The Word Made Fresh
1Then the angel who had spoken with me came again and awakened me as if I had been asleep. 2He said, “What do you see?”
I answered, “A golden lampstand with a bowl at its top. It has seven lamps, and each lamp has seven spouts on top of it. 3Beside it on the left and right are two olive trees.” 4And I asked the angel, “What are these, my lord?”
5The angel answered, “Don’t you know what these are?”
I said, “No, my lord.”
6He said, “This is the word from the LORD to Zerubbabel: not by might or power, but by my spirit, says the LORD Almighty. 7What do you think you are, you great mountain? You will be flattened and become a plain, and Zerubbabel will bring out the uppermost stone, cheered on by shouts of ‘Grace! May God bless it!’”
8Again, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, 9“Zerubbabel has laid the foundation for this house, and he will finish it. Then you will know that I was sent to you by the LORD Almighty. 10Whoever hates the days of small things will rejoice when they see Zerubbabel holding the plumb line in his hands, while the eyes of the LORD are looking over the whole earth.” 11Then I said, “What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” 12And I asked him again, “What are the two branches of the olive tree, dripping oil through the two golden pipes?”
13He answered, “Don’t you know what they are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.
14And he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the LORD of the whole earth.”
1-14: The fifth vision is more complex and obscure to the modern mind. The lampstand with seven lamps is reminiscent of the one Moses placed in the tabernacle (25:31-37), but that one had only six lamps. The seven lamps are therefore clearly related to the seven-faceted stone from the last vision (3:9); they are symbolic of completion, that God has firmly established what God has planned. The bowl is an odd feature, and it is difficult to picture the arrangement. The two olive trees are also an odd feature at first, but verse 12 helps us begin to grasp the vision a little better. The olive trees are connected by tubes or pipes by which they supply the bowl, which feeds their oil to the lamps. The meaning of the vision is explained by an angel: The constant flow of oil from the trees to the lamps represents the Holy Spirit by which God will unfailingly guide Zerubbabel, the governor of the city. The image of the mountain being flattened is a metaphor which simply means Zerubbabel will accomplish the work of building the temple despite all odds. Verse 10 clearly links the seven lamps to the seven facets of the stone in 3:9. The identity of the two persons represented by the olive trees is impossible to determine, however, and may not be intended to refer to anyone in particular.
Don’t be put off by the strange imagery Zechariah is using. Each time we study it, it will reveal some new aspect of God’s plan for Israel and, by comparison, for all humankind.