The most notable candlesticks in the Bible are those created for use in God’s house. The lamp stand or menorah that stood in the tabernalce was made of a single sheet of pure gold and had seven branches, each topped with a lamp in the shape of an almond blossom (Exod 25:31-40). Solomon’s temple had ten of these candles (1 Kings 7:49). Each lamp burned olive oil and was kept burning through the night as a symbol that God was with his chosen people at all times (Exod 27:21; 1 Sam 3:3). Extrabiblical sources suggest that in later times the middle lamp, which represented God himself, was kept burning around the clock.
In temple worship, this object of beauty was symbolic of the light of God-the presence of the shekinah glory among the chosen people, house in the tabernacle. As long as the lamps kept burning, the Jews were aware of God’s presence and leadership among them. The act of trimming the lamps each day was a tactile reminder of God’s promises. Additionally, the seven branches of the lamp stand represented the seven days of creation and the many other instances in Scripture of seven being the number of completeness.
The ever-burning light from the menorah was a sign that pointed to Jesus. He is Immanuel, “God with us,” who brings the light of salvation to a dark world (Isa 9:2; John 8:12). He is the light (John 1:4-10). Or as Jesus exclaimed, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will have a life filled with light and will never live in the dark” (John 8:12). This symbolism is apparent in the prophecies of Christ: “My servant David will always have a lamp in my presence in Jerusalem, the city where I chose to place my name” (1 Kings 11:36; see also 2 Kings 8:19).
A LIGHT TO THE NATIONS
The menorah also represented the nation of Israel, which was to be a “light to the nations” (Isa 42:6). As such, they were to be led by the Lord’s power and be the means through which he would bring salvation to the world-a point made in Zechariah’s vision of the lamp stand (Zech 4:2,6). Even today the menorah is an important Jewish emblem, appearing on Israel’s coat of arms to symbolize their role as a light to the world.
The New Testament sheds further light on this symbolism. Jesus said, “You are light for the world. A city cannot be hidden when it is located on a hill. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket. Instead, everyone who lights a lamp put it on a lamp sand. Then its light shine on everyone in the house. In the same way let your light shine in front of people. Then they will see the good that you do and praise your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:14-16). Since the coming of Christ, the church is now God’s menorah to the world-the bringer of the light of Christ into a dark world.
In the book of Revelation, the lamp stand appears once again as a symbol of the churches. “The hidden meaning of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and the seven gold lamp stand is this: The seven stars are the messengers of the seven churches, and the seven lamp stands are the seven churches” (Rev 1:20; cf 1:12-13; 2:1; 11:4). The lamp stand is a symbol for the way the church is to represent God’s presence in the world, just as in the Old Testament the menorah represented God’s presence in Israel. The light that once was only for the chosen nation of Israel is now for all people. The literal lamp stand in Old Testament is a symbolic one in the New, showing the God’s light is for all nations, and his work is done through the church .