Sons of Oil

A Bible Study by Jack Kelley

Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?”

I answered, “I see a solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”

I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”

He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I replied.

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

“What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’ ”

Then the word of the LORD came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.

“Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

“(These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range throughout the earth.)” (Zechariah 4:1-10)

The Hebrew word for plumb line can also mean chosen stone and I think both meanings are in view here.  The plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand signifies his supervision of the Temple’s construction.  The chosen stone represents the Messiah (1 Peter 2:6) and the seven eyes mean He sees everything.  This tells us the Lord Himself is the project manager.

Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lamp stand?”

Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?”

He replied, “Do you not know what these are?”

“No, my lord,” I said.

So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” (Zech 4:11-14)

What Time Is It?

It was February 15, 519 BC. Twenty years earlier the Jews had come back to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity in Babylon, and following several abortive attempts had given up trying to rebuild their Temple.

To justify quitting, some had speculated that the reason for their difficulty was that the time wasn’t right (Haggai 1:2). So God sent them two prophets, Haggai to admonish them and Zechariah to encourage them, and it had worked. On the day Haggai spoke his 2nd message to them, they had begun work on the Temple again.

But the task seemed so intimidating. The older ones could still remember Solomon’s Temple, destroyed in the siege of Jerusalem  some 90 years earlier after standing in the city for nearly 400 years. In Solomon’s time the nation was wealthy beyond measure and they were at peace with all their neighbors. But now they were just a rag-tag group of ex-captives, constantly harassed by their enemies. How would they ever hope to replace their beautiful Temple, so costly and magnificent?

And The Answer is …

During that long February night in 519 BC Zechariah had a series of visions, eight in all. The one above was the Lord’s answer to their questions about the Temple. Yes they had possessed much wealth and had many resources during Solomon’s time, and now they had precious little. But this temple would be built just the same. “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,” said the Lord (Zech. 4:6).

Three years later the Temple was completed, and while it couldn’t compare to the splendor and glory of the earlier Temple of Solomon, Haggai had promised them that the glory of this Temple would exceed that of the first one (Haggai 2:9),  and he was right. It was modified and renovated beyond recognition, first during the Hasmonean period that followed the Macabbean revolt, and then again by King Herod.  Of this Temple the rabbis would say, “One who has not seen the Temple from the time of Herod has never seen a magnificent building.”  But more than that, it was the Temple visited by the Lord during His time on earth.

Got Oil?

And with what symbolism did the Lord represent His Spirit in Zechariah’s vision? Oil. Oil from the olive trees, sustaining the only source of light in the Temple, the seven-branched lamp stand called the menorah. It’s from verses like these that oil has come to stand for the Holy Spirit when used symbolically.

Often the Holy Spirit’s work is accomplished through men and women set apart for the purpose, also explained in the vision.

Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lamp stand?”
Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?”

He replied, “Do you not know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I said.

So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” (Zech 4:11-14)

In Israel the High Priest and the Ruler were always anointed with oil symbolizing their calling. In Zechariah’s time they were Joshua and Zerubbabel.  In the Church today, we anoint with oil those we believe the Lord has called to minister to us or govern over us. The oil signifies our belief that the Holy Spirit has set them apart for this purpose and is working through them.  When we anoint the sick with oil, as instructed in James 5:14, we’re symbolizing the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to perform a healing miracle in them.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well (James 5:15).  Oil, the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

Double Vision

Frequently the messages of prophets concerned events far in the future. In those cases the Lord arranged a double fulfillment of the prophecies He gave them. The first one was only a partial fulfillment, and took place fairly soon. Its purpose was to validate the prophecy so the people would know it truly came from the Lord. This protected the credibility of the prophet (Deut. 18:21-22) and verified the accuracy of the long-term fulfillment for the generation that would experience it in the future.

A good example is the prophecy of the virgin birth given by Isaiah (Isa. 7:14). In giving it, Isaiah used a Hebrew word that could mean either virgin or young woman. This was to permit a partial fulfillment in his time that would validate the prophecy.

And sure enough, a short time later Isaiah’s wife became pregnant and gave birth to a boy the Lord called Immanuel. As he had prophesied, before the boy was old enough to speak, the Northern Kingdom was overrun by the Assyrians. (Isa. 8:1-10) The partial fulfillment had come to pass.

Six hundred years later, after Isaiah, his family, and the Assyrian invasion were ancient history, Jewish scholars translating Isaiah’s writings into Greek saw the future Messianic fulfillment in the prophecy. They chose a word that could only describe a woman who has never experienced sexual intercourse, because they believed it spoke of a virgin birth. One hundred fifty years after that, the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus.

While both fulfillments contained specific outcomes that were important in Israel’s history, a young woman giving birth was hardly the unique event that Isaiah needed to show the nation that God was with them (“Immanuel” in Hebrew). That would take nothing less than the only virgin birth in human history, which by the way also fulfilled a prophecy given to the serpent in the Garden.  The “Seed of the Woman” (a biological impossibility) would bring about his downfall.

Two More Sons Of Oil

In Zech. 4:11-14 we have one of those double fulfillments. First the immediate one; Zerubbabel the Governor and Joshua the High Priest would be God’s two anointed ones (literally sons of oil), charged with completing the Temple construction. In the vision they were the two olive trees from whom the oil flowed, signifying the Holy Spirit working through them. In the process, Zechariah’s appointment as a prophet was confirmed as promised in verse 8 of his vision, since Zerubbabel, who started the project, also completed it.  “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you.”

But the use of the phrase “Lord of all the Earth” in verse 14 is a clue to another later fulfillment. It’s used only four times in scripture, twice in Joshua 3 where the Lord stopped the flow of the Jordan River so the people could cross on dry ground, here in Zech. 4, and in Revelation 11:4 the only other place where it’s used in conjunction with two men called by God for extraordinary service. (Four is often called the number of the earth because on the fourth day the creation of earth itself was complete.  Then it was populated. Day five brought fish and birds, and on day 6 animals and man were created.)

These men are the two witnesses who will be sent to Israel to display signs and wonders during the Great Tribulation. Performing the miracles of Moses and Elijah and preaching the sermons of Peter and Paul, they too will be “sons of oil,” set apart for miraculous work, anointed with the Holy Spirit for extraordinary service, and supernaturally protected by Him till their ministry is complete.  “And I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lamp stands that stand before the Lord of the earth.” (Rev. 11:4) The wording is straight out of Zechariah’s vision.

Beginning just before the Great Tribulation and lasting for 1260 days, their ministry bridges the two halves of Daniel’s 70th week.   Their purpose is to prepare Israel for the coming Messiah in the ultimate fulfillment of another dual prophecy.  This one appears through out the Old and New Testaments, and is the two comings of the Messiah.

When their ministry is complete, the Lord will remove His supernatural protection and they’ll be killed in the streets of Jerusalem.  In the ultimate sign of contempt they’ll be denied burial, their bodies left in the street where they fall.  But in one final unmistakable message, they’ll rise from the dead three and a half days later, ascending into heaven in full view of an astonished world.  Shortly afterward,  the Spirit of grace and supplication will sweep over God’s people and their eyes will be opened to the Messiah, the one they have pierced (Zech 12:10).  Once again two sons of oil will have accomplished their mission.  ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty. 08-28-10

Share Button