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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 3

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

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Verse 1

(1) And he.—Probably, the angel-interpreter.

Joshua.—The various forms of this name, that of the Saviour of the world, are well worth noticing. The oldest form of the word is that used here, Yehoshua, which was contracted into Yoshua‘ (Mishnah, passim), also into Yeshua’ (Ezra 2:2), and then into Yeshu. This last was represented in Greek by Ιηοου, and with the nominative ending s became Ἰησοῦν. In the Talmudim the name takes also the forms Îsâ and Îsî, and in Arabic ‘Îsâ.

Standing before.—There is a great variety of opinion among commentators with respect to the capacity in which Joshua is represented as standing before the angel of the Lord. Theodoret, among early expositors, and Hengstenberg, among moderns, maintain that Joshua is seen in the sanctuary engaged in the work of his priestly office before the angel of the Lord. Against this view may be urged that, however high may be the dignity of the angel of the Lord, it is hardly in accordance with the spirit of the Old Testament to represent the high priest as ministering before him, as if before God. Observe, too, how in Zechariah 1:12-13, the personality of the angel of the Lord is distinct from that of the Lord Himself. Ewald imagines that at this time the high priest was actually accused, or was dreading an accusation, at the Persian court, and that a defamation and persecution of this kind may be discerned as underlying this vision. But there is no historical trace of any such personal accusation, nor could Joshua be looked upon as the people’s representative before the Persian Court, since Zerubbabel was their civil representative. Koehler regards Joshua as standing before the judgment-seat of the angel, while Satan stands at his right hand (Psalms 109:6) to accuse him. But, while this interpretation is in the main correct, it must be remembered that no formal judicial process is described in the vision, nor is there any mention of a judgment-seat. Wright’s explanation seems to us the best: “The high priest was probably seen in the vision, busied about some part of his priestly duties. While thus engaged, he discovered that he was actually standing as a criminal before the angel, and while the great Adversary accused him, the truth of that accusation was but too clearly seen by the filthy garments with which he then perceived that he was attired.”

Satan.—Literally, the adversary, who is, not Sanballat and his companion (Qimchi), but ὀ διάβολος, the adversary of mankind. A belief in a personal devil was current among the Jews from, at any rate, the time of the composition of the Book of Job to Talmudic times. (See Job 1:2; 1 Chronicles 21:1; Talmud Babli, Baba Bathra, 26 b, &c.)

At his right hand.—The position of the adversay, or complainant, as represented in the original passage (Psalms 109:6).

Verses 1-7


(1-7) The accusation against Joshua was not that of neglecting the building of the Temple (for the re-building had been resumed five months before), nor was it that he had allowed his sons to marry foreign wives (for that took place some sixty years later), but, rather, as high priest he was the representative of the priestly nation, and so was looked on as laden, not only with his own, but also with the sins of the whole people. Moreover, the priesthood itself had fallen under the severest condemnation. “Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned my holy things” (Ezekiel 22:26).

Verses 1-10


Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15. Between the commencement of Zechariah’s prophetic labours and the incidents recorded in Zechariah 1:7 to Zechariah 6:15, the Prophet Haggai received the revelation contained in Haggai 2:10-23. On the four-and-twentieth day of the eleventh month, just five months after the re-building of the Temple was resumed, Zechariah sees a succession of seven visions in one night, followed by a symbolic action (Zechariah 6:9-15).

Verse 2

(2) The Lord rebuke thee.—See Note on Jude 1:19. Satan is justly rebuked; “for who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s chosen?”

The fire.—Of penal suffering in the captivity in Babylon. (Comp. Amos 4:11) As with the guilt, so with the pardon and promise in both, Joshua was the representative of the people.

Verse 3

(3) Filthy garments.—Such as would render him unfit to appear before God as priest. They are a symbol of the guilt and defilement of sin. (Isaiah 64:5.)

And stood before.—See Note on Zechariah 3:1.

Verse 4

(4) Those that stood before him is an expression meaning courtiers and counsellors (1 Kings 13:6-8); and here, probably, means angels of inferior grade to the “angel of the Lord.”

Thine iniquityi.e., of thee, and of the people whose representative thou art.

And I will clothe thee.—Better, and I clothe thee. The tense is “the aorist of immediate past.” (Comp. Gr. ἐδεξάμην, “I welcome.”) LXX. change the mood and person, and render καὶ ἐνδύσατε αὐτὸν ποδήρη, “and clothe ye him with a long garment.”

Change of raiment.—The word means simply different garments to the filthy ones in which he was clothed before: clean ones, in fact. (See next verse.) The figure seems to be borrowed from Isaiah 61:10 : “He hath clothed me with garments of salvation, He hath clothed me with a robe of righteousness.” That it does not mean “festal garments” is shown by the ordinary word for “garments” being used in Zechariah 3:5.

Verse 5

(5) Fairi.e., clean. (Comp. the words of the Rubric, “a fair white linen cloth.”) The prophet seems to have felt constrained to make the request contained in this verse from an idea that the changing of Joshua’s raiment might be only a sign of the removal of the high priest’s own guilt.

Mitre, or turban, it was upon which was fastened the golden plate inscribed with “Holiness to the Lord” (comp. Zechariah 14:20), by virtue of which the shortcomings of the sanctuary were atoned (Exodus 28:38). That the prophet was justified in making the request is shown by the fact that it was granted. and that even before the “garments” were put on.

Stood by.—Better, kept standing (where he was).

Verses 6-10

(6-10) The angel of the Lord now proclaims to Joshua a fourfold promise: (1) the confirmation of his official authority, and the elevation of his own spiritual nature; (2) the mission of the Saviour; (3) God’s providential care for the House, which was being rebuilt; (4) the peace and prosperity of the nation.

Verse 7

(7) Walk in my ways refers to personal holiness.

Keep my charge.—To the due discharge of his official duties.

Then thou.—The word “thou” is emphatic, and helps to mark the apodosis.

My house.—On this passage Wright remarks: “The words ‘my house’ seem to have been chosen to correspond with ‘my courts’ in the parallel clause. Though the two ideas are closely related, they are not identical in meaning. The expression ‘my house’ is probably to be understood in a metaphorical sense for my people (comp. Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1; Hosea 9:15, ἆκος Θεοῦ; Hebrews 3:6; 1 Timothy 3:15), because the word judge takes an accusative after it of the person, and not of the thing, with the exception of an accusative of cognate meaning, as ‘to judge judgment’ (Jeremiah 5:28; Jeremiah 30:13; Jeremiah 21:12). The word ‘house’ may possibly have been chosen in preference to that of ‘people’ to avoid giving offence, as the people were then under Persian rule (Schegg). If the word ‘house’ be understood metaphorically, the sense is that the high priest was to direct the people in all things respecting the law of God, and especially to judge those who ministered in the sanctuary (Hitzig, Pressel, &c.). Others think that the Temple then in course of construction is referred to (Hengstenberg, Keil, Kliefoth, Pusey). In the latter case the meaning is not very different, namely, that the high priest was to rule and direct the services of the sanctuary and Holy of holies, and to keep away every kind of idolatry and ungodliness from its outer courts (Hengstenberg).” Thus Joshua is confirmed in his office of high priest, which had been called in question by the accusation of Satan (has-Sâtân).

Places to walki.e., as in margin, “walks,” meaning paths. LXX., ἀναστρεϕομένους ἐν μέσψ, “living among” vocalising the word differently. Ewald understands the word as meaning “leaders, but if that were its signification it would be followed by “from among,” instead of “among.”

Among these that stand by.—The angels of the heavenly court. Etymologically, assistants; but in legal phraseology, assessors. The whole scene is drawn on the model of an Oriental Darbár. He is promised free spiritual access to God among the holy angels. Observe the introverted parallelism of this verse—“wilt walk, “wilt keep;” then “shalt keep,” “places to walk.” “A gratuitous justification furnishes no excuse for inaction and sin, but leads to more entire obedience . . . Fidelity in God’s service shall be gloriously rewarded.” (Moore.)

Verse 8

(8) For theyi.e., thou and they. For this change of person, comp. Zephaniah 2:12, which runs literally, “Also ye Cushim slain by my sword (are) they.”

Wondered at.—Literally, as in margin, of signi.e., men to whom signs are given, and for whom miracles are wrought; or, according to others, persons accustomed to interpret the enigmatical sayings of prophets. LXX., ἄνδρες τερατοσκόποι.

For, behold.—Better, simply, Behold. (Comp. ὅτι of New Testament.)

I will bring.—Literally, I (am) bringing, a somewhat indefinite tense, the exact meaning of which can be decided only by the context. (Comp. Haggai 2:6.) Thus in Isaiah 7:14 the context (3:16) shows that what the prophet looked on as a fulfilment could not be far off; in Ezekiel 24:17 this tense is shown by the next verse to be the imminent future; while in Zechariah 12:2 a similar form of construction seems to refer to a distant future.

My servant. . . .—Better, my servant Branch, after Ezekiel 34:23 : “my servant David.”

Branch.—Hebrew, Tsémach; occurs in Isaiah 4:2, “Branch of the Lord.” (Comp. the expressions in Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2.) These passages (especially Isaiah 4:2) Jeremiah had, doubtless, in mind when he uttered the prophecies of Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15, in which he speaks of “A righteous Branch” and a “Branch of Righteousness,” as springing from the house of David, to be a Saviour to deliver Israel from the captivity. (See the whole context in both places, especially Jeremiah 23:7-8, Jeremiah 33:12-14.) From these passages Zechariah adopts “Branch” as the proper name of the Saviour. He may have expected that this promised Saviour would be found in Sheshbatstsar (i.e., Zerubbabel), “the Prince of Judah” (Ezra 1:8), who should build the House (Haggai 2:23; Zechariah 4:9). In Haggai 2:23, Zerubbabel is expressly called “my servant;” but the expression is also a recognised title of the Messiah in the passage of Ezekiel referred to above, and in Isaiah 53:12—“a righteous one—my servant”—and elsewhere. (This last passage is, probably, the foundation of the expression in Acts 4:27, τὸν ἅγιον παῖδά σον Ἰησοῦν.) A glimpse of Messianic times is here, indeed, revealed to the prophet, but the clearness of his view is obscured by the medium through which he views them. (See Notes on Zechariah 2:10-13; Zechariah 6:11-15.) From “Branch,” LXX., ἀνατολήν, “day-spring;” Syriac, “sunrise,” since Tsemcho in Syriac denotes “shining of the sun.” (Comp. LXX. of Isaiah 4:2, ἐπ λάμψει δ Θεός.)

Verse 9

(9) The stone.—If this were the meaning of the original, the words “upon one stone” ought to have been upon that stone. But “the stone” means the stones, the singular noun being used as a noun of multitude, as it is in Genesis 11:3; Exodus 39:10. The stones are the material stones with which the House was to be built; the laying them before Joshua is used as figuring the whole command to build the House.

Upon one stone.—Better, upon one particular stone (for this use of the numeral “one,” comp. Note on Zechariah 14:7), i.e., either the foundation-stone laid in the time of Cyrus, or the stone on which the Ark had formerly stood (Jewish tradition), or the head-stone, or chief corner-stone; or, possibly, upon each stone (for this construction comp. Ezekiel 1:6; Ezekiel 10:14, and my Hebrew Students Commentary on Zechariah, p. 37)—viz., upon the whole scheme and process of re-building.

Seven eyes.—Ewald supposes the “seven eyes” to have been engraved on the stone, and thinks that they represent the “seven spirits” (Revelation 1:4). But it seems more probable that they represent the all-embracing, and here special, providence of God (Zechariah 4:10). The expression “to put the eyes upon” is used in Jeremiah 39:12; Jeremiah 40:4, in the sense “to protect,” “take care of.” The completion of this material building was an important era in the train of events, which, under Divine providence, was preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah. (See a further development of the meaning of “building” in Zechariah 6:12-13.)

Engrave the graving thereof.—As the graving of the figures, &c., puts the finishing touch to precious stones (Exodus 28:36), so the expression is here used to denote putting the final stroke to the work of rebuilding. It is impossible to take “And I will remove,” &c., as the sentence engraved on the stone, as many have done; for such an inscription could not possibly commence with vâv conversive and the perfect. Job 19:25, “Yet I know, my Vindicator liveth,” is in no sense a parallel case (see Delitzsch in loc.). LXX., ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ὀρύσσω βόθρον, “lo! I am digging a trench,” misreading the word “graving.”

In one day.—The day when the Temple should be completed and consecrated. The successful completion of this great work would be a sign and seal of the forgiveness of the past “iniquity of the land.” “In one day” cannot refer to “the day of Golgotha” (Hengstenberg), for how could Zechariah 3:10 be applied to that day? How could Zechariah 12:10, sqq., and Zechariah 3:9-10, be possibly referred to the same event? For “and I will remove,” LXX., καὶ ψηλαφήσω, confounding the verb, which means “to remove,” with a somewhat similar verb, meaning “to grope after.”

Verse 10

(10) The wording of this verse is a reminiscence of 1 Kings 4:25, Micah 4:4, &c. It is an announcement of the approaching fulfilment of the promise of Jeremiah 33:16 : “In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she (Jerusalem) shall be called, The Lord our righteousness.” (Comp. “Jehovah, my standard,” as the name of an altar, in Exodus 17:15.) Such prophecies were partially fulfilled in the restoration of the Jews after the captivity; but perhaps their complete fulfilment is to be expected in the future, when “all Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26).

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Zechariah 3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/zechariah-3.html. 1905.
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