For the man or woman of God, there is no authority higher than the authority of God’s Written Word. As Christians, we believe that every jot and tittle, every iota and every accent–is divinely inspired, and we thus esteem the words of the Holy Bible to be the very words of God himself. As such, the Holy Bible is the measuring line by which we measure all doctrine and teaching to determine whether or not it lines up with the divine standard. Because the body of Christ is founded upon the eternal cornerstone of God’s Word, any attack on the authority and authenticity of the Holy Bible is an attack on our collective national identity as the body of Christ. Accordingly, I want to take the opportunity to abolish any doubts that one might have with regard to the authenticity of the biblical canon, and show how we can be absolutely certain that this 66 book canon that we hold in our hands today is the divinely inspired Word of God. Today I intend to show how the golden candlestick described in Exodus 25:31-40 is a divinely designed symbol of the Holy Bible as specifically exemplified Protestant biblical canon.
The Golden Candlestick as a Symbol of the Word of the LORD
It is clear from Scripture that the golden candlestick was understood to be a symbol of the word of the LORD as far back as Old Testament times. One place in scripture where this is particularly apparent is the prophetic vision of Zechariah 4, where the prophet Zechariah is shown a vision where the golden candlestick (like the one described in Exodus 25:31-40) features prominently. In this vision, the golden candlestick has a globular golden bowl on top of it. This golden bowl is receiving golden oil via two olive branches extending out from two olive trees which are standing on either side of it. Connected to the golden spherical bowl that is atop the golden candlestick are 49 golden pipes, which are supplying the seven lamps of the golden candlestick with golden oil that is being received from the two olive trees standing on either side of it. When Zechariah inquires about the meaning of the vision, he is told by the interpretative angel that the vision represents “the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel” (Zech. 4:6).
The notion that the golden candlestick represents the word of the LORD of course lines up perfectly with the collective witness of Scripture, which states that God’s word is a lamp and a light (Psalm 119:105; cf. Prov. 6:23). The relational equivalence between these two constructs is likewise apparent in God’s words to the prophet Isaiah when he says: “: . . . if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). The implication from this statement is clear—the Word of God is light, and therefore anyone who rejects it or does not speak according to it is in darkness.
This connection between the constructs of light and the word of the LORD is also affirmed by biblical gematria. The first words that God is reported to have spoken occurred on the first day of creation week according to Genesis 1, and those famous words are reported to have been: יְהִי אֹור (“Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3)). In the original Hebrew, this phrase has a total gematric value of 232—the very same gematric value of the Hebrew phrase דְבַר־יְהוָה (“word of the LORD”).1By this alphanumerical equivalency, God wants us to understand that the biblical constructs of light and the word of the LORD are inextricably related within the Logos, as the logograph below illustrates:
The possibility of the above numerical equivalency being a coincidence is ruled out by the fact that these are the very first words of God in the entire canon of Scripture, and they were spoken at the beginning of the first day of creation—as by this new life is breathed into the Scripture which states: “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1; cf. 1 John 1:1). Indeed, the collective witness of Scripture testifies that the Word was the very first of the works of God (Prov. 8:23; Rev. 3:14; Ps. 119:89).
As we can already see, the Bible is very clear about the inextricable prophetic connection between the constructs of light and the word of the LORD. It can be objectively demonstrated by Scripture, in multiple ways, that these two biblical constructs are relationally interchangeable within the Logos. The truth that the golden candlestick is a biblical symbol of the word of the LORD is self-evident for any biblically literate student of Scripture.
That God would use light to symbolize the word of the LORD should not surprise us. The symbolic connection between these two constructs is self-evident, for light has historically been a symbol of knowledge and wisdom even in secular cultures, and the word of the LORD is the source of all true knowledge and wisdom.2
The long and sluggish development of the Protestant biblical canon
The Holy Bible as we know it did not exist in its final completed form for most of Church history. The subject of canonical development and how we got the Bible in the final form we have it in today is a very important one, which unfortunately remains far beyond the bounds of our present discussion. However, it is important to recognize that the 66 books of Protestant biblical canon in their familiar sequence did not come into existence in its present form until well into the sixteenth century, which in the larger scheme of the historical narrative really wasn’t all that long ago.
During the time of Jesus and the apostles, the Written Word consisted only of the 39 books found today in the Protestant Old Testament (although at that time they were divided into 22 books and did not yet exist in one unified volume). This canon of 22 scrolls was referred to at that time as “the Law & the Prophets”, and both rabbinical Judaism and the Christian Church would inherit these as part of their growing body of sacred writ.
While the New Testament was more or less complete by the end of the first century and many of its books were being read in the early churches as early as the beginning of the second century, a general consensus among the churches with regard to which of those books should be considered Scripture was not reached until the latter half of the fourth century. Even when both testaments were complete and Bibles began to be assembled into one volume after the Church adopted the codex, it is clear from the ancient canonical lists as well as the oldest surviving complete Bibles, that there was no unity of opinion among the Churches with regard to the scope and sequence of the biblical canon. It would not be until the latter half of the sixteenth century that the finalized canon would finally emerge from the purifying fires of refining as one beaten work of pure gold (Exod. 25:36; Exod. 37:22). This is the Bible familiar to us today—66 books, divided into two testaments of 39 books (OT) and 27 books (NT). The birth of the Protestant biblical canon was thus long and painful.
Although the Protestant biblical canon did not come into existence on the earth until the late sixteenth century, it was already eternally settled in heaven before Moses even penned the first word of Scripture (Ps. 119:89). In his perfect foreknowledge, God already knew what the completed biblical canon would look like. He knew exactly what books would be included in the canon, and even knew the textual content of each and every one of them–long before the men he used to pen them were even born! He even knew how all 66 books would be arranged and sequenced within the completed canon. Accordingly, he left not himself without witness, and he designed the golden candlestick to function as a biblical symbol of the completed Holy Bible as exemplified in the Protestant biblical canon. As we will see, the meticulous ornamentation of the golden candlestick functions as a clear cryptic witness to the precise scope and structure of the Protestant biblical canon.
The Ornamentation of the Golden Candlestick
Each branch of the golden candlestick contained three “units” consisting of 1 almond, 1 knop, and 1 flower. In slight contrast to the six branches extending out from it, the central shaft had a total of four such units (Exod. 25:31-35). This means that each branch had a total of 9 individual ornaments, while the shaft had a total of 12 individual ornaments:
All together, the total number of individual ornaments on the golden candlestick is 66, which just so happens to be the total number of books in the Protestant biblical canon. Even more interesting than that is the fact that the first three branches plus the shaft contained a total of 39 individual ornaments (9 + 9 + 9 + 12), while the remaining three branches contained a total of 27 individual ornaments (9+9+9). This would appear to suggest that the golden candlestick is a symbol of the Holy Bible as exemplified in the Protestant biblical canon, with its first three branches plus the shaft representing the Protestant canon of the Old Testament, and the latter three branches representing the canon of the New Testament. Behold the following:
This truth that the golden candlestick and its 66 ornaments signifies the the Protestant biblical canon and its 66 books is affirmed by other parts of the candlestick’s description recorded in the book of Exodus. For example, where Moses speaks of the golden candlestick as having six branches, the Hebrew word for branches is the word qaneh (lit. “reed”). The use of this word for the branches of the candlestick is a very crucial piece of evidence—as this word is the root word from which the Greek word kanon was derived, which is the word from which we get our English word canon that we use to speak of the canon of Scripture.3
The word canon literally means “measuring line” or “rule,” but over time began to be used figuratively to refer to any kind of standard or criterion against which something is measured (lit. judged) to determine if it is straight (orthodox).4 It is in this sense that the list of inspired biblical books came to collectively be referred to as canon, in that they collectively function as a proverbial measuring reed against which Christians measure (judge) all doctrines and teachings to discern whether or not they line up with the Word of God.
4-3 Divisional Schema of the Golden Candlestick
If our hypothesis that the 66 ornaments of the golden candlestick represent the 66 books of the Protestant biblical canon are correct, then this infers that the golden candlestick was organized according to a 4-3 divisional schema. For as we have already seen, the shaft plus the first three branches contains a total of 39 ornaments (12 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 39), while the remaining three branches together contain a total of 27 ornaments (9 + 9 + 9 = 27 ornaments). It thus stands to reason that if the golden candlestick is indeed a symbol of the Holy Bible and the ornaments really do represent the individual books of the Bible–then the shaft plus the first three branches must correspond to the Protestant canon of the Old Testament, while the latter three branches must correspond to the canon of the New Testament. To help visualize this, I have created the following illustration:
Essentially all we have to do in order to prove that the golden candlestick is a symbol of the Holy Bible, is find scriptural affirmation that the golden candlestick was designed according to the 4-3 divisional schema shown in the figure above, as this schema is required to get the 39-27 division of its 66 ornaments. Finding evidence elsewhere in the Bible that the seven arms of the golden candlestick were divided this way would essentially prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the golden candlestick is a symbol of the Holy Bible, and its 66 ornaments representative of the 66 books of the Protestant biblical canon. So the question we must ask ourselves is: “Do we find any evidence any where in Scripture that would suggest that the golden candlestick was designed according to a 4-3 divisional schema?” The answer is yes we do!
Witness #1: The book of Revelation
The golden candlestick features prominently in the book of Revelation. This is evident from the very beginning of the book, where the seven churches of Asia minor whom the risen Christ addresses individually are each symbolized by a golden candlestick (Rev. 1:14). What is more, it can be inferred from certain descriptions made about the resurrected Christ’s appearance (combined with statements John makes about his vision of the heavenly throne room in chapters 4 and 5), that Christ himself is symbolized in the book of Revelation by the symbol of the golden candlestick.5 And as if that is not enough, the golden candlestick gets alluded to a third time in Revelation 11, where God’s two witnesses are identified as the two olive trees standing beside the God of the earth—who is represented by the golden candlestick in the prophetic vision of Zechariah 4. Thus, we have three separate occasions in the book of Revelation where the golden candlestick is used directly as a symbol or gets alluded to.
Often when a particular biblical symbol is used or alluded to repeatedly in a biblical book in the way just described, it means that that symbol is in some way intimately bound up with the theme of that book, or is functioning as some sort of exegetical key needed to fully understand the book. The reason that the golden candlestick is repeatedly featured or alluded to in the book of Revelation is because it plays a key role in the organizational structure of the book, and is directly tied to the theme of the book.
Note that the book of Revelation contains several sets of seven: seven golden candlesticks (Rev. 1:12), seven angels (Rev. 1:20), seven Churches (Rev. 1:20), seven seals (Rev. 5:1; 5:5), seven thunders (Rev. 10:3-4), seven trumpets (Rev. 8:2; 8:6), seven vials (Rev. 15:7), and so forth. Each of these sets of seven have been divinely designed according to the seven-fold symmetry of the golden candlestick, and we find that the hypothetical 4-3 divisional schema of the candlestick is clearly visible in all of these. To better demonstrate, let us consider a few examples one by one.
Christ’s Addresses to the Seven Churches
The first attestation of the 4-3 divisional schema of the golden candlestick can be seen in Christ’s address to the seven Churches of Asia Minor at the beginning of the book. Here our resurrected Lord reverses the order of his proverbial “signature sign-off” to each church beginning with his address to the fourth Church. Thus, in his addresses to the first three churches, he begins the closing of each address with: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.” In each case, this is followed immediately by a closing statement that begins with the clause: “To him that overcometh. . . .” (Rev. 2:7; 2:11; 2:17). However, the astute student of Scripture will note that beginning with his address to the fourth Church, he all of the sudden reverses the order of these sayings. From his address to the church of Thyatira onward, he begins with his former closing statement which begins with the clause: “To him that overcometh. . . .”, and then closes with: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches” (Rev. 2:26-29; 3:5-6; 3:12-13; 3:21-22).6 What this peculiar reversal of clauses does is it creates a distinction whereby it is implied that three of the seven Churches are somehow of one likeness, and the other four are somehow of one likeness. In order to help one visualize and understand this and how it relates to the golden candlestick, I have provided the seven-column table below which utilizes the same color scheme as the previous one:
Here we clearly see the same pattern of 7 with a 4-3 divisional schema (the very same pattern that is required in order to get the 39-27 division of the candlestick’s 66 total ornaments) visible in Christ’s address to the seven Churches. This is the first of at least three times that this pattern and accompanying schema will appear in the book of Revelation.
The Seven Seals
The above 4-3 pattern presents itself yet again in the seven seals (Rev. 5-8:1). With the opening of each of the first four seals, John begins with the clause “And I heard the voice of the xth beast, saying, Come and see.” This is followed by John looking, and seeing a horse of a specific color and a rider—each of which is representative of a specific disturbance of the natural world order (conquest, war, famine, death). Thus, the first four seals are each associated with one of the four beasts, as well as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. However, this pattern is discontinued beginning immediately with the opening of the fifth seal. The fifth, sixth, and seven seals are not associated with any of the four beasts of Rev. 4, nor are they associated with a horse & rider. By this a clear distinction is deliberately being made between the opening of the first four seals, and the opening of the latter three. Like the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3, the vision of the seven seals are deliberately framed according to this very same pattern of seven with the 4-3 divisional schema—the only difference being that here the distinction is made in the opposite order from that which we saw in the seven letters. Here it is the first four, followed by the latter three; whereas in the case of the seven letters to the churches of Asia Minor it was presented as first three, latter four.7I have provided a summary of these differences in the seven-column table below to help visually convey the 4-3 divisional schema clearly present in the seven seals:
The Seven Trumpets
The very same pattern observable in Jesus’ letters to the seven churches, and the opening of the seven seals, appears yet again in the sounding of the seven trumpets (Rev. 8-11). The division here is marked primarily by the insertion of a bold angelic proclamation that is peculiarly placed between the fourth and fifth trumpets: “And I beheld, and heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, Woe, woe, woe, to the inhabiters of the earth by reason of the other voices of the trumpet of the three angels, which are yet to sound!” (Rev. 8:13). It is obvious that this seemingly random insertion that occurs immediately after the sounding of the fourth trumpet, is a very deliberate construction that is intended to draw a distinction between the sounding of the first four trumpets, and the sounding of the latter three which are about to occur. This can be inferred from the “woe, woe, woe” part of the proclamation—as each of the latter three trumpets are each associated with one of three specific “woes” (Rev. 9:1-12; 9:13-11:14). Note the table below:
Once again—we have the pattern of 7 with the 4-3 divisional schema clearly present in the book of Revelation.
Witness #2: Genesis 1:1
In the original Hebrew text, the first verse of the book of Genesis contains a total of seven words. A close analysis of these seven words reveals that they are framed according to the exact pattern exemplified in the golden candlestick as described in Exod. 25:31-40. Note the table below:
It should be noted that the particle אֵת in Hebrew does not translate into English, but is used in Hebrew to connect a verb with its direct object. This is the only word in the entire verse that does not translate into English. The fact that this word is inherently different from the other six words of the verse, is further evidence that these seven words have indeed been deliberately fashioned according to the pattern of the golden candlestick. This particle belongs to the shaft–which has been purposefully set apart from the other six arms of the golden candlestick which it joins together. And if Genesis 1:1 has truly been divinely patterned after the design of the golden candlestick as I claim, then this verse should in some way bear evidence of the very same 4-3 divisional schema.
The 4-3 divisional schema has indeed been deliberately burned into the design of Genesis 1:1. Note the following table:
As can be seen, the first three branches and the shaft of the golden candlestick (which together contain 39 ornaments), constitutes exactly 57.1428571% of the total beaten work; while the remaining three branches of the golden candlestick (which together contain 27 ornaments) constitutes exactly 42,.8571429% of the total beaten work.
Now notice that in the original Hebrew text of Genesis 1:1, there are a total of seven words containing a total of 28 letters. The first four words (which would correspond to the first three branches plus the shaft of the golden candlestick) contains a total of 16 letters, while the latter three words (which would correspond to the latter three branches of the golden candlestick) contains a total of 12 letters. Compare the previous table with the following one:
As can clearly be seen, the 16 letters contained in the first four words constitute precisely 57.1428571% of the total verse, while the 12 letters in the remaining three words constitute precisely 42.8571429% of the total verse–the exact same percentages as the 4 arms vs. 3 arms of the golden candlestick. Not only does this confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that the seven Hebrew words of Genesis 1:1 have been deliberately fashioned according to the seven arms of the golden candlestick, but it also affirms that the golden candlestick was designed according to the very 4-3 divisional schema that we suspected it was.
We have covered a lot of material in this analysis, so let us re-cap our main points. We began by noting that the Bible affirms in a multitude of different ways that the golden candlestick is a symbol of the word of the LORD.8 This is affirmed not only by the interpretive angel in the vision of Zechariah 4 (Zech. 4:6), but also by several other Scriptures scattered throughout the Bible (Ps. 119:105; Prov. 6:23).
We noted that according to the description of the golden candlestick given in Exodus 25:31-40, the golden candlestick contained 3 “units” (with each unit consisting of a 1 knop, 1 almond, and 1 flower) on its six outer branches, and 4 such units on the central shaft. This means that each of the six outer branches contained a total of 9 individual ornaments, while the central shaft contained a total of 12 individual ornaments. This in turn means that all together the golden candlestick had a total of 66 individual ornaments. Even more peculiar was the fact that when the first three branches plus the central shaft are grouped together, they contain a total of 39 individual ornaments all together; while the remaining three branches contain a total of 27 ornaments all together. Taken together, all of this would appear to point to the conclusion that the golden candlestick is a symbol of the Holy Bible as exemplified in the Protestant biblical canon. In order to objectively confirm this to be the case, all we needed to do was find scriptural affirmation that the 4-3 divisional schema required to get the 39-27 ornamental division was inherent to the golden candlestick’s design.
We saw that the 4-3 divisional schema is clearly attested in the first and the last books of the Bible. We noted how it was undeniably visibly present in the various cycles of seven (which are patterned according to the design of the golden candlestick) found in the book of Revelation. We also saw that the 4-3 divisional schema is undeniably present in the seven Hebrew words of Genesis 1:1, which are also patterned according to the design of the golden candlestick.
Once the 4-3 divisional schema of the golden candlestick is imported and applied to the description of the golden candlestick given in Exodus 25:31-40, the 66 ornaments of the golden candlestick are suddenly divided into two sections–one containing 39 ornaments, the other containing 27 ornaments. Obviously, this is no coincidence, and it leaves us without any doubt that the golden candlestick is a divinely designed symbol of the Holy Bible as specifically exemplified in the Protestant biblical canon—the canon of 66 books, divided into two testaments of 39 books (OT) and 27 books (NT). This is “the pure candlestick” (Exod. 39:37), the “one beaten work of pure gold” (Exod. 25:36; 37:22), and “the one stone with seven eyes” that was foreordained before the foundation of the world to be disseminated throughout the whole earth (Zech. 3:9; 4:10).
In closing I leave you with the following quote from Matthew Henry’s biblical commentary on Exodus 37:
The Bible is a golden candlestick; it is of pure gold, Ps. 19:10. From it light is diffused to every part of God’s tabernacle, that by it his spiritual priests may see to minister unto the Lord, and to do the service of his sanctuary. This candlestick has not only its bowls for necessary use, but its knops and flowers for ornament; there are many things which God saw fit to beautify his word with which we can no more give a reason for than for these knops and flowers, and yet we are sure that they were added for a good purpose. Let us bless God for this candlestick, have an eye to it continually, and dread the removal of it out of its place.
- I will talk a lot more about biblical gematria and alphanumeric codes in the Bible in a future series of posts.
- This is why when the people of ancient Judah and Israel rejected the word of the LORD, the LORD accused them of rejecting knowledge and wisdom (Jer. 8:9; Hos. 4:6)
- Bruce, F. F. “The Canon of Scripture.” Essay. In The Books and the Parchments: How We Got Our English Bible, Revised ed., 95. Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell, 1963.
- In fact, it is this Hebrew word qaneh that is used by the prophet Ezekiel to describe the measuring line of the angel who is measuring the temple and restored city of Jerusalem in Ezek. 40.
- John describes the resurrected Jesus as having eyes like a flame of fire (Rev. 1:14; cf. Dan. 10:6)—a description which gets restated by the risen Christ himself in the opening of his address to the Church at Thyatira (Rev. 2:18). These descriptions take on a whole new meaning when combined with John’s description of the eternal Word, or Lamb of God which he sees in the heavenly throne room. In chapter 4, he states that he saw seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, “which are the seven Spirits of God” (Rev. 4:5). In the very next chapter, when describing the Lamb himself, he states that he saw a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes standing in the midst of the throne, the four beasts, and the twenty-four elders (Rev. 5:6). Here he states that the seven eyes of the Lamb are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth. Combining the descriptions of Rev. 4:5 and Rev. 5:6 thus tells us that the eyes of the Lamb, which are like lamps of fire, are seven in number. This is an undeniable allusion to the vision of the golden candlestick in Zech. 4, which is described as one stone with seven eyes (Zech. 3:9).
- This very same observation is also noted in this video.
- It is probable that the 4-3 division being presented in the reverse order in the seven letters is in some way related to Christ’s statement in the synoptic Gospels regarding the end of the age, where he states that the last shall be first, and the first shall be last (Matt. 19:30; 20:16; Mark 10:31; Luke 13:30).
- Obviously, first and foremost this means that the golden candlestick is a symbol of Jesus Christ–who is the word of the LORD personified. However, the fact that it represents Jesus in no way conflicts with our thesis that the golden candlestick is a symbol of the Holy Bible, for the Holy Bible is also “the word of the LORD.” Such is the overlapping nature of biblical symbolism. Because of the way in which constructs are connected and related within the Logos (the mind of God), the golden candlestick (as a symbol of the word of the LORD) is able to function in Scripture as a type or symbol for every single thing that can rightly be called “the word of the LORD”–be it Jesus Christ, the Holy Bible, the spirit of prophecy, and so forth.