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Go to Bible: Zechariah 4
“The angel who talked with me came again.” Here the Bible again confirms that the one who had been speaking to Zechariah was an angel. This would not even need to be said except for the fact the many Trinitarians believe it was Jesus Christ before he was born of Mary.
“and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.” It is unlikely that Zechariah was actually asleep, and the text does not say he was asleep, but rather was roused “like” someone who is wakened from sleep. Zechariah had just had three very powerful visions, and it is likely that he was submerged in thought about what he had seen and what the visions meant, but now the angel returns and he is given a fourth vision, the vision of the gold menorah.(top)
“a solid gold menorah.” There is almost no symbol that represents Israel as clearly as the menorah. No other nation or religion has a menorah like the Jewish menorah—a lamp holder with seven oil lamps on top of the branches. This explains why even when Zechariah said he did not know what the vision meant (Zech. 4:5), the angel did not explain it but rather gave the meaning of the vision. The vision itself is plain enough to figure out.
The menorah goes back to Moses’ Tabernacle, almost 1,000 years before Zechariah lived, and Solomon’s Temple had ten of them (1 Kings 7:49; 2 Chron. 4:7). The Hebrew word “menorah” means “lampstand,” and the menorahs in the Tabernacle and Temple were lampstands with seven upward pointing “branches” with an oil lamp on top of each branch (Exod. 25:31-36; 37:17-24). It was the duty of the priests to take care of the menorahs (Num. 3:31; 8:2-3; 2 Chron. 13:11). They kept the oil lamps filled with oil and trimmed and lit the lamps every night and snuffed them out every morning (thus the need for the “snuffers,” which are often mentioned in connection with the lamps—a “snuffer” is a little cap that is put over the wick to snuff out the flame of the oil lamp).
But the menorah in Zechariah’s vision was different from the menorahs in the Temple. It had a bowl with it that contained olive oil, and there were little “channels” that ran from the bowl to each lamp so that the lamps did not need to be filled by priests but were continually filled. Also, there were flourishing olive trees on each side of the menorah so that the menorah and its bowl would never run out of oil. The symbolism is clear: God Himself would sustain Israel and keep its light burning.
God placed Israel where He did, in the midst of many nations so they could be a light, but instead they rebelled against Him (Ezek. 5:5-6). But a time was coming in the future when Israel would indeed be the light for the nations of the earth. Although that new light from Jerusalem could start during Zechariah’s time, sadly, as before, human weakness prevailed and by the time of Jesus evil people again managed the Temple and ruled Israel. However, there would come a time (it is still future) when Jesus himself will reign from Jerusalem and prophecies like those of Isaiah 60:1-3 and 62:1-2 will be fulfilled and light from Jerusalem will shine out to the whole earth.
[For more on Christ’s future Millennial Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
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“Then he answered and spoke to me, saying, “This is the word of Yahweh to Zerubbabel, saying, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says Yahweh of Armies.” Here the angel tells Zechariah what the message from Yahweh for Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, is. Zerubbabel is building the Temple of God, but it will not be done by human effort, but by God’s power. This turned out to be very true, because the temple then being built by Zerubbabel was completely remodeled by Herod the Great just before the birth of Christ (in fact, the work was still going on during Christ’s lifetime) and then destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, but a new one will be built by Christ during the Millennial Kingdom (cp. Ezek. 40-48), and unlike the Old Testament Temple that was for Jews only, it will be “a house of prayer for all nations” (Isa. 56:7; Matt. 21:13; Mark 11:17; Luke 19:46).
Sheshbazzar had been the first governor of Judah after the return from the Babylonian Captivity (Ezra 1:8). He was succeeded at some point by Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:1).
The word “might” is also used of an “army,” and may refer to the might of many, while the word “power” likely refers to the power or ability of an individual. Thus, what God seems to be saying is that what will be accomplished will not be by the power of many or few, but by Him.
[For more on Christ’s Millennial Kingdom on earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].(top)
“Who are you.” The Hebrew text reads “who.” Although there are occasions when the pronoun “who” can mean “what,” (and some English versions read “What”), there does not seem to be a compelling reason to change “who” to “what” here. There were plenty of influential people who did not want Judah to prosper and have a Temple, including some Jews, the Samaritans, and some people back in Persia. There were circumstances as well, such as the enormity of the task, but if all the people were likeminded about it, much like what happened in the days of Solomon, the circumstances would have been easily overcome.
“O great mountain.” In this context, the “great mountain” is not specific, but referred to any worldly or human obstacle that stood in the way of what Zerubbabel was doing in building the Temple of Yahweh. It has been suggested by some commentators that the great mountain is the mountain of rubble in Jerusalem from Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of the city, but that does not seem likely in this context. The Judean workers were prepared to remove the physical rubble by their human strength. Also, the fact that the text reads, “Who are you, O great mountain” points to demonic and human opposition as the “who” causing the problems, and the biblical text supports that conclusion. Although some modern versions of Zechariah read “What are you” (cp. CSB; NASB; NIV), the Hebrew reads “who.” Although there are times when the Hebrew pronoun “who” is used generically and can be a “what,” there does not seem to be any reason for that here. There were plenty of people who stood in the way of building the Temple, thus the “mountain” in Zerubbabel’s way was mainly the people and worldly powers who tried to impede or stop the work (cp. Ezra 4:5).
When we read Zechariah 4:6-7 as a unit, we see that it is by the spirit of Yahweh that the building of the temple will be accomplished, and “not by [human] might, nor by [human] power.” Removing the physical rubble could be done with human power, but removing the human and demonic obstacles had to be done by God. In this case, the building of the Temple was not going to occur because the Judeans were such powerful people that they could force their will on their Persian overlords. The building of the Temple occurred because God was working behind the scenes to accomplish His purposes. God foretold that Zerubbabel would finish the Temple (Zech. 4:7), and he did (Ezra 6:15).
There is much that we cannot accomplish by our human power that can only be accomplished by God working with us and for us. In this case, Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed because of human disobedience, but they could only be rebuilt by God’s power. We are wise in our endeavors if we are humble and obedient to God and always pray for His help.
“the capstone.” In this context, this “stone” is the capstone, not the foundation stone (the “cornerstone”) although there could be a hint of a double meaning, and that in full application the “stone,” the Messiah, is both the capstone and the foundation stone (see commentary on Matthew 21:42). C. F. Keil writes that the Hebrew text “does not mean the foundation-stone… But the stone of the top, i.e., the finishing or gable stone. …That these words refer to the finishing of the building of the temple which Zerubbabel had begun, is placed beyond all doubt in v. 9” (C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol. 10, The Minor Prophets, p. 537).
That Jesus Christ is the capstone (or, “cornerstone”) is a very important concept. The concept is first mentioned in Psalm 118:22, and it is very important in identifying the great importance of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, and so Psalm 118:22 it is quoted or referred to six times in the New Testament (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:4 and 2:7).(top)
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“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house. Zerubabbel was a governor of Judea and was a prime mover in the start of the building of the Temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 3:8-10), so the statement that Zerubbabel laid the foundation of the Temple is history; it had already happened. When the foundation of the Temple was laid there was great joy and shouting. But the old men who had seen Solomon’s Temple when they were very young boys wept when they saw this modest new Temple, and the rejoicing and weeping were so loud and so mixed that the noise of the shouting could not be discerned from the noise of the weeping (Ezra 3:10-13). This new Temple was “nothing” in the eyes of the people (Hag. 2:3), but prophets had foretold a new Temple coming in the future (cp. Ezek. 40-44; Isa. 56:5, 7; 60:7, 13; Joel 3:18; Micah 4:2; Hag. 2:6-9; Zech. 6:12-15), and this Temple of Zerubabbel was a start and was important to God (Hag. 2:1-7).
“His hands will also finish it.” When this prophecy was spoken by the angel, the Temple was still being built. But the prophecy of the angel came to pass (Ezra 5:2; 6:14-15).
“and you will know that Yahweh of Armies has sent me.” God keeps his promises, and one of the ways we know that is by His predictions of the future that come true. That was in contrast with the prophecies of the false prophets who served the pagan gods—and there were a lot of them—whose words often did not come true.(top)
“these seven.” The seven oil lamps that gave light to the things of Yahweh (Zech. 4:2) are the “seven” here in Zechariah 4:10, and correspond to the seven spirits in Revelation 3:1 and 4:5, which are under the headship of Jesus Christ (Rev. 5:6). Very little is known about them. Trinitarian commentators say that these “seven spirits” are “the Holy Spirit,” the “sevenfold Spirit of God” and third member of the Trinity, but there is absolutely no justification for doing that. In fact, that the seven lamps in the menorah represent these seven spirits argues strongly against it.
[For more on the identity of the Holy Spirit, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”]
“the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.” The Hebrew translated “plumb line” is uncertain but likely, and if it refers to a plumb line this vision would be a blessing because Zechariah had just been told that Zerubbabel, the governor of Judea, would oversee the finishing of the Temple (Zech. 4:9), and the vision of the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel indicated that he would oversee the work.(top)
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“These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” In the context of the visions Zechariah was having, and also the historical context of what was happening in Judah at the time (cp. Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai), the two “anointed ones” (literally, the two “sons of oil”) were Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the High Priest. These two men were standing as representatives of their offices: king and priest. As Zechariah 3:8 says, these two men are signs, and they represent their offices. The offices of king and High Priest will continue in Israel, and would one day be filled by the man who is both king and High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, but at that specific time, Zerubbabel and Joshua were two “sons of oil” who kept the light of God burning in Jerusalem and Judah.
It is quite clear that the two men, Zerubbabel and Joshua, have to be signs and representatives of the offices of king and High Priest for the simple reason that the Temple will continue but they will not. They are mortal and will die, but their offices will continue forever and will eventually be filled by Jesus Christ.(top)