Lampstand, candle holders, Olive trees, feeding tubes called “pipes”, bowls, the seven eyes of God…it is no wonder many have difficulty understanding this chapter with a simple reading. We trust today as you read this article (commentary) on Zechariah 4, things will become clearer and you will have an increased comfort level with its content and context.
There are several interpretations of the symbols used in this chapter. The real problem is these interpretations come from just as many, if not differing translations of the Hebrew. We will stay as close as possible to the intent of this chapter by using Strong’s, Young’s Literal Translation (YLT), and the Literal Translation of the Holy Bible (LITV). We will quote or note, then explain. No need to pronounce the Hebrew this article may include but you will know the options for the use of certain Hebrew words in Zechariah 4. No, this commentary will not be exhaustive but it will be inclusive.
Zechariah 4:1 initially reads as if Zechariah is awakened from sleep. [YLT] “And the messenger (mal’âk; a deputy or assistant) who is speaking with me doth turn back, and stir me up as one who is stirred up out of his sleep…” In short this opening means a “messenger” had to get the attention of Zechariah, similar to one who may call out in a parking lot or perhaps in a church foyer to get the attention of someone. YLT uses “messenger” while the KJV uses “angel”.
These returning Judeans and other Israeli tribal stragglers or cling-on Israelis from the former Kingdom of Judah and a few from the Kingdom of Israel are coming to a Jerusalem that is anything but a lampstand or golden light radiating to the world. Yet, this vision shows a lampstand of seven lights. The wealth of “gold” in the vision also does not reflect the conditions of the returning Judeans or the wealth of the land to which they are returning. Rather it is almost a stark contrast with actuality. This is our first clue that this 5th vision involves things to come, not the present state-of-being upon their return to Jerusalem.
In our attempt to find a visual illustration of this vision or drawing of the concept of verses 3 and 4 to depict it was next to impossible to keep someone else’s theological twist out of their drawing or illustration. The best approach is to take this scripture literally. Zechariah saw a golden candle stick fueled by purified olive oil filling a supply bowl from two Olive trees; one tree to the left and one tree to the right of the gold candle holder. There is a collection bowl on the top that acts as a reservoir of the olive oil fuel. Oil is piped to the seven burning candle fuel bowls.
Hmmmm? 7 points of light? A light onto the world? Has America like Israel lost its purpose? I see seven statue crown points like the seven points of the menorah.
It is amazing that there are so many attempts to make something out of what is pictured here instead of using other scripture to validate each element Zachariah is seeing. He does not understand its meaning per verse 5. The messenger explains…this is a picture of Israel’s destiny, not its present state of being. It is a covenant reminder of God’s relationship with Israel. The YLT writes: “And he answered and spoke unto me, saying: `This is a word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by a force, nor by power, But–by My Spirit, said Jehovah of Hosts”. Okay…a literal look: “a word of Jehovah” is an official identity of God in Hebrew, “speaking specifically to Zerubbabel”. First, Zerubbabel is of the Tribe of Judah, just as was David and Jesus himself in the New Testament. There is nothing hinted in the Hebrew that this includes the future New Testament church meaning people other than Israelis, and Jerusalem’s Temple.
Zechariah 4:7 [LITV] “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain”. Where can we find anything similar within scripture…a great mountain made a plain; an obstacle removed. Ezekiel 38:20 is one good reference: Using the full verse… [LITV]
And the fish of the sea, and the birds of the heavens, and the beasts of the field, and all creeping things that creep on the earth, and all men on the face of the earth, shall quake at My face. And the mountains shall be thrown down, and the steep places shall fall, and every wall shall fall to the ground. [Cf. Revelation 16:20}
Let’s add to this…the previous verse (6) says it is not by might or power but by my Spirit that verse 7 will result. This has to be the End Time return of Christ to earth with God’s Spirit filling the sons and daughters of Israel [Cf. Joel 2:20]. Recall that upon Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem prior to his crucifixion, Jesus stated that had not the people shouted out in praise the rocks along the road side would have shouted out [Luke 19:40].
Zechariah 4:7 tells us of the headstone (KJV) or cornerstone (LITV). Cornerstone of what one should ask? It is the Millennial New Jerusalem and throne of Jesus symbolized by the work of Zerubbabel on the Temple foundation including its eventual completion. Simply put, it is a defining moment of the eventual supremacy of Jerusalem over all nations and the Temple that will be in Jerusalem. This is when Jerusalem will actually become the light on the hillside to the world. We will go into greater detail and explanation in Zechariah 5 (cf. Matthew 5:14).
Zechariah 4:10 actually helps explain Zechariah 3:9, the seven eyes on the stone in front of the High Priest Joshua. [LITV] For they shall rejoice and shall see the plummet stone in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of Jehovah; they run to and fro through all the earth. One could add to this the horses under the Myrtle we discussed in Zechariah 1:1-17. These horsemen were the eyes of God roaming and reporting the condition(s) of the world. Scripture does not tell us of the number of other horsemen behind the one who spoke and rode the red horse. JIV: There may be may be 7 riders since the eyes on the stone were 7, the eyes on the stone of the Lord, the 7 pipes from the Olive tree to the main olive fuel bowl container, and 7 is the perfect number of COMPLETION. “For on the seventh day, God said all is good and he rested from his creation labors.” Just as the horsemen under the Myrtle Tree roamed the earth to see what it was like, verse 10 tells us the same per the eyes on the plummet-line stone. The eyes of Jehovah “run to and fro through all the earth” [LITV]. Very likely discussing the same activity of God keeping eyes upon earth and for certain, Satan and his minions.
Zechariah shifts gears in 4:11. This verse uses the word “question” but it means aw-naw’ as in to pay attention; take heed; to respond.
*JIV: A very interesting side per the Myrtle tree is how Jewish sages say that “the myrtle has great fragrance but [has] no taste.” Essentially meaning one can look good in the eyes of man or other believers but s/he has no taste for a spiritual life and study of the Word of God. They look good but have no taste for God’s Word.
In Zechariah’s time the above JIV can be understood as one who builds appearance but has no taste for the inside and personal works of God in his or her life.
Zechariah 4:12 is another example of confusion. Many translations identify the Olive dripping oil as coming from branches. The Young’s Literal Translation (YLT) says “two branches of the olive tree.” Does it matter if it is two trees or branches? Yes and it depends much on how one understands. A tree full of branches may in this case mean Israel as a tree and parts of it serving God. It may infer the church and only parts of it serving God. It may mean, as we do, two servants of God in End Time keeping the fire burning. These two could very likely be the two witnesses of the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation.
We Teach – You Decide
Verses 11 and 12 are self-addressing. They topically return to the opening 2 verses of chapter 4. We read in verses 11 and 12 according to the YLT: V11 “And I answer [aw-naw’] and say unto him, `What are these two olive-trees, on the right of the candlestick, and on its left?’ V12 And I answer [aw-naw’] a second time, and say unto him, `What are the two branches of the olive trees that, by means of the two golden pipes, are emptying out of themselves the oil?’”
The two branches could be a present tense or a future tense in its interpretation. It could be Zerubbabel and (high Priest) Joshua or it could be future tense meaning the End Time Two Witnesses…a continual supply of anointing oil from God; 3 ½ years as God’s only remaining witnesses other than the 144,000 as mentioned in Revelation 7 and 14.
Reader Note: JIV use means Jim’s Introspective View.
Rev. Dr. Jstark