An Exposition of Zechariah (7)

Biblical Research Monthly, 1942-43 (supplemented from installments published in 1973) — by Dr. David L. Cooper


      1. Collateral Considerations (BRM January 1973)
      2. Zechariah 1:1-6: Repentance: A Dominant Characteristic of Biblical Preaching
      3. Zechariah 1:8-17: Israel in the Valley of Depression during the Times of the Gentiles
      4. Zechariah 2:1-12: Jerusalem the Golden
      5. Zechariah 3:1-7: The Conversion and Cleansing of Israel
      6. Zechariah 3:8-12: My Servant The Branch
      7. Zechariah 4:1-14: The Significance of the Candlestick
      8. Zechariah 5:1-4: The Flying Roll (BRW March 1973)
      9. Zechariah 5:5-11: Commercialism Removed from Palestine to Babylon
      10. Zechariah 6:1-8: The Executors of God's Wrath
      11. Zechariah 6:9-15: The Man Whose Name is Branch
      12. Zechariah 7:1-14: The Deputation from Bethal
      13. Zechariah 8:1-19: The Future of Israel and the Jewish People
      14. Zechariah 9:1-8: The Conquest of Alexander
      15. Zechariah 9:9-12: The Two Comings of Messiah
      16. Zechariah 9:13-17: The Two Deliverances of Israel
      17. Zechariah 10:1-4: Israel's Shepherd King
      18. Zechariah 10:5-12: The Regathering of Israel
      19. Zechariah 11:1-17: Messiah's Rejection Symbolically Set Forth
      20. Zechariah 12:1-9: Jerusalem in the Throes of the Last War
      21. Zechariah 12:10 - 13:7: The Conversion of Israel
      22. Zechariah 13:8 - 14:21: The Day of Jehovah and the Millennium

Zechariah 4:1-14:

The Significance of the Candlestick

In the next vision of this series is found in the fourth chapter of Zechariah. At this time the prophet was enabled to see a candlestick, on either side of which stood an olive-tree. From them were pipes connected with a bowl located above the candlestick. From this receptacle other pipes ran to each of the lamps.

After this vision was presented to the prophet, he responded by saying, “What are these, my lord?” In reply, the interpreting angel reprimanded him for not being able to understand the meaning of the symbolism.

Since the angel did not tell the prophet the significance of the candlestick, one concludes that its meaning evidently was obvious. Let us therefore see if we may be able to learn what it indicates. We know that candlesticks and all types of lamps are used for the purpose of giving light where there is darkness. Naturally therefore one concludes that the candlestick here signifies that which gives light in darkness. This idea is confirmed by an examination of the first chapter of the Book of Revelation. There John was given a vision of seven golden candlesticks in the midst of which the glorified Son of Man was walking. He was informed that they signified or represented the seven churches of Asia. Thus those seven local congregations gave forth the light of truth in the heathen darkness about them.

Since the church during this age is functioning as Israel did in the Mosaic economy, we may be certain that the candlestick which was first in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple signified, Israel, who gave forth the light of the Word of God to the heathen world during that time.

But the candlestick as it was in the Jewish economy had to be cleansed and the oil replenished daily. This fact signified the imperfection of Israel during that time. In order to give forth light, there was the necessity for constant attention.

But this candlestick is an improved one, being connected with an inexhaustible supply of the oil which was burned to give the light. This oil comes from olive-trees connected by pipes to the candlestick. This arrangement therefore signifies that there will be a change in Israel's condition and that she will at some time be thus connected with the inexhaustible supply of that which enables her to shine with uninterrupted splendor.

These facts therefore present us with a prediction that at some time in the future Israel will be thus connected with God, the source of all light, and Messiah in such a way that she can give forth the light of His truth with uninterrupted blessing. When will this be?

A study of the original plan of God's blessing the world through her as set forth in Genesis 12:1-3, a further study of Israel's position in the Tribulation period when she will furnish the evangelists who conduct the world-wide revival at that time, and an additional study of the prophecies which show Israel's position in the Millennial Age lead one to the conclusion that this symbolism presents to us the scriptural teaching that at some future time Israel will give forth the light of the truth of God to the world and be the means of blessing all nations. This prediction, therefore, foreshadows Israel, who in the Tribulation (Revelation 12) is represented under the symbolism of the woman, crowned with twelve stars, clad with the sun, and standing with the moon under her feet. She will indeed send forth the truth through all nations in the Tribulation. But when the nation is converted at the end of that time, she will be the channel of world-blessing throughout the Millennial Age. It is this fact which is set forth by the symbolism of this chapter.

We have already noticed the candlestick which was in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple and which had to be snuffed, cleansed, and refilled daily. Those facts indicate that Israel needs to be cleansed and refilled by the Spirit of God and that the arrangements then obtaining were not permanent. On the other hand, the candlestick shown to Zechariah was in connection with the olive-trees, the source of the oil. Such a supply is inexhaustible. This representation, therefore, presented to Zechariah the fact that the time would come when Israel would be in a permanent relationship with the Lord and would give forth the light of His Word and truth constantly without interruption. There can be little doubt that this is the significance of the symbolism.

Not by Power but by God's Spirit

There were many and great difficulties looming before Zerubbabel. He had been experiencing these for years, and it seemed as if he were making no progress. The secret of his failure seems to be echoed in this reassuring message given to him; namely, that it was not by might and not by power that things are accomplished.

Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt 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 hand of Zerubbabel; these are the eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:6b-10)

Man is indeed impotent and can accomplish nothing that is worth while by his own power and strength. Especially does this fact become apparent to one who recognizes that there are hosts of evil spirits led by Satan that are constantly opposing everyone endeavoring to serve God. Man in his own strength is unable to cope with the power of Satan and his emissaries. It is only by the Spirit of God that men are able to meet and defeat the enemy and to accomplish that which will advance the cause of the Lord Jesus among men. This great lesson, it seems, was that which Zerubbabel needed above everything else. The Lord Jesus said that apart from Him one can do nothing (John 15:5c). The Apostle Paul declared that he could do all things through Christ who strengthened him (Philippians 4:13). May we learn this lesson and depend utterly upon Christ and the Spirit of God.

The Removal of the Hindering Mountain

In an apostrophe, Zechariah exclaimed, “Who are thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain; and he shall bring forth the top stone with shoutings of Grace, grace, unto it.” What is referred to by this great mountain? According to the Golden Rule of Interpretation we must understand it literally unless there are clear facts to indicate a symbolic or figurative meaning. In view of the fact that the prophet was speaking of the spiritual phase of the ministry of Zerubbabel and was urging him to depend upon the Spirit of God, in view of the further fact that the thing which he called a mountain was to become a plain, and in view of the additional fact that God never calls into play forces that are not necessary and that He does all things when possible in a normal way, one concludes that this mountain is not literal but is symbolic. These statements being true, to what can this word, used symbolically, refer? According to Jeremiah 51:25, a mountain when used symbolically signifies a government. Was there any government hindering Zerubbabel in his operations? Most assuredly. Although Cyrus had issued a decree for Zerubbabel to return with the Jews to the homeland and to build the Temple, some of the subordinate officials of the Persian government had hindered him from carrying out the decree — from the second year of Cyrus onward to that time. Such political maneuverings are familiar to all who understand selfish politicians. In view of the historical facts that the Medo-Persian government through these petty officials had been hindering the work, it is clear that this mountain can refer to nothing other than that government. In this promise is couched the assurance that this governmental opposition would be removed and that the governor could go forward with his plans for the restoration of the Temple and Jewish life in the homeland. The promise concludes with a statement that Zerubbabel would bring forth the capstone of the Temple with shoutings and a recognition of the workings of grace; namely, that it was by the grace of God he would accomplish the task.

One is not to despise the day of small things but is to give the glory to God for all which He accomplishes through one.

The Olive-Trees

What are these olive-trees? They are symbols according to verse 14. “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Zerubbabel was the anointed prince and Joshua the anointed high priest. These two men stood before God as His ministers in behalf of the people.

In Zechariah's day these two men were, therefore, the anointed ones. In the first half of the Tribulation, as we learn in Revelation 11, there will be two witnesses who engage in a special ministry. These are said to be the olive-trees that stand before the Lord of all the earth. In all probability they are none other than Moses and Elijah. There is, therefore, a double significance to the symbolism of the olive-trees in Zechariah's vision.

Next: Zechariah 5:1-4