Vision #5: The Golden Lampstand And 2 Olive Trees – Zechariah 4:1-14


The prerequisite to serving God must be the type of sanctification and cleansing emphasized in the last vision. Here we see the encouragement to ministry success. Vision #4 dealt with Joshua, the religious leader; Vision #5 encourages Zerubbabel, the political leader who must motivate the people to accomplish the difficult task at hand. The key would be reliance upon the unending supply of God’s resources through His Spirit. There are no mountains of difficulty that he cannot tunnel through.


Remember the simple Sunday School song:

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable?
Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?
God specializes in things thought impossible.
He does the things others cannot do.




  1. (:1) Transition to the Next Vision: “Then the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep.
    1. Vision #4 focused on Joshua and the priestly role – the spiritual cleansing from sin and sanctification that is a prerequisite to do God’s work.
    2. Vision #5 focuses on Zerubbabel as the political leader – the resources of God that will enable the work of rebuilding the temple to be completed successfully.
  2. (:2-3) The Vision Itself – Two Main Elements 1. The Golden Lampstand: “He said to me, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see, and behold, a lampstand, all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; ‘

MacArthur: The lampstand is the 7-branched kind used in the tabernacle, with the addition of a bowl on the top if it in order to maintain an abundant supply of oil and spouts to carry the oil to keep the 7 lamps burning. The picture is of an abundant supply.

Merrill: The purpose of the menorah obviously was to illuminate the interior of the Holy Place (Ex. 25:37), but it also spoke of the illumination of the presence of YHWH Himself.

  1. The Two Olive Trees: “‘also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.’

Roper: Then, draped over the top of the lampstand are two olive trees, creating a picture of perpetual supply. The olive trees grow to maturity, the olives ripen, the olive oil then drops into the bowl on top and flows through channels to each of the individual lamps—necessitating a good deal of plumbing—all this intended to convey the idea of unlimited resource: the oil keeps flowing, the lamp keeps burning.

  1. (:4-5) Request for Insight and Understanding: “Then I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, ‘What are these, my lord?’ So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said, ‘No, my lord.’
    1. No understanding apart from the Spirit of God making things plain to us
  2. (:6-7) The Powerful Explanation – focusing on the resources of God’s Spirit and God’s Grace – How Can Anyone be Adequate for Ministry?
    1. Two Key Principles:
      1. (:6) Success Comes Only by God’s Spirit: “Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’
        1. We cannot overemphasize the importance of the ministry of the Holy Spirit – despite what we see as excesses in some other movements — we do not want to overreact by minimizing His role

Merrill: The focus cannot be on the menorah itself but on its source of illumination, the oil that provides its fuel. The reservoir—the lamps, the pipes—all have to do with this fundamental idea that the menorah is useless without the power that energizes it. Likewise the task of temple building and, indeed, of the establishment of the sovereignty of YHWH and His kingdom cannot be accomplished apart from divine enablement; hence the word of YHWH: “Not by strength and not by authority, but by my Spirit” (v. 6).

  1. (:7) Grace Can Remove the Greatest Obstacles: “What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” Sola Gracie – one of the tenets of the Reformation

Roper: He is referring to the huge pile of rubble that was strewn over the temple area. When it had burned, the temple had caved in and become a great mound of rubble. It seemed to be insurmountable. How could they clean all this rubble and rebuild the temple? Well, Zechariah is told to say to Zerubbabel, “Before you this great mountain will become a plain.” How is this to be accomplished? “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord. God’s strength, his resources, would be adequate..

Mackay: Generally the most important stone in an ancient building was the foundation stone, but here it is the completion of the building that is specially marked, perhaps when Zerubbabel superintends the placing of a stone at the top of an arch or gateway, marking the completion of the Temple. It would have been previously prepared and then brought out from the workshop or quarry to fit into its allotted place. With jubilation the people will cry out, “Grace! Grace to it!” extolling God’s freely given blessing on the work now completed, and imploring that he continue to look with favour on the Temple and all that was represented by it.


  1. (:8) Additional Words of Divine Encouragement: “Also the word of the Lord came to me, saying
  2. (:9a) Promise of Ultimate Ministry Success: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it.
  3. (:9b) Confirmation of Divine Prophecy: “Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.
  4. (:10) Assurance that God Knows What He is Doing
    1. Don’t Get Discouraged by Man’s Limited Perspective: “For who has despised the day of small things?
      1. The rebuilding of the temple looked pitiful compared to its former glory in the days of Solomon; but God was at work to accomplish His purposes; we should never despise or underestimate the importance of something that God considers important.

MacArthur: Though the rebuilding of a temple smaller than Solomon’s may have been discouraging to some (cf. Ezr 3:12; Hag 2:3), the Lord announced that His pleasure was upon this work, and that His omniscient care was watching over and taking pleasure in its completion. He said in effect, ‘Don’t despise what God is pleased with.’ This was only a picture of the glorious restoration when Messiah comes to reign. That temple will make all others pale by comparison (cf. Eze 40 -48).

  1. Rejoice in God’s Omniscient Perspective: “But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel – these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.

Mackay: this is the practical impact of the Lord’s close supervision of all that occurs on earth. The project that he approves of will not lack his care and protection until it is completed.


  1. (:11-13) Request for Insight and Understanding
    1. (:11-12) Twofold Request for Explanation of the Two Olive Trees
      1. (:11) Request #1 – Vision described in very general terms: “Then I said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees to the right of the lampstand and on its left?’
      2. (:12) Request #2 – Vision described in much more specific terms: “And I answered the second time and said to him, ‘What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves’
    2. (:13) Need for Insight and Understanding: “So he answered me, saying, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ And I said, ‘No, my lord.’
  2. (:14) Explanation of the Significance of the Olive Trees: “Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.’
    1. “sons of oil”


  1. Does God still speak to His people today in similar types of visions? Why or Why not?
  2. Trace the passages in Scripture where oil is used as a type of the Holy Spirit. What do we learn from this analogy?
  3. How abundant do we consider God’s resources to us for the task at hand?
  4. How has God leveled out our mountains and overcome our obstacles?


Roper: As we saw in our last study, Zechariah’s message is presented to him in the form of eight visions, one after another, given on the same evening. It was God’s normal procedure, at least during Old Testament times, to reveal truth to the prophets in this way. They saw things that other people did not see. That is why at times they are called “seers”. They received truth in visual form. They saw things that it would have been impossible for them to know apart from the activity of God in their lives. If you or I had visions of this nature, we would probably consider giving up catsup on our pizza before bedtime! But these visions were something very real; these were not nightmares, although they have a strange, almost bizarre quality about them. But these were visions that came from God to the prophets. Now, it appears that God is not revealing himself in this way any longer. In the book of Hebrews the writer says in the first verse, “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets [that is, he spoke to them through visions, through dreams, through auditory experiences]; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…” So the final, complete revelation of God is in the person of Christ, and he is not speaking to us, it appears, in the same ways that he did formerly. But this was the normal experience of the prophets in Zechariah’s day. . .

So we can see now something of the picture. The oil is produced by the tree, flowing through the branches down into the lamps, and the light is given off. Consistently throughout Scripture, oil is used to refer to the ministry of the Holy Spirit working powerfully through us. Thus this is a picture of the power of the Holy Spirit, flowing through Zerubbabel and Joshua out to the people, so that the people then can become what they are intended to be. What a beautiful picture of the Spirit-filled life! As a matter of fact, these two men are called “sons of fresh oil”-that is the translation of the word “anointed” in the margin of the New American Standard Version. That is, they are those who are full of oil, who are filled with the Spirit and thus are able to have this sort of ministry to those in need around them, so that light is produced where it was beginning to flicker and die. What a beautiful picture of the ministry of the Spirit of God in our life! There is no end to what he can do; there is no limit to the resources available. The tree never fails to produce fruit, so there is always an adequate supply of oil.

MacArthur: The purpose of the vision was to encourage Zerubbabel to complete the temple rebuilding, to assure him of divine enablement for that venture and the endless supply for the future glory of Messiah’s kingdom and temple. The lampstand pictured Israel fully supplied by God to be His light then and in the future. . .

The two olive trees (vvs. 3, 11) represent the kingly and priestly offices in Israel through which the blessing of God was to flow. The two olive branches (v. 12) are the two men who occupied the supreme positions in those offices at that time: Zerubbabel, as a descendant of David, and Joshua, the High-Priest, a descendant of Eleazar. Together, they foreshadow the Messiah, in whom these two offices are combined (cf. 6:13; Ps 110) and who is the true source of blessing to make Israel the light to the nations (cf. Is 60:1-3). They had positions of responsibility in service to “the Lord of the whole earth,” a millennial term that points to the final kingdom (cf. Mic 5:4).

Mackay: (Re vs 6) “Might” and “power” are very close synonyms. “Might” refers to material wealth and military capability, while “power” refers to the exercise of it. Together they represent the full extent of human resources which could be deployed to deal with a difficult situation. As Zerubbabel looked at what was available to him in organising the building of the Temple, he might well have compared what he had to the lavish provision David had set aside for Solomon – “a hundred thousand talents of gold, a million talents of silver, quantities of bronze and iron too great to be weighed, and wood and stone” (1 Chr. 22:14; 29:2). He might also have thought of the mighty men available to David and Solomon to protect their realms against external threat. The restored community had no comparable economic or military resources. . .

The next verse dramatically declares that the problems besetting Zerubbabel as God’s agent will be swept aside. “What are you, O mighty mountain?” (4:7) issues a challenge to whatever opposes God’s purposes. From a human perspective there may seem to be insuperable impediments – a great mountain of them – but it is the divine perspective that ultimately counts. Isaiah showed how every obstacle would be cleared from the path of the coming Lord, every mountain and hill being made low (Isa. 40:4). In Jeremiah the figure of a mountain is used specifically of Babylon, “the destroying mountain” (Jer. 51:25), which had done so much wrong in Zion. Perhaps then this challenge is not issued just to obstacles in general, but particularly to those parties that had already tried to make life difficult for the Jews.

Dolphin: Three principles are taught in this vision:

A. God’s Work Will Be Accomplished by God’s Spirit 4:1-6
B. God’s Work Must Not Be Despised for Its Small Beginnings 4:7-10
C. God’s Work Values People More than Institutions 4:11-14 . . .

CONCLUSION: God will accomplish His purposes through His chosen instruments, mortals who are willing to fuel the fires that give light and life to the house and mission of our Lord. Our Lord will accomplish His purposes in spite of mountainous obstacles that tasks such as the rebuilding of the temple pose. Moreover, while God values men and women more than He values institutions, men and women must not think that their work for God in building the institutions is accomplished by their own might and power. Rather, it is done only by His Holy Spirit.

That is why men and women must not negatively judge any work of God based on how it appears to them at present, for any demeaning or belittling of small beginnings is premature and ill-founded. All so-called “small things” are directly linked to God’s ongoing triumph and, especially, to His climactic victory in the final day.