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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Zechariah 3

 

 

Verses 1-10

VISION IV. JOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST BEFORE THE ANGEL OF JEHOVAH

Zechariah 3:1-10

A. Joshua accused by Satan, but forgiven ( Zechariah 3:1-5). B. A Promise of Protection to the High Priest, and also of the coming of Branch and its blessed Results( Zechariah 3:6-10)

1And he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan[FN1] standing at his right hand to oppose him 12 And Jehovah said to Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan, even Jehovah who chooses[FN2] Jerusalem rebuke thee ! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire? 3And Joshua was clothed in filthy garments, and stood before the angel 4 And he answered and spake to those who stood before him, saying, Take the filthy garments away from him, and he said to him, See, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from[FN3] thee, and will clothe thee with festal raiment 5 And I said,[FN4] Let them put a clean[FN5] mitre upon his head; and they put the clean mitre upon his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of Jehovah was standing by.

6 And the angel of Jehovah testified[FN6] to Joshua, and said.

7 Thus saith Jehovah of Hosts,

If thou wilt walk in my ways and keep my charge,

Thou shalt judge my house, and also keep my courts,

And I will give thee access[FN7] among these standing here.

8 Hear, I pray, O Joshua the high priest,

Thou and thy colleagues[FN8] who sit before thee,

For men of wonder[FN9] are they,

For, behold, I bring my servant, Branch.

9 For, behold the stone which I have laid before Joshua;

Upon one stone are seven eyes;

Behold I execute its carving;[FN10]

And I remove the iniquity of this land in one day.

10 In that day saith Jehovah of Hosts,

Ye shall invite every man his neighbor

Under the vine and under the fig tree.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

The third vision lays a sure foundation for the glowing assurances and promises contained in those which precede by revealing the fact of the divine forgiveness. Sin had been the cause of all the previous troubles of Israel, and its continuance would bring them all back. Hence the need and value of the great truth expressed in the dramatic form and rich symbolism of this vision. The first half of the chapter ( Zechariah 3:1-5) represents the high priest standing before the angel of Jehovah and opposed by Satan; but Joshua is forgiven,—a fact which is both literally stated and also symbolically represented. In the second half ( Zechariah 3:6-10), the high priest is assured of present protection, and of the future appearance of the Branch, who will remove sin at once and bestow the fullness of salvation.

(a.) The Symbol ( Zechariah 3:1-5). Zechariah 3:1. And he showed me. The subject of the verb is Jehovah, as appears from the fact that He is the last person previously mentioned, and from the parallel phrase in Zechariah 1:20. It is not necessary to suppose that it is a judicial scene (Hoffman, Ewald, Köhler, Pressel) which is presented to the Prophet’s view. So far as the terms used are concerned, they will apply equally well to the high priest’s appearance before God in the discharge of his official functions. To “stand before Jehovah” was the technical term to denote the ordinary service of the priests ( Deuteronomy 10:8; 2 Chronicles 29:11; Judges 20:28; Ezekiel 44:15). The presumption then is that he was here not for himself only, but also and chiefly on behalf of the people, as their representative. That he was engaged in prayer is implied in the circumstances, and also in the description of Jehovah’s words in Zechariah 3:4 as an answer. But another person appears on the scene who is called Satan, lit, the adversary. Some (Kimchi, Ewald) refer this to a human adversary, such as Sanballat, but the emphatic form of the term; its analogy to ἀντίδικος ( 1 Peter 5:8) and κατήγωρ ( Revelation 12:10); the LXX.’s equivalent διάβολος; and the occurrence of the word in Job 1, 2; all point to the chief of the evil spirits as the person here intended. He is said to stand on the right hand of Joshua, not because this was the position appropriated by Jewish usage to an accuser, for no such usage can be, or at least has been, established; but because this is the most suitable place for one who wishes to impede or oppose another ( Job 30:12; Psalm 109:6). Satan’s object is to oppose Joshua. The manner is not specifically stated, but from the next verse it seems as if Satan’s work was to dwell upon the sins of the high priest and his people, and upon this ground urge their condemnation and overthrow.

Zechariah 3:2. And Jehovah said. Almost all expositors agree that the angel of Jehovah is the Speaker here who takes the name of Jehovah because of the intimate and mysterious relation he sustains to Him. There is no debate between the parties, but the adversary is at once repelled with indignation. Jehovah rebuke thee! Instead of damaging others, he secures his own overthrow. The emphatic repetition of the exclamation indicates the certainty of Satan’s failure. The other words of the verse show the ground of this failure. It is not at all in the innocence of the high priest or the people, but in the gracious purpose of Jehovah. He chooses Jerusalem, and that choice must stand. This is further confirmed by the question, Is not this a brand …. fire? cf. Amos 4:11. Most expositors, ancient and modern, refer this to the exile in which Joshua bad suffered, but from which he had been restored. God had rescued him for preservation not for destruction. Having snatched the brand from the flames, he did not mean to throw it back into the fire. The reference of course is to the high priest, not so much in his personal, as his representative character.

Zechariah 3:3. Clothed with filthy garments. Eichhorn, Ewald, et al., consider this soiled raiment designed to set forth that he was an accused person, but this is arbitrarily to transfer a Roman custom (Liv2:54) to the East where not a trace of it is to be seen. In Hebrew usage such garments represent sin. Isaiah 64:5 : “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses as filthy rags.” Sorely as the nation had been chastised, its iniquity was not wiped away. The last clause is not a superfluous repetition of what is stated in Zechariah 3:1, but indicates a patient expectancy in Joshua, that notwithstanding Satan’s accusation, relief would come.

Zechariah 3:4. And he answered, i. e., the prayer for forgiveness involved in the fact of the high priest’s appearing before the Lord. Vitringa says (on Zechariah 1:11), “In every case in which עָנָה or ἀποκρίνεσθαι is placed at the opening of a speech or narrative without any question preceding it, there is always a question tacitly assumed; just as in the Books of Scripture, where they commence with the copula, some antecedent is always supposed to exist, with which the narrative or speech is tacitly contrasted, even though nothing at all has gone before.” Those who stood before him=surely not, as Ewald maintains, the friends of the accused, but the Lord’s own servants, the angels. These are ordered to remove the filthy garments, and then the angel of Jehovah explains the meaning of the symbolical act. I have taken, etc. This does not refer to sanctification (Mark), but to forensic forgiveness. The two cases ( 2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Samuel 24:10) establish this as the meaning of the phrase, הֶעֱביר אֲוֹן. The festal garments may symbolize innocence (Chaldee), or joy (Köhler, Pressel), or glory (Keil).

Zechariah 3:5. And I said. At this point the Prophet who had been only a silent spectator, comes suddenly forward with a prayer for the completion of the work begun, and says, Let them put. … head. It cannot be made out that any special significance attached to the mitre or turban, and the emphasis must lie upon the qualifying word clean. “The turban can be referred to only as an article of dress which would be the first to strike the eye” (Hengstenberg). The wish of the Prophet was at once complied with. The last clause of the verse does not mean that the angel of the Lord rose up from his seat (Henderson, Köhler, Pressel), but that he continued standing by, “like a master presiding over the ceremony, approving and adorning it with his presence” (C. B. Mich.).

(b.) The Promise ( Zechariah 3:6-10). The completion of the symbolical action is made the occasion of a further and far-reaching assurance, addressed to the high priest and through him to the nation.

Zechariah 3:6. Testified=made a solemn declaration ( Genesis 43:3; Deuteronomy 8:19).

Zechariah 3:7 contains a promise with a condition. The condition is partly personal—walk in my ways, and partly official—keep my charge. The promise is altogether official. Judge … courts=administer the service in the holy place and guard the house of God from all idolatry and ungodliness. “This is here represented not as a duty but as a reward; inasmuch as activity in connection with the kingdom of God is the highest honor and greatest favor which God can confer upon any mortal” (Hengstenberg). The last clause contains an important additional promise. מַהְלְכִים is a difficult word which occurs nowhere else. (1.) Some take it as a noun, plural of מַהְלֵךְ=ways, i. e., ingress and egress, denoting a peculiarly free access to God among his heavenly servants (Calvin, Hitzig, Maurer, Ewald, Köhler, Fürst, etc.). (2.) Others regard it as a Chaldee form of the Piel participle of הָלַךְ, taken intransitively=walkers, i. e., angels who as messengers go between the high priest and Jehovah (LXX, Vulg, Pesh, Grotius, Baumgarten). (3.) Others derive it from the Hiphil participle of the same verb, meaning=leaders or guides (Luther, Gesen, Heng, Umbreit, Dr. Riggs, etc.). Against the last two is the circumstance that Zechariah could very well have expressed that sense in regular Hebrew form; that they require an alteration of the text; and that בֵין is required to be rendered as=מִבֵּין. I hesitatingly prefer the first. One thing is certain, that some kind of association or influence with God’s immediate servants on high is here promised to the high priest.

Zechariah 3:8. Hear, I pray, etc. This opening calls attention to the importance of what follows. The address is made not only to Joshua, but to his colleagues, i. e., associates in the priestly office. The next clause assigns the reason for including them. They are men of wonder, i. e., men who excite wonder in others, and thus attracting attention to themselves, become types of what is to come (cf. Isaiah 8:18; Isaiah 20:3; Ezekiel 12:6; Ezekiel 24:24-27 (Heb.). The constant exercise of priestly functions in the offering of sacrifices which had no intrinsic efficacy was a perpetual testimony of man’s need of forgiveness and of God’s purpose in future to satisfy the need thus made known. The objection to this view on the ground that we should expect are ye and not are they, is removed by the fact that such cases of enallage are not rare (cf. Zephaniah 2:12 (in Heb.). The reason why these typical men, Joshua and his priests, are summoned to listen, is given in the next clause, which declares that Jehovah will bring forward that antitype whose appearance would show that their typical character was founded in truth. My servant Branch. The antitype is described by two names taken from the earlier Prophets. One, servant, is of frequent occurrence in Isaiah ( Isaiah 42:1, etc.), and also in Ezek. ( Ezekiel 34:23-24). The other, branch, occurs in Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15,—passages which plainly lean upon Isaiah’s statements Isaiah 11:1, Isaiah 53:2. The term denotes the original obscurity of this personage and the gradual development of his character. Instead of being a tall and stately tree, he is a mere branch or root-shoot. This reference had become so well understood in Zechariah’s time that he uses the word as if it were a proper name, my servant Branch. That it pointed to the Messiah is admitted by the Chald. Par, and almost all expositors, ancient and modern. The suggestion of a few (Kimchi, Theodoret, Grotius, Blayney), that Zerubbabel was intended, is refuted by the fact that the Branch had not yet appeared, while Zerubbabel had; and also by the consideration that this civil governor had nothing to do with the priestly office and could not possibly be an antitype of its holders. A similar figurative description of the Messiah is found in Ezekiel 17:22-23. The Lord, having described the royal house of Judah as a strong and lofty cedar, which had been plucked up by the roots and left to wither and die, declares that He will take from its summit a slender twig and plant it on the mountain of the height of Israel, where the little scion shall take root, and grow, and spread, until it commands universal admiration. Every tree of the field shall own its superiority, and every fowl of heaven seek its shelter.

Zechariah 3:9. For behold. … seven eyes. This verse assigns the reason for the fulfillment of the preceding promise. The condition of the covenant people was so deplorable that it seemed vain to expect such a blessing as the coming of the Messiah. To countervail such despondency, Jehovah of Hosts assures his people of the watchful and loving care which will secure the gracious result. The single stone is not the Messiah (early interpreters, Kliefoth), for he was not “laid before Joshua;” nor the foundation stone of the Temple (Rosenmüller, Hitzig, Neumann, Henderson), which had long since been laid; nor the top-stone (Maurer), nor the plummet (Grotius), nor a jewel of the high priest’s breast-plate (Theodoret, Baumgarten, etc.); but the covenant people, now appropriately described as lying before Joshua, who was their ecclesiastical leader. It is no objection to this view that the Messiah is elsewhere spoken of as a stone ( Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:7), for sometimes the head and the body both have the same term applied to them, as in Isaiah’s use of the term servant, where only the context can determine which of the two is meant ( Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 52:13). The seven eyes may denote, either the all-embracing providence of God, or (according to the statement in Revelation 5:6 of the seven eyes of the Lamb which are the seven spirits of God, sent forth into all the earth) the seven-fold radiations of the Spirit of Jehovah, by which the stone is preserved and prepared for its glorious destination. I see no reason why both may not be combined. According to this view, the eyes are not engraved on the stone, but directed toward it (cf. Psalm 32:8; Jeremiah 39:12 for this use of עַל). Ewald (Geschichte d. V. I., 4:239) sees in this verse a distinct evidence of Zoroastrian ideas. He says the conception of the seven eyes of Jehovah was derived from the Persian notion of the seven Amshaspands who surround the throne of the Supreme, and adds in a note that the upper servants of a great king were often called his eyes and his ears. How far-fetched is this? The Hebrews were familiar with the term eyes of God or Jehovah, and meant by it just what all men mean by it; and the number seven had for ages been well known to them as a symbol of sacredness and completeness. See the excursus at the end of this section. The passage is perfectly intelligible on the supposition that Zechariah had never even heard of such a thing as the seven Amshaspands of the Zend-avesta. Execute its carving=make it a beautiful and costly stone. So most expositors from Calvin to Pressel. The last clause completes the brilliant promise. This land, i. e., the land of Israel, which of course includes its inhabitants, and they stand for the whole Church of which they were then the representatives. The guilt is to be removed in one day, which can hardly be any other than the great day of atonement at Golgotha. The phrase is analogous to the “once for all” in Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10. It presents a contrast between the continually repeated sacrifices of the Levitical priesthood and the one final and effectual sacrifice of the Messiah.

Zechariah 3:10. Ye shall invite …. fig tree. The result of this is expressed in a proverbial phrase borrowed from the older Scriptures, where it first occurs in the description of the happy period under Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:25). “Whether it is to be taken literally or spiritually here has been much contested, the Rabbins favoring the former view, the Fathers the latter. We rightly combine both, and maintain that this picture of peaceful prosperity and cordial union is realized, although imperfectly, yet just as far as Christ’s kingdom has its proper influence and the communion of saints is felt” (Pressel).

The entire vision and promise were admirably adapted to effect their end. The high priest conquers his fierce antagonist, is assured of his forgiveness and confirmed in his office, and is certified of the continuance of the people until the appearance of the long expected Branch, who once for all and forever would take away the guilt and punishment of sin.

The Number Seven. The question why the eyes spoken of in Zechariah 3:9, whatever their meaning, should be stated as seven, brings up for consideration the peculiar significance of this number. Its employment here and in the next chapter ( Zechariah 3:2, seven lamps and seven pipes, Zechariah 3:10, those seven), are instances of a usage at once very ancient and very wide spread. Leaving out of view the literature of India, Persia, and Arabia, we find in Scripture an extraordinary frequency of its occurrence. Seven, seventh, and sevenfold are found in the Old Testament and the New, not less than three hundred and eighty-three times, while a similar enumeration of the instances in which six and eight are used, reaches the sum of only one hundred and seventy-six, or less than one half of the sevens. This usage begins with the first book of the Bible and ends only with the last. We find in Genesis the seven days of creation; seven-fold vengeance denounced for Cain; clean beasts and fowls received into the ark by sevens; the dove despatched from the ark at intervals of seven days; Jacob serving seven years for a wife he did not want, and seven more for the wife he did want; and seven fat kine and seven lean, seven good ears and seven thin, representing the seven years of plenty and famine. In the Mosaic ritual, many sacrifices required seven victims, and often the blood was required to be sprinkled seven times. Not only the seventh day was holy, but the seventh week of the year (a week of weeks); and the seventh month; and the seventh or Sabbatical year; and the Jubilee or the year following seven weeks of years, were all marked by festival observances. Jericho was overthrown by a march of the people seven successive days around the walls, headed by seven priests who blew as many trumpets. On the seventh day the circuit was made seven times, and then at the shout of the people the walls fell. Samson gave the Philistines of Timnath seven days to solve his riddle, he was bound with seven withes, and his seven locks were woven with the web. Seven years of famine were inflicted in Elisha’s time, and the same offered as an alternative to David. The Psalmist praised God seven times a day, the just man falls seven times and rises again, Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace was heated seven times more than it was wont. In the Apocalypse, the recurrence is still more marked. A condensed summation reports that there are two sevens in the introduction, namely, seven churches and seven spirits, and in the body of the work two sevens of sevens, namely, first, seven candlesticks, stars, seals, horns, eyes, trumpets, thunders; and secondly, seven angels, heads, crowns, plagues, vials, mountains, kings.

Of the fact that this number is exceedingly prominent there can be no question. The precise ground of the prominence is not so easily stated. The late Professor Hadley, from whose article[FN11] on the subject our statement is drawn, enumerated five different theories. One is the Arithmetical, used by Philo the Jew, and based upon the peculiar property of seven as compared with any other of the digits. A second, the Chronological, is founded upon the early division of time into weeks. A third, the Symbolic, conceives seven to be the union of two Numbers, namely, three, which symbolizes the divine, since the Godhead is a trinity, and four, which symbolizes the cosmical, the created universe of space, this being determined by the four cardinal points of the compass. The seven then represents that reunion of the world with God, which is the great aim and crowning consummation of all true religion. A fourth is the Physiological theory, tracing the preëminence of the seven to the fact that there are seven parts of the body, namely, the head, chest, and loins, with the four limbs; and seven openings of the head, namely, the three pairs of eyes, ears, and nostrils, with the mouth; and further, that the seventh, fourteenth, and twenty-first days are critical periods in diseases. The fifth hypothesis is based on Astronomical reasons. The nocturnal heavens offered to the men of primitive times a constant and impressive spectacle. Here they could not but be struck by the seven members of the planetary system, as well as by the fact that the fixed stars exhibited the same number in several of the most brilliant constellations, e. g., the Great Bear or Charles’ Wain, the Septentriones of the Romans; the Lesser Bear with its remarkable pole-star; the Pleiades with their “sweet influences,” and the Hyades, whose frequent rains “vex the sea.”

Upon the whole, in view of the antiquity of the usage and the character of the early Hebrews, it seems most natural to trace their sense of its sacredness and completeness to its original associations with the times and means of religious worship.

DOCTRINAL AND MORAL

1. This chapter contains one of the passages in the Old Testament in which the great spiritual adversary of God and man is spoken of under the name Satan. The other places are 1 Chronicles 21:1 and the prologue to the book of Job. (The word שָּׂטָן occurs also in 2 Samuel 19:23 and Psalm 109:6, but it is extremely doubtful whether it is used in these passages in any other than an appellative sense=adversary.) It is a favorite notion with “the later criticism,” that Zechariah imported his conception of Satan from the Zoroastrian doctrine of Ahriman, the original source of all moral and physical evil, the chief of malignant spirits, the king of darkness and of death, and consequently the eternal enemy of Ormuzd, and of his kingdom of light. But there is neither historical nor logical foundation for this fancy. During the very few years which elapsed between the Persian conquest of Babylon and the appearance of Zechariah as a prophet, there was not time for the theological notions of the Zend-avesta to penetrate the Jewish mind and to color its conceptions of the unseen world. The dualism of Zoroaster must have had a most extraordinary degree of self-propagating power, to pass in so short a time from the central point of the Persian Empire to one of its farthest outlying provinces. Besides, Zechariah’s doctrine of Satan differs fundamentally from the Persian conception of Ahriman. The latter is an independent, eternal, and self-existent principle, whereas the former is a created, fallen, malignant being, of vast capacity and immense power of mischief, but still under the control of the Almighty, often thwarted in his machinations, and destined one day to an utter and disastrous overthrow. Nor had Zechariah any need to learn from the Persian theology. The existing precedents in the sacred books of the Jews furnished him with all the materials necessary to construct or to understand the symbolical vision vouchsafed to him. What he sees is the head and representative of the nation in sacred things standing in solemn service before the Angel of Jehovah, who is attended by a train of angelic ministers ( Zechariah 3:7), while over against this important official stands Satan accusing and opposing; and in the end Jehovah rebukes the adversary and favors his own servant. Manifestly this corresponds in form and in substance to what is contained in the prologue of the book of Job, the date of which is allowed on all hands not to be later than the Solomonic era.

A remarkable confirmation of this view is given in the New Testament, where ( Revelation 12:10) Satan is called, “the accuser of our brethren, who accuses [ κατηγορῶν] them before our God day and night.” Accusation is the element of his being. He accuses God to men (cf. Genesis 3:4-5), and he accuses men to God (as in Job and in this passage). Hence his usual name in the New Testament, Diabolus, from διαβαλλειν=to set at variance, namely, by slander,—a descriptive title quite as strong as the Hebrew term, Satan=opposer, the inherent and everlasting adversary of God and Prayer of Manasseh, and of all that is good. This antagonism, however, takes a particular form which runs through all the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, and is seen not dimly in our prophet. In the curse pronounced in the Garden of Eden upon the tempter, the Old Serpent ( Revelation 12:9), God declared that He would put enmity between him and the woman, and not only that, but “between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The seed of Satan are all the ungodly, of whom he is the head; the seed of the woman are all the godly, of whom Christ is the head. These two heads stand in mortal conflict; both suffer, but the one only in the extremities, the other in a vital part. “For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” ( 1 John 3:8). In the end the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ will be too much for the craft and malice of Satan. Still that malignant being opposes the truth, and leaves no stone unturned to turn away God’s favor from his people, and thus overthrow the entire redemptive economy. This is the point of the symbolical vision here. Did the Lord cast off his people entirely and recall his promised grace, the historical basis for the Messiah to come would perish, and no room be left for his appearance according to the ancient predictions. The issue, then, was vital. It did not concern an individual merely; it did not belong only to some one particular crisis in the history of the restored exiles; but it touched the very existence of the Kingdom of God on earth. If the confessed sins of Israel were sufficient to secure their final rejection from God at that stage of their history, the hopes of the race were blasted, and the prospect of a blessing for all the families of the earth, became a beautiful but empty dream.

2. The doctrines of grace are finely illustrated in this vision. The opposition of Satan is evidently grounded on a charge of sin in Joshua and those for whom he acts. Joshua came before the Angel of Jehovah in his representative capacity, which of course implies the existence of sin to be atoned for and pardoned, for holy beings need no sacrificing priesthood between them and God. This was emphasized at the present time by the recollection of the abominations which had called down the Babylonian captivity, and the still more recent remissness of the restored people in building the Temple. The Jews were weak in faith, despondent in spirit, and more prone to labor for their temporal fortunes than for their spiritual interests. Satan then had a high vantage ground from which to oppose them. But mark the source of his repulse. “Jehovah, Jehovah that chooses Jerusalem, rebuke thee!” The people are reminded here, as they so often were in earlier times, that they had not chosen the Lord, but He had chosen them. It was not their Numbers, nor Wisdom of Solomon, nor wealth, nor moral excellence ( Deuteronomy 7:7-8) which induced Him to make them the depository of his truth and the channel of his grace to a fallen world. It was his own sovereign, condescending grace which had its own reasons, but not reasons subsisting in the moral qualities of Israel. As He had chosen them once, the election still continued, and was a valid reason why they should not be cast off. Nay, the very circumstances which Satan might plead against them were in another point of view arguments in their favor. They had been in the glowing furnace of Chaldæan bondage and exile, and the smell of fire was still on their garments. Everything in their condition spoke of apostasy and its merited recompense. They were a very small remnant left of that proud kingdom which once stretched from the Leontes to Egypt, and from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean. It was difficult to see any trace of the former grandeur in the poverty-stricken colony which gathered around their fathers’ graves. But their very fewness and poverty and weakness pleaded for them. They had been rescued from the common doom of transplanted people by a peculiar providence. A forced migration of an entire population to a distant land usually breaks the old association entirely and forever. New ties and interests are formed, and the present drives the past out of view and out of memory. But here God, by the hand of a man whom He had called and named centuries before he was born ( Isaiah 44:28; Isaiah 45:1), had broken the fetters and recalled his banished ones. The work of reëstablishment had begun, and should it cease? Nay, verily. The brand so carefully rescued from a general conflagration, would be preserved, notwithstanding all the clamor of Satan. He who had begun the good work would carry it on to completion. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

3. The doctrine of gratuitous forgiveness is the glory of the Gospel. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us.” Even so was the Church taught in the older dispensation, not only by word as when Abraham’s faith was counted for righteousness and by type, as in all the sacrifices, but also by symbol as in the case of Joshua, the high priest. There was no denial of the truth of the facts upon which Satan based his accusation. On the contrary, open confession was made in the very appearance of the priest. Instead of being arrayed in the pure and shining robes expressly appointed for sacerdotal functions, he was clad in filthy garments,—fit emblem of the hideous moral stains by which he and his people were soiled. Each one of those polluted garments echoed the words of the royal penitent, “I acknowledge my transgression, and my sin is ever before me” ( Psalm 51:3). Physical stains may be extracted, but no human agency in all the world can take the soil of sin from the conscience. That is done only by the act of the Lord of the conscience. Its accomplishment here was represented by the order to remove the filthy garments and replace them by festal raiment. It was a sovereign act of the God of grace,—I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee. This lies at the root of all true religion. “There is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared.” Despair is death. He who has no hope or prospect of the divine mercy, has nothing left but to go on in sin and at last lie down in interminable sorrow. To encourage Israel, fast verging to such a forlorn condition, this vision was vouchsafed. Its aim was not to send the people to sleep in their sins with the false peace of self-righteousness, but to assure them that, notwithstanding the magnitude of those sins, God would of his own free grace remit the penalty and bestow the gift of justification upon the high priest, and in him upon the nation at large. Such an assurance gives peace. Who is he that condemneth? It is God that justifieth.

4. Great as were the present privileges of the covenant people, something better was in store. Their whole economy was introductory and preparative. The golden age of the Hebrews, unlike that of all other ancient nations, was not in the past but the future. Poets and Prophets rejoiced to sing of one who was to come, in whom all the families of the earth should be blessed. Priests and kings were embodied types of the character and functions of this great deliverer. Reminding Joshua and his colleagues of this truth, Jehovah renews the promise of one who should be by eminence his servant. In naming him, the precise term used by the older Prophets is employed again, the Branch, which does not mean “a limb in the sense of one among many on the same tree, but a shoot which springs up from the root, and which, though small at first, becomes a tree of wonderful qualities” (Cowles). The monarchy which in the persons of David and his son Solomon stood like a majestic and wide-spreading tree, now lay in ruins,—the huge trunk cut down, mangled, burned. But from the stump there should come a slender shoot, which in course of time would grow up into a mighty monarch of the forest, putting out limbs and foliage under which whole nations should collect themselves. The term therefore kept steadily in view the salient points the people were to seize. The lowly, unpretending, unpromising origin of this deliverer and the ultimately vast sweep of his beneficent agency. In all outward aspects he stood at the farthest possible remove from his distinguished types, whether of the priestly or kingly line. He never bore the brilliant breast-plate of Aaron into the holy of holies, nor did his hand hold a sceptre except the mocking reed of Pilate’s soldiers; yet his sacerdotal function was the only real and efficacious one the earth ever saw, and his royal office has secured a depth of attachment and a fullness of service to which all the records of earth-born loyalty together furnish no parallel.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Wordsworth: Zechariah 3:1. Satan stood at Joshua’s right hand and endeavored to work his ruin. So Satan stood at the right hand of our Joshua on the pinnacle of the Temple and tempted him to cast himself down. He stood at Christ’s right hand when He was betrayed by Judas into whom Satan entered; he tempted him in his agony and passion; and he is still standing at Christ’s right hand by his opposition to the preaching of the Gospel and by his sowing tares of heresy in his Church.

Zechariah 3:2. Here is a solemn warning against the sarcastic, bitter, and virulent spirit which so often shows itself in speaking and writing against others. The holy angels, even in contending against Satan, use mild words. But these rash and reckless persons imitate Satan who is called in Scripture Diabolus or Calumniator. How can they hope to be with good angels hereafter? Must they not rather look to be with those wretched fiends whom they imitate?

Calvin: Jehovah who chooses Jerusalem. We are reminded that we are not to consider our deserts in order to gain help from God, for this wholly depends upon gratuitous adoption. Hence, though we are unworthy that God should fight for us, yet his election is sufficient, as he proclaims war against Satan in our behalf. It hence follows that those men who obscure and seek as far as they can to extinguish the doctrine of election, are enemies to the human race; for they strive their utmost to subvert every assurance of salvation.

Owen: Zechariah 3:3-5. Two things are here said to belong to our free acceptance with God. (1.) The taking away of the guilt of our sin, our filthy robes; this is done by the death of Christ, the proper fruit of which is remission of sin. (2.) But more is required, even a collation of righteousness, and thereby a right to life eternal. This is here called change of raiment, or, as it is called by the Holy Ghost in Isaiah ( Isaiah 61:10), the garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness. Now this is made ours only by the obedience of Christ, as the other is by his death.

Moore: Zechariah 3:7. 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.

Gill: Men of wonder. The people of God are wondered at by themselves, that God should have any love for them, call them by his grace and at last bring them to glory; wondered at by men of the world that they should make such a choice as they do, should bear afflictions with so much patience, and even thrive and flourish amidst them; wondered at by the angels as they are the chosen of God the redeemed of the Lamb, and called from among men; and they shall be spectators of wonderful things themselves, which they will be swallowed up in the admiration of to all eternity.

Cowles: I will execute, etc. The engraving of the Church into forms of spiritual beauty, is eminently God’s work by the chisel of his providence and the agency of his Spirit.

Jay: Zechariah 3:10. The reign of the Messiah is distinguished by three things; (1.) Enjoyment. The very image of the vine and the fig tree is delightful. (2.) Liberty. Slaves and captives did not sit under their vines and fig trees, nor did proprietors in time of war. (3.) Benevolence. “Ye shall call every Prayer of Manasseh,etc. There is no selfishness, no envy. All are anxious that others should partake of their privileges.

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Zechariah 3:1.—השׂטן לשׂטנוֹ. The force of this antanaclasis can hardly be expressed in a version—the opposer to oppose him fails to convey the force of the proper name Satan.

FN#2 - Zechariah 3:2.—בֹחֵר not as E. V. who “has chosen,” but according to the force of the participle, who now and habitually chooses. Henderson with a marvelous lack of taste substitutes for the simple meaning, “taketh delight.”

FN#3 - Zechariah 3:4.—“From thee,” lit.: from upon thee. The guilt or punishment of sin is conceived as a burden resting upon the sinner until forgiveness removes it.

FN#4 - Zechariah 3:5.—For וָאֹמר Ewald, following the Targum, Peshito, and Vulgate, proposes to read וַיֹּמֶר, and Henderson, וְאָמַר. But on general principles the Masoretic text is to be preferred, and especially here, where the motive of the change is obvious, and nothing is gained in clearness or emphasis by departing from the Hebrew.

FN#5 - Zechariah 3:5.—טְהוֹר. The E. V. “fair,” besides being a needless departure from the meaning of the word, fails to express the point involved in cleanness as the emblem of purity or forgiveness.

FN#6 - Zechariah 3:6.—וַיָּעַד, a strong term, implying the importance and the certainty of the communication.

FN#7 - Zechariah 3:7.—“Access,” lit., ways, i. e., means of free ingress and egress among my immediate attendants. See Exeg. and Critical.

FN#8 - Zechariah 3:8.—רֵעֶיךָ=companions, but as it is associates in office who are intended, colleagues seems the nearest equivalent.

FN#9 - Zechariah 3:8.—מוֹפֵת is rendered wonder (E. V. margin), to preserve its original signification. Perhaps “men of omen” would be more easily understood.

FN#10 - Zechariah 3:9.—פִתֵּחַ פתּחִים lit., to open openings=to carve.

FN#11 - Essays Philological and Critical. New York, 1873.

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Zechariah 3:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/zechariah-3.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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