Vision Five – Divine Privilege: The Lampstand and Two Olive Trees (4:1-14)
The fourth vision of chapter three presented the cleansing and restoration of Israel as a kingdom of priests. In this fifth vision, the nation is portrayed as a lampstand divinely supplied with fresh oil. This symbolises Israel, in the exercise of her priesthood, fulfilling her original divine purpose of shining as the light of witness and testimony for God.
Describing the Vision (vv1-3)
In his vision, Zechariah sees a golden lampstand with seven lamps. Above the lampstand was a “bowl” (receptacle) for oil from which seven pipes (or spouts) were directed to seven lamps. Archaeological findings dating to c.600 B.C. in the ancient city of Dothan have unearthed lampstands with a single seven-spouted lamp, and some with multiple lamps arranged around the edge of a bowl. This allows for the possibility of the lampstand’s holding seven or 49 lamps (the Hebrew reads “seven and seven spouts,” which could mean seven spouts for each lamp). On either side of the lampstand was an olive tree, the topmost branches of which were laden with olives and supplied “golden oil” via two “golden pipes” to the bowl of the lampstand (v12).
This lampstand represents the light-giving testimony of the nation of Israel. She is a divinely chosen witness to give spiritual light to the world by communicating God’s Word and engaging in His worship (Deu 4:5-6; Isa 43:21). Sadly, the nation failed to proclaim, either by word or action, the truth and character of God (Eze 5:5-8). But her light shall shine again! In the millennium, Israel shall shine like the sun in full fellowship with their manifested Messiah (cf. Isa 60:1-3; 62:1-2).
Who or what is God’s testimony (lampstand) today? The testimony of the nation of Israel was destroyed when they crucified the Light of the world and the temple was razed to the ground (A.D. 70). But the Church (collectively) and each believer (individually) bear witness to divine truth today, “among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Php 2:15). At the Rapture, divine witness on earth shall again be assumed by a faithful remnant of the nation of Israel (Rev 12).
Declaring Divine Power (vv4-6)
Zechariah’s healthy interest in the meaning of the vision brings an explanation from the angel. The vision contains a message for Zerubbabel, the governor and civil leader of the nation (Hag 1:1; 2:2). Israel could not be a shining testimony for God without the temple (representing the presence of God on earth), and the temple could not be rebuilt apart from divine agency. Zerubbabel may have been greatly discouraged by the spirit of the people and state of the rebuilding project (Hag 2:3-4), but success did not depend on human resources. It is not by “might” or “power,” words that together speak of military power, human wealth, physical strength and mental ability. The temple must be built by the exercise of supernatural power – “my Spirit” – i.e., the oil!
When will we learn this lesson? Great works of God are always attended by the power of the Spirit. In Acts we read of Peter filled with the Spirit, Philip led by the Spirit, Agabus speaking by the Spirit, Saul separated by the Spirit and wisdom imparted by the Spirit. This is normal Christian living! Surely we desire our local churches to be flourishing in their witness for God. We, therefore, need believers who are Spirit-filled.
Despising the Day of Small Things (vv7-10)
Divine power (v6) invokes a series of promises (vv7-10). The “mountain” is a metaphor for the overwhelming and insurmountable obstacles that prevented the completion of the temple. But the mountain would be levelled by the power of the Spirit, becoming a “plain” before Zerubbabel. In fact, he would have the privilege of setting the “headstone” (capstone) of the temple in its place, thus signifying its completion. This would be accompanied by the cheers of the people (cf. Ezr 3:11-13) and cries of “grace” (Ezr 6:16), which may be a description of the beauty of the finished structure or a prayerful request for God’s continued gracious favour to rest upon it. Thus, not only had the hands of Zerubbabel laid the foundation of the house (17 years previous), but he would also finish the building – a prophecy which was fulfilled in 516 B.C. (three years later, cf. Ezr 6:14-16). The fulfilment of this prophecy would be sure evidence that this was the word of the Lord.
Some in Israel, judging by outward appearance and human estimation, were scornful and contemptuous of the work in Jerusalem. They called it a “day of small things” (cf. Hag 2:3). It might have appeared as such to some in Israel, but God was at work. From the divine standpoint, this was the start of great things on earth. Little is much when God is in it! The “seven” eyes refer to divine omniscience sweeping the earth in the interests and care of the Lord’s people. God has His eye upon the remnant in Jerusalem and indeed rejoices to see the plumbline (a symbol of construction) in the hand of Zerubbabel. God was taking pleasure in the consummation of His purpose – and if He was rejoicing, so should His people. After all, this temple and this governor foreshadowed a greater temple and Governor to come (Zec 6:12-13)!
Let us not be scornful of apparent small things in which God is at work. Many would disparage a baby laid in a manger, born to a peasant maid in Bethlehem, as a “small thing.” Many today would speak in derisory terms of a small company of Christians gathered to the name of the Lord Jesus. Despise it if you like, but this is God’s delight – a little oasis of divine order and honour.
Discerning the Olive Trees (vv11-14)
It seems that two especially fruitful branches full of olives were abundantly supplying “golden oil” through “two golden pipes” to the lampstand. “Golden oil,” describing its colour and value, is a beautiful picture of the Spirit of God in His deity and glory. All is suggestive of an unlimited and abundant supply of the Holy Spirit’s power to build the temple.
The two trees themselves are “the two anointed ones” or “sons of [fresh] oil” (JND). They likely symbolise the priestly and kingly offices in Israel, represented by Joshua and Zerubbabel. It was these two offices that would maintain the lampstand of Israel in the power of the Spirit. Their responsibility was to direct the nation under God in its spiritual and civil affairs that it might be a proper and effective witness to the nations of the earth. They “stand by the Lord of all the earth” – a position of great privilege and nearness – constantly ready to act at His direction and in accordance with His word and will. We are reminded again that testimony will only be maintained by spiritual individuals in close communion with the Lord.
Prophetically, Israel shall yet shine as a light for God, but only in their close association with Christ, the King-Priest of whom both Joshua and Zerubbabel speak. He will be Israel’s limitless source of the Spirit’s power for witness and testimony (cf. Isa 60:1-3,19).
 All Scripture quotations in this article are from the KJV unless otherwise noted.