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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Zechariah 4

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. IV.

By the golden candlestick is foreshewed the good success of Zerubbabel's foundation: by the two olive-trees the two anointed ones.

Before Christ 519.

IN this chapter the prophet is called upon to contemplate a fifth vision, of the most sublime and mysterious import. He sees a candlestick of pure gold, with its seven lamps communicating by seven pipes with a bowl at the top, which serves for a reservoir, and is constantly supplied with oil from two olive-trees standing on each side of the candlestick. He inquires into the meaning, and receives an answer, which, though it may in some sort apply to the circumstances of the temple then in building, yet from the solemnity of the manner, and the terms in use, must be concluded to point to something far higher, no less than the final and complete establishment of Christ's holy church, not by human means, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, surmounting all obstacles thrown in its way. Annexed is a special prediction, that Zerubbabel, who had begun, should have the honour of finishing the material building of the temple; the accomplishment of which is made a sign or proof of the divine mission. The meaning of the seven lamps is then explained, and also of the two overhanging branches of the olive-trees on each side of the candlestick.


Verse 1

Zechariah 4:1. And waked me And roused me. It should seem as if the prophet was plunged into a deep reverie, musing on what he had already seen, when he was roused again by the angel to give his attention to what follows.


Verse 6

Zechariah 4:6. This is the word, &c.— See the note on chap. Zechariah 3:8. It appears as if Zerubbabel had been misrepresented at the Persian court; and hoping that he or his Son might prove the deliverer, of whom the prophets wrote, the apprehension of being recalled before he had finished the temple, filled him with much uneasiness. At this time Zechariah saw in vision the golden candlestick of the temple, Zechariah 4:2 which noble piece of workmanship figured out the temple service, and the whole polity of the Jewish constitution, depending on the restoration of the temple: for so Titus, to express the perfect subjection of Judaea, carried this candlestick afterwards in triumph, as the proper emblem thereof. The vision is explained to the prophet by an angel, who, having shewn him the contrivance of this hieroglyphic, and how the lamps were fed by pipes from the bowl with a secret, gentle influence, thus applies it; "This is the word of the Lord, to or of Zerubbabel: these things are not done by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord:" that is to say, "As in this vision all things are so contrived, that oil should not fail in the lamps, though no one pour it in; so shall it come to pass, by the immediate providence and administration of God, that the religion and polity of the Jews shall still continue to shine in the earth." He goes on, Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain. The general meaning whereof is, that the strongest opposition shall be levelled before him whom God makes his instrument. Samaria, and the opposers of the building of the temple, are more immediately meant. He goes on, For, or so shall ye bring forth, &c. Here the angel mixes things common to Zerubbabel and the Messiah whom he represents; or, speaking of Zerubbabel's finishing the temple, he passes thence to another Zerubbabel, who should be indeed the head or top-stone, the last ornament, beauty, and perfection of this building; who should be grace, grace, or, the chief grace thereof, as the Hebrews express it by the reduplication of the word. The Jewish Targum, therefore, understands the last part of this verse of the Messiah, and paraphrases it thus: "This Messiah shall emerge, who was named before the world, and shall obtain the empire of all the kingdoms of the earth." St. Jerome tells us, that the old Jews explained it so; and the ancient book Tanchuma, and other of their writings still extant, bear them witness; and perhaps the Greek interpreters had the same person in view, when they rendered the top-stone by λιθον κληρονομιας, the stone of inheritance; pointing out him, to whom of right the kingdom of the Jews belonged, and the heritage of the earth, and who was signified by the former prophets, by the cornerstone,—the foundation-stone, elect and precious. See Chandler's Defence, p. 203.


Verse 7

Zechariah 4:7. And he shall bring forth If in this prophesy not only the completion of the material temple is promised, but also, as we have supposed, the erection of a spiritual building, it is obvious, that in this secondary sense by the head or chief corner-stone must be understood that person who is emphatically so called, Psalms 118:22. Isaiah 28:16. Matthew 21:42. Ephesians 2:20 and whose coming was ushered in, as is here announced, by the joyful acclamations of the multitudes, Matthew 21:8-10. Mark 11:8-10. John 12:13.


Verse 10

Zechariah 4:10. Who hath despised the day of small things By the day of small things, I suppose to be meant the time when the resources of the Jewish nation appeared in the eyes of many, even well-wishers, so small and inadequate to the building of the temple, against a powerful opposition, that they despaired of seeing it carried into effect. Such persons would of course rejoice, when the event turned out so contrary to their expectations.

The eyes The fountains, Here again, as chap. Zechariah 3:9. עיני ainei, I conceive, should be translated fountains. The lamps considered as part of the furniture belonging to the candlestick, that is, the church, can represent no other than the ministers and dispensers of evangelical light and knowledge; in which sense our Saviour says of them, Ye are the light of the world, Matthew 5:14. These, taken in conjunction with their pipes, may not improperly be represented as fountains or conduits for conveying and communicating to others the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, with which they are replenished themselves. And as fountains they are said to run to and fro through the whole earth, which was in an eminent degree seen in the apostles and first preachers of the Gospel, whose sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world; Romans 10:18. Nor is it less true of all the faithful ministers of God's word and sacraments, that they too are special instruments of diffusing grace over all countries, where the truths of the Gospel are taught and inculcated by them.


Verse 12

Zechariah 4:12. What be these two olive-branches, &c.— This passage may be rendered, What are the two orderers of the olive-trees, which through two golden spouts drain off the gold from them? I am inclined to suppose that by הזיתים שׁבלי shibbalei hazzeithim, were meant two beings, probably in human shape, who were seen by the prophet employed in arranging the fruit of the olive-trees, and giving it a direction for its juice to flow into those channels, through which it might be conveyed into the body of the lamps, there to serve for food and nourishment of their light. Nor is it any objection to this more than to any other hypothesis, that they were not enumerated before among the objects of vision. They might not perhaps have presented themselves to the prophet's view till the very instant when he had asked the question concerning the two olive-trees; and their sudden appearance may account for the immediate change of it to another, before he had received an answer to the first. This answer being thus superseded, we are left without any direct information as to the meaning of the olive-trees; but we may fairly presume them to be no other than the two dispensations of the law and the Gospel, under which were communicated the precious oracles of divine truth, which illuminate the soul, and make men wise unto salvation. Of course the orderers and directors of these dispensations must be Moses and the Lord Jesus Christ, the two sons of oil, or anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth, fulfilling his will, and executing his commands. Of the latter of these it is expressly said, Isaiah 61:1. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, &c. Nor do I conceive that any other can be meant by the two witnesses appointed to prophesy for a certain time clothed in sackcloth, Revelation 11:3 the next verse plainly shewing that an allusion is there made to this prophesy of Zechariah concerning the candlestick and olive-trees, though it is not cited word for word: These are the two olive-trees and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth; Revelation 11:4. See Dr. Blaney

The golden oil It should be rendered the gold: there is no word for oil in the original. Archbishop Newcome proposes to read oil instead of gold, saying the sense requires it. But in the Hebrew copies there is not the least vestige of such a reading, and all the ancient versions concur in expressing gold at the end of this verse. There is no doubt but that the liquor drawn from the olive-trees must be oil; but it is here intended to represent what for its precious quality may be denominated gold; that being considered is the most valuable of all material substances, but yet of far less worth than the word of divine truth: More to be desired, says the Psalmist speaking of it, than gold, yea, than much fine gold; Psalms 19:10. And again: The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver; Psalms 119:72. In this sense then the original word may be used here for oil, and perhaps from the resemblance between the appearance of gold in a state of fluidity and oil.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, Overcome, probably, with the glorious visions that he had seen, the prophet's spirits failed him, and he sunk down in sleep; but he is awakened and strengthened by the Lord Jesus, to behold other visions and revelations of the Lord.

1. On his awaking, a question is put to him, What seest thou? And he looked, and behold, a candlestick all of gold, &c. like, in some respects, to that in the temple of old, the figure of the church of Christ; of gold, denoting its excellence and purity: the bowl upon the top of it full of oil implies that fulness of grace in Jesus, of which all genuine Christians have received; (see John 1:16.) The seven lamps may signify all believers in general, or the ministers of the Gospel particularly, who are burning and shining lights; and, being kindled by the fire of divine grace, are fed with constant supplies of oil from the two olive-trees, Christ and the Comforter, or the two Testaments, through the seven pipes, the various means of prayer, meditation, sacraments, &c. which Christ hath instituted as channels of conveying to us the constant influences of his grace. See the critical notes.

2. The prophet humbly inquires into the meaning of what he saw. What are these, my lord? And the angel, to reprove his dulness, or quicken his attention, answers, Knowest thou not what these be? He replies, with an humble confession of his ignorance, No, my lord: very graciously, therefore, this angel condescends to explain the vision to him; This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, an illustration of what God had spoken to him before, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. As the lamps were supplied with oil, without any human assistance from the olive-trees that poured the oil into the bowl, which thence was communicated to them through the seven golden pipes, so should Zerubbabel be supplied with strength from on high, for the work in which he is engaged: and thus is every faithful soul made more than conqueror, not through any natural sufficiency of man, but by the power of divine grace.

It is promised here concerning Zerubbabel,

[1.] That he shall overcome all difficulties in his way. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain. Whatever opposition he met with from the Persian monarchy, or from Sanballat, and the Samaritans, it should be easily surmounted. Note; In the eye of sense, mountains unpassable obstruct the way to glory; but faith looks up to Jesus, the great Zerubbabel; and as he hath put all enemies under his own feet, so will he put them under ours, if we perseveringly cleave to him: and thus the mountain becomes a plain.

[2.] He shall see the completion of the work that he hath begun. He shall bring forth the head-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it, rejoicing and praising God for the ability which he hath supplied for finishing his temple. And herein, (1.) He is a type of Christ, who on the cross finished the great atonement for the sins of the world: or it may refer to the day when he shall rejoice over all his faithful saints in glory with joy and singing, Zephaniah 3:17. (2.) Of every faithful saint of God; who, when God shall have brought him happily to the end of his labours, shall stand forth before his throne, ascribing the whole of his salvation to rich and boundless grace, and join his voice with ten thousand times ten thousand others, shouting, Grace, grace unto it.

[3.] Zerubbabel shall hereby be fully convinced, with all the Jews, of the divine mission of the prophet; or rather this may be referred to Christ, who will make his faithful people know by blessed experience, that he is indeed the Saviour of the world, and that him hath God the Father sent.

[4.] The enemies of Judah shall be confounded, and those, among themselves, who at first were disheartened, shall rejoice, when they see the work brought to so happy an issue. For who hath despised the day of small things? San-ballat, and many even of the Jews, despised the mean beginnings of the temple; but they shall quickly change their mind: for they, the Jews, who at first despaired of being able to finish the work, shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, the building rising fast and beautiful under his direction, with those seven, they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth; supported by the divine providence, and instructed by divine wisdom, he shall be enabled to complete the glorious work. Note; (1.) The work of God in the soul begins with a day of small things; the light but glimmering, the graces weak; yet these are not to be despised, for in the end, if we be faithful, they shall have great increase. (2.) Instead of being discouraged because our labours have but little success, we must be thankful for that little, and trust in him who giveth the increase. (3.) It is a great joy to all pious people to see ministers and magistrates exerting themselves in the cause of God and truth. (4.) They who are under the guidance of these seven eyes of God's providence and grace need never despair, whatever difficulties are in their way.

2nd, Since he had found such favour in the eyes of the Lord, the prophet continues his inquiries, not to gratify his curiosity, but to furnish himself with matter for the good of his people.

1. He begs information concerning the two olive-trees, and what the two branches signify that emptied their oil into the golden bowl through the two golden pipes; and, being interrogated as before, Knowest thou not what these be? he again acknowledges his ignorance.

2. He is told what the olive-trees and branches signify. These are the two anointed ones, or the sons of oil; which some interpret of the gifts and graces of the Spirit; some of Christ and the Holy Ghost; others of Christ in his two natures, or in his offices of priest and king, from whom the golden oil of grace is poured forth; that stand by the Lord of the whole earth, God the Father, who governs the affairs of the world and the church in and by his Son, to whom all power is committed; and by the Holy Ghost, which proceeds from them both, and is the quickening Spirit in the hearts of all that believe. But see the critical notes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Zechariah 4:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/zechariah-4.html. 1801-1803.

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