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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Zechariah 3

Verses 1-10

A Vision Concerning the High Priest (3:1-10)

As though continuing from the reference to the glory within Jerusalem (at Zechariah 2:5), Zechariah’s next vision turns to the person of the high priest, Joshua, who appears to stand before the angel of the Lord with Satan (literally, "the Satan") standing at his right hand to accuse him. Again in Zechariah’s vision word comes directly from the Lord, though only his angel is visible to the prophet. The word which comes is the familiar rebuke of Satan (see Judges 1:9), together with a rhetorical question in which God’s rescue of the high priest is linked with his choice of Jerusalem. In effect, the question declares that in redemption Jerusalem is a brand plucked from the fire by the mighty redeeming activity of God.

Thus far in the prophet’s vision the nature of Satan’s accusation has not been explained. Now the angel orders those standing by, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And in words reminiscent of the inaugural vision of a young prophet in the earlier Temple (Isaiah 6:7), the angel declares the removal of iniquity from Joshua the high priest and promises him rich clothing. At this moment Zechariah intrudes into the scene and suggests a clean turban for his head, and immediately the attendants provide it for him.

Now the angel counsels Joshua in a passage which contains a number of difficulties for the interpreter. The initial injunction calls upon the priest to walk in God’s ways and to take proper charge of the Temple courts, and promises "the right of access among those who are standing here." Presumably it is this right of access to the heavenly council which Satan has challenged because of the inadequate clothing of the high priest and because this has been thought to indicate iniquity. Nowhere else in the Old Testament is it suggested that the high priest should expect the right of access to the heavenly council. Only rarely do prophets (Isaiah 6:8; Micaiah in 1 Kings 22:19) overhear or glimpse a session of the divine council. But now, whether as a special promise to Joshua or as the assurance of rightful prerogative, the sessions of the divine council are declared open to the high priest, provided he observes the moral and ritual laws in the conduct of his duties,

A second declaration to Joshua follows immediately, this time including his "friends who sit before" him. They are men of "good omen," and therefore the angel of the Lord declares, "I will bring my servant the Branch." These friends of the high priest are apparently his colleagues in the Temple, the other priests who have returned from Babylon with him. It is important that they should be included in the divinely provided approval, because some question of the fitness of all of the exiled priests had probably been raised, not only by the angelic Accuser but by those who had remained in Jerusalem and its environs during the Exile. The "good omen" attaching to the men probably represents the piety evident in their names. God recognizes their fitness because he sees their hearts, but their contemporaries may judge their piety by the names they have been given. Joshua, "the Lord will save," is a case in point.

It is significant that the priest and his position are dealt with first in the pair of visions which concern the structure of the post-exilic community. As Zechariah saw things, the priest and Temple and the removal of the guilt of the land were primary. The political area, signified in the announcement concerning the Branch and referred to in regard to hospitality under vine and fig tree, was secondary. In Zechariah’s mind there was no conflict between Church and State, but the sacred sphere was his primary concern. God’s first concern was with the ritual purification of the land: then he would provide improvement in its government in the form of the Davidic heir, the righteous king of Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15,

The central problem in the interpretation of Zechariah’s fourth vision is the "single stone with seven facets" upon which God promises to engrave an inscription. According to the text, the stone has been set before Joshua, not before the Branch. What sort of stone is meant? Can it be identified? Proposed identifications have included the underlying rock upon which the Temple was built (now visible as the "rock" in the mosque known as the Dome of the Rock) and the Temple itself. But neither of these can properly be described as having seven "eyes," and there is no indication elsewhere of expectation that God would engrave an inscription upon them. The divinely engraved inscription suggests the tables of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, and the stone with seven facets appears to be a jewel intended for the regalia of the high priest, either as part of the breastplate or as a pin for the turban. The inscription on the stone is linked with the removal of guilt from the land "in a single day," evidently the anticipated day of the renewal of divinely approved worship in the rebuilt Temple.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Zechariah 3". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/zechariah-3.html.