“Lampstand” for Lexham B.D.

February 13, 2011

(Once again, this is copyrighted material.  Please do not use it as your own work.)

*Lampstand (Heb menorah, “lampstand”; Gk luchnia, “lampstand, stand”) A support for one or more oil lamps. In the Old Testament, the historical usage is in regard to the lampstand in the holy place in the Tabernacle and the ten lampstands in the Temple. There is a significant prophecy in Zech 4 that includes a lampstand. In the New Testament, there are four illustrative uses of “lampstand” in the Synoptic Gospels. In Revelation, lampstands supply apocalyptic imagery at both the beginning and in the middle of the book. *                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

!! Usage in the Jewish Tabernacle. Specifications for the golden lampstand (Heb menorah) in the holy place are given as part of the Lord’s directions for the construction of the Tabernacle in Ex 25-40, Lev and Num. Ex 25:31 stipulates that the lampstand was to be of “pure hammered gold” and was to be “of one piece” (HCSB). There were to be seven branches, each with a lamp (Ex 25:32-37). The lampstand and related utensils required about “75 pounds of pure gold” (Ex 25:39). The menorah was to be located in the holy place, outside the holy of holies, on the south side of the tabernacle (Ex 26:35). It was the responsibility of the priests who descended from Aaron to “continually tend the lamps on the pure gold lampstand in the Lord’s presence” (Lev 24:4, HCSB).

!! Usage in the Jewish Temple. When Solomon supervised the building of the Temple in Jerusalem, he had 10 golden menorahs made for the holy place. He acted according to the plans his father, David, gave him for the various aspects of the Temple (1 Chr 28:11-12, 15), and Solomon carried out every detail “according to specifications” (2 Chr 4:20). It is not known why David directed Solomon to make 10 gold lampstands, only that, “in the sanctuary” (i.e., the holy place), there were to be “five on the right and five on the left” (2 Chr 4:7, HCSB).

!! Usage in Zech. In the early Post-Exilic Era, the prophet Zechariah saw a vision that included an unusual solid gold menorah. In the midst of the difficulty of the process of building of the Second Temple and negative comparisons to the size and grandeur of the First Temple complex, Zechariah received an encouraging vision from the Lord (Zech 4:1-14). By this point in Judah’s history, the menorah probably is symbolic of the people of Israel. In this context, the two olive trees (Zech 4:3, 14) are apparently Zerubbabel, the governor, and Joshua, the high priest. The meaning of the vision seems to be in twin statements from the Lord: “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit” (Zech 4:7) and “… [W]ho scorns the day of small things?” (Zech 4:10). In other words, in spite of appearances or deep discouragement, the construction of the Temple would be completed, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

!! Usage in the Gospels. Matt, Mark and Luke all use “lampstand” as part of a proverbial illustration. The commonplace that a lamp must be set on a “lampstand” (Gk luchnia) for its light to be seen is found in Matt 5:15, Mark 4:21 and Luke 8:16; 11:33, though Jesus applies the illustration in different ways.

!! Usage in Rev. John sees lampstands in visions in Rev 1, 2, 11 which appear to correspond in meaning to both the Tabernacle/Temple and Zech 4. In Rev 1:12-13, John sees “One like the Son of Man” (HCSB) standing among seven gold lampstands. Rev 1:20 interprets the seven lampstands as “the seven churches” who are the intended recipients of the scroll of the Book of Rev (Rev 1:11). This usage likely parallels the church(es) of Jesus Christ with Israel (i.e., a seven-pronged gold menorah vs. seven golden lampstands, like the similar parallel in the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:12, 14). The glorified Christ is then immediately described to the church at Ephesus as the One “who walks among the seven gold lampstands” in Rev 2:1. That is followed by Christ’s warning about the removal of their lampstand (i.e., the closing of the church), unless they repent of abandoning “the love they had at first” for the Lord (Rev 2:4-5, HCSB). The reference to the two witnesses in Rev 11:3-7 as “the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth” (Rev 11:4, HCSB) points back to Zech 4. Since there appears to be a Temple then standing in Jerusalem (“the holy city”; Rev 11:1-2), the meaning of this allusion to Zech 4 is probably two-fold: 1) that, like Zerubbabel and Joshua in Zech 4, the two witnesses would complete the task at hand, despite huge obstacles; and 2) another wondrous biblical instance of “Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit” (Zech 4:7, HCSB).

–A. Boyd Luter

!! Bibliography

Averbeck, Richard E. “Tabernacle,” in the Dictionary of the Old Testament: Pentateuch. Gen. Eds. T.D. Alexander and D.W. Baker. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003: 807-27.

Cole, R. Dennis. “Lamps, Lighting, Lampstand,” in the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Gen. Eds. C. Brand, C. Draper, and A. England. Nashville: Holman Reference, 2003: 1009-10.

Elwell, W.A., Gen. Ed. “Lamp, Lampstand,” in The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1988: 1303-05.

Hays, J. Daniel, J. Scott Duvall, and C. Marvin Pate. “Lampstand,” in the Dictionary of Biblical Prophecy and End Times. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007: 248-50.

Meyers, Carol. “Lampstand,” in Harper’s Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. P.J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985: 546.

Meyers, Carol. “Lampstand,” in the Anchor Bible Dictionary. Gen. Ed. D.N. Freedman. New York: Doubleday, 1992: IV: 141-43.

Meyers, Carol. The Tabernacle Menorah: A Synthetic Study of a Symbol from the Biblical Cult. Missoula: Scholars Press, 1976.

Taylor, J.E. “The Asherah, the Menorah and the Sacred Tree,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 66 (1995): 29-54.


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