The Visions and Prophecies of Zechariah/Chapter 06
THE FIFTH VISION
And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have seen, and behold, a candlestick all of gold, with its bowl upon the top of it, and its seven lamps thereon; there are seven pipes to each of the lamps, which are upon the top thereon; and two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof; and I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shall become a plain: and he shall bring forth the top-stone with shoutings of Grace, grace unto it. Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for these seven shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hands of Zerubbabel; these are the eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro through the whole earth. Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? And I answered the second time, and said unto him, What are these two olive branches, which are beside the two golden spouts, that empty the golden oil out of themselves? And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
AS stated in the introduction to the 3rd chapter, the fourth and fifth visions form a new chapter in this series of symbolic prophecies, which, " though in a sense standing by themselves, are in true psychological order, and in the closest possible relation with the wonderful things which had already been unfolded before the pro phet's spiritual sight." We there saw that the fourth vision depicts in a symbolic but very graphic manner the inner salvation of Israel from sin and defilement, answering to tJieir outward deliverance from captivity and oppression set forth in the preceding three visions.
We feel it, however, necessary, even at the risk of being guilty of repetition, to cast once more a brief retrospective glance at the progressive unfolding of God's counsel in relation to Israel, and the establishment of Messiah's Kingdom, in the series of visions which we have already considered.
The first three visions were meant to convey to the prophet, and through the prophet to the people, the " good and comfortable " assurance that God had neither cast off nor forsaken the people which He hath foreknown; that, though they found themselves under the oppressive yoke of Gentile world-power (which was true of the remnant which had returned as well as of the bulk of the nation which was still in the far land of the Captivity), the Angel of the Covenant was in their midst, identified with them, and pleading their cause (i. 8-12). Jehovah Himself, far from being indifferent to their sorrows and sufferings, is very angry with the nations who are helping forward the affliction (i. 14, 15), and wishes it to be proclaimed that he that toucheth them " toucheth the apple of His eye " (ii. 8). These Gentile world-powers " who lift up their horn " to scatter and oppress " Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem," would be broken and cast out (i. 18-21); the beloved city should be rebuilt on a much grander scale, and according to plans and measurements devised by God Himself, Who would henceforth be her Light and her Defence " a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of her " (ii. 1-5).
And not only Jerusalem, but the whole land, shall experience the blessed effects of Jehovah's " return to His people with mercies," and its cities shall spread abroad and overflow with material prosperity and with the multitude of men and cattle which shall be found therein (ii. 4).
"The name of the city from that day shall be Jehovah Shammah; and thus the first cycle in this series of visions ends with the joyous proclamation: " Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord " (ii. i o).
And the blessed consequence of Israel's return to the land, and of the return to the glory of Jehovah, for ever more to dwell in the midst of His people, will be that the original purpose of God in the call and election of Abraham and his seed namely, that in and through them all the families of the earth should be blessed shall be fulfilled.
"And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be My people, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent Me unto thee " (ii. 1 1 ).
But (as shown in the exposition on chap, iii.) the ques tion might have suggested itself to the prophet: How can these things be? Has riot Israel, by his grievous sins and moral defilement, for ever forfeited his place, and made himself unfit to be again Jehovah's sanctuary and appointed minister of blessing to the nations?
As if in answer to this question, the vision in the 3rd chapter is shown to the prophet, from which he is to learn (i) that the fulfilment of "the good words and comfortable words " of promise, rests, not on Israel's merits or worthi ness, but on the immutable purpose of Jehovah, Who, in His free sovereign grace, hath " chosen Jerusalem," and Whose gifts and calling are without repentance.
(2) The solution of the moral problem, how the Holy One can dwell in the midst, and accept and use the ministry of those who are defiled by sin, is realistically presented to the prophet in the transformation which he witnesses as taking place in the case of Joshua, who stands before the Angel of Jehovah, not in his private capacity, but as the high priest and representative of the people.
Like the filthy garments in which their representative had been clothed, so shall the Lord remove the moral filth of the daughter of Zion, and cause her iniquity to pass away in that " one day " when her eyes shall be opened to behold the glorious Person and atoning work of her Messiah, who, in allusion to the prophecies in the second half of Isaiah (especially chap, liii.), is called " My Servant," and also by the well-known Messianic title, " The Branch"
Thus, clothed in the righteousness of Him, Who " by His knowledge makes the many righteous," and arrayed in the " rich apparel," or festal attire of priestly garments, with the high-priestly mitre, to which was fastened the plate of gold with Qodesh la- Yehovah on his head, Israel shall be fitted, not only for fellowship with Jehovah, but to go forth on the mission for which he was originally chosen and destined, namely, to disseminate the truth and the blessings of Jehovah among the nations. Now, in beautiful order of sequence we have the vision in chap, iv., which presents to us Israel as the Light of the world.
The Fifth Vision
We shall now give an explanation, first, of the symbolism of this vision; and, secondly, of the message.
I. The Symbolism (vers. 1-5)
A brief pause had intervened, during which the prophet was lying probably in a state of ecstatic slumber still con templating the wonderful things he saw and heard in the last vision; or Hengstenberg may be right in regarding the prophet's " sleep " as a return to his ordinary conditions of life in comparison to the spiritually wakeful state in which he was when receiving the visions. If so, then we have here, as he suggests, " the deepest insight into the state in which the prophets were, during their prophecies, as com pared with their ordinary condition. The two bear the same relation to each other as sleeping and waking. A man's ordinary state, in which he is under the control of the senses, and unable to raise his spiritual eye to the con templation of Divine objects, is one of spiritual sleep; but an ecstatic condition, in which the senses with the whole lower life are quiescent, and only pictures of Divine objects are reflected in the soul, as in a pure and untarnished mirror, is one of spiritual waking."
Being thus wakened by the interpreting angel, and his powers of spiritual vision stimulated by the question, " What seest thou? " he looks, and beholds a candlestick, all (of it) of gold, with a bowl, or oil vessel, " at the top of it " (indi cating that it is designated as a fountain of supply for the candlestick), with seven nipifin (mutsaqotti) " pipes," or little canals (literally " pourers "), connecting this vessel with each of the seven lamps on the candlestick.
On either side (i.e., one on the right and one on the left of the bowl) were two olive trees, each with a specially ffoiitful bough, or branch, which, as Kimchi puts it, " were full of olives, as ears are full of grain," and are therefore called Shibalei hazethim " ears of olives " which poured golden oil from themselves, by means of two " spouts " or channels, into the vessel, for the supply of the candlestick.
On the prophet's asking, " What are these, my lord? " the Interpreter answers," Knowest thou not what these be? " as much as to imply that the symbolism of this vision was such that the prophet might himself have been able to interpret had he understood the symbolism of the Taber nacle and Temple.
As a matter of fact, neither the Interpreter nor the Angel of Jehovah explain the symbolism of this vision, but only indicate the message which it conveyed to Zerubbabel at that time, and to the people of God generally in all time.
The candlestick itself the central object in this vision is doubtless a figurative representation of the seven-branched candlestick in the Temple. There it stood in the Holy Place (the figure of heavenly places not made with hands), not only as the emblem and representation of what the whole redeemed family shall finally be " when in union with their risen, glorified Lord they shall for ever shine in the sanctuary of God," but also as typifying Israels high calling in relation to the other nations.
In his midst a great light had shone the light of the self-revelation of the glory of Jehovah not only for his own illumination, but that he might be the candlestick, the light-bearer, and light-diffuser all around.
It is for this reason that " when the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when He separated the children of men, He set the bounds of the peoples according to the number of the children of Israel " (Deut. xxxii. 8).
We know how terribly and sadly Israel failed to respond to God's purpose concerning Him. " Thus saith the Lord God" through His prophet Ezekiel, in chap. v. of his prophecy " This is Jerusalem: I have set her in the midst of the nations, and countries are round about her" that she may shine as a light in their midst, so that these nations and countries may see of her good works and glorify God, BUT she hath changed My judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and My statutes more than the countries tJiat are round about lier: for tJiey have rejected My judgments, and as for My statutes, they have not walked in them"
Often did God in effect threaten Israel through the prophets to remove his candlestick; but in His long-suffer ing for a long time, even after the sceptre, the emblem of governmental power, had been removed, the candlestick which is the emblem of Israels religious or ecclesiastical position as witness for God in His corporate capacity was not taken away till the cup of his national iniquity was filled up in the rejection of Him who is the " Light of light," for the diffusion of which this very candlestick was formed, and in their final resistance of the Holy Spirit. Then the Kingdom of God was taken from them and " given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof."
On the disappearance of the candlestick from Israel, the seven golden candlesticks come into view as representing the new people of God, the Church of this dispensation planted on the earth, that during the period of Israel's blindness and darkness it might fulfil Israel's mission of shining before the Lord in His sanctuary, and letting its light stream out into the night of the world's darkness: the seven as representing the Church, instead of the one as representing Israel, is not without significance.
The seven Christian ecclesiai selected by the Lord out of the many Christian assemblies which already then existed even in that one pro-consular province of Asia, to be symbol ised by the seven golden " luchniai " (lampstands), are meant to represent the one Church of Christ through all time, and in all places, during the present dispensation. It has not, like Israel, one earthly centre, and cannot be presented as an absolute unity. The seven are all mutually independent as to external order and government, yet were they meant to be one in the unity of the Spirit, under the one headship of Christ. But not only in relation to the Lord and to one another, but also in relation to the world outside, did the Church of Christ, as originally constituted, possess both a local and a catJiolic unity. " The first," to quote a great master now with the Lord, " was symbolised by each of the candlesticks regarded individually; the second by all the seven collectively. At Ephesus, for example, all the saints who dwelt in that city were gathered into visible communion with each other. All light was with them; everything else in Ephesus was darkness; and therefore one candlestick fitly represented their condition. There was one point of concentrated light. But what each Church was in its own locality, that all the Churches unitedly were to the world around them. They were together separated; had a common calling and service; were alike one to the other; were ordered and nourished by the same hand. This was catJiolic unity, symbolised by the seven candlesticks standing together with the Lord in their midst. The proper unity of the Church is gone if either of these be wanting." How glorious was the Apostolic Church in its original purity and lustre! How brightly did it shine! And how rapidly did it disseminate its light! Thus the Apostle Paul, for instance, writing to the Thessalonians only such a very brief while after the Church in that city was founded by him, could say: " From you hath sounded forth the word of the Lord, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith to Godivard is gone forth, so that we need not to speak anything" (i Thess. i. 8).
But how long did this beautiful condition of things continue? Already in the lifetime of the Apostles, germs of corruption began to manifest themselves, and they have continued ever since to develop; and though the longsuffering of God manifested in His dealings with Christendom has been as great, and even greater, than in His dealings with Israel, He has had, nevertheless, to remove from His sanctuary, one by one, the candlesticks of Gentile Christi anity, and to disown them in their corporate capacity from being witnesses for the truth and representatives of Christ on the earth.
The history of corporate Gentile Christianity is not as the shining light that " shineth more and more unto the perfect day," as some who boast in the supposed progress and speak of the conversion of the world before the glorious appearing of Christ ignorantly suppose, but rather that of a bright dawn, developing into an increasingly dark and cloudy day, and ending in blackness of darkness. And there is no hope for Christendom which continued not in the goodness of God when once it is " cut off"; nor is there any promise of the restoration and relighting of its candlestick when once its light has been quenched in anti-Christian apostasy. But it is different with Israel. There is always hope in his end.
Not only shall the sceptre of governmental rule and the kingdom come back to the daughter of Jerusalem, after the long centuries of subjugation and oppression, but her candlestick, too, shall be restored after the long period of Israel's spiritual darkness and blindness, to shine in more resplendent glory than even in the past. This is the meaning of Zechariah's fifth vision, and it sets forth in symbol the great truth proclaimed by the former prophets in relation to Israel's future glory as the centre of light and blessing to all the nations of the earth, as, for instance, in Isa. Ix. i 3: " Arise, shine; for ttiy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the peoples: but Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and His glory shall be seen upon thee. And nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising"; and Isa. Ixii. I, 2: "For Zions sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness go forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burneth. And the nations shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory; and thou shalt be called by a new name, ivhich the mouth of Jehovah shall name."
That the light of Israel's restored candlestick will shine on throughout the millennial period in undiminished purity, and in greater yea, in sevenfold brilliancy as compared with the past is, I think, indicated by the additions to the candlestick in this vision as compared with the original in Exodus.
In the Tabernacle, in keeping with the Mosaic dis pensation, the continuity of its light depended on the offerings of the people, who were commanded to bring " pure olive oil, beaten for the light; to cause a lamp to burn (lit., to ascend) continually "; and on the ministry of Aaron and his sons, who had to fill, and trim, and order, and light them every morning and evening (Ex. xxvii. 20, 21, xxx. 7, 8); but in our vision no attendant priests are necessary, nor offerings of oil from the people. The lamps are fed spontaneously from the gullah> or oil vessel, above the candlestick, the plentifulness of the flow of oil (emblem atic of the abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit) being set forth by the seven pipes (or " pourers "), which carried the supply to each.
There is yet one item in the symbolism of the candle stick which requires our attention namely, the two olive trees (ver. 3), or " sons of oil " (ver. 14), which, by means of the two tsanteroth) or spouts, empty golden oil out of themselves into the gullah, or bowl.
Many fanciful interpretations have been given of this part of the vision, which, for lack of time and space, we will not stop to examine, but it is most in harmony with the scope of these visions (one of the great objects of which was to encourage the two heads, or leaders, of the restored remnant of the nation in their task of rebuilding the Temple) to regard the olive trees as representing Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel the prince. These were the two persons by whom the whole covenant people was then represented, and through whom it, in a very important sense, received the grace and the promises of God.
The words, " These are the two that stand before the Lord of the whole earth" must also lead us to the same conclusion. In the previous vision (iii. i), which is so closely connected with that we are considering, Joshua is thus represented as " standing " before the Angel of Jehovah; and in chap. iv. it is Zerubbabel who is specially mentioned by name. It is fitting, therefore, that in the end the two who are so often mentioned together by Haggai and Zechariah should again be represented together in their united ministry. Though differently occupied, the one in more particularly " religious," and the other in civil duties, they both stand (intent on their ministry) before the Lord of the whole earth.
But, while in relation to the remnant of Israel at that time, and to the Temple then in building, we are to under stand by these two " sons of oil " the actual persons of Joshua and Zerubbabel, it is certain that these two, con sidered merely as individuals, do not exhaust the symbol, for the simple reason that the supply of oil for the candle stick in a vision designed to describe the abiding, and especially the future position and mission of the congrega tion of Israel, could not be represented as dependent on the lives of two mortal men. They must therefore be viewed standing here as the types or representatives of the kingly and priestly offices to which they respectively belonged the only two orders (with the one other exception of the prophetic) which could properly be designated by the term " sons of oil," because of their being originally consecrated for their office by the ceremony of anointing (with oil), by which act they were, so to say, appointed as the media through whom " the spiritual and gracious gifts of God " were to be conveyed to His Church.
And both these divinely-appointed offices and functions in Israel, we must remember, were from the beginning designed to shadow forth what should ultimately be united in Him who, as set forth by Zechariah himself (vi. 1 3), would be " a Priest upon His throne " the true and ever lasting great High Priest, of whom Joshua and the whole order of the Aaronic priesthood were " men that were a sign " (iii. 8); and the just and ideal King (ix. 9), of whom the kingly function in Israel was also a type and prophecy. It is in His light, and by means of the golden oil of His Spirit, which shall then be shed upon them abundantly, that Israel's candlestick shall yet shine with a sevenfold brilliancy for the illumination of all the nations of the earth.
II. The Message (vers. 6-10)
The contemplation of God's determinate counsel and the glimpse of Israel's future glory are to serve as a stimulus and encouragement to the leaders and people in the then present.
The prophet having with humility confessed his ignorance of the true import of the symbolism, the interpreting angel answered and said: " This (vision in as far as it embodies a prophecy] is the word of. Jehovah unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts" The word >JH, hayil (" might "), which also means an " army," or " host," probably stands for the strength of many; while 03, ko ach, stands for that of one man. The two might be taken to express human strength and power of every description physical, mental, and moral individual, or the combined strength of the multitude. All of themselves can neither advance nor retard the accomplish ment of His purpose. The real motive power by which Israel's mission, as set forth by the candlestick, shall eventually be fulfilled, namely, " My Spirit, saith Jehovah," must be the only resource also of Zerubbabel in the prosecution of the task of rebuilding the Temple which shall be the visible proof and symbol of the restored fellowship between Jehovah and His people, and hence an indispensable preparation for the accomplishment of Israel's mission as the light of the nations.
Now this Almighty Spirit of Jehovah " of Ts bhaoth " was now present, dwelling in the midst of the returned remnant of the people; for, in effect this message through Zechariah is but an amplified reiteration of the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel and his companion by the mouth of Haggai about four months before: "Be strong-; for I am with you, saith Jehovah of hosts, according to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so My Spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not" (Hag. ii. 4, 5), which again (as is characteristic of all the notable utterances of the post-exilic prophets) is based on a great word of Jehovah through one of the former prophets, namely, Isa. lix. 21:" As for Me, this is My covenant with them, saithJeJiovak: My Spirit that is upon thee, and My words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seeds seed, saith Jehovah, from henceforth and for ever
Relying only on God's Spirit, " the great mountain "whether we understand it as a figurative expression for " the colossal difficulties, which rose up mountain high," and of the hindrances which were then in the way before the building could be completed; or, with the Jewish Targum and Kimchi, and some eminent Christian interpreters, as the symbol of Gentile world-power, which is the real obstacle to the restoration of the theocratic kingdom, before Zerubbabel, as the instrument of God's Almighty Spirit shall be turned into " a plain "; and he, who some fifteen years before was permitted amid great demonstra tions of joy, not unmixed with sobs and tears, to lay the foundation (Ezra iii. 8, I 3), shall yet bring forth the " head stone," accompanied by shoutings of joy and admiration, " Grace, grace (is) unto it! "
In vers. 8 10 we have, so to say, a corroborative message from the mouth of the Malakh Yehovah, of the explanation given to the prophet by the angelic interpreter:
" Moreover the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it "; which, so far as the Temple which they were then building was concerned, was, as we know, fulfilled about four years after the prophesying of Haggai and Zechariah, namely, " on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king" (Ezra vi. 14, 15); but the words, "And thou shalt know that Jehovah of Ts bhaoth hath sent me unto you " (which, as appears clear from a comparison with chap. ii. 9, must be ascribed, not to the angelus interpres, but to the Malakh YehovaK), show that the promise was not exhausted then, but that the work on which Zerubbabel was engaged is regarded as a type and pledge of the sure fulfilment of that which was set forth by the symbolism. The last words of the message sound a special note of en couragement to the dispirited remnant.
Toward so great a consummation the work they were then engaged upon might seem insignificant. Indeed this feeling had been one of the chief causes of the slow progress made in the work of building the House, and disposed them only too readily to yield to the opposition of their enemies, and for a time to desist from their task altogether, till Haggai and Zechariah were raised up " to prophesy to them in the Name of the God of Israel" (Ezra v. i, 2).
When its foundation was laid, in the midst of the great joy which accompanied it,." many of the priests, and Levites, and chief of the fathers, which were ancient men," when they saw the modest dimensions, and remembered the very limited resources at their command, " wept with a loud voice, ... so that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people" (Ezra iii. 10-13).
Even in comparison with the glory of the first House which had been destroyed, the one that was then building " was as nothing in their eyes" (Hag. ii. 3); but particularly in relation to the greater glory of their restoration and of the future House predicted by the former prophets, which should become the centre from which the light of Jehovah should stream forth to all the nations, the actual circum stances in which they then found themselves must have seemed indeed " a day of small things." Yet from God's point of view the task of the rebuilding on which they were then engaged was because of its being a necessary step toward the fulfilment of His purpose as set forth in the symbolism of the candlestick the greatest and most im portant thing in the world, and formed the centre and motive of His providential dealings on the earth at that time. Not on the great world-movements, but on the little " stone of lead" or "plummet" in the hand of Zerubbabel, who is thus indicated as superintending the work of building, do the seven eyes of God's special providence rest with com placency and joy; and as those eyes run to and fro through the whole earth, and nothing is hid from His omniscience, He will see to it that nothing from without shall now prevent the work being brought to a happy completion.
This is " the word of Jehovah unto Zerubbabel "; but as we look more closely at the message we seem to see the lineaments of Zerubbabel melt away into the features of the true Prince of the House of David, and the task on which he was then engaged merge into the building of the true " Temple of Jehovah " by " the Man whose name is The Branch," as set forth by the prophet in chap. vi. Messiah, the true Son of David, shall not only be the real builder of the future literal Temple, which through the millennial period shall be the centre of the true worship of Jehovah on this earth, and the House of Prayer for all nations; but also of the much more glorious mystical Building, which through eternity shall be for the habitation of God through the Spirit. Of this spiritual Temple He is Himself the " sure Foundation," the precious Corner-stone and Head-stone of the Corner, as well as the Master Builder.
Nineteen centuries ago, in His life of suffering, death of atonement, and glorious resurrection, the foundation of that Temple was laid. Since then living stones, both Jewish and Gentile, from all parts of the earth are being gathered by His Spirit, and "the building fitly framed together" is growing toward completion; but the exceeding magnificence and the spiritual glory of this mystical Temple will not be manifested until, at the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus, the Head-stone is, so to say, brought forth, and Christ is for ever joined with His Church.
Then, when covered with the beauty of her Lord, and made perfect in the comeliness which He shall put upon her, there shall be shouting of joy and admiration, not only by men, but by the hosts of heaven, ^ in |n ( Grace, beauty, loveliness (is) unto it! " Hen, Hen, lah!
- The exposition of this chapter was originally written out and read as "a paper" at a meeting of the " Prophecy Investigation Society," l>y whom it was also privately circulated among the members. This will account for its being slightly different in form and style from the rest of the exposition.
- Ft->r it is in the distributive sen se that the expression Shibh ah v Shibh ah must doubtless be understood.
- Thoughts on the Apocalypse, B. W. Newton.