Devotional Commentary on Zechariah 4


Needle in a haystack. That is what you have when you try to find

a good commentary on Zechariah 4.

Most commentaries are trying to park all the events in the time of Zerubabel in 520-516 BCE. Good for them, you may say. Not so, says Delitzsch, the great Assyriologist and scholar who should have been an Adventist with his pockets of Adventist doctrine in his heavy scholastic discussions. Now the truth is out and I plan to lean heavily on this scholar for this chapter. The brightness and clarity with which he wrote and the comparison he has with Ellen White is worth looking into.

My dissertation leader prof. dr. Akio Tsukimoto, the famous Assyriologist in Tokyo, who was at Rikkyo University said to me that Delitzsch is not popular because scholars say he was “too creative and imaginative”. I can live with this kind of creativity of Delitzsch.

Zechariah got this vision after the angel walked away “returned” (verse 1) and since Zechariah was very tired and sleepy, he woke him up.

Zechariah saw a candlestick of gold with an oil-bowl on top and seven lamps thereon, seven tubes or channels to the lamps on top (verse 2).

Near it were two olive trees left and right of it. That is the vision. What about the interpretation?

The angel interpreted it for him: “This is the Word of the Lord” (verse 6). Delitzsch (1884 English translation) said that is the key. From this all semantics will find its course. And it did.

“The burning lamps were a symbol of the church or of the nation of God, which causes the light of its spirit, or of its knowledge of God, to shine before the Lord, and lets it stream out into the night of a world estranged from God. As the disciples of Christ were called, as lights to the world (Matt. v. 14), to let their lamps burn and shine, or, as candlestick in the world (Luke xii. 35; Phil. ii. 15), to shine with their light before man (Matt. v. 16), so was the church of the Old Testament also.”

Suddenly I have a feeling that Delitzsch is onto something here.

Delitzsch provided a control check from the New Testament that the candlestick is the role of the church: Revelation 1:20 where the churches were seven lamps that are before the throne of God and explained to be churches which represent the new people of God, the Christian church.

The candlestick only help the lamps to shine and serve the purpose of shining lamps, said Delitzsch. It is the “divinely appointed organism for the perpetuation and life of the church”.

Who do you want to listen to? Ellen White or Delitzsch. Birds of the same feather they are here.

Said Delitzsch: “Oil, regarded according to its capacity to invigorate the body and increase the energy of the vital spirits, is used in the Scriptures as a symbol of the Spirit of God, not in its transcendent essence, but so far as it works in the world, and is indwelling in the church….” (1884: 267).

Ellen White said: “The oil furnished by the olive trees (v. 3) typified the Holy Spirit” (see Ellen White, Christ Object Lessons page 408). She continued to say in another source on this matter: “So from the anointed ones that stand in God's presence the fullness of divine light and love and power is imparted to His people, that they may impart to others light and joy and refreshing. Those who are thus enriched are to enrich others with the treasure of God's love.”—Ellen White in Prophets and Kings, page 594.

These trees could not provide oil to the lamps if God did not plant them and nourish them with sunshine and water and so, said Delitzsch also the church cannot succeed unless God is the One who is planting and nourishing.

Said Ellen White on Zechariah 4 in the Sabbath School Quarterly of 1944:

“The capacity for receiving the holy oil from the two olive trees is increased as the receiver empties that holy oil out of himself in word and action to supply the necessities of other souls. Work, precious, satisfying work,—to be constantly receiving and constantly imparting. . . . All heaven is waiting for channels through which can be poured the holy oil, to be a joy and a blessing to others.”—Ellen White in Testimonies, vol. 6, page 117.

Delitzsch continued: ““In this double respect the candlestick, with its burning and shining lamps, was a symbol of the church of God, which lets the fruit of its life, which is not only kindled but also nourished by the Holy Spirit, shine before God”

In verse 6 the main point is that the kingdom of God is not by force but by His Holy Spirit. That is the message to Zerubabel.

“Who are you O great mountain?” (verse 7). As Delitzsch pointed out this mountain is a negative or evil power. It will be destroyed to make way for the plain of God to exist. Then there is the plain mentioned. Delitzsch said that “the building of the temple of stone and wood is simply regarded as a type of the building of the kingdom of God” and he commented on verse 9.

Delitzsch interpreted the heavenly Zerubabel to be the Messiah Christ.

What will be brought out is the “top stone/headstone” of the main architect with shouts of “Grace, grace to it”. Did Daniel not say the Kingdom of God is a rock that will come to smash the other earthly kingdoms to set up a heavenly kingdom at the end of time?

Ellen White said about this verse: “Often men are tempted to falter before the perplexities and obstacles that confront them. But if they will hold the beginning of their confidence steadfast unto the end, God will make the way clear. Success will come to them as they struggle against difficulties. Before the intrepid spirit and unwavering faith of a Zerubbabel, great mountains of difficulty will become a plain; and He whose hands have laid the foundation, even ‘His hands shall also finish it.’ He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it” Ellen White in Prophets and Kings, page 595.

The mountain was seen by the Targum, Jerome, Theodotion of Mopsuesta, Theodoret, Rabbi Kimchi, Luther and others as a symbol of the power of the world or the imperial power.

Delitzsch continued “And as he [earthly Zerubabel] will finish the building of the earthly temple, so will the true Zerubabel, the Messiah, Tsemach, the servant of Jehovah, build the spiritual temple, and make Israel into a candlestick, which is supplied with oil by two olive trees, so that its lamps my shine brightly in the world” (Delitzsch 1884: 272)

God spoke to Zechariah that Zerubabel’ hands founded the house of the Lord in 520-516 BCE “and his hands shall complete [it]” (verse 9).

He compared the two Zerubabels by saying: that some will despise the day of small things (after Zerubabel will finish his part in 516 BCE) but “shall rejoice and see the plummet in Zerubabel’s hand”. This is the Messiah Christ for the Trinity is working together here: “these sevenfold, the eyes of the Lord are roving to and fro throughout the earth”. The building of Christ is his church on earth and the “King’s harvest” is Christ’s harvest through his church on earth.

“Zerubabel is still simply the type of the future Zerubabel – namely, the Messiah – who will build the true temple of God; and the meaning is the following: Then will the seven eyes of God help to carry out this building” (Delitzsch in 1884: 272).  

The two olive trees were not yet clear to Zechariah (verses 11-14). “These are the two oil-children which stand by the Lord of the whole earth”. My father taught me as a child that this refers to the Old and the New Testaments that serve God in His work and they stand by God because they came from Him. They are God/Spirit-breathed. The two children of oil was seen by Cyril as the Jews and Gentiles. Delitzsch rejected this view. They were seen as the believing Israel and Gentiles by Kliefoth but Delitzsch rejected this. J. D. Michaelis though they are Haggai and Zechariah but Delitzsch rejected this. In Delitzsch discussion of August Köhler’s view and attempting to cancel that view, Delitzsch touched on the truthful answer but steered away to see them as the government and priesthood (Delitzsch 1884: 277). This is not correct.

“this explanation [of Köhler] is decidedly precluded by the fact that two mortal men [Haggai and Zechariah] could not convey to the church for all ages the oil of the Spirit” (1884: 277). Think about it: two prophets could not provide for the whole period of God’s remnant between Adam and the Second Adam (= Christ) but the Revelation of God from Genesis to Revelation in two parts does provide that witness as “anointed ones” for God.


Dear God

Great is Your witnesses and truth is Your speaking to us. Your Word is truth and truth is what we seek in a period of fake news. Open our eyes that we may see, Thy care so wide and free. Amen.