Zechariah 4 Commentary
Zechariah 4:1 – And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep.
I can only imagine how shocking all these visions of the Lord are to a person. The impact on a person’s body must be intense. Just like Daniel in Daniel 10:9, he fell into a deep sleep with his face to the ground. This is the introduction to the fifth vision that Zechariah is about to have.
Zechariah 4:2 – 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 that are on the top of it.
There is a lot of symbolism going on here. This is a pretty descriptive verse! This is a lampstand that would be used in tabernacle. The extra bowl on top of it is to add extra oil to the lamp. This is a very large lamp! The typical menorah has 7 lamps on it. The one in the vision has a lot built onto the traditional menorah. The seven lips on each of the lamps means that there are a total of 49 lips for this menorah. This shows the abundance of the oil supply to provide to the lamps.
The lampstand is all gold. The lampstand itself is the container for the light. The church of Jesus Christ shines the Light of the world, which is Jesus Christ.
Looking at a parallel verse in Revelation 1:20, we see that there are 7 golden lampstands, these are the lampstands in each of the churches listed in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.
The number 7 is the number of perfection. Not perfection that we think of, but more specifically it means “completion.”
As you can see from the verse, we are seeing in the vision everything about God in His church.
Zechariah 4:3 – And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
The lampstands have olive trees flanking it. The oil that would be used in the lamp would be a pure olive oil. This makes me think of a limitless supply of oil that is only provided by God, without any affect of mankind.
The coolest thing about this is the impact of the two trees! One represents physical Israel and the other is the grafted branch, the church of Jesus Christ.
Romans 11:24 says “for if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.”
And this is also the same picture we see in the Revelation of Jesus Christ in verse 11:4 in that there are two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth.
Zechariah 4:4 – And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
Zechariah asks a little bit of a surprising question here, as we will see in the next verse. Basically, he wants to know the meaning behind the two olive trees.
Zechariah 4:5 – Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”
Zechariah’s question surprises the angel. The angel reacts as if Zechariah should have known the significance of the olive trees.
Zechariah 4:6 – 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.
Zerubbabel was the one who led the first group of Jews home from Babylonian captivity. The preceding verses show that God will supply an endless amount of resources to Zerubbabel to rebuild the temple. This will be to bring glory to God alone.
God is showing that it isn’t by human might or ingenuity that this will happen. It will only happen by a moving of the Holy Spirit. Ezekiel 36:24 shows that God is the one who brings the Jews back into their own land.
Zerubbabel won’t be able to accomplish what his ordained task is through his own power. The angel is explaining this to Zechariah. Zerubbabel will have to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit alone to accomplish the task.
This is so much like ministry in the church. We can only put so much of our own power into it. We can only go so far on our own power in our ministries. But when we step outside of ourselves and allow the Spirit of the living God to take control of our actions and lives, we find that our ministries will show much fruit from it.
Zechariah 4:7 – Who 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!’”
The angel is showing that even a mountain of opposition will be leveled and become like a plain. Nothing will be able to stop the rebuilding of the temple. Think of Matthew 21:21 here! Jesus tells his disciples that if they have faith they can move mountains!
We learn that this will happen in Zerubbabel’s life because we see that the “top stone,” or headstone in other versions, will be put in place.
And all Israel will shout! Grace! Grace to it! Ezra 3:11-13 tells us that the people sang to one another giving thanks to the Lord and that they people shouted with a “great shout.” Could this be that shout? Could the shout they were proclaiming be the shout that God has shown them grace?
Imagine if we led our ministries in such a way! Instead of spending all our time over-spiritualizing everything and instead spent more time doing through faith rather than seeking faith, we would realize that our search for God’s power wasn’t what we needed because His power was always there. What our search was for was God’s grace!
We accomplish because of God’s power. We accomplish for God’s grace!
Zechariah 4:8 – Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
This is a simple break in the action. Maybe this vision was becoming too big for Zechariah. That is simply my own thoughts that I am adding here. But now we are about to move into the confirmation of the angel’s interpretation.
Zechariah 4:9 – “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.
This angel is the Angel of the Lord. This temple was to be met with all kinds of opposition. And it would take a very long time to complete. But it would happen in the life of Zerubbabel.
Can you imagine how encouraging this is for Christians? And especially for those who lead for the cause of Christ? We know that God will show us through to see the completion of those things we start for Him.
The church we know today began with only Jesus and 12 disciples. Our talents and our gifts seem so small in the immensity of the task that God has given us. But God makes great things from small beginnings. From a baby in a manger to victory over sin and the grave!
Zechariah 4:10 – For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
The temple that was built was smaller than Solomon’s temple. Ezra 3:12 tells us that many who saw the first temple wept. In Haggai 2:3 the prophet says that those who saw the temple it its former glory are looking on it now as if it is nothing.
This is only a glimpse of what it will look like when the Messiah comes.
The returning remnant of Israel never believed they could finish the temple in their lifetime. And while they didn’t finish something that was as glorious as the former temple, it wasn’t the opulence that God was seeking from them. It was the faithfulness to build the temple in the first place. It was the drive to put God at the head of it and allow Him to lead them.
God turns our little efforts into a lot when we allow Him to lead the dance.
Zechariah 4:11 – Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”
Again, Zechariah is asking about the olive trees.
Zechariah 4:12 – And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?”
At this point, Zechariah isn’t asking about the trees themselves, but two branches of the trees. During Zechariah’s day, the two anointed ones were Zerubbabel and Joshua. They could have been a branch on each tree or they could have both been branches on a single tree. It isn’t really known by how it is said.
But the trees themselves symbolize the kingly and priestly offices in Israel, whether physical or spiritual. There are many times in history that God anoints two people to work together for a purpose. Think of Moses and Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, Elijah and Elisha, Paul and Barnabas, Peter and John. Even in more modern times we see God anointing two in people such as Whitefield and Wesley or Graham and Barrows.
In the Revelation of Jesus Christ in chapter 11, we see that God is raising up 2 witnesses. This is very similar to what Zechariah is seeing here.
In Zechariah’s day, Joshua and Zerubbabel were the anointed. That literally translates to “sons of oil.” We can see that this oil is coming directly out of the trees.
When we lead in ministry, it is all about giving of ourselves. It doesn’t matter how much that we have to give, but how much of what we have that we give.
Zechariah 4:13 – He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.”
The angel asks if Zechariah knows what is going on. With Zechariah’s answer, we can see that even a person like Zechariah cannot stand on his own wisdom. The wisdom needed to understand the mind of God comes from God.
Zechariah 4:14 – Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
And this is the culmination of the vision. Again we see the two anointed ones, the sons of oil, Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua is the High Priest and a descendant of Eleazar while Zerubbabel is the leader and a descendant of David. These are the two that God will choose to manifest the light of the lampstands.
This is a foreshadowing of the Messiah. Both offices of High Priest and leader are combined in the Messiah. Psalm 110 gives us even more detail into that.
The Messiah is the source of blessing that makes Israel the light to the nations. Isaiah 60:1-3 explains that to us.
And seeing that the final statement in this chapter is that they have offices in the court of the Lord of the whole earth, we see that this is a millennial term that leads us to the final kingdom of Christ (Micah 5:4).