The primary passages on this subject are Exodus 25:31-40; Leviticus 24:2, 4.
The Hebrew word translated “candlestick” in the Authorized Version means “a light-bearer” or “a lampstand.” The fact that the light-bearer in the Tabernacle had seven lamps on it (Ex 25:25, 37), and that these were fed with oil (Lev 24:2, 4), is proof that it was not a candlestick as we know it.
1. Its size – no dimensions given.
2. Its material – pure gold, one talent.
3. Its parts – a base, a center stem, and three stems or branches on each side, all beaten out of one piece.
4. Its ornamentation – the stems were ornamented with buds, blossoms, and almonds.
5. Its use – to give light in the Holy Place.
Typical significance (Hebrews 1:3)
The lampstand was made of pure gold. It was made from one solid piece; not cast, but beaten by the hammer-blows of the divinely-endowed craftsmen. The beauty of the lampstand – its symmetry and elaborate ornamentation – points to the operation of divine wisdom in the planning and execution of such a work. The “beaten gold” would suggest a suffering Savior, now glorified in the presence of God (Isa 53:5; Heb 2:9; 12:2).
The position of the lampstand within the Holy Place would exclude the thought of this vessel typifying Christ as “the light of the world” (John 8:12). What it does speak of is His present ministry in the presence of God, of bringing and sustaining all true believers in that sphere of light and enlightenment (1 Peter 2:9; I John 1:3, 7).
The pattern of the lampstand is described in the following way:
a) One shaft or main stem.
b) Its branch (note: In Ex 25:31 the word “branches” should be singular)
c) Six branches out of the sides of it.
The word “shaft” is translated “thigh” or “loins” in Genesis 46:26, Exodus 1:5, and Judges 8:30. Children are represented in these Scriptures as proceeding from the thigh or loins of their parents Similarly, the six branches spring from the shaft of the lampstand. The lampstand had also “its branch” which sprang up from the central shaft while the six branches came out of the sides. This single central branch was more elaborately adorned than the other branches, having four bowls with knops and flowers. Because of this, the central branch may have been taller. In this special way, the Lord Jesus is represented as “having the preeminence,” and yet all the branches were part of and came out of the same shaft – “all shall be one beaten work.” Here is a type of the Lord Jesus as the origin or cause of the Body of which He is the Head and yet, while taking His place in the midst of His fellows, at the same time He is the shaft or pillar on which it all depends (Heb 2:11-13; Ps 45:7). The ornamentation of the bud, flower, and fruit of the almond bring before us the truth of resurrection. Just as the tree would bud in the spring and then burst forth into flower and fruit, so our blessed Lord “burst forth” from the grave on the third day (Matt 28:2; Mark 16:5, 6; Luke 24:23; John 20:12).
The seven branches made out of one piece supported the lighted lamps. These lamps are described in the singular in Exodus 27:20 and Leviticus 24:2 -“the lamp” – showing the unity of purpose in the function of the lamps and illustrating the close association of Christ (the center branch) and His Church (the side branches). The source of light was the olive oil brought by the rulers (Ex 35:10, 14, 27, 28). The antitype of the oil used as light in the Sanctuary is given in Revelation 4:5, where we read, “And there were seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.” The figure here would seem to be the Tabernacle lampstand. Linking John 16:14 with 2 Corinthians 4:6 we see that it is the operation of the Holy Spirit within the Sanctuary which takes the things of a glorified Christ and shows them to His people. The lampstand had a threefold purpose in the Holy Place:
a) To shed its light on itself and thus display its beauty (Ex 25:37; Num 8:2-3).
b) To shed its light on the table of shewbread (Ex 26:35).
c) To shed its light before the Lord (Ex 40:25).
Putting these three passages together we are reminded that occupation with the beauty of the Lord Himself is surely the substance of the fellowship in the presence of God. Here we have Christ in the Holy Place (Heaven), hidden from the world and enjoyed only by the priests (believers) who minister there. The natural man cannot appreciate or appropriate the glories of our Risen Lord because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). The maintenance of the light in the lampstand was the direct responsibility of the High Priest (Ex 30:7, 8). It would appear that the lamps were dressed and filled each morning and lighted each evening. Thus “the lamps were caused to burn continually” (Lev 24:2, 3) i.e. – every night, from evening to morning. The trimming of the wicks and the addition of fresh oil ensured a bright light. The tongs and snuff-dishes, or censers, were used for this work. The trimming of the wick in the believer’s experience might well be described in scriptures such as Philippians 3:13 and 2 Corinthians 12:7-9. The addition of the oil might be found in Ephesians 5:18. The Nation of Israel, which was represented before Jehovah by the seven-branched golden lampstand, had a responsibility to shine for Him in testimony before the nations round about (Ex 19:4-6; Isa 43:10). So also is the believer called to witness as a shining light of testimony in this dark world (Matt 5:14; Phil 2:15, 16).
To summarize: God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5). Light exposes and burns, as well as warms and illuminates. For believers, the Light is the Light of Life, but for unbelievers, it will yet blind and overwhelm. All believers are “children of the light,” which indicates likeness to our heavenly Father. Christ is the Light to His people (2 Cor 4:6), in His people (Eph 1:18; 5:13, 14), and through His people (Matt 5:14-16).