And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
Verses 1-10. - § 6. The fourth vision: Joshua the high priest before the angel. Verse 1. - He showed me. The Septuagint and Vulgate give, "The Lord showed me." Some suppose that it was the interpreting angel who showed this vision; but his duty was to explain, not to present, the visions. So in Zechariah 1:20 it is the Lord who shows the "four craftsmen." This vision is closely connected with the last. In that it was declared that the Lord would again dwell in Jerusalem, and visit his people with blessings. But to fit them for the presence and favour of Jehovah they must be pure. To this end they must have a holy priesthood to train them in righteous ways, to oppose the attacks of the adversary, and to intercede for them effectually. The removal of their impurity is represented in the fourth vision. Joshua the high priest (see note on Haggai 1:1). The name is written Joshua in Ezra 2:2, etc. He was the first of the high priests after the Captivity, succeeding, as by hereditary right, his father Josedech, who died in Babylon. For his services in restoring the temple he is praised among great men in Ecclus. 49:12. Standing before the angel of the Lord. Joshua is the representative of the priesthoood, and through that also of the whole people. The angel of Jehovah (see notes on Zechariah 1:11, 13) is the representative of and endowed with attributes of Jehovah, the Friend and Leader of Israel. The phrase, "standing before," is used in a ministerial sense, as of a servant rendering service to a superior (Genesis 41:46; 1 Kings 12:6, 8), and a priest or Levite performing his official duties (Deuteronomy 10:8; Ezekiel 44:15) : also, in a judicial sense, of a person appearing before a judge, either as plaintiff (Numbers 27:2; 1 Kings 3:16) or defendant (Numbers 35:12). Many commentators find in this scene a judicial process, Joshua appearing before the angel as before his judge; and Ewald supposes that it adumbrates his actual accusation at the Persian court, The mention of the adversary at the right hand (Psalm 109:6) is supposed to confirm this interpretation. But it is obvious that the adversary might stand at the right hand, not as a formal accuser in a trial, but in order to resist and hinder Joshua's proceedings; the angel, too, is not represented as sitting on a throne of judgment, but standing by (ver. 5), and there is no further intimation of any judicial process in the vision. It is therefore best to conceive that Joshua is interceding for the people in his official capacity in the presence of the representative of Jehovah. The locality is not specified; it may have been before the altar, which, we know, was built and used at this time. The special mention of his garments implies that he was engaged in official duties in a consecrated spot; but the place is immaterial. Satan; the adversary, or accuser. The personality of Satan is here plainly recognized, as in Job 1:6, etc.; Job 2:1, etc., rendered by the LXX. in all these places, ὁ διάβολος (see Appendix B, in Archdeacon Perowne's 'Commentary on Zechariah'). At his (Joshua's) right hand. Not as a judicial accuser, but as an enemy to resist his efforts for the good of the people, and to thwart his interests with the angel of the Lord. To resist him; to act the adversary to him. The verb is cognate to, the noun above. From what follows we must suppose that Satan objects against Joshua both his own personal sin and the transgressions of the people whose burden he bore (comp. ver. 9, where his sin is called "the iniquity of the land," which would include the guilt which had led to the Captivity, their dilatoriness in building the temple, and all their backslidings since the return).
And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Verse 2. - The Lord said. The Angel of Jehovah speaks. The appellations are often here used interchangeably. The Lord rebuke thee. The Lord's rebuke falls with effect where it is directed; it paralyzes the hostile power (comp. Psalm 106:9; Nahum 1:4). Satan's accusation may have been well founded, but it sprang from malice, and was directed against the people whom God was receiving into favour, and therefore it was rejected and rendered innocuous. Some commentators have supposed that St. Jude is alluding to this passage when (ver. 9) he quotes the words of Michael contending about the body of Moses, "The Lord rebuke thee:" but it is more probable that Jude is referring to some rabbinical tradition, or to the apocryphal 'Assumption of Moses' (see the matter examined in Dissertation I. of Dr. Gloag's 'Introduction to the Catholic Epistles'). That hath chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12). God's election of Israel and renewed acceptance of her is the reason why Satan's accusation is rejected (Deuteronomy 7:7, 8). She is not to be abandoned to the consequences of her sins, nor were God's gracious purposes towards her to be frustrated. "God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew;" and, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Romans 8:33; Romans 11:2, 29). This. This man, Joshua, saved from his father's and grandfather's fate (see on Haggai 1:1), a type of the deliverance of Israel. A brand plucked out of the fire. Israel had been already punished by defeat, captivity, distress, and misery. From these evils, which had almost destroyed her, she had been delivered; and the deliverance would be completed; she should not be cast again into the fire (see Amos 4:11, and note there). The expression is proverbial (comp. 1 Corinthians 3:15; Jude 1:23).
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
Verse 3. - Clothed with filthy garments. The soiled, or dark mourning garments represent not so much the low estate to which the Aaronic priesthood had been reduced, as the defilements of sin with which Joshua was encompassed, especially, perhaps, his error in allowing his descendants to intermarry with heathens (Ezra 10:18). But the sin was not only personal; he appeared laden with the guilt of the priesthood and his people. He is a type of Christ in this. Christ, indeed, was without sin; yet he bare our sins in his own body on the tree, and was made sin for us (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Some consider that the soiled garments denote the mean address in which an accused person appeared in court. But this is to import a Roman custom (comp. Livy, 2:54; 6:20) into Hebrew practice. Others deem it incongruous to make a high priest violate the decency of his office by officiating in unclean apparel. But the violation of propriety was a requirement of the vision, that thus the defilement of sin might be symbolical. He stood before the angel. To ask his aid and protection (ver. 4).
And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
Verse 4. - He answered. The Angel of Jehovah answered the mute petition of Joshua. Those that stood before him. The attendant angels, who waited on the Angel of Jehovah to do his pleasure (see note on ver. 1). Take away the filthy garments. This symbolized remission of sins and restoration to favour, as the following words explain, I will clothe thee with change of raiment; Revised Version, with rich apparel. The word machalatsoth occurs also in Isaiah 3:22, and may mean either "change of raiment," or "costly raiment;" or the meanings may be combined in the sense of "festal robes," only worn on great occasions and changed after the occasion. They are used here as symbols of righteousness and glory. Not only is the sin pardoned, but the wearer is restored to the full glory of his state. The LXX. makes the words to be addressed to the attendants, "Clothe ye him in a robe flowing to the feet" (ποδήρη, the word used for Aaron's priestly garment, Exodus 28:4; Ecclus. 45:8).
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
Verse 5. - I said. If this is the true reading (which Ewald doubts), we must consider that the prophet, excited by what has passed, cannot stand by as a mere spectator, but feels constrained to take part in the scene, and to request that the change of garments may be completed by the addition of the fair head dress. The LXX. omits the word, continuing the address to the attendant. The Vulgate has, et dixit. So the Syriac and the Targum and some few manuscripts. But the received reading is confirmed, as Dr. Alexander points out, by the change in the mood of the following verb from the imperative to the optative, "let them put," "would that they put." There is nothing incongruous in the prophet thus intervening in his own person. Thus Isaiah, in the midst of a solemn vision, gives vent to his feelings (Isaiah 6:5), and St. John in the Apocalypse often mingles his own sentiments and actions with what he beheld (comp. Revelation 5:4; Revelation 10:9; Revelation 11:1). Mitre (tsaniph); Septuagint, κίδαριν: so the Vulgate, cidarim. This is not the same word as that used in Exodus 28:4, etc. (which is mitsnepheth), for the official head dress of Aaron, though it is probably a synonym for it; and the prophet's wish is to see Joshua not only reinstated in his office and dignity, but found holy also. For the fair linen mitre, or tiara, was that which bore upon its front the golden plate inscribed, "Holiness unto the Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38), and therefore showed that he was qualified to intercede for the people. Stood by. The Angel of Jehovah continued standing in his place, contemplating, sanctioning, and directing what was being done.
And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
Verse 6. - Protested. Solemnly and earnestly admonished, adjured. Διεμαρτίρατο (Septuaguit); Genesis 43:3; 2 Kings 17:13. The Angel sets before Joshua his duties, and urges him to keep in the right way, promising to him and to the nation blessing and honour, and proceeding to prophesy of a great future.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
Verse 7. - Walk in my ways. God's ways are his commandments, as the next words explain (comp. 1 Kings 3:14). Keep my charge. The Vulgate retains the Hebraism, Custodiam meam custodieris (comp. Genesis 26:5; Malachi 3:14). The charge means the laws and ordinances of the Mosaic institution. Then. The apodosis rightly begins here, though Kimchi and others make it commence at "I will give thee," taking the following two clauses as denoting parts of his duties, the observance of which conditioned his acceptance. Thou shalt also judge my house. The mention of "my courts" in the following clause requires that "house" here should mean, not people or family, but, in a more restricted sense, the temple, looked upon as the spiritual centre of the nation. If the high priest kept the ordinances and commandments, he should rule and order Divine worship, and "judge," i.e. govern, the ministers of the sanctuary. Keep my courts. He was to preserve the temple, and that which the temple represented, from all idolatry and ungodliness. This duty, as Hengstenberg observes, is introduced as a reward, because it was an honour and a privilege to be entrusted with such an office, and the greatest favour which God could confer upon man. Places to walk. The LXX. takes the word as a participle, translating, ἀναστερεφομένους, "persons walking;" so the Syriac; Vulgate, ambulantes. This is explained to mean that God will give him out of the band of angels (ver. 4), some to accompany and aid him in his ministrationS. But the word is best taken as a noun meaning "walks," "goings." The Revised Version gives, "a place of access" in the text, restoring the Authorized Version in the margin; but there seems to be no good reason for the Revised rendering. The translation, "goings," "walks," gives much the same signification, and is consonant with the use of the word elsewhere (comp. Nehemiah 2:6; Ezekiel 42:4; Jonah 3:9, 4). It means that Joshua should have free access to God. The gloss of the Targum, that it is here intimated that the high priest should be admitted to the company of the angels after the resurrection, is unsuitable, as the other parts of the promise have respect to this present world. Among these that stand by; i.e. among the attendant angels who wait upon God to do his will, and a company of whom were gathered round the Angel of Jehovah in the vision (see ver. 4). It is natural piety to believe that the hosts of heaven join in the worship of the Church on earth, and assist godly ministers with their presence and fellowship. Here is adumbrated that access to God which the Christian enjoys in Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). This is more fully revealed in the next verse.
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
Verse 8. - Hear now; ἄκουε δή (Septuagint). Joshua is called upon to give all his attention to the important announcement that follows, which promises a very great boon in the future. Thy fellows that sit before thee. His fellow priests, who took their orders from him and sat with him in council (comp. 2 Kings 4:38; Ezekiel 8:1, etc.). These priests were not seen in the vision. Keil considers that the address, to which Joshua's attention is called, begins at "Thou and thy fellows." For (or, yea) they are men wondered at; Septuagint, διότι ἄνδρες τερατοσκόποι εἰσί, "men observers of wonders;" Vulgate, Quia viri portendentes sunt (see Isaiah 8:18). The phrase would be better rendered, "men of portent, sign, or type." Revised Version gives, "men which are a sign," i.e. who foreshadow some future events, whose persons, office, duties, typify and look forward to good things to come. I will bring forth my Servant the BRANCH. This is why they are called typical men, because God is making the antitype to appear. The word rendered "branch" (tsemach) is translated by the Septuagint ἀνατολήν, which is used in the sense of "shoot" as well as "sunrise" (see Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 16:7; Ezekiel 17:10), and by the Vulgate, orientem. So the Syriac and Arabic (comp. Luke 1:78). Most interpreters rightly see here a reference to the Messiah. Some few have fancied that Zerubbabel and Nehemiah are meant; but the appellation, "my Servant Branch," has already been applied in prophetical language to Messiah, and cannot be distorted to any inferior subject, such as a mere civil ruler. Messiah is often called the Lord's "Servant," e.g. Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 52:13, etc. And the terms, "Branch," or "Rod," or "Shoot," referring to Messiah, are found in Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15. From the depressed house of David a scion should spring, in whom all that was prophesied concerning the priesthood and kingdom of Israel should find its accomplishment.
For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
Verse 9. - For behold. This gives the reason why the "Branch" is brought forth; the Church is to be firmly established and all iniquity to be abolished. The stone that I have laid (set) before Joshua. In the vision a stone is seen lying at the feet of Joshua, either the foundationstone of the temple, say the commentators, or the cornerstone, or the coping; or, as the Talmud testifies, a stone that rose some three fingers' measure above the ground, and upon which the high priest used to set the censer of incense. But it was more probably none of these, but some rough, unhewed block, not yet polished or fitted into its place. What does it represent? Many critics of note answer at once, the Messiah. He who was above called "Branch" is now called the "Stone." And certainly this term in applied unto him in prophetical language, as in Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22; and references are made to the appellation is the New Testament as to a well known title, e.g. Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20. But there are objections to taking this as the primary sense. As Knabenbauer points out, it is not likely that in one verse the Lord's Servant Branch is said to be destined to be brought forth, and in the next the same is called the stone which is set before Joshua and has to be graven by a hand Divine. Besides, if both terms mean Messiah, we have the very lame conclusion: I will bring Messiah because I have already placed him before Joshua. The stone, too, is represented as somewhat under the management of Joshua, and needing graving and polishing, neither of which facts apply to the Messiah. Putting out of sight other interpretations which are all more or less inadmissible, we shall be safest in considering the stone to represent the theocracy, the spiritual kingdom of Israel, now indeed lying imperfect and unpolished before Joshua, but ordained to become beautiful and extensive and admirable. So Daniel (Daniel 2:35, 45) speaks of the stone cut out of the mountains without hands, which filled the whole earth, a figure of the Church and kingdom of God, small in its beginning, but in the end establishing its rule over the world. Upon one stone; LXX., ἐπὶ τὸν λίθον τὸν ἕνα, "upon the one stone." The stone is termed "one" in contrast with the number seven that follows. Shall be (are) seven eyes. Upon this stone the eyes of God are directed in watchful care (comp. Zechariah 4:10; and for the phrase, see 1 Kings 8:29; Psalm 33:18; Psalm 34:15; Jeremiah 39:12). "Seven" is the number of perfection, and may denote here the infinite care which God takes of his Church, even as St. John in the Revelation (Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:6) beheld the Lamb "having seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." The expression is metaphorical, and we are not to suppose, with Ewald, that the eyes were graven on the stone, or that Zechariah derived his notion from the tenets of Zoroaster or the degrees of rank in the Persian court. There may be an allusion to the seven gifts of the Spirit with which Messiah is anointed (Isaiah 11:2), and which animate and strengthen his body, the Church. I will engrave the graving thereof. As God engraved the tables of the Law (Exodus 32:16). I will out and polish this rough stone to fit it for its place in the temple. The verb is used of the bold engraving and ornamentation of stonework, the finishing which it undergoes to perfect its preparation (comp. 1 Kings 7:36; 2 Chronicles 2:7; 2 Chronicles 3:7). Those who regard the stone as typifying the Messiah, see in this clause an intimation of the Passion of Christ, who "was wounded for our transgressions." The LXX. has, "I dig a trench," which Jerome explains of the wounds of Christ on the cross. I will remove the iniquity of that land. The shaping of the stone involves the bestowal of purity and holiness. God will pardon the inhabitants of the land of Israel, and make them a holy nation (Jeremiah 33:7, 8). But the promise stretches far beyond the limits primarily assigned to it. In one day. The day when Christ died for the sins of men. There is an allusion to the great Day of Atonement, when the high priest went once a year into the holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice. This, however, was an imperfect reconciliation, and had to be repeated annually. "But Christ being come an High Priest of the good things to come... through his own blood entered in once for all (ἐφάπαξ) into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption Now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:11-26; comp. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10).
In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.
Verse 10. - Shall ye call every man his neighbour, etc. In this cleansed and purified kingdom shall be found peace, happiness, and plenty, recalling the prosperous days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:25). (For a similar picture of prosperity, see Micah 4:4, and note there.) This is fulfilled in Christ, who says to his true disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you" (John 14:27). Dr. Wright notes, "We are told in the Talmud ('Yoma,' 7:4) that when, on the great Day of Atonement, the high priest had performed the various duties of that solemn day, he was escorted home in a festive manner, and was accustomed to give a festal entertainment to his friends. The maidens and youths of the people went forth to their gardens and vineyards with songs and dances; social entertainments took place on all sides, and universal gladness closed the festival of that solemn day."