Notes on the Book of Revelation: Chapter 11, Part 2

TWO OLIVE TREES // Larry Hunt Bible Commentary

Two Olive Trees (Thassos Greece)

v. 4: Who or what are the two olive trees?  Zechariah asks an angel a similar question in Zechariah 4:11:  “What are these two olive trees?”  I have no doubt that the two olive trees here and in Zechariah are linked somehow.  In Zechariah they seem to represent Joshua, the high priest (Zechariah 3:9) and Zerubbabel, the Jewish leader who rebuilt the temple after the Babylonian Captivity.  But in Zechariah, there is one lampstand between the two olive trees, and the lampstand is God.  Here, the trees themselves are also the lampstands.[2] I suspect the immediate people whom these two trees in Revelation represent are Elijah and Moses.  Here are my reasons:

1) Moses and Elijah are frequently treated as a pair.[3]

2) These two trees “pour fire from their mouth and consume their foes” (v.5), which might be a reference to Elijah in 1st Kings 18:36-40.

3) They “have authority to shut the sky, so that no rain may fall” (v.6), which seems like a reference to Elijah in 1st Kings 17:1.  Notice also that Christ says Elijah shut the heavens for 3 ½ years (Luke 4:25), which is the amount of time these two trees have power to do such things.

4)  They “have authority over the waters to turn them into blood” (v.6), which could very easily be a reference to Moses in Exodus 7:20-21.

5) They have authority “to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire” (v.6), which could easily be a reference to Moses and the plagues he unleashed upon Egypt.

Note how John continues to emphasize the number two here by referring to two actions associated with Elijah and two actions associated with Moses.  Now, whether or not Moses and Elijah themselves are meant to symbolize another pair of people (as Elijah was a type for John the Baptist[4]) I am not sure, but I suspect so.


[2] At least it seems so.  There are definitely only two witnesses.  I think the two witnesses are symbolized by two pairs of symbols: two olive trees and two lampstands.  Thus, if Moses and Elijah are the witnesses, then Moses and Elijah are in some ways like two olive trees and in some ways like two lampstands.

[3] See, for instance, John 1:25, and Matthew 17:3.

[4] See Matthew 17:10-13.

[5] There are problems with this.  See notes on the 1,000 year reign in Revelation 20.


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