Scripture’s first view of this symbolic sanctuary fixture is from within the heart of God’s house outward. If God is to be known at all. He must of necessity reveal Himself, and doing so begin from Himself, moving outward to man. This is evident from God’s instructive commands to Moses to build the tabernacle and its furnishings as issued in Ex. 25:31-40. There we are brought immediately into the holy of holies where was the ark of the covenant. Next mentioned is the table of showbread, which was in the holy place, also there the golden lamp stand, then the coverings, and finally the brazen altar which was outside in the courtyard. This is the approach of the Book of Exodus, whereas the Book of Leviticus is just the reverse, beginning outside the tabernacle at the brazen altar (chaps. 1-7) proceeding to the laver (8) then to the mercy-seat (16) in the holiest place, thus emphasizing the proper way of drawing near to God.
The Old Testament word used to denominate the golden lamp stand is menorah, which, since Wiclif, was improperly translated “candlestick” until the old American Standard Version of the Bible where it is correctly rendered, lamp stand. Candles, a solid-fuel burning light holder with self-contained wick, came to be used upon altars of worship in the period of the dark ages. They strictly belong to that period. It is more than doubtful that the Old Testament Jews would use candles of tallow, for to them fat had to be burned on the brazen altar, not in the holy place. Where is there evidence that Israel used candles at all? They preferred lamps outfitted with liquid-fuel and separately inserted wicks. The flammable mixture was not tallow, but pure beaten olive oil. Nothing else was used in the worship of God’s house. This translation is confirmed by I Sam. 3:3 where it is called the lamp of God. It is also called the pure lamp stand (Lev. 24:4).
The lamp stand was made of one piece of beaten (“turned work, Heb., turned to bring into a round or cylindrical form) gold (Ex. 25:31, 36)) its proper dimensions unknown, but of a talent weight (v. 39) which is approximately 130 pounds, making it worth from $30,000 to $50,000, and perhaps, as some think, as much as $95,000 today. It consisted of seven branches, all ornamented with knops (knobs, or perhaps, buds), flowers, and fruit like almonds. Six of these branches stemmed from one main stand, three from each side of the main shaft in the form of graduated quarter circles. On the ends of the seven branches, on the same level, were the seven bowls (lamps). The light of these lamps burned only during the night as an examination of Ex. 27:20, 21; Ex. 30:7, 8; Lev. 24:2-4 and I Sam. 3:3 will show. In the morning, the doors of the holy place were opened (I Sam. 3:15), it being the duty of the Levites to open them every morning (I Chron. 9:27). In this way day light was permitted to pervade the holy place.
The seven-fold light symbolized the great excellency of God And the covenant fellowship which He has with His people in the power of the seven-fold Spirit of wisdom (Isaiah 11:2), and typified the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light (I Pet. 2:9). The lamp stand, therefore, is a shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ, a light which is but shade compared to Him who is the Light of the world, (John 8:12), and the light and glory of heaven (Rev. 21:22f; Rev. 22:5). God is light (I John 1:5), but His people are light bearers as typified by the branches and lamps. (This implies that God’s people are more than capable of bearing the image of God, but are actual image-bearers.) Thus not only Christ, but His body, the church, is represented by the golden lamp stand. The church is empowered with the Holy Spirit, as the olive oil signifies, and reflects the light of the testimony of the Gospel through the believers who are the light of the world. That is, the only light in this dark world is Christ and His church. The sphere outside of the true church is that of stygian darkness. Darkness in Scripture is a symbol of error (I John 1:6, 4:6). Darkness is the opposite of God and the truth. God is light. Darkness represents ignorance of and hatred toward God. Darkness is the lie, and enemy of all truth. It is our darkness to love darkness rather than the light. The light, to the wicked, to the spiritually blind, is as darkness. The light is never visible to them. But in this world of darkness, we, believers, see! To us the darkness is invisible light, invisible to the world, but light to us, as the infra-red light which in the midst of the night can turn darkness into light (if one has but the proper eye equipment to behold this invisible light). But in the darkness, as such, there is no fellowship. Darkness affords no fellowship. That is why hell is the most lonesome place in all the universe. For hell is the blackness of darkness for ever.
Light, on the contrary, is a symbol of fellowship. Light is the sphere, environment and element of fellowship. Darkness is death. Hence, light is called the light of life, the light of the living, the light of men and the light of the Gospel. To the true Israelite, the light was that which emanated from the golden lamp stand in the holy place, and the glory which shone from the shekinah in the holy of holies. He could never go there, except as represented by the high priest, but his whole life, waking and sleeping, work and rest, family and public life, thoughts and actions, were all dominated by the consciousness that the Light and Presence of God dwelt in the midst of Israel. He too was called out of darkness into God’s marvelous light, but for him this meant to dwell in the secret place (temple) of the Most High. For God is revealed in the Old Testament thus: “Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment” (Ps. 104:2). But in the completed revelation of the New Testament we read that “God dwelleth in the light,” and that “God is light.” He is not only clothed with light, not only dwells in light, but He is light!
This is shadowed forth by the beautiful symbolism of the tabernacle. There the lamp stand was situated on the left hand (So.) side of the holy place (Ex. 40:24), facing the table of showbread, or the table of the bread of (God’s) face, and casting its light upon it. In this light the high priest offered incense (a type of the prayers of all saints) on the golden altar which was westward in the holy place and before the veil into the most holy place. He would also trim the lamps, freshen their supply of oil, and renew the bread on the table. This signified that all worship and service unto God is holy, and must be done in the light of His presence. As the lamp shone upon the showbread, it revealed Christ as the Bread of Life to those hungry for righteousness The light revealed Christ as the Bread from Heaven. It also shone on the golden altar, revealing Christ as Intercessor and Mediator through whom our prayers have access into the presence of God. It shone upon itself, revealing the beauty of the Lord which He puts upon us, thus causing our light to shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our heavenly Father. Thus, in His light we see light, and in His light we walk in the light.
In the Book of Zechariah, chapter four, we come to the highest level of Old Testament progressive revelation concerning the lamp stand and its significance. Here the lamp stand appears in vision, but as a much advanced type over that within the tabernacle of Moses. This is to be expected, inasmuch as the, Book of Exodus is at the beginning, and the Book of Zechariah is at the end of the Old Testament progressive revelation. In the time after Moses, of Solomon’s temple, the seven-branched lamp stand of the original tabernacle gave way to ten lamp stands of similar form, “five on the right side, and five on the left.” (Solomon also made ten lavers, and ten tables of showbread, similarly positioned.) This temple arrangement signified the complete sufficiency and superiority of the spiritual food and spiritual illumination of the Gospel dispensation (at this point, one thousand years distant) over that of the old dispensation. There is no light greater or brighter than Gospel light, unless it be the light in the New Jerusalem, which is the Lamb. Also signified by the ten lamp stands is the fact that in the Old Testament there was but one, national church; but that the New Testament would bring the one church consisting of multiplied churches of all nations.
But now Zechariah’s golden lamp stand: it had a reservoir above the center of the lamps, and from it stemmed pipes to the several lamps. The reservoir also had two channels reaching on either side to the two olive trees standing, one on the right, and one on the left of the lamp stand. In this way the two fruit-bearing branches of the olive trees extended their fruit over these channels, and exuded their oil into them, and through them into the reservoir. Then from the reservoir the oil passed through the individual pipes to the several lamps. Thus the reservoir and the lamps were continually supplied with oil without the ministrations of priests. Here represented is the ideal church finally realized in the perfection of the New Creation. For in the new covenant church of the New Heaven and New Earth there are no levitical priests, and “the Lamp thereof” eternally irradiates with its innate, essential glory. The ideal character of the church is further brought out in Zechariah’s scripture by the fact that here we do not have an actual, historical lamp stand, as the one of Moses and those of Solomon. It was seen only in vision, and was never placed objectively in a “worldly sanctuary” (Heb. 9:1). It represents the church after the Lord has “made all things new.”
“What are these two olives trees . . . ? What be these two olive branches . . . ?” And the answer: “These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (Zech. 4:11, 12, 14). In Zechariah’s day these probably were Zerubbabel the prince and Joshua the high priest. So that the lamp stand and the two olive trees (which probably stemmed out of the same base with the lamp stand) represent the church and its officebearers—the holy congregation with ruling elders and, preaching elders. Through Spirit-filled officebearers God pours out grace upon His church and blesses His people. The anointed minister of the Word of God withholds nothing that is profitable to the hearers: he proclaims the whole counsel of God. For he is not a purveyor of philosophy, nor a contender for his own ideas; He is not an originator of “new thought,” nor a mere “repeat-lever” for the contributions of others. He is a channel of grace through which the Spirit of Christ and the Word of God are administered to the comfort and enlightenment of His people.
The lamp stand in all Scripture therefore teaches us that Christ’s church from now throughout eternity shall never lack true ministers. Whereas in, the former dispensation “they were not suffered to continue by reason of death” (Heb. 7:23), now they “stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” In the New Creation the lamp stand, eternally shining and golden (the church in glory), is never removed from its place. The temple in that New Creation is the whole city of the New Jerusalem, and that city is the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb in eternal union with the nations (entirely new nations, 5:9; 7:9) of them which are saved.” In that city-wide temple the lamp is the Lamb, the Son of God incarnate in blessed fellowship with “the kings of the earth.'” So that, the lamp stand of Moses represented a kingdom of priests, while the lamp stand of Zechariah and of the New Heaven represents a priesthood of kings under the King of kings. For in heaven we His servants (slaves) shall walk in the immediate light of the Lamb, and in His everlasting effulgence serve Him, reigning as kings “for ever and ever.” And that will be for all believers in the kingdom of heaven salvation full, perfect, sufficient, complete! Amen.