Two Olive Trees Provide Fuel for the Menorah
Zechariah Chapter Four
Zec. 4:1 And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, 4:2 And said to me, What do you see? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are on the top of it.
"Candlestick." Hebrew "menorah," , or lampstand. It has "seven "neroth," , properly called lamps here.
"A bowl on the top." Hebrew "gul," , all cognates, that is, words related in origin, have to do with roundness or rolling, thus a sphere, considered now the best shape for holding fuel.
"Pipes." Hebrew "mutsaqoth," , is pipes that have been cast from molten metal.
Zec. 4:3 And two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl, and the other on the left side of it.
"Two olive trees." These provide the oil for fuel for the menorah. As seen in verses 11 and 12 below they are all of gold, the menorah, the lamps, the bowl, the pipes and the oil as well.
Zec. 4:4 So I answered and spoke to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? 4:5 Then the angel that talked with me answered and said to me, Do you not know what these are? And I said, No, my lord.
The angel is speaking to Zechariah but directs the message to Zerubbabel, even though the obvious application of the symbols will refer the two olive trees to Joshua and Zerubbabel. See in the next verse and verse 11.
Zec. 4:6 Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the LORD of hosts.
This message is given to Zerubbabel probably because he would tend more than Joshua to depend on human strength, because he was the responsible political leader. Joshua as the High Priest ought to accept God's timing as a matter of course related to his calling. Zerubbabel, on the other hand, had the urgency of political expediency pressing on him daily. If it is God's will that changes come, they will come in His good time. There is no need to get anxious. Power, might, human intervention are not the same as seeing God's will and setting to work to achieve His purposes.
"Not by might." Hebrew "chayil," , means armed might like an army. The Vulgate, and consequently the Douay, has "army."
"Nor by power." Hebrew "koach," , means physical strength.
Zerubbabel will accomplish an incredible task requiring might and strength, which he has. But he will accomplish these tasks without human might. God has intervened in the time, and the conditions are concluded that make Zerubbabel the leader to make political decisions which are now spiritually correct.
Zec. 4:7 Who are you, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring forth the headstone of it with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace to it.
"Headstone." Hebrew literally is "eben," , stone and "rosh" , head but means cornerstone or foundation stone. "Of it" is not found nor implied in the text. The cornerstone meant is that of the Temple, not a mountain. Zerubbabel literally, personally laid the cornerstone of the Temple. What a day of shouting and joy that must have been.
Zec. 4:8 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 4:9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
The imminence of completing the Temple is again highlighted. Zerubbabel in 534 B.C.E. actually physically laid the foundation of the second Temple. Zechariah says here in about 518 B.C.E.--some 16 years later--that his hands shall finish the building. This kind of bold preaching produced results. Ezra records it simply.
(Ezr. 5:1) Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel even to them. (Ezr. 5:2) Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem; and with them were the prophets of God helping them.
When the building began it was soon finished. According to Ezra it was completed in the sixth year of Darius, some four years after Zechariah gave these visions of encouragement. Ezra recorded the date.
(Ezr. 6:14) And the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built, and finished, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. (Ezr. 6:15) And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king. See also notes on Zec. 7:1,2.
Zec. 4:10 For who has 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.
"Day of small things." The meager results thus far realized and meager efforts soon to be initially completed on the Temple. It was a miserable building when compared to the glories of Solomon's Temple but it was only a beginning of greater things to come.
"Those seven." The seven pairs of eyes mentioned already in Zec. 3:9.
"Plummet." Hebrew "ha-eben habbediyl," , "eben" , is stone, "bediyl" , is tin, thus, the tin stone. There is no native tin in Israel. [Tin mines in Cornwall in south west England date to this period. Some of the same are still being worked.] But there is reason to believe that a tin stone is not what is meant.
This is a strange stone already mentioned in 3:9 as being used by Joshua to see and ferret out iniquity from the nation. Here it is in the hands of Zerubbabel. If it is a plummet it is used figuratively as a standard of what is straight morally and ethically, though it is associated here with physical building. The stone has in it seven pairs of eyes which see all that happens in the whole earth, the secrets of which are "unlocked" for Joshua and now for Zerubbabel by his use of this stone. See notes on 3:9 above. The causative infinitive form of the root "badal," , has the same unpointed form as this word used here. The consonants are the same and the vowels are added marks by Masoretic scholars in the sixth century. The infinitive "hibdiyl," , has the same form and number of consonants as "Hab-bediyl," , in Hebrew unpointed Script. The meaning of the infinitive, "cause separation," may be a clue worth following because the text does make the reading a possibility but a bit remote. In the domain of this possibility the plummet would be "the stone causing separation." This meaning is not remote from the context as it is the stone which separates the evil from the land in one day as seen in 3:9 above.
Zec. 4:11 Then answered I, and said to him, What are these two olive trees on the right side of the candlestick and on the left side of it?
The menorah is the light of the Temple and therefore represents the spiritual light of the nation. The fuel for that light is supplied by two people, namely Joshua and Zerubbabel. Why they are not named produces needless speculation. The answers to these questions are rhetorical. If you know the historical context you know the answers. There may be some allegorical application to a Messianic fulfillment but it is less obvious here than in the other clear allusions to the mystical, in which these visions abound as they unfold. This imagery has its fulfillment in material events of the very day they were uttered and the vision was given with the purpose of encouraging Zerubbabel first and Joshua next that God had chosen them as the leaders of the nation who would supply the strength and enthusiasm to all.
Zec. 4:12 And I answered again, and said to him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
"Olive branches." Hebrew "shibboliym," , translated branches only once in the Bible, here in this place, always elsewhere translated ears or heads of grain. It means heads of wheat or ears of corn and the imagery pictures the olive trees as though they are so clustered with olives that they appear to be "shibboliym," or each tree as one large head of grain. So much fruit do they contain for the production of oil!
Zec. 4:13 And he answered me and said, Do you not know what these be? And I said, No, my lord. 4:14 Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
"Anointed ones." Hebrew "beney ha-yitsar," , literally "sons of oil." This a is further description of the two national leaders, both of whom were anointed as a means of officially being set in office. The Governor, who stood as the king, and the High Priest were both anointed, which is implied by the KJV translation.
However, notice in chapter three Joshua is introduced as a major leader and instrument of God. In chapter four, therefore, Zerubbabel is the major actor and seen as the leader in the nation and the work of rebuilding. Both are of equal importance in unifying the nation in the work of restoration. They together provided the fuel for progress. They are therefore "the sons of oil." They are a unit, but separate as two olive trees who have one purpose.
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