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Matthew Henry's Commentary – Verses 11–14
Verses 11–14

Enough is said to Zechariah to encourage him, and to enable him to encourage others, with reference to the good work of building the temple which they were now about, and that was the principal intention of the vision he saw; but still he is inquisitive about the particulars, which we will ascribe, not to any vain curiosity, but to the value he had for divine discoveries and the pleasure he took in acquainting himself with them. Those that know much of the things of God cannot but have a humble desire to know more. Now observe,

I. What his enquiry was. He understood the meaning of the candlestick with its lamps: It is Jerusalem, it is the temple, and their salvation that is to go forth as a lamp that burns; but he wants to know what are these two olive-trees (Zech. 4:11), these two olive-branches? Zech. 4:12. Observe here, 1. He asked. Note, Those that would be acquainted with the things of God must be inquisitive concerning those things. Ask, and you shall be told. 2. He asked twice, his first question having no reply given to it. Note, If satisfactory answers be not given to our enquiries and requests quickly, we must renew them, and repeat them, and continue instant and importunate in them, and the vision shall at length speak, and not lie. 3. His second query varied somewhat from the former. He first asked, What are these two olive-trees, but afterwards, What are these two olive-branches? that is, those boughs of the tree that hung over the bowl and distilled oil into it. When we enquire concerning the grace of God, it must be rather as it is communicated to us by the fruitful boughs of the word and ordinances (for that is one of the things revealed, which belong to us and to our children) than as it is resident in the good olive where all our springs are, for that is one of the secret things, which belong not to us. 4. In his enquiry he mentioned the observations he had made upon the vision; he took notice not only of what was obvious at first sight, that the two olive-trees grew, one on the right side and the other on the left side of the candlestick (so nigh, so ready, is divine grace to the church), but he observed further, upon a more narrow inspection, that the two olive-branches, from which in particular the candlestick did receive of the root and fatness of the olive (as the apostle says of the church, Rom. 11:17), did empty the golden oil (that is, the clear bright oil, the best in its kind, and of great value, as if it were aurum potabile—liquid gold) out of themselves through the two golden pipes, or (as the margin reads it) which by the hand of the two golden pipes empty out of themselves oil into the gold, that is, into the golden bowl on the head of the candlestick. Our Lord Jesus emptied himself, to fill us; his precious blood is the golden oil in which we are supplied with all we need.

II. What answer was given to his enquiry. Now again the angel obliged him expressly to own his ignorance, before he informed him (Zech. 4:13): “Knowest thou not what these are? If thou knowest the church to be the candlestick, canst thou think the olive-trees, that supply it with oil, to be any other than the grace of God?” But he owned he either did not fully understand it or was afraid he did not rightly understand it: I said, No, my Lord, how should I, except some one guide me? And then he told him (Zech. 4:14): These are the two sons of oil (so it is in the original), the two anointed ones (so we read it), rather, the two oily ones. That which we read (Isa. 5:1) a very fruitful hill is in the original the horn of the son of oil, a fat and fattening soil. 1. If by the candlestick we understand the visible church, particularly that of the Jews at that time, for whose comfort it was primarily intended, these sons of oil, that stand before the Lord of the whole earth, are the two great ordinances and offices of the magistracy and ministry, at that time lodged in the hands of those two great and good men Zerubbabel and Joshua. Kings and priests were anointed; this prince, this priest, were oily ones, endued with the gifts and graces of God’s Spirit, to qualify them for the work to which they were called. They stood before the Lord of the whole earth, to minister to him, and to receive direction from him; and a great influence they had upon the affairs of the church at that time. Their wisdom, courage, and zeal, were continually emptying themselves into the golden bowl, to keep the lamps burning; and, when they are gone, others shall be raised up to carry on the same work; Israel shall no longer be without prince and priest. Good magistrates and good ministers that are themselves anointed with the grace of God and stand by the Lord of the whole earth, as faithful adherents to his cause, contribute very much to the maintaining and advancing of religion and the shining forth of the word of life. 2. If by the candlestick we understand the church of the first-born, of true believers, these sons of oil may be meant of Christ and the Spirit, the Redeemer and the Comforter. Christ is not only the Messiah, the Anointed One himself, but he is the good olive to his church; and from his fulness we receive, John 1:16. And the Holy Spirit is the unction or anointing which we have received, 1 John 2:20, 27. From Christ, the olive tree, by the Spirit, the olive branch, all the golden oil of grace is communicated to believers, which keeps their lamps burning, and without a constant supply of which they would soon go out. They stand by the Lord of the whole earth, who is in a special manner the church’s Lord; for the Son was to be sent by the Father, and so was the Holy Ghost, in the time appointed, and they stand by him ready to go.