Zechariah’s Fifth Vision
We have seen that one of the main problems faced by the returned exiles to Jerusalem was the rebuilding of God’s Temple. Though God had inspired the Persian King Cyrus to subsidize the new Temple in 539 BC (Ezra 1:2-4), it was still unbuilt in 520 BC.
The surrounding nations used political maneuvering to make the rulers of Persia stop the exiles from building. Ezra 4:5 states, “They also bribed officials to act against them to frustrate their plans throughout the reign of King Cyrus of Persia and until the reign of King Darius of Persia.” This pressure led the Persian empire to order a halt to the rebuilding of the temple (4:18-22).
But in Zechariah’s fifth vision, God overrules the Persian empire and confirms His command to Zerubbabel, the Jewish governor of Jerusalem, to finish the Temple in spite of Persia’s new cease-and-desist order. He also teaches Zechariah how He will empower the process of rebuilding, even if the Persian empire opposes it.
The Fifth Vision
As with all Zechariah’s visions, this one happens on the same night as the others. He begins by saying that the angel “returned and roused me as one awakened out of sleep” (4:1). That means that before this vision came, Zechariah was still groggy from the other visions that night.
Then Zechariah describes what he sees after he awoke, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top. The lamp stand also has seven lamps at the top with seven spouts for each of the lamps at the top with seven spouts for each of the lamps. There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (4:2) Simply put, this is a vision of two olive trees supplying oil into a bowl which channels the oil into the 7 candlesticks of the Temple’s candelabrum.
Zechariah can’t figure out what this vision means. Without explaining all the details, God gives a basic summary of it in verses 6-7, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Armies. ‘What are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. And he will bring out the capstone accompanied by shouts of: Grace, grace to it!’” In the ancient world, nations were represented by mountains. God is saying He will cause Zerubbabel to overcome this mighty “mountain” of Persia by the Holy Spirit so that he will joyfully complete the project as the people joyfully shout toward the Temple “Grace, grace to it!”. All will recognize that God’s grace, through His Spirit, empowered the rebuilding of the Temple. God promises that He will rejoice at this in verses 8-10.
But Zechariah is fascinated by the details of this vision. He understands that the candelabrum belongs in the Temple. But he wants to know exactly why the olive trees are beside it. So he asks the angel, “What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” (4:11). Then he asks another question “What are the two streams of the olive trees, from which the golden oil is pouring through the two golden conduits?” (4:12).
After the angel confirms that Zechariah doesn’t know the meaning, he answers in verse 14 “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” We already know from this chapter that Zerubbabel has been anointed by God to lead the nation politically. But if there are “two anointed ones” who is the second anointed man God will use to rebuild the Temple?
Go back to the previous chapter. Who was the priest God anointed to serve in the Temple? It was the high priest Joshua. This man is called “Joshua” in Haggai and Zechariah, and called “Jeshua” in the book of Ezra. He is constantly identified with Zerubbabel because he led the nation spiritually while Zerubbabel led the nation politically (Ezra 2-3; Haggai 1-2).
The message of the vision is clear: the Spirit will empower both men to guide the people to rebuild the Temple despite Persia’s noncompliance with God’s order. Like the trees that supply the oil to the lampstand, the Spirit will make these two men the means of rebuilding the Temple. These men should rest assured that God will be with them to guide them through the entire process as they seek to obey God’s will.
This passage is a reminder that no nation can stand against the purposes of God. When the governments of this world try to compel the church to disobey God’s word, the church’s response should be guided by the truths of this chapter. God doesn’t require the permission of the nations of this world to command His people. If the nations oppose Him, He will make the greatest mountain of a nation into a plain.
God also doesn’t require human power or ingenuity to accomplish His will. He can appoint and use a lowly priest and an unknown governor; by His Spirit, they will accomplish His purpose.
All God wants from us is our trust, our dependance upon Him. When we do that, we enable Him to get all the credit for the good things He does through us.