Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
Zechariah 3:1-10. Fourth Vision. Joshua the high priest before the angel of Jehovah; accused by Satan, but justified by Jehovah through Messiah the coming Branch.
Joshua as high priest (Haggai 1:1) represents “Jerusalem” (Zechariah 3:2), or the elect people, put on its trial, and “plucked” narrowly “out of the fire.” His attitude, “standing before the Lord,” is that of a high priest ministering before the altar erected previously to the building of the temple (Ezra 3:2, Ezra 3:3, Ezra 3:6; Psalm 135:2). Yet, in this position, by reason of his own and his people‘s sins, he is represented as on his and their trial (Numbers 35:12).
he showed me — “He” is the interpreting angel. Jerusalem‘s (Joshua‘s) “filthy garments” (Zechariah 3:3) are its sins which had hitherto brought down God‘s judgments. The “change of raiment” implies its restoration to God‘s favor. Satan suggested to the Jews that so consciously polluted a priesthood and people could offer no acceptable sacrifice to God, and therefore they might as well desist from the building of the temple. Zechariah encourages them by showing that their demerit does not disqualify them for the work, as they are accepted in the righteousness of another, their great High Priest, the Branch (Zechariah 3:8), a scion of their own royal line of David (Isaiah 11:1). The full accomplishment of Israel‘s justification and of Satan the accuser‘s being “rebuked” finally, is yet future (Revelation 12:10). Compare Revelation 11:8, wherein “Jerusalem,” as here, is shown to be meant primarily, though including the whole Church in general (compare Job 1:9).
Satan — the Hebrew term meaning “adversary” in a law court: as devil is the Greek term, meaning accuser. Messiah, on the other hand, is “advocate” for His people in the court of heaven‘s justice (1 John 2:1).
standing at his right hand — the usual position of a prosecutor or accuser in court, as the left hand was the position of the defendant (Psalm 109:6). The “angel of the Lord” took the same position just before another high priest was about to beget the forerunner of Messiah (Luke 1:11), who supplants Satan from his place as accuser. Some hence explain Judges 1:9 as referring to this passage: “the body of Moses” being thus the Jewish Church, for which Satan contended as his by reason of its sins; just as the “body of Christ” is the Christian Church. However, Judges 1:9 plainly speaks of the literal body of Moses, the resurrection of which at the transfiguration Satan seems to have opposed on the ground of Moses‘ error at Meribah; the same divine rebuke, “the Lord rebuke thee,” checked Satan in contending for judgment against Moses‘ body, as checked him when demanding judgment against the Jewish Church, to which Moses‘ body corresponds.
the Lord — Jehovah, hereby identified with the “angel of the Lord (Jehovah)” (Zechariah 3:1).
rebuke thee — twice repeated to express the certainty of Satan‘s accusations and machinations against Jerusalem being frustrated. Instead of lengthened argument, Jehovah silences Satan by the one plea, namely, God‘s choice.
chosen Jerusalem — (Romans 9:16; Romans 11:5). The conclusive answer. If the issue rested on Jerusalem‘s merit or demerit, condemnation must be the award; but Jehovah‘s “choice” (John 15:16) rebuts Satan‘s charge against Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12; Romans 8:33, Romans 8:34, Romans 8:37), represented by Joshua (compare in the great atonement, Leviticus 16:6-20, etc.), not that she may continue in sin, but be freed from it (Zechariah 3:7).
brand plucked out of fire — (Amos 4:11; 1 Peter 4:18; Judges 1:23). Herein God implies that His acquittal of Jerusalem is not that He does not recognize her sin (Zechariah 3:3, Zechariah 3:4, Zechariah 3:9), but that having punished her people for it with a seventy years‘ captivity, He on the ground of His electing love has delivered her from the fiery ordeal; and when once He has begun a deliverance, as in this case, He will perfect it (Psalm 89:30-35; Philemon 1:6).
filthy garments — symbol of sin (Proverbs 30:12; Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 64:6); proving that it is not on the ground of His people‘s righteousness that He accepts them. Here primarily the “filthy garments” represent the abject state temporally of the priesthood and people at the return from Babylon. Yet he “stood before the angel.” Abject as he was, he was before Jehovah‘s eye, who graciously accepts His people‘s services, though mixed with sin and infirmity.
those that stood before him — the ministering angels (compare the phrase in 1 Kings 10:8; Daniel 1:5).
Take away the filthy garments — In Zechariah 3:9 it is “remove the iniquity of that land”; therefore Joshua represents the land.
from him — literally, “from upon him”; pressing upon him as an overwhelming burden.
change of raiment — festal robes of the high priest, most costly and gorgeous; symbol of Messiah‘s imputed righteousness (Matthew 22:11). The restoration of the glory of the priesthood is implied: first, partially, at the completion of the second temple; fully realized in the great High Priest Jesus, whose name is identical with Joshua (Hebrews 4:8), the Representative of Israel, the “kingdom of priests” (Exodus 19:6); once clad in the filthy garments of our vileness, but being the chosen of the Father (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 44:1; Isaiah 49:1-3), He hath by death ceased from sin, and in garments of glory entered the heavenly holy place as our High Priest (Hebrews 8:1; Hebrews 9:24). Then, as the consequence (1 Peter 2:5), realized in the Church generally (Luke 15:22; Revelation 19:8), and in Israel in particular (Isaiah 61:10; compare Isaiah 3:6; Isaiah 66:21).
And I said — Here the prophet, rejoicing at the change of raiment so far made, interposes to ask for the crowning assurance that the priesthood would be fully restored, namely, the putting the miter or priestly turban on Joshua: its fair color symbolizing the official purity of the order restored. He does not command, but prays; not “Set,” but “Let them set.” Vulgate and Syriac version read it, “He then said,” which is the easier reading; but the very difficulty of the present Hebrew reading makes it less likely to come from a modern corrector of the text.
angel of Lord stood by — the Divine Angel had been sitting (the posture of a judge, Daniel 7:9); now He “stands” to see that Zechariah‘s prayer be executed, and then to give the charge (Zechariah 3:6, Zechariah 3:7).
protested — proceeded solemnly to declare. A forensic term for an affirmation on oath (Hebrews 6:17, Hebrews 6:18). God thus solemnly states the end for which the priesthood is restored to the people, His own glory in their obedience and pure worship, and their consequent promotion to heavenly honor.
God‘s choice of Jerusalem (Zechariah 3:2) was unto its sanctification (John 15:16; Romans 8:29); hence the charge here which connects the promised blessing with obedience.
my charge — the ordinances, ritual and moral (Numbers 3:28, Numbers 3:31, Numbers 3:32, Numbers 3:38; Joshua 1:7-9; 1 Kings 2:3; Ezekiel 44:16).
judge my house — Thou shalt long preside over the temple ceremonial as high priest (Leviticus 10:10; Ezekiel 44:23; Malachi 2:7) [Grotius]. Or, rule over My house, that is, My people [Maurer] (Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1). We know from Deuteronomy 17:9 that the priest judged cases. He was not only to obey the Mosaic institute himself, but to see that it was obeyed by others. God‘s people are similarly to exercise judgment hereafter, as the reward of their present faithfulness (Daniel 7:18, Daniel 7:22; Luke 19:17; 1 Corinthians 6:2); by virtue of their royal priesthood (Revelation 1:6).
keep my courts — guard My house from profanation.
places to walk — free ingress and egress (1 Samuel 18:16; 1 Kings 3:7; 1 Kings 15:17), so that thou mayest go through these ministering angels who stand by Jehovah (Zechariah 4:14; Zechariah 6:5; 1 Kings 22:19) into His presence, discharging thy priestly function. In Ezekiel 42:4 the same Hebrew word is used of a walk before the priests‘ chambers in the future temple. Zechariah probably refers here to such a walk or way; Thou shalt not merely walk among priests like thyself, as in the old temple walks, but among the very angels as thine associates. Hengstenberg translates, “I will give thee guides (from) among these,” etc. But there is no “from” in the Hebrew; English Version is therefore better. Priests are called angels or “messengers” (Malachi 2:7); they are therefore thought worthy to be associated with heavenly angels. So these latter are present at the assemblies of true Christian worshippers (1 Corinthians 11:10; compare Ecclesiastes 5:6; Ephesians 3:10; Revelation 22:9).
Hear — On account of the magnitude of what He is about to say, He at once demands solemn attention.
thy fellows that sit before thee — thy subordinate colleagues in the priesthood; not that they were actually then sitting before him; but their usual posture in consultations was on chairs or benches before him, while he sat on an elevated seat as their president.
they are — From speaking to Joshua He passes to speaking of him and them, in the third person, to the attendant angels (compare Zechariah 3:9).
men wondered at — Hebrew, “men of wonder,” that is, having a typical character (Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 20:3; Ezekiel 12:11; Ezekiel 24:24). Joshua the high priest typifies Messiah, as Joshua‘s “fellows” typify believers whom Messiah admits to share His Priesthood (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 5:10). This, its typical character, then, is a pledge to assure the desponding Jews that the priesthood shall be preserved till the great Antitype comes. There may be also an indirect reproof of the unbelief of the multitude who “wonder” at God‘s servants and even at God‘s Son incredulously (Psalm 71:7; Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 53:1, etc.).
behold — marking the greatness of what follows.
my servant — the characteristic title of Messiah (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:3; Isaiah 50:10; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11; Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24).
the Branch — Messiah, a tender branch from the almost extinct royal line of David (Zechariah 6:12; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15). Luke 1:78, where for “day spring,” “branch” may be substituted (Malachi 4:2, however, favors English Version). The reference cannot be to Zerubbabel (as Grotius thinks), for he was then in the full discharge of his office, whereas “the Branch” here is regarded as future.
For — expressing the ground for encouragement to the Jews in building the temple: I (Jehovah) have laid the (foundation) stone as the chief architect, before (in the presence of) Joshua, by “the hand of Zerubbabel” (Zechariah 4:10; Ezra 3:8-13), so that your labor in building shall not be vain. Antitypically, the (foundation) stone alluded to is Christ, before called “the Branch.” Lest any should think from that term that His kingdom is weak, He now calls it “the stone,” because of its solidity and strength whereby it is to be the foundation of the Church, and shall crush all the world kingdoms (Psalm 118:22; compare Isaiah 28:16; Daniel 2:45; Matthew 21:42; 1 Corinthians 3:11; 1 Peter 2:6, 1 Peter 2:7). The angel pointing to the chief stone lying before Him, intimates that a deeper mystery than the material temple is symbolized. Moore thinks the “stone” is the Jewish Church, which Jehovah engages watchfully to guard. The temple, rather, is that symbolically. But the antitype of the foundation-stone is Messiah.
upon one stone shall be seven eyes — namely, the watchful “eyes” of Jehovah‘s care ever fixed “upon” it (Zechariah 4:10) [Maurer]. The eye is the symbol of Providence: “seven,” of perfection (Revelation 5:6; compare 2 Chronicles 16:9; Psalm 32:8). Antitypically, “the seven eyes upon the stone” are the eyes of all angels (1 Timothy 3:16), and of all saints (John 3:14, John 3:15; John 12:32), and of the patriarchs and prophets (John 8:56; 1 Peter 1:10, 1 Peter 1:11), fixed on Christ; above all, the eyes of the Father ever rest with delight on Him. Calvin (perhaps better) considers the seven eyes to be carved on the stone, that is, not the eyes of the Father and of angels and saints ever fixed on Him, but His own sevenfold (perfect) fullness of grace, and of gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 11:3; John 1:16; John 3:34; Colossians 1:19; Colossians 2:9), and His watchful providence now for the Jews in building the temple, and always for His Church, His spiritual temple. Thus the “stone” is not as other stones senseless, but living and full of eyes of perfect intelligence (1 Peter 2:4, “a living stone”), who not only attracts the eyes (John 12:32) of His people, but emits illumination so as to direct them to Him.
engrave graving — implying Messiah‘s exceeding beauty and preciousness; alluding to the polished stones of the temple: Christ excelled them, as much as God who “prepared His body” (Hebrews 10:5; compare John 2:21) is superior to all human builders.
remove iniquity of that land in one day — that is, the iniquity and its consequences, namely the punishment to which the Jews heretofore had been subjected (Haggai 1:6, Haggai 1:9-11). The remission of sin is the fountain of every other blessing. The “one day” of its removal is primarily the day of national atonement celebrated after the completion of the temple (Leviticus 23:27) on the tenth day of the seventh month. Antitypically, the atonement by Messiah for all men, once for all (“one day”) offered, needing no repetition like the Mosaic sacrifices (Hebrews 10:10, Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:14).
vine fig tree — emblem of tranquil prosperity (1 Kings 4:25). Type of spiritual peace with God through Christ (Romans 5:1); and of millennial blessedness (Micah 4:4).
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