive trees go together. You really can’t have one without the other. A lampstand can give no light without oil to burn. Oil just sitting there without a burning lamp, gives no light on any subject.
Now let us take a wild ride into symbolism and typology, with the Angel of the Lord as our tour guild. This passage had meaning for those at the time of its writing, as well as a symbolic meaning to the spiritual condition of these long centuries since the Messiah was taken from the earth, and a typological meaning of the New Jerusalem. The subject changes several times without any break or reason.
Zechariah is awakened by an angel who must be The Angel of the LORD, as He is the only angel in the proceeding paragraph. We are not told how much time may have elapsed between this and the previous vision ( there is no break in the Hebrew). It reads like one continuos vision with the angel now being persistent that he should stay awake. It would seem that this is time sensitive material that The Angel of the LORD wants disseminated.
There is a slight change from the preceding visions, as it was always Zechariah who had asked what the things were. This time however it is the angel who prods him with “What do you See?”
What he saw was a menorah that was similar to the menorah that stood in the tabernacle and later the temple [ Ex 25:31-37]. The lampstand that was in the temple was suppose to be kept burning continually it was not an eternal flame, it needed tending. However, this one that Zechariah saw is unique. It is self refueling from a bowl or fountain on the top. The oil is continually being feed to the lamps. No priest is needed to tend the lamps daily. In this way its light was ever maintained, ever lit, ever eternal.
Standing with the lampstand are two olive trees, the source of the oil. The angel indicates that Zechariah should know what these are. However, Zechariah admits that he doesn’t have a clue.
FYI: In this electrical age, we have little knowledge of of oil lamps. Without oil a lamp cannot burn, there will be no light. No matter how they are designed there is always a bowl or reservoir for the oil, it must be kept full, and a wick is placed down into it. The wick usually lays in or is held erect by some device out of a spout or clamp. To keep burning it must have one end in the oil and the other out. The burning edge was trimmed daily.
On this wild ride the Angel of the LORD abruptly changed the subject. The menorah is forgotten as the Angel goes on to talk about Zerubbabel, and the rebuilding of his temple.
FYI: Zerubbabel’s name means begotten in Babylon. He was a descendant of King David, and was serving as governor for the returning exiles, by the Persian Government. He was also the last of the Davidic line to have any kind of throne. They had returned about 19 years before this vision, and had been trying to rebuild the city and temple. The time was chaotic, as there were constant problems with the neighboring peoples and with the Persians.
Construction of the temple had been delayed over and over. [see Ezra 3:12; Nehemiah 2:19, 4:2-3] Encouragement was given, from The Angel that said the LORD of Hosts was going to intervene. But it is not with His armies that He is going to act. He is merely going to change the Persian Empire. At the time the empire stood as a great mountain in the way of God’s plan and the peoples desire to rebuild. But the LORD of Host is going to make this mountain into a flat plain, He is going to make the way smooth. Even though the Gentile authority might seem a great, formidable mountain standing in the way of God’s people, it was in reality a plain before the Lord of hosts. This temple will be rebuilt; with shouts of Grace, grace, meaning unmerited favor. It was not as grand as Solomon’s, but it was perhaps more sincere. All the pagan temples and shrines were gone; they are never mentioned again [1 Kings 11:7, 16:32; 2 Kings 10:18, 23:10]. No Molech, no Ashtaroth, no Baals, they are gone and forgotten.
FYI: This mountain being made into a flat plain before God’s people was not literal. In all of the former Persian Empire every geological feature still stands. So why do the literalists, i.e. dispensationalist, claim that in The Revelation the mountains [Rev. 6:14] will be literally flattened?
The people thought it was a time of small things. There was, however, a prophet among them [Ezra 3:10-15, 6:14-18]. But many times in history the monumental things of God seem small. When Messiah himself came only a few shepherds, some magi, and Anna and Simeon knew it. Nothing seems to have changed. Rome still ruled the nations. Corrupt men ran God’s temple. And the corrupt king Herod ruled the land. The world didn’t know it had been turned upside down [Acts 17:6].
In the symbolic vision, Zerubbabel finished the temple, as an indication that the Messiah was behind the deed. For in this he is a type of Messiah, in the laying of the foundation and the completing of the work, he represents Messiah as the author and finisher of our faith. The builder of a spiritual temple not made of bricks and stones. Yes, it was small. But its construction was guided and overseen by Zerubbabel until its completion. Just as Messiah promised this new spiritual temple would be small, but guided by Him.
For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matt. 7:14
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12:2
The temple was rebuilt just as God had promised through Isaiah.
who confirms the word of his servant, and performs the counsel of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built, and I will raise up their ruins’; Is. 44:26
The typological, is yet to be seen in the New Jerusalem. We only have a small promise of what that will be like.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. Rev. 21:22
Back to the wild ride, as the Angel made another abrupt change in the subject. Out of nowhere comes a statement about the eyes of the LORD.
“These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” Zech 4:20
Because they are seven, this can only be referring to that which was previously mentioned, the lamps on the lampstand. Throughout the Bible, but especially in the other apocalyptic book of The Revelation, seven is used for God’s perfection.
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders, I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth; Rev. 5:6, c.f. 2Chr. 16:9
Messiah does not have seven eyes, or seven horns for that matter, rather they are symbolic of His perfect sight and perfect kingship. The whole of the earth is under His gaze and rule. There is nothing in the universe that He does not see, or rule over.
As for the literal meaning of the lampstand, it is something that must be understood from the time of its construction [Ex 25; 31-40]. Its main functions were to allow the priests to see the showbread and not stumble in darkness. Only the chosen, the select priesthood, could see and use the light. The rest of the people were outside the temple in the darkness. It is the priests that were suppose to bring this light to the people, by teaching them about the redeemer, the coming light of the world. The lights on the lampstand were a type of Messiah.
Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12
The symbolism of that became manifest when Messiah walked this earth. There was no darkness between God and men. But the world rejected Him and in the end, as far as they were concerned, they had also extinguished the light. Now that he is taken from this world, darkness prevails. The light is hidden, back in the temple [1 Cor. 6:19; 2 Cor. 6:16; Rev. 15:5]. Only the believers can freely move between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, for the veil is now torn providing direct access. The rest of the world wanders hopelessly in darkness.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Pet. 2:9
Only the believer’s path is clear, they are the only ones who see the way.
Thy word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psa. 119:105
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life. Prov. 6:23
Those in the darkness have no understanding, so great is their darkness. The only cure is to step into the Light.
for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light. Eph. 5:8
Once in the Light the believers can the reflect that light it into the darkness, attracting others to follow and find their way into the light as well.
that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Phil. 2:15
Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent. Rev. 2:5
The typological fulfillment is yet to be seen. But a time is coming when we will no longer have need of the sun because the Lamb and the Glory of God is present.
And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. Rev. 21:23
The Olive Trees
The olive tree throughout the Bible symbolizes Israel’s religious conditions [Jer 11:16; Rom 11:17].
The original fuel for the lampstand in the Tabernacle/temple, from which the whole of the symbology of this passage refers, was to be pure virgin olive oil. The people were commanded perpetually to provide the pure beaten olive oil. So that the light would burn perpetually.
“And you shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may be set up to burn continually. Ex. 27:20
The Two Witnesses
They are literally Joshua and Zerubbabel as they are the only persons mentioned in this vision. And since there is no break in the Hebrew, Joshua in the preceding chapter is the only person available to fulfill what was meant.
FYI: The English text is somewhat misleading here as these two are not called “anointed ones” but rather the “sons of oil” [see also “sons of tumult” Jer. 48:45, sons of thunder Mark 3:17].
Two is the minimum number of witnesses needed under The Law [Torah] to establish testimony for a capital crime. [Num 35:30; Duet 17:6-7, 19,15] Which brings us to the parallel passage in The Revelation. Symbolically they look forward to the two witnesses of the Revelation 11, when there was a minimum number of Jews and Gentile believers witnessing to the capital crimes of the Popes.
These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands which stand before the Lord of the earth. Rev. 11:4
A much of this prophecy remains a great puzzle. That is the nature of typology, it is always fuzzy at best. The antitype, i.e. fulfillment, must come for the fulness of understanding can be realized.
There will come a time when the Jews shall return to faith and the Gentiles faith will be made pure.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:28
And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 2 Pet. 1:19
and so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;Rom. 11:26
“On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. Zech. 13:1
In the New Jerusalem the believers will no longer be the minimum number of witnesses, for we will be the city itself. There will be no lampstand. There will be no need to bring in oil, either literal or spiritual. The oil seems to be replaced by nations bringing in glory and honor.
And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for the glory of God is its light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light shall the nations walk; and the kings of the earth shall bring their glory into it, and its gates shall never be shut by day — and there shall be no night there; they shall bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations. Rev. 21:22 -26
In the meantime the job of believers is to be oil, have oil, make oil. It fuels the lights. Messiah’s people on earth who should be reflecting Him who is The Light of the World. We must not run out of this oil, as five of the virgins did [Matt 25:1-13].
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matt. 5:14 -16