Zechariah 4:1-14(13)

Zechariah needed to be fully alert to see and to a comment about the vision that would be shown to him. Therefore, the angel who had been talking to him, serving as his guide and interpreter, returned and roused him as one would wake up a man who is asleep. The account does not disclose whether, as in the case of Daniel (Daniel 8:27; 10:8-10), Zechariah needed to be roused because of being exhausted by what he had seen in previous visions. (4:1)

The angel asked Zechariah, “What are you seeing?” In response, the prophet described seeing a lampstand, “all of it” being of gold. Positioned on top of the stand were a bowl and seven lamps (containers with a wick to burn a liquid to provide illumination). The reference to “two olive trees” in the next verse indicates that olive oil filled the bowl. Through “tubes” from this bowl, the olive oil flowed to the individual lamps. After the Hebrew word for “tubes” or “pipes,” the text literally reads, “seven and seven.” This has been variously understood as meaning 14 tubes (7 plus 7), 49 tubes (7 times 7), seven, even seven (a repetition for emphasis), or that for each of the seven lamps there was one of the seven tubes through which the oil flowed to the lamp. The Septuagint does not contain the expression “seven and seven,” but says that there were “seven funnels” (the plural of eparystrís, referring to a vessel for pouring oil and so could apply to a pipe, tube, or funnel through which the oil flowed.) From the standpoint of a visionary representation, Zechariah would have more readily comprehended seven lamps with seven tubes than a larger number of tubes, and this is probably the preferable significance. (4:2)

Along with the lampstand, the prophet saw two olive trees. One was on the right side of the bowl on top of the stand and the other one on the left side. These trees would have been a dependable source of oil in the bowl for supplying the seven lamps. (4:3)

Zechariah did not understand the import of the vision and in response to what he saw asked the angel who had been speaking to him, “What [are (included in the LXX)] these, my lord?” The expression “my lord” functioned as a respectful manner of address. In the Septuagint, the pronoun “my” is not included. (4:4)

The angel appears to have been surprised about Zechariah’s not grasping the significance of what he had seen. This angel who had been speaking to the prophet then asked him, “Do you not know what these [are (included in the LXX)]?” Zechariah replied, “No, my lord,” again using the respectful manner of address. The Septuagint, as in verse 4, does not include the pronoun “my.” (4:5)

In answer to Zechariah, the angel made known to him the basic message of the vision. “This is the word of YHWH to Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might [great might (LXX)] and not by power, but by my spirit, says YHWH of hosts [the Lord Almighty (LXX)].” The people of the Jewish community then in Jerusalem and the land of Judah had no military might that would have made it possible for them to rebuild Jerusalem when faced with what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles. They had no power, for they were subject to Persian rule and the Persian monarch had officially banned the rebuilding of Jerusalem and, therefore, also the temple. Moreover, surrounding peoples were bitterly opposed to any restoration of Jerusalem. (Ezra 4:4-24) Yet Zerubbabel was assured that the will of YHWH of hosts, the God with hosts of angels in his service, would be carried out, with his spirit being the irresistible power that would cause the rebuilding work to be brought to a successful finish. His spirit would fill the Jewish community with the needed courage to press on with the work, confident that they would have YHWH’s unfailing backing. (4:6)

“Before the face of Zerubbabel,” the barrier in the way of rebuilding the temple — an obstacle in the form of governmental ban and opposition from neighboring peoples — loomed like a great or massive mountain. Nevertheless, he was assured that what appeared like a mountain would prove to be but a level area, posing absolutely no obstacle to completing the temple rebuilding. He would be the one to bring forth the top or chief stone, the crowning stone that would finish the project. This would take place amid the shouts of the people respecting this stone. They would cry out, “delightful, delightful” (chen, chen). The Hebrew word chen has been defined as “favor,” “grace,” or “charm.” The repetition of chen seems to express the kind of delight and approval associated with the exclamation “bravo, bravo.” (4:7; for the Septuagint rendering, see the Notes section.)

Zechariah next referred to a “word” or message of YHWH as coming to him. That “word” focused on Zerubbabel’s role in rebuilding the temple. (4:8)

In the second year after the Jews returned from Babylonian exile, the builders laid the foundation of the temple. (Ezra 3:8-10) The biblical account does not specifically say that Zerubbabel laid the first stone. Either because he personally participated in actually laying the initial stone or because he, in his capacity as governor, directed that this be done, the laying of the “foundation of the house” or temple was an act of his “hands.” Just as his “hands” had laid the foundation, so would his “hands” bring the rebuilding of the temple to completion. He would be exercising oversight or would be personally involved in placing the capstone in position. When this would occur, the people would “know” or have it confirmed to them that “YHWH of hosts,” the God with hosts of angels in his service, had sent Zechariah as a prophet to them. (4:9; see the Notes section.)

The reference to whoever may have “despised the day [days (LXX)] of small things” may apply to anyone who may have looked upon the “day” or time of the unimpressive initial efforts in rebuilding the temple as nothing when compared to the time of the former magnificence of the temple and the once flourishing state of Jerusalem. (Compare Haggai 2:3.) Nevertheless, persons who had regarded matters in this way would rejoice upon witnessing the completion of the work on the temple. They would see Zerubbabel actively involved in the temple reconstruction, with his hand holding the line from which “the stone, the tin” (probably referring to the weight or plummet as one made of tin) was suspended. Possibly he would be doing so for placing the capstone in position. (4:10)

The words “these seven [are (included in the LXX)] the eyes of YHWH which rove through all the earth” appear to identify the seven lamps as representing the fullness of YHWH’s vision. The eye functions like a lamp that by its light brings objects into view. (Compare Matthew 6:22.) A number of translations are explicit in linking “these seven” to the lamps. “Those seven lamps represent my eyes — the eyes of the LORD — and they see everything on this earth.” (CEV) “The seven lamps are the seven eyes of the Lord, which see all over the earth.” (GNT, Second Edition) “The seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord that search all around the world.” (NLT) Nothing escapes YHWH’s attention and watchfulness. According to the Septuagint, his eyes “look upon” or look attentively at “all the earth.” In the vision shown to Zechariah, the primary focus was on God’s spirit and that spirit functions like God’s eyes. The psalmist acknowledged that there was no place to which he could escape or hide from God’s spirit. Even darkness would not conceal him. (Psalm 139[138]:7-12) With God’s spirit being fully operative in the case of those rebuilding the temple, they would have had YHWH’s full attention at all times. Therefore, up to the very end of the project nothing would stop the successful completion of the work. By means of his spirit, YHWH had the entire earth in full view and would never be caught off guard respecting any element that stood or came to stand in the way of the accomplishment of his purpose. (4:10)

Zechariah still wanted additional clarification respecting what he had seen. Therefore, in response to the words of the angel, he “said” (“asked” [LXX]) to him, “What [are] these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?” (4:11)

Then Zechariah appears to have thought about other features of the vision concerning which he desired an explanation. So he responded to the angel’s comments a second time and said to him (“asked a second time and said to him” [LXX]), “What are the two branches (literally, “ears”) of the olive trees which [are] beside the two tubes of gold from which the gold [designating the olive oil because of its golden color] is poured out?” The question indicates that oil from the two olive trees entered the bowl on top of the lampstand through a tube from each tree. (4:12)

After the explanations he had already provided, the angel again appears to have been surprised that Zechariah had not fully grasped the significance of the features of the vision, saying to him, “Do you not know what these [are (included in LXX)]?” Zechariah answered, “No, my lord,” using the respectful form of address. In the Septuagint the pronoun “my” is not included. (4:13)

The angel replied, “These [are] the two anointed ones [literally, sons of oil] who stand by the Lord of all the earth.” Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor figured prominently in the visions that Zechariah had seen up to this point. They were “anointed ones,” for they had been divinely designated for the roles they would fill in connection with the rebuilding of the temple. Both men responded favorably to the messages that the prophets Haggai and Zechariah proclaimed, messages that were revealed to them through the operation of God’s spirit. (4:14[13])

In view of their responsiveness, Joshua and Zerubbabel were infused with strength through the operation of God’s spirit upon them. Despite the governmental ban on the project, they courageously set themselves to the task. On account of the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel, the rest of the people also responded, and God’s spirit impelled them to give wholehearted support to the work of temple reconstruction. Thus, through Joshua and Zerubbabel, the spirit flowed like oil to the Jewish community that then began to shine brightly with activity. Within the Jewish community, God’s spirit functioned as a set of lamps on a stand. That spirit transformed the stand, the Jewish community, from a lampstand that had shed no light on account of neglecting the temple rebuilding work to one that shone brightly with diligent labor on the reconstruction project. (4:14[13]; Ezra 5:1, 2; 6:14)

YHWH is the “Lord of all the earth,” the Supreme Sovereign whose purpose will never fail to be accomplished. Joshua and Zerubbabel would have demonstrated that they were standing by him when they revealed themselves to be fully devoted to carrying out his will. (4:14[13])


For verse 7, the Septuagint rendering differs somewhat from the reading of the Hebrew text. “What are you, O great mountain, to stand before the face of Zorobabel? And I will bring forth the stone of inheritance, the equal of favor, favor for it.” The rhetorical question could be understood to indicate that the mountainous obstacle would not remain or stand (literally, “be set up”) before Zerubbabel. God is the one to bring forth the stone for his temple. With the temple being the place of his representative place of dwelling, the stone could be designated as the “stone of inheritance,” that is, God’s inheritance. The obscure wording “equal of favor, favor for it” might be interpreted to suggest that the favor or delight with which the stone would be regarded would be equal to the favor that was divinely bestowed on it. In case the Septuagint translator read ro’sháh (the Hebrew adjective describing the stone as the “top” or “chief” stone) as the noun yerusháh, the meaning would be “inheritance.” The translator may have linked the plural noun teshu’óth (“shoutings”) to shaváh (“to be equal”), accounting for the rendering “equal.”

Verse 9 ends with the words, “And you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me to you.” The Hebrew verb for “you will know” is second person singular (as also is the corresponding Greek word in the Septuagint) and may be understood as a collective singular referring to the people. “Then everyone will know that you [Zechariah] were sent by me [YHWH].” (CEV) When this happens, my people will know that it is I [YHWH] who sent you [Zechariah] to them.” (GNT, Second Edition) In the Hebrew text, the concluding “you,” applying to the people, is a masculine plural suffix, but the Septuagint contains the singular personal pronoun for “you,” which may be regarded as a collective singular and agrees grammatically with the singular verb for “you will know.”