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Go to Bible: Zechariah 3
“Joshua the high priest.” Joshua was the High Priest, as we see here and Haggai 1:14. “Joshua” and “Jeshua” are variant spellings of the same name, and it can be confusing to the English reader that Haggai and Zechariah use “Yehoshua” shortened to “Joshua” (cp. Haggai 1:14; 2:2, 4; Zech. 3:1), while Ezra and Nehemiah use “Jeshua” (cp. Ezra 3:2, 8; 5:2; Neh. 7:7). To make matters more confusing, since “Joshua” was a very common name, many people had that same name, so the reader has to be very careful about who is who.
In this context, “Joshua” the High Priest is not representing himself, but is a vision and Joshua the High Priest represents the spiritual side of Israel and Judah and their situation in the eyes of God. Sadly, Israel and Judah had been very sinful as nations. Joshua 3:8 says that Joshua and the other men who were with him were signs, they represented things, and Joshua represented the spiritual side of Israel. In the vision, God removes the filthy garments on Joshua (Zech. 3:4-5), and what that symbolizes is that God will remove the sin of Israel (cp. Zech. 3:9). God had used the image of filthy cloth to represent moral filth earlier in the Bible (cp. Isa. 64:6), and clothing is used that way here in Zechariah as well.
“Satan standing at his right hand to be an adversary to him.” This “Satan” is the Satan from Job 1, the Devil, the evil spirit who has been the constant adversary of God. This phrase is one of the times when transliterating the title “Satan” from the Hebrew text takes away some of the punch and meaning of the original text. Also, the Hebrew text actually reads, “the satan.” The word satan in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek means “adversary,” and a more literal translation of this phrase would be, “And he showed me Joshua…and the Adversary standing at his right hand to be an adversary to him.” Although translating the literal Hebrew “the Adversary” as “Satan” makes the English reading clearer to most readers, we are in danger of losing the fact that God is revealing to us that the Devil always acts out of his nature: one of his “names” is “the Adversary” and he always is and always will be an adversary to God.
Satan and his followers are evil and hurtful, and the wise Christian keeps a wary eye out for them. Satan’s followers carry out the works of Satan (John 8:44; Acts 13:10) and often come in sheep’s clothing and are disguised as servants of righteousness (Matt. 7:15; 2 Cor. 11:13-15). But if we keep our eye on the fruit they produce, we will know them (Matt. 7:16, 20).
Satan can be in the presence of the angel of Yahweh and Joshua the High Priest because God is a righteous God and in order to be that He has to allow Satan to accuse people if the situation warrants it. In this case it seems that Satan is present because he knows that Israel and Judah have not been obedient to God.
[For more on the names God gives to the Devil, see Appendix 14, “Names of the Devil”].(top)
“Yahweh rebuke you, Satan!” Since Yahweh alone knows the hearts of all humans and the reality behind every situation, He alone is in the position to make an accurate assessment of the situation and rightly rebuke Satan in accordance with what he deserves.
“Isn’t this man a burning stick plucked out of the fire?” In this vision, “Joshua,” the “man” represents all Israel, and Israel has been a stick that God has rescued from the flames. God had been rescuing Israel for centuries, and He had just rescued them from the Babylonian Captivity.
In this context, the image of a stick in the fire would have been appropriate for Babylon because the Babylonians did occasionally execute people by burning them (cp. Dan. 3:6).(top)
“filthy garments.” This English translation perhaps understates the situation because it is common to think of “filth” as just a lot of dirt, but that is not the case here. Actually, the primary definition of the English word “filth” is “foul or putrid matter” (Merriam-Webster), which would be correct, but we typically hyperbolize it and, for example, say that a child who has played in the dirt is “filthy.” The Hebrew word for “filthy” is tsow (#06674 צוֹא) and in its unpointed form it refers to excrement (cp. Deut. 23:13; 2 Kings 18:27) or extreme filth, such as “vomit” (Isa. 28:8) or menstrual blood (Isa. 4:4). This explains the translation in the Complete Jewish Bible, which reads that Joshua was “clothed in garments covered with dung.” This, of course, would exclude him from being able to carry out the duties of the priesthood until he was cleansed, which God did.
It seems that Joshua the High Priest is being described as unclean both in his own person and in his representative position for the nation of Israel. Both the priest and the people were unclean before the Babylonian Captivity and during the Babylonian Captivity, especially with the Temple destroyed and thus no proper cleansing sacrifices or Day of Atonement. But now, with the Temple being rebuilt and sacrifices reestablished, both the priest and the people will be able to be clean before God if they will turn their hearts to Him, which many did.(top)
“and I will clothe you with rich clothing.” We must keep in mind that Joshua represents Judah, and thus in Zechariah’s vision when God takes the filthy garments off Joshua and puts “rich clothing” on him, it is representing that God has removed the filth off of Judah and is clothing her in His righteousness, which is “rich clothing” indeed. Furthermore, in Zechariah 3:5, the High Priest gets his turban placed back on his head, which represents the nation of Judah being restored to their position of being a priest to the nations, which, since the Temple was being built in Jerusalem, it would soon be in a position to be. The people of Israel are being positioned to be “the priests of Yahweh,” just as Isaiah foretold (Isa. 61:6).
Obeying God and being clothed in His righteousness is rich clothing indeed! Here we see God’s mercy in that He is always desirous that people would walk in obedience to Him, and He would then clothe them in righteousness. The ultimate righteousness before God comes when we accept His total provision via His Son, Jesus Christ, who is God’s Servant, the Branch (Zech. 3:8).
Here in Zechariah, however, the rich garments and turban are put on Joshua with the same conditions that have always been set by God for His people: they must walk in obedience to God (Zech. 3:7). Sadly, they did not.(top)
“set a clean turban on his head.” This turban represents the office of the High Priest, and that in the vision God would command that the turban be replaced on the head of the High Priest is a prophecy that Israel was again to be—if they remained obedient to God—a priest nation to the nations of the world (see commentary on Zech. 3:4).(top)
|Zec 3:6||- (top)|
“if you will walk in my ways.” The blessings and privileges of God for Israel were always given upon the condition that she would obey God, but sadly she did not. Judah had been conquered by the Babylonians but allowed to return to her homeland, Israel, after 70 years of captivity. But Israel rejected her Messiah when he came and she was conquered by the Romans, who, in 70 AD destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple like the Babylonians had done in 586 BC. The Temple was rebuilt in the lifetime of Zechariah, but since the time that the Romans destroyed it, the Temple has not been rebuilt.(top)
“you and your friends who are sitting before you, for they are men who are a sign.” To Zechariah who was seeing the revelation vision, Joshua and the men with him were not literal people, but “signs,” people in the vision who stood for something else. In this case, “Joshua the High Priest” stood for the priesthood and the spiritual well-being of Israel (see commentary on Zech. 3:1 and 3:3). Joshua was a sign of the restoration of Israel. But Israel would not be fully restored until it was restored by “the Branch,” the Messiah Jesus Christ. The Messiah was foretold to conquer the earth and set up a worldwide kingdom with his throne in Jerusalem and the new Temple on Mount Zion.
It seems likely that one of the “friends” of Joshua the High Priest would have been Zerubbabel the governor, because Zerubbabel is in some prophecies along with Joshua. The first governor of Judah after the return from the Babylonian Captivity was Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:8), but he was succeeded at some point by Zerubbabel (Haggai 1:1).
[For more on the 1,000-year rule of Christ on the earth generally known as the “Millennial Kingdom,” see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“for behold, I will bring in my servant, the Branch.” The phrase “my servant the Branch” refers to the Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Messiah was called both the “Servant” of Yahweh and also “the Branch.” The Messiah was called the “Servant” many years before Zechariah in what are now referred to as the four “Servant Songs” in Isaiah (Isa. 42:1-7 (esp. v. 1); 49:1-7 (esp. v. 5); 50:4-11 (esp. v. 10); and 52:13-53:12 (esp. 52:13); see commentary on Isa. 52:13), and here in Zechariah he is again called “my Servant,” i.e., the servant of Yahweh.
The Messiah is also called “the Branch” or “the Branch of Yahweh.” For example, speaking of the Day of the Lord, “In that day, the Branch of Yahweh will be beautiful and glorious” (Isa. 4:2). Jeremiah 23:5 says, “Behold, the days are coming, says Yahweh, that I will raise for David a righteous Branch, and he will reign as king and deal wisely.” Isaiah 11:1 also mentions the “Branch,” and that is will come from the stump and roots of Jesse, the father of King David (cp. Isa. 11:1-5).
The Messiah, the “Servant” of Yahweh and the “Branch” would do what the next verses in Zechariah say he will do, which is that he “will remove the iniquity of this land [Israel] in one day” (Zech. 3:9) and would set up a glorious kingdom on earth such that every person would “to sit under his vine and under his fig tree” (Zech. 3:10).(top)
“on one stone are seven eyes.” Earlier prophets had identified the stone as being Jesus Christ. Hundreds of years before Zechariah wrote, the Psalmist wrote that the “stone” that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone (Ps. 118:22), and that particular statement in the psalm was so notable that it is quoted or referred to six times in the New Testament (Matt. 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:10-11; 1 Pet. 2:4 and 2:7). The prophet Isaiah, about 200 years before Zechariah, had written about the Messiah being the stone. He wrote: “Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone of a sure foundation” (Isa. 28:16). The stone, the Messiah, was set before Joshua, the representative of the priesthood of Israel, because he is the key to their deliverance and salvation.
The exact meaning of the seven eyes has been debated, but one of two meanings, or perhaps even both, are certainly correct. The Hebrew text can be interpreted to mean either that there are seven eyes “on” the stone, that is, looking at the stone, or that the stone itself has seven eyes. It has been pointed out that Zechariah says that Yahweh has seven eyes, which are apparently angels that keep watch for Him (Zech. 4:10), and it would be logical that the seven eyes of Yahweh watching out for the Messiah represent God’s watchful care over the lineage of the Messiah and then certainly over the Messiah himself. Also, however, the Messiah himself is said to have “seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God, sent out to all the earth” (Rev. 5:6).
Indeed, it could well be that before the Messiah was given all authority by the Father, that the “seven eyes” of Yahweh, the angels that watched over the earth for Him and are mentioned in Zechariah 4, were then assigned to Jesus Christ to assist him in his rule over God’s creation, because Revelation 5:6 identifies them as “the seven spirits of God” even though they are now the “seven eyes” of the lamb.
Readers of the New Testament have even more evidence that Jesus Christ is the “stone” or “rock” in Scripture. For example, when Moses struck the rock in the wilderness and water came out, that was a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and the living water that he would provide for believers (cp. 1 Cor. 10:4).
“I will engrave an engraving on it.” The meaning of this is not explained, and there are various interpretations, but the most logical and applicable seems to be the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and feet. The sentence is, “Behold, I will engrave an engraving on it, says Yahweh of Armies, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in one day.” So it seems that the engraving is closely tied to the removal of sin, which happened when Jesus died on the cross for our sin. The nail prints are visible in Jesus even after he was raised from the dead and in his glorified body. They are the evidence of God’s gift of His Son, the Son’s love and obedience, and the fact that Jesus died for our sins. They are engraved in his flesh even in his new body.
That God would give a veiled prophecy about the way Jesus would die here in Zechariah is perfectly logical. Hundreds of years earlier he did the same thing in David’s Psalm 22:16. It would have been verses such as Psalm 16:22, Isaiah 53:5, and Zechariah 3:9 and 12:10, that revealed to Jesus that he would die by crucifixion (John 12:32-33).
“I will remove the iniquity of this land in one day.” Many commentators have correctly noted that the “one day” in history that allowed the iniquity of Israel to be removed was the day Jesus Christ died on the cross. C. F. Keil plainly writes, “This one day is the day of Golgotha” (C. F. Keil, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 10, p. 531). That Jesus was the perfect offering that cleanses from sin is clearly stated in Scripture: “For by one offering he [Jesus] has perfected for all time those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:14; cp. Heb. 10:11-14). This statement about the iniquity of the land being removed in one day further confirms that the “Servant” and “Branch” is the Lord Jesus Christ, because only his atoning death had the power to cleanse Israel (and all believers!) that way. Also, that Zechariah 3:9 would speak of removing the sin of the “land” in one day by this “stone” that is “set before Joshua” is more evidence that in this context “Joshua” is a sign and representative of all Israel, and by extension all people, for truly the sacrifice of Christ was for every person.(top)
“sit under his vine and under his fig tree.” Zechariah 3:10 is about Christ’s kingdom on earth. Saying that people will invite their neighbors to come and sit down under their vine and fig tree, was an idiomatic way of saying that people would invite others to their house for time of relaxation, conversation, and eating together (see commentary on Micah 4:4).(top)