Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Zac 4:1. "And the angel that talked with me returned and waked me, like a man who is waked out of his sleep." After the prophet has seen four visions one after another, probably with very short intervals, and has heard the marvellous interpretation of them, he is so overpowered by the impression produced by what he has seen and heard, that he falls into a state of spiritual exhaustion resembling sleep, just as Peter and his companions were unable to keep awake at the transfiguration of Christ (Luk 9:32). He has not only fallen back into the state of ordinary human consciousness, but his ordinary spiritual consciousness was so depressed that he resembled a man asleep, and had to be waked out of this sleep-like state by the mediating angel, in order to be qualified for further seeing. It is evident from the expression ויּשׁב (and he returned) that the angelus interpres had left the prophet after the termination of the previous visions, and now came back to him again. The fresh vision which presents itself to his spiritual intuition, is described according to its principal features in Zac 4:2 and Zac 4:3. Zac 4:2. "And he said to me, What seest thou? And I said, I see, and behold a candlestick all of gold, and its oil-vessel up above it, and its seven lamps upon it, seven pipes each for the lamps upon the top of it. Zac 4:3. And two olive trees (oil trees) by it, one to the right of the oil-vessel, and one to the left of it." The second ויאמר (chethib) in Zac 4:2 might, if necessary, be explained in the way proposed by L. de Dieu, Gusset., and Hofmann, viz., by supposing that the mediating angel had no sooner asked the prophet what he saw, than he proceeded, without waiting for his answer, to give a description himself of what was seen. But this is at variance with the analogy of all the rest of the visions, where the visions seen by the prophet are always introduced with ראיתי or ואראה followed by והנּה (cf. Zac 1:8; Zac 2:1, Zac 2:5; Zac 5:1; Zac 6:1), and it remains quite inflexible; so that we must accept the keri ואמר, which is adopted by the early translators, and found in many codd., as being the true reading, and pronounce ויאמר a copyist's error. On the combination מנורת זהב כּלּהּ, in which the last two words are construed as a relative clause in subordination to menōrath, see Ewald, 332, c.
The visionary candlestick, all of gold, with its seven lamps, is unquestionably a figurative representation of the seven-branched golden candlestick in the tabernacle, and differs from this only in the three following additions which are peculiar to itself: (1) That is has its gullâh (גּלּהּ for גּלּתה, with the feminine termination resolved; cf. Hos 13:2, and Ewald, 257, d), i.e., a can or round vessel for the oil, which was omitted altogether from the candlestick of the holy place, when the lamps were filled with oil by the priests, "at the top of it" (על־ראשׁהּ); (2) That it had seven mūtsâqōth (pipes) each for the lamps, that is to say, tubes through which the oil poured from the gullâh into the lamps, or was conducted to them, whereas the candlestick of the tabernacle had no pipes, but only seven arms (qânı̄m), for the purpose of holding the lamps, which of course could not be wanting in the case of the visionary candlestick, and are merely omitted from the description as being self-evident. The number of the pipes is also a disputed point, viz., whether שׁבעה ושׁבעה means seven and seven, i.e., fourteen, or whether it is to be taken distributively, seven each for the lamps, i.e., seven for each lamp, and therefore forty-nine for the seven. The distributive view is disputed by Hitzig and Koehler as at variance with the usage of the language: the former proposing to alter the text, so as to obtain seven pipes, i.e., one for each lamp; and the latter, on the other hand, assuming that there were fourteen pipes, and inferring from the statement "seven and seven," instead of fourteen, that the second seven are to be sought in a different place from the first, that is to say, that the first seven led from the oil-vessel to the seven different lamps, whilst the second seven connected the seven lamps with one another, which would have been a very strange and perfectly useless provision. But there is no foundation whatever for the assertion that it is at variance with the usage of the language. For although a distributive relation is certainly expressed as a rule by the simple repetition of the number without any connecting Vav, such passages as Sa2 21:20 and Ch1 20:6 show quite indisputably that the repetition of the same number with the Vav cop. between is also to be taken distributively. When, for example, it is stated in Sa2 21:20, with regard to the hero of Gath, that the fingers of his hands and the fingers (toes) of his feet were "shēsh vâshēsh, four-and-twenty in number," it is evident that shēsh vâshēsh cannot mean "six and six," because six and six do not make twenty-four; and a division of the shēsh between the hands and feet is also untenable, because his two hands had not six fingers on them, but twelve, and so his two feet had not six toes on them, but twelve. Consequently shēsh vâshēsh must be taken distributively: the fingers of his (two) hands and the toes of his (two) feet were six each; for it is only 2 + 2 (= 4) x 6 that can give 24. This is shown still more clearly in Ch1 20:6 : "and his fingers were shēsh vâshēsh, four-and-twenty." It is in this distributive sense, which is thus thoroughly established, so far as the usage of the language is concerned, that שׁבעה ושׁבעה מוּץ is to be taken: seven pipes each for the lamps, i.e., forty-nine for the seven lamps; inasmuch as if fourteen pipes were meant, it would be impossible to imagine any reason why "seven and seven" should be written instead of fourteen. And we cannot be shaken in this conviction, either by the objection "that if there was any proportion between the pipes and the size of the oil-vessel, such a number of pipes could not possibly (?) spring from one oil-can" (Koehler), or by the statement that "forty-nine would be quite as much at variance with the original as fourteen, since that had only one pipe for every lamp" (Hitzig). For the supposed original for the pipes had no existence, inasmuch as the Mosaic candlestick had no pipes at all; and we can form no opinion as to the possibility of forty-nine pipes issuing from one oil-vessel, because we have no information as to the size either of the oil-vessel or of the pipes. (3) The third peculiarity in the visionary candlestick consists in the olive trees on the right and left of the oil-vessel, which supplied it with oil, and whose connection with the candlestick is first described in Zac 4:12. These three additions which were made to the golden candlestick seen by Zechariah, as contrasted with the golden candlestick of the tabernacle, formed the apparatus through which it was supplied with the oil required to light it continually without the intervention of man.
The interpretation of this vision must therefore be founded upon the meaning of the golden candlestick in the symbolism of the tabernacle, and be in harmony with it. The prophet receives, first of all, the following explanation, in reply to his question on this point: Zac 4:4. "And I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, What are these, my lord? Zac 4:5. And the angel that talked with me answered and said to me, Knowest thou not what these are? And I said, No, my lord. Zac 4:6. Then he answered and spake to me thus: This is the word of Jehovah to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, and not by power, but by my Spirit, saith Jehovah of hosts. Zac 4:7. Who art thou, O great mountain before Zerubbabel? Into a plain! And He will bring out the top-stone amidst shoutings, Grace, grace unto it!" The question addressed by the prophet to the mediating angel, "What are these?" (mâh 'ēlleh, as in Zac 2:2) does not refer to the two olive trees only (Umbreit, Kliefoth), but to everything described in Zac 4:2 and Zac 4:3. We are not warranted in assuming that the prophet, like every other Israelite, knew what the candlestick with its seven lamps signified; and even if Zechariah had been perfectly acquainted with the meaning of the golden candlestick in the holy place, the candlestick seen by him had other things beside the two olive trees which were not to be found in the candlestick of the temple, viz., the gullâh and the pipes for the lamps, which might easily make the meaning of the visionary candlestick a doubtful thing. And the counter-question of the angel, in which astonishment is expressed, is not at variance with this. For that simply presupposes that the object of these additions is so clear, that their meaning might be discovered from the meaning of the candlestick itself. The angel then gives him the answer in Zac 4:6 : "This (the vision as a symbolical prophecy) is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might," etc. That is to say, through this vision Zerubbabel is informed that it - namely, the work which Zerubbabel has taken in hand or has to carry out - will not be effected by human strength, but by the Spirit of God. The work itself is not mentioned by the angel, but is referred to for the first time in Zac 4:7 in the words, "He will bring out the top-stone," and then still more clearly described in the word of Jehovah in Zac 4:9 : "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house (the temple), and his hands will finish it." It by no means follows from this that the candlestick, with its seven lamps, represented Zerubbabel's temple (Grotius, Hofmann); for whilst it is impossible that the candlestick, as one article of furniture in the temple, should be a figurative representation of the whole temple, what could the two olive trees, which supplied the candlestick with oil, signify with such an interpretation? Still less can the seven lamps represent the seven eyes of God (Zac 4:10), according to which the candlestick would be a symbol of God or of the Spirit (Hitzig, Maurer, Schegg). The significance of the candlestick in the holy place centred, as I have shown in my biblische Archologie (i. p. 107), in its seven lamps, which were lighted every evening, and burned through the night. The burning lamps were a symbol of the church or of the nation of God, which causes the light of its spirit, or of its knowledge of God, to shine before the Lord, and lets it stream out into the night of a world estranged from God. As the disciples of Christ were called, as lights of the world (Mat 5:14), to let their lamps burn and shine, or, as candlesticks in the world (Luk 12:35; Phi 2:15), to shine with their light before men (Mat 5:16), so as the church of the Old Testament also. The correctness of this explanation of the meaning of the candlestick is placed beyond all doubt by Rev 1:20, where the seven λυχνίαι, which John saw before the throne of God, are explained as being the seven ἐκκλησίαι, which represent the new people of God, viz., the Christian church. The candlestick itself merely comes into consideration here as the stand which carried the lamps, in order that they might shine, and as such was the divinely appointed form for the realization of the purpose of the shining lamps. In this respect it might be taken as a symbol of the kingdom of God on its formal side, i.e., of the divinely appointed organism for the perpetuation and life of the church. But the lamps received their power to burn from the oil, with which they had to be filled before they could possibly burn.
Oil, regarded according to its capacity to invigorate the body and increase the energy of the vital spirits, is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of the Spirit of God, not in its transcendent essence, but so far as it works in the world, and is indwelling in the church; and not merely the anointing oil, as Kliefoth supposes, but also the lamp oil, since the Israelites had no other oil than olive oil even for burning, and this was used for anointing also.
(Note: The distinction between lamp oil and anointing oil, upon which Kliefoth founds his interpretation of the visionary candlestick, and which he tries to uphold from the language itself, by the assertion that the anointing oil is always called shemen, whereas the lamp oil is called yitshâr, is shown to be untenable by the simple fact that, in the minute description of the preparation of the lamp oil for the sacred candlestick, and the repeated allusion to this oil in the Pentateuch, the term yitshâr is never used, but always shemen, although the word yitshâr is by no means foreign to the Pentateuch, but occurs in Num 18:12; Deu 7:13; Deu 11:14; Deu 12:17, and other passages. According to Exo 27:20, the lamp oil for the candlestick was to be prepared from shemen zayith zâkh kâthı̄th, pure, beaten olive oil (so also according to Lev 24:2); and according to Exo 30:24, shemen zayith, olive oil, was to be used for anointing oil. Accordingly the lamp oil for the candlestick is called shemen lammâ'ōr in Exo 25:6; Exo 35:8, Exo 35:28, and shemen hammâ'ōr in Exo 35:14; Exo 39:37, and Num 4:16; and the anointing oil is called shemen hammishchâh in Exo 29:7; Exo 31:11; Exo 35:15; Exo 39:38; Exo 40:9; Lev 8:20, Lev 8:10, and other passages; and shemen miwshchath-qōdesh in Exo 30:25. Apart from Zac 4:14 of the chapter before us, yitshâr is never used for the lamp oil as such, but simply in the enumeration of the productions of the land, or of the tithes and first-fruits, when it occurs in connection with tı̄rōsh, must or new wine (Num 18:12; Deu 7:13; Deu 11:14; Deu 14:23; Deu 18:4; Deu 28:51; Ch2 31:5; Ch2 32:28; Neh 5:11; Neh 10:39; Neh 13:12; Hos 2:9, Hos 2:22; Joe 1:10; Joe 2:19, Joe 2:24; Jer 31:12; Hag 1:11), but never in connection with yayin (wine), with which shemen is connected (Ch1 12:40; Ch2 2:14; Ch2 11:11; Pro 21:17; Jer 40:10). It is evident from this that yitshâr, the shining, bears the same relation to shemen, fatness, as tı̄rōsh, must, to yayin, wine, - namely, that yitshâr is applied to oil as the juice of the olive, i.e., as the produce of the land, from its shining colour, whilst shemen is the name given to it when its strength and use are considered. Hengstenberg's opinion, that yitshâr is the rhetorical or poetical name for oil, has no real foundation in the circumstance that yitshâr only occurs once in the first four books of the Pentateuch (Num 18:12) and shemen occurs very frequently; whereas in Deuteronomy yitshâr is used more frequently than shemen, viz., the former six times, and the latter four.)
And in the case of the candlestick, the oil comes into consideration as a symbol of the Spirit of God. There is no force in Kliefoth's objection - namely, that inasmuch as the oil of the candlestick was to be presented by the people, it could not represent the Holy Spirit with its power and grace, as coming from God to man, but must rather represent something human, which being given up to God, is cleansed by God through the fire of His word and Spirit; and being quickened thereby, is made into a shining light. For, apart from the fact that the assumption upon which this argument is founded - namely, that in the oil of the candlestick the Spirit of God was symbolized by the altar fire with which it was lighted - is destitute of all scriptural support, since it is not mentioned anywhere that the lamps of the candlestick were lighted with fire taken from the altar of burnt-offering, but it is left quite indefinite where the light or fire for kindling the lamps was to be taken from; apart, I say, from this, such an argument proves too much (nimium, ergo nihil), because the anointing oil did not come directly from God, but was also presented by the people. Supposing, therefore, that this circumstance was opposed to the symbolical meaning of the lamp oil, it would also be impossible that the anointing oil should be a symbol of the Holy Ghost, since not only the oil, but the spices also, which were used in preparing the anointing oil, were given by the people (Exo 25:6). We might indeed say, with Kliefoth, that "the oil, as the fatness of the fruit of the olive tree, is the last pure result of the whole of the vital process of the olive tree, and therefore the quintessence of its nature; and that man also grows, and flourishes, and bears fruit like an olive tree; and therefore the fruit of his life's fruit, the produce of his personality and of the unfolding of his life, may be compared to oil." But it must also be added (and this Kliefoth has overlooked), that the olive tree could not grow, flourish, and bear fruit, unless God first of all implanted or communicated the power to grow and bear fruit, and then gave it rain and sunshine and the suitable soil for a prosperous growth. And so man also requires, for the production of spiritual fruits of life, not only the kindling of this fruit by the fire of the word and Spirit of God, but also the continued nourishment and invigoration of this fruit through God's word and Spirit, just as the lighting and burning of the lamps are not effected simply by the kindling of the flame, but it is also requisite that the oil should possess the power to burn and shine. In this double respect the candlestick, with its burning and shining lamps, was a symbol of the church of God, which lets the fruit of its life, which is not only kindled but also nourished by the Holy Spirit, shine before God. And the additions made to the visionary candlestick indicate generally, that the church of the Lord will be supplied with the conditions and requirements necessary to enable it to burn and shine perpetually, i.e., that the daughter of Zion will never fail to have the Spirit of God, to make its candlestick bright. (See at Zac 4:14.)
There is no difficulty whatever in reconciling the answer of the angel in Zac 4:6 with the meaning of the candlestick, as thus unfolded according to its leading features, without having to resort to what looks like a subterfuge, viz., the idea that Zac 4:6 does not contain an exposition, but passes on to something new, or without there being any necessity to account, as Koehler does, for the introduction of the candlestick, which he has quite correctly explained (though he weakens the explanation by saying that it applies primarily to Zerubbabel), namely, by assuming that "it was intended, on the one hand, to remind him what the calling of Israel was; and, on the other hand, to admonish him that Israel could never reach this calling by the increase of its might and the exaltation of its strength, but solely by suffering itself to be filled with the Spirit of Jehovah." For the candlestick does not set forth the object after which Israel is to strive, but symbolizes the church of God, as it will shine in the splendour of the light received through the Spirit of God. It therefore symbolizes the future glory of the people of God. Israel will not acquire this through human power and might, but through the Spirit of the Lord, in whose power Zerubbabel will accomplish the work he has begun. Zac 4:7 does not contain a new promise for Zerubbabel, that if he lays to heart the calling of Israel, and acts accordingly, i.e., if he resists the temptation to bring Israel into a free and independent position by strengthening its external power, the difficulties which have lain in the way of the completion of the building of the temple will clear away of themselves by the command of Jehovah (Koehler). For there is not the slightest intimation of any such temptation as that supposed to have presented itself to Zerubbabel, either in the vision itself or in the historical and prophetical writings of that time. Moreover, Zac 4:7 has not at all the form of a promise, founded upon the laying to heart of what has been previously mentioned. The contents of the verse are not set forth as anything new either by נאם יהוה (saith Jehovah), or by any other introductory formula. It can only be a further explanation of the word of Jehovah, which is still covered by the words "saith Jehovah of hosts" at the close of Zac 4:6. The contents of the verse, when properly understood, clearly lead to this. The great mountain before Zerubbabel is to become a plain, not by human power, but by the Spirit of Jehovah. The meaning is given in the second hemistich: He (Zerubbabel) will bring out the top-stone. והוציא (is not a simple preterite, "he has brought out the foundation-stone" (viz., at the laying of the foundation of the temple), as Hengstenberg supposes, but a future, "he will bring out," as is evident from the Vav consec., through which הוציא is attached to the preceding command as a consequence to which it leads. Moreover, אבן הראשׁה does not mean the foundation-stone, which is called אבן פּנּה, lit., corner-stone (Job 38:6; Isa 28:16; Jer 51:26), or ראשׁ פּנּה, the head-stone of the corner (Psa 118:22), but the stone of the top, i.e., the finishing or gable stone (הראשׁה with raphe as a feminine form of ראשׁ, and in apposition to האבן). הוציא, to bring out, namely out of the workshop in which it had been cut, to set it in its proper place in the wall. That these words refer to the finishing of the building of the temple which Zerubbabel had begun, is placed beyond all doubt by Zac 4:9.
The great mountain, therefore, is apparently "a figure denoting the colossal difficulties, which rose up mountain high at the continuation and completion of the building of the temple." Koehler adopts this explanation in common with "the majority of commentators." But, notwithstanding this appearance, we must adhere to the view adopted by the Chald., Jerome, Theod. Mops., Theodoret, Kimchi, Luther, and others, that the great mountain is a symbol of the power of the world, or the imperial power, and see no difficulty in the "unwarrantable consequence" spoken of by Koehler, viz., that in that case the plain must be a symbol of the kingdom of God (see, on the contrary, Isa 40:4). For it is evident from what follows, that the passage refers to something greater than this, namely to the finishing of the building of the temple that has already begun, or to express it briefly and clearly, that the building of the temple of stone and wood is simply regarded as a type of the building of the kingdom of God, as Zac 4:9 clearly shows. There was a great mountain standing in the way of this building of Zerubbabel's - namely the power of the world, or the imperial power - and this God would level to a plain. Just as, in the previous vision, Joshua is introduced as the representative of the high-priesthood, so here Zerubbabel, the prince of Judah, springing from the family of David, comes into consideration not as an individual, but according to his official rank as the representative of the government of Israel, which is now so deeply humbled by the imperial power. But the government of Israel has no reality or existence, except in the government of Jehovah. The family of David will rise up into a new royal power and glory in the Tsemach, whom Jehovah will bring forth as His servant (Zac 3:8). This servant of Jehovah will fill the house of God, which Zerubbabel has built, with glory. In order that this may be done, Zerubbabel must build the temple, because the temple is the house in which Jehovah dwells in the midst of His people. On account of this importance of the temple in relation to Israel, the opponents of Judah sought to throw obstacles in the way of its being built; and these obstacles were a sign and prelude of the opposition which the imperial power of the world, standing before Zerubbabel as a great mountain, will offer to the kingdom of God. This mountain is to become a plain. What Zerubbabel the governor of Judah has begun, he will bring to completion; and as he will finish the building of the earthly temple, so will the true Zerubbabel, the Messiah, Tsemach, the servant of Jehovah, build the spiritual temple, and make Israel into a candlestick, which is supplied with oil by two olive trees, so that its lamps may shine brightly in the world. In this sense the angel's reply gives an explanation of the meaning of the visionary candlestick. Just as, according to the economy of the Old Testament, the golden candlestick stood in the holy place of the temple before the face of Jehovah, and could only shine there, so does the congregation, which is symbolized by the candlestick, need a house of God, that it may be able to cause its light to shine. This house is the kingdom of God symbolized by the temple, which was to be built by Zerubbabel, not by human might and power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. In this building the words "He will bring forth the top-stone" find their complete and final fulfilment. The finishing of this building will take place תּשׁאות חן חן להּ, i.e., amidst loud cries of the people, "Grace, grace unto it." תּשׁאות is an accusative of more precise definition, or of the attendant circumstances (cf. Ewald, 204, a), and signifies noise, tumult, from שׁוא = שׁאה, a loud cry (Job 39:7; Isa 22:2). The suffix לּהּ refers, so far as the form is concerned, to האבן הראשׁה, but actually to habbayith, the temple which is finished with the gable-stone. To this stone (so the words mean) may God direct His favour or grace, that the temple may stand for ever, and never be destroyed again.
A further and still clearer explanation of the angel's answer (Zac 4:6 and Zac 4:7) is given in the words of Jehovah which follow in Zac 4:8-10. Zac 4:8. "And the word of Jehovah came to me thus: Zac 4:9. The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it; and thou wilt know that Jehovah of hosts hath sent me to you. Zac 4:10. For who despiseth the day of small things? and they joyfully behold the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, those seven: the eyes of Jehovah, they sweep through the whole earth." This word of God is not addressed to the prophet through the angelus interpres, but comes direct from Jehovah, though, as Zac 4:9 clearly shows when compared with Zac 2:9 and Zac 2:11, through the Maleach Jehovah. Although the words "the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house" unquestionably refer primarily to the building of the earthly temple, and announce the finishing of that building by Zerubbabel, yet the apodosis commencing with "and thou shalt know" shows that the sense is not thereby exhausted, but rather that the building is simply mentioned here as a type of the spiritual temple (as in Zac 7:12-13), and that the completion of the typical temple simply furnishes a pledge of the completion of the true temple. For it was not by the finishing of the earthly building, but solely by the carrying out of the kingdom of God which this shadowed forth, that Judah could discern that the angel of Jehovah had been sent to it. This is also apparent from the reason assigned for this promise in Zac 4:10, the meaning of which has been explained in very different ways. Many take ושׂמחוּ וגו as an apodosis, and connect it with כּי מי בז as the protasis: "for whoever despises the day of small things, they shall see with joy," etc. (lxx, Chald., Pesh., Vulg., Luther., Calv., and others); but מי can hardly be taken as an indefinite pronoun, inasmuch as the introduction of the apodosis by Vav would be unsuitable, and it has hitherto been impossible to find a single well-established example of the indefinite מי followed by a perfect with Vav consec. And the idea that vesâmechū is a circumstantial clause, in the sense of "whereas they see with joy" (Hitzig, Koehler), is equally untenable, for in a circumstantial clause the verb never stands at the head, but always the subject; and this is so essential, that if the subject of the minor (or circumstantial) clause is a noun which has already been mentioned in a major clause, either the noun itself, or at any rate its pronoun, must be repeated (Ewald, 341, a), because this is the only thing by which the clause can be recognised as a circumstantial clause. We must therefore take מי as an interrogative pronoun: Who has ever despised the day of the small things? and understand the question in the sense of a negation, "No one has ever despised," etc. The perfect baz with the syllable sharpened, for bâz, from būz (like tach for tâch in Isa 44:18; cf. Ges. 72, Anm. 8), expresses a truth of experience resting upon facts. The words contain a perfect truth, if we only take them in the sense in which they were actually intended, - namely, that no one who hopes to accomplish, or does accomplish, anything great, despises the day of the small things. Yōm qetannōth, a day on which only small things occur (cf. Num 22:18). This does not merely mean the day on which the foundation-stone of the temple was first laid, and the building itself was still in the stage of its small beginnings, according to which the time when the temple was built up again in full splendour would be the day of great things (Koehler and others). For the time when Zerubbabel's temple was finished - namely, the sixth year of Darius - was just as miserable as that in which the foundation was laid, and the building that had been suspended was resumed once more. The whole period from Darius to the coming of the Messiah, who will be the first to accomplish great things, is a day of small things, as being a period in which everything that was done for the building of the kingdom of God seemed but small, and in comparison with the work of the Messiah really was small, although it contained within itself the germs of the greatest things.
The following perfects, ושׂמחוּ וראוּ, have Vav consec., and express the consequence, though not "the necessary consequence, of their having despised the day of small beginnings," as Koehler imagines, who for that reason properly rejects this view, but the consequence which will ensue if the day of small things is not despised. The fact that the clause beginning with vesâmechū is attached to the first clause of the verse in the form of a consequence, may be very simply explained on the ground that the question "who hath despised," with its negative answer, contains an admonition to the people and their rulers not to despise the small beginnings. If they lay this admonition to heart, the seven eyes of God will see with delight the plumb-lead in the hand of Zerubbabel. In the combination ושׂמחוּ וראוּ the verb sâmechū takes the place of an adverb (Ges. 142, 3, a). אבן הבּדיל is not a stone filled up with lead, but an 'ebhen which is lead, i.e., the plumb-lead or plummet. A plummet in the hand is a sign of being engaged in the work of building, or of superintending the erection of a building. The meaning of the clause is therefore, "Then will the seven eyes of Jehovah look with joy, or with satisfaction, upon the execution," not, however, in the sense of "They will find their pleasure in this restored temple, and look upon it with protecting care" (Kliefoth); for if this were the meaning, the introduction of the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel would be a very superfluous addition. Zerubbabel is still simply the type of the future Zerubbabel - namely, the Messiah - who will build the true temple of God; and the meaning is the following: Then will the seven eyes of God help to carry out this building. שׁבעה אלּה cannot be grammatically joined to עיני יהוה in the sense of "these seven eyes," as the position of 'ēlleh (these) between the numeral and the noun precludes this; but עיני יהוה is an explanatory apposition to שׁבעה אלּה: "those (well-known) seven, (viz.) the eyes of Jehovah." The reference is to the seven eyes mentioned in the previous vision, which are directed upon a stone. These, according to Zac 3:9, are the sevenfold radiations or operations of the Spirit of the Lord. Of these the angel of the Lord says still further here: They sweep through the whole earth, i.e., their influence stretches over all the earth. These words also receive their full significance only on the supposition that the angel of Jehovah is speaking of the Messianic building of the house or kingdom of God. For the eyes of Jehovah would not need to sweep through the whole earth, in order to see whatever could stand in the way and hinder the erection of Zerubbabel's temple, but simply to watch over the opponents of Judah in the immediate neighbourhood and the rule of Darius.
This gave to the prophet a general explanation of the meaning of the vision; for the angel had told him that the house (or kingdom) of God would be built and finished by the Spirit of Jehovah, and the church of the Lord would accomplish its mission, to shine brightly as a candlestick. But there is one point in the vision that is not yet quite clear to him, and he therefore asks for an explanation in Zac 4:11-14. Zac 4:11. "And I answered and said to him, What are these two olive-trees on the right of the candlestick, and on the left? Zac 4:12. And I answered the second time, and said to him, What are the two branches (ears) of the olive-trees which are at the hand of the two golden spouts, which pour the gold out of themselves? Zac 4:13. And he spake to me thus: Knowest thou not what these are? and I said, No, my lord. Zac 4:14. Then said he, These are the two oil-children, which stand by the Lord of the whole earth." The meaning of the olive-trees on the right and left sides of the candlestick (‛al, over, because the olive-trees rose above the candlestick on the two sides) is not quite obvious to the prophet. He asks about this in Zac 4:11; at the same time, recognising the fact that their meaning is bound up with the two shibbălē hazzēthı̄m, he does not wait for an answer, but gives greater precision to his question, by asking the meaning of these two branches of the olive-trees. On שׁתּי the Masora observes, that the dagesh forte conjunct., which is generally found after the interrogative pronoun mâh, is wanting in the שׁ, and was probably omitted, simply because the שׁ has not a full vowel, but a sheva, whilst the ת which follows has also a dagesh. These branches of the olive-trees were beyad, "at the hand of" (i.e., close by, as in Job 15:23) the two golden tsanterōth, which poured the gold from above into the gullâh of the candlestick. Tsanterōth (ἁπ. λεγ.) is supposed by Aben Ezra and others to stand for oil-presses; but there is no further ground for this than the conjecture that the olive-trees could only supply the candlestick with oil when the olives were pressed. The older translators render the word by spouts or "channels" (lxx μυξωτήρες, Vulg. rostra, Pesh. noses). It is probably related in meaning to tsinnōr, channel or waterfall, and to be derived from tsâmar, to rush: hence spouts into which the branches of the olive-trees emptied the oil of the olives, so that it poured with a rush out of them into the oil vessel. The latter is obviously implied in the words hammerı̄qı̄m, etc., which empty out the gold from above themselves, i.e., the gold which comes to them from above. Hazzâbâbh, the gold which the tsanterōth empty out, is supposed by most commentators to signify the golden-coloured oil. Hofmann (Weiss. u. Erf. i. 344-5) and Kliefoth, on the contrary, understand by it real gold, which flowed out of the spouts into the candlestick, so that the latter was thereby perpetually renewed. But as the candlestick is not now for the first time in process of formation, but is represented in the vision as perfectly finished, and as the gold comes from the branches of the olive-trees, it is impossible to think of anything else than the oil which shines like gold. Accordingly the oil (yitsâr, lit., shining) is called zâhâbh, as being, as it were, liquid gold. Hence arises the play upon words: the spouts are of gold, and they pour gold from above themselves into the candlestick (Hitzig and Koehler).
The angel having expressed his astonishment at the prophet's ignorance, as he does in Zac 4:5, gives this answer: These (the two bushes of the olive-tree, for which the olive-trees stood there) are the two benē yitshâr, sons of oil, i.e., endowed or supplied with oil (cf. Isa 5:1), which stand by the Lord of the whole earth, namely as His servants (on ‛âmad ‛al, denoting the standing posture of a servant, who rises above his master when seated, see Kg1 22:19, also Isa 6:2). The two children of oil cannot be the Jews and Gentiles (Cyril), or Israel and the Gentile world in their fruitful branches, i.e., their believing members (Kliefoth), because the candlestick is the symbol of the church of the Lord, consisting of the believers in Israel and also in the Gentile world. This is just as clear as the distinction between the olive-trees and the candlestick, to which they conduct the oil. Others think of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah (J. D. Mich., Hofm., Baumg., etc.); but although there is no force in Koehler's objection, that in that case there would be a double order of prophets in Israel, since two prophets, both influenced by the Spirit of God, would not imply a double order of prophets, this explanation is decidedly precluded by the fact that two mortal men could not convey to the church for all ages the oil of the Spirit of God. The two sons of oil can only be the two media, anointed with oil, through whom the spiritual and gracious gifts of God were conveyed to the church of the Lord, namely, the existing representatives of the priesthood and the regal government, who were at that time Joshua the high priest and the prince Zerubbabel. These stand by the Lord of the whole earth, as the divinely appointed instruments through whom the Lord causes His Spirit to flow into His congregation. Israel had indeed possessed both these instruments from the time of its first adoption as the people of Jehovah, and both were consecrated to their office by anointing. So far the fact that the olive-trees stand by the side of the candlestick does not appear to indicate anything that the prophet could not have interpreted for himself; and hence the astonishment expressed in the question of the angel in Zac 4:13. Moreover, the vision was not intended to represent an entirely new order of things, but simply to show the completion of that which was already contained and typified in the old covenant. The seven-armed candlestick was nothing new in itself. All that was new in the candlestick seen by Zechariah was the apparatus through which it was supplied with oil that it might give light, namely, the connection between the candlestick and the two olive-trees, whose branches bore olives like bunches of ears, to supply it abundantly with oil, which was conveyed to each of its seven lamps through seven pipes. The candlestick of the tabernacle had to be supplied every day with the necessary oil by the hands of the priests. This oil the congregation had to present; and to this end the Lord had to bestow His blessing, that the fruits of the land might be made to prosper, so that the olive-tree should bear its olives, and yield a supply of oil. But this blessing was withdrawn from the nation when it fell away from its God (cf. Joe 1:10). If, then, the candlestick had two olive-trees by its side, yielding oil in such copious abundance, that every one of the seven lamps received its supply through seven pipes, it could never fail to have sufficient oil for a full and brilliant light. This was what was new in the visionary candlestick; and the meaning was this, that the Lord would in future bestow upon His congregation the organs of His Spirit, and maintain them in such direct connection with it, that it would be able to let its light shine with sevenfold brilliancy.