Zechariah Sees a New Lampstand
“Behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it” (v. 2).- Zechariah 4
Despite its importance as the first structure wherein God made His presence manifest among the people of Israel, the tabernacle was only a temporary dwelling that King Solomon later replaced with the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3). Solomon’s temple, however, stood only about four hundred years, being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At that point, the vessels used in the temple, including the golden lampstand, were also carried off to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10–17).
We could by no means overestimate the importance of the exile to redemptive history, nor could we overestimate the joy the people felt when, in 538 BC, God appointed King Cyrus of Persia to return His people to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23). Once in the land, the nation began rebuilding the temple and its furniture, including the lampstand first mentioned in Exodus 25:31–40.
Zechariah the prophet was commissioned during this restoration period to encourage the returned exiles to complete the rebuilding of the temple, which had run into difficulties because of Israel’s lack of faithfulness (Hag. 1:1–6) and opposition from neighboring peoples (Neh. 4:1–14). The immensity of the task and the paltry resources of the Israelites did not help, and the people despaired over the inglorious nature of the kingdom.
Yet the Lord’s determination to build His temple was not thwarted, which is one of the main points of today’s passage. Zechariah’s vision of a new lampstand (Zech. 4:1–3) meant that God would certainly build His house, for the lampstand would be useless without the temple. Though the restoration was troubled and it was a day of meager beginnings, Israel would one day rejoice in fullness (vv. 8–10a).
The restoration, in fact, would be so great that the light of the lampstand would never go out. Zechariah also saw two olive trees, one on either side of the lampstand, which continually dispensed oil to the stand via golden pipes (vv. 10b–14). With a continual supply of oil, the wicks would always burn and the light would continually shine. Ultimately, this points to the true Light who came into the world to shine forth God’s grace and build a living temple to honor our Father (John 1:1–18; 1 Peter 2:1–5). By His Spirit, this Light would restore glory to His covenant people (Zech. 4:4–7).
At first, Zechariah had trouble understanding his vision, so he asked for divine guidance. From this we should learn, writes John Calvin, that “there is therefore no doubt but that the Lord will supply us also with understanding, when we confess that his mysteries are hid from us, and when conscious of our want of knowledge, we flee to him, and implore him not to speak in vain to us, but to grant to us the knowledge of his truth.”
Passages for Further Study