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Zechariah 4:11-14

Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” And a second time I answered and said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?” He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” Then he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

The prophet asks the same question twice here, but still doesn't appear to get a clear answer. How are we to understand these 'two anointed ones' - is this an entirely contemporary message (eg. Joshua & Zerubbabel?), or are there any possible later fulfilments which we might take into account?

I'm hesitant to take Joshua/Zerubbabel as the natural interpretation, as the chapter as a whole seems to suggest Zerubbabel might be the lampstand, rather than an olive tree. How are we to understand these symbols?

  • Good question, up voted you. Could it be that the two trees are the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life? Doesn't seem right but it's the only time I know of two trees mentioned. – Daisy May 6 '16 at 15:22
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Since the seven candles on the candlestick are the eyes of the Lord (verse 10), the candlestick could hardly be other than the Lord. We again see in verse 14 that the lampstand is the Lord of the whole earth - and therefore can not be Zerubbabel.

The preferred symbolism is that the olive trees represent Joshua the high priest, who was glorified in chapter 3, and Zerubbabel, who was the subject of much of this chapter.

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The answer for this question is found in Revelation 11:3-4,

And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. (KJV)

Since the vision is a prophetic one, it doesn't exclude the New Testament; rather it occurs in the timeless realm of the spirit. An example is in Revelation 21:1 (KJV):

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

John saw after the Great White Throne Judgment the new heavens and the new earth; it certainly hasn't happened yet, and thousands of years would transpire between the vision and manifestation. But since God knows the timeless past and the timeless future, He reveals these things to His prophets to proclaim them, as though they had already occured.

As to "who" are the actual witnesses are, Moses and Elijah are the ones that come to mind. They were both present at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1) when they appeared in glory to talk to the Lord, who also appeared in glory.

But since it is as the author to the Hebrews says: (Heb. 9:27)

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment

John the Baptist said he wasn't Elijah (John 1:21), even though the Lord called him that (Matt 11:14). Therefore, it would be those who would walk in the spirit of Moses and Elijah during the last days. Israel requires two witnesses, these prophets will be killed, their bodies stretched out on the streets of Jerusalem:

And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified. (Rev. 11:8)

...and they will rise from the dead at the sound of the Lord's voice:

And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them. (vs 12)

They will verify to Israel again of the truth of the Resurrection, and as a nation they will repent and turn to Him. (Zech. 12:10)

In summary, Moses and Elijah best identify with the Two Lampstands: those that embody Moses and Elijah will bring that truth in the last days.

  • Many patristic sources suggest that the two are Enoch and Elijah. Andrew of Caesarea (6th c.) acknowledges the connection with Zech. that you observe. – user33515 Apr 14 '17 at 17:46
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Rashi offers the somewhat obscure suggestion that the two anointed ones are "the good inclination and the evil inclination, which is converted to good in the merit of the Torah." A somewhat more modern Jewish commentary does maintain that the two anointed ones are, in fact, Joshua and Zerubbabel, explaining:

The term is different from the one translated as “anointed” in Lev. 4.3; 1 Sam. 2.10, 35; 26.9; Ps. 2.2, and passim. The two “sons of oil” represent Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the nonpriestly ruler who shares some royal responsibilities. It is not by chance that the text coins a unique expression rather than using a very common one. Most likely, the point is to avoid depicting Zerubbabel as a significant royal or messianic figure. Unlike in the book of Hag., Zerubbabel is not called “governor” in Zech., but neither is he called “king,” nor is it stated explicitly anywhere in the book that he is from Davidic lineage, nor can we assume that he was anointed. The openness of the text in this matter is remarkable, and hardly unintentional. (The high priest was presumably anointed— see Num. 3.3, 25— but his anointing did not carry any kingly attributes.)1

Christian interpretations do accord with what another answer suggests - that the Zechariah verses relate to Revelation 11:3-4, but that Enoch and not Moses accompanies Elijah. Regarding the Revelation verses, Andrew of Caesarea (6th c.), who wrote the earliest complete commentary on Revelation, writes:

Many of the teachers understood these to be Enoch and Elijah receiving time given by God to prophecy in the end time for three and a half years, numbered three hundred and sixty days (each), and showing through the clothing in sackcloth that which is appropriate for sadness and mourning, to those who are deceived at that time and leading those who are then found away from the deception of the Antichrist. These are the two whom Zachariah hinted at in the form of the two olive trees and lampstands, to bring forth food for the light of knowledge by the olive oil of God-pleasing deeds.2

Dr. Constantinou (the translator of the above) notes that Irenaeus, Oikoumenios, and Hyppolytus seem to concur that Revelation refers to Enoch and Elijah.3


1 Ehud Ben Zvi, Oxford Jewish Study Bible (1st ed.), p.1254n
2 tr. Eugenia Constantinou, in "Andrew of Caesarea and the Apocalypse in the Ancient Church of the East: Studies and Translation" (Ph.D. thesis), (University of Laval, Quebec, 2008), p.408.
3 Ibid.

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The two anointed ones of Zech c. 4 were the two who were chosen by God to lead the people out of the Babylonian captivity: Joshua, the High Priest and Zerubbabel the leader of the people.

Zech. 4:6-10, (from the KJV)

"6 Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.

7 Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.

8 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,

9 The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.

10 For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth."

It was under the leadership of Joshua and Zerubbabel that the "new heavens and new earth" (Isa. 65:17) - the renewed covenant between God and the people of the second temple, and under which the rebuilding of Jerusalem would be carried out.

The functions of these two anointed of God were the High Priest and the speaker of the word - the shouter, the caller of God's people, the governor of the people. Together they would bring the people into a renewed knowledge of God's word.

Excerpt from Benson's Commentary:

"...As by the candlestick we understand the visible church, particularly that of the Jews at that time, for whose comfort this vision was primarily intended, these sons of oil, that stand by 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. This prince, this priest, were sons of oil, anointed of God, or endued with the gifts and graces of his 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; for their wisdom, courage, and zeal were continually emptying themselves into the golden bowl, to keep the lamps burning; and when they should be removed, others would be raised up to carry on the same work, and Israel should not be left without prince and priest. " Source: here

The immediate application was to the release from captivity about 538 - 536 BC under Cyrus and Darius the Mede. The fulfilled application, the future meaning was to the High Priest and callers of the word of God under the gospel of Christ.

Christ became our High Priest at His death on the cross. He assigned certain disciples to be His callers and leaders of the people, the messengers of the gospel call of Christ - the apostles and disciples of the new heavens and new earth under the new covenant. The apostles established Christ's church under the new covenant.

The parallel then is Joshua to Christ (Yeshua) and Zerubbabel to the apostles collectively. This then lets us understand Revelation's two olive trees.

Zech 4:14,

" Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." (KJV)

Rev. 11:4,

"These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." (KJV)

The olive trees bear olives which render olive oil. Anointed ones comes from the figurative use of "to the oil", an application of oil to the head, and meant called by, appointed by God for a special office or purpose. Strong's Hebrew 3323 & Strong's Greek 5548.

Luke 4:18-19,

"18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,

19 To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." (KJV)

Christ was chosen / anointed by God and He became our High Priest (Acts 4:27; Heb. 1:9; 2:17; 3:1).

God chose / anointed the apostles to preach the gospel call, to shout the message of the new covenant to be found in Christ.

2 Cor. 1:21,

"Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God;" (KJV)

So we have the anointing of the High Priest and the anointing of the apostles and leaders who preached the message. And the two witnesses of Rev. 11:3 are defined in Rev. 11:4 as the two olive trees of the new covenant, the new heavens and earth prophesied from old (Isa. 66:22).

That these two olive trees in Revelation were killed after 3-1/2 days, ie. 3-1/2 years reflects the death of Christ after His 3-1/2 year ministry, and the death of the two most prominent leaders / apostles, Peter & Paul.

Many sources place the death of Peter and Paul about mid-66 BC for both of them (See here). That would leave approx. 3-1/2 years before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD for their testimony to continue to cry out.

(Their dead bodies lying in the street of Jerusalem for 3-1/2 years - Rev. 11:8 - was not literal. That was a figurative use meaning their words and their teaching would be reinforced by their deaths, and the gospel would spread because of it for another 3-1/2 years before the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed.)

The parallel must mirror the job function, the calling for which God purposed them, and the ones who reflect the same calling / purpose that had previously occurred under the return of the captivity of Babylon prophesied by Zechariah.

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Perhaps the two anointed ones (2 olive trees, 2 olive branches) are the two prophets Zechariah and Haggai (filled with God's Holy Spirit), who gave messages from God to encourage and uplift the hands of Zerubbabel and Joshua the High Priest in their endeavor to rebuild the temple. If so, these would then be a type of the antitype in Revelation 11:3-4. The 2 witnesses in Revelation could then possible be 2 prophets (filled with God's Holy Spirit) at the end of time that God selects and uses to uphold the hands of those (His church) to rebuild the "Spiritual Temple". God's people are the spiritual temple of the Holy Ghost. As Moses led the children of Israel into the promised land and as Elijah proclaimed that if God be God then follow Him (causing fire to come down from Heaven), the 2 witnesses will indeed be prophets and leaders of God's people to prepare them to meet Jesus when He comes (thus leading them into the promised land - the Heavenly Canaan) and doing the works similar to what Moses and Elijah did when they were on earth.

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    Please cite your sources. Thanks and welcome to the site. – Ruminator Nov 22 '18 at 4:01
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Is it possible that the "two olive trees" represent Israel "the natural branch" and Gentile believers "the wild branch" grafted in symbolically? they may have representation by two other bible figures. There are 24 elders (12 tribes (sons of Jacob "Israel") and 12 disciples) just a thought i think that bible symbols tend to carry through multiple books of the Bible and have multiple representations. There are also "two witnesses" in Revelations. Two pillars infront of the Temple. etc. would like to hear some thoughts on this speculation.

  • Hiya Ted, your idea isn't outside the realm of possibility - but I would say that in the first case, we should be trying to interpret Zechariah in its own context - verse, chapter and book. In hermeneutics the norm is to ground interpretation in immediate context - ideally we shouldn't have to borrow from books hundreds of years later in order to reach a conclusion. More often we can find types of 'double fulfillment' to prophecies, where in the Prophet's context it referred to one immediate thing, but in the wider scope of scripture it also speaks to something else. – Steve Taylor Nov 13 '18 at 6:44
  • i think there is a case for patterns from other verse that clue they are related subjects. i agree that immediate context is paramount. I think there are bread crumbs, "mysteries" in scripture that need searching out. i think there is plain teaching most often but there are seven mysteries in the bible, The mystery of the church (which was hidden) , the mystery of iniquity, mystery babylon (which is typed and shadowed by literal Babalon, the mystery of the dispensation of grace unto the gentiles "The church", this things are concealed and revealed. – Ted Myrrh Nov 14 '18 at 4:46
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I believe that Zachariah had knowlege already of the lampstand and would have known what it was if it resembled the same as that on earth as in Hannukkah lampstand. To interpret for you the "two" are the two faithful ones as in lampstands out of the two olive trees engaged in battle against the powers and principalities of the air. The shin. The oil of victory fliws from them. The seven eyes of the Lord are his seven spirits allows them to prophesy what the Lord sees and fight the good fight. The two witnesses are in the center of the lampstand, Hear oh Israel the Lord your God is one. Deuteronomy 6:4. The Lord says , these as in they as in them . These two are the two olives trees , he saw the faith and oil in action.

Rev. 11:3

Them R

protected by Community Dec 4 '18 at 10:58

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