|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-5 The angel showed Joshua, the high priest, to Zechariah, in a vision. Guilt and corruption are great discouragements when we stand before God. By the guilt of the sins committed by us, we are liable to the justice of God; by the power of sin that dwells in us, we are hateful to the holiness of God. Even God's Israel are in danger on these accounts; but they have relief from Jesus Christ, who is made of God to us both righteousness and sanctification. Joshua, the high priest, is accused as a criminal, but is justified. When we stand before God, to minister to him, or stand up for God, we must expect to meet all the resistance Satan's subtlety and malice can give. Satan is checked by one that has conquered him, and many times silenced him. Those who belong to Christ, will find him ready to appear for them, when Satan appears most strongly against them. A converted soul is a brand plucked out of the fire by a miracle of free grace, therefore shall not be left a prey to Satan. Joshua appears as one polluted, but is purified; he represents the Israel of God, who are all as an unclean thing, till they are washed and sanctified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. Israel now were free from idolatry, but there were many things amiss in them. There were spiritual enemies warring against them, more dangerous than any neighbouring nations. Christ loathed the filthiness of Joshua's garments, yet did not put him away. Thus God by his grace does with those whom he chooses to be priests to himself. The guilt of sin is taken away by pardoning mercy, and the power of it is broken by renewing grace. Thus Christ washes those from their sins in his own blood, whom he makes kings and priests to our God. Those whom Christ makes spiritual priests, are clothed with the spotless robe of his righteousness, and appear before God in that; and with the graces of his Spirit, which are ornaments to them. The righteousness of saints, both imputed and implanted, is the fine linen, clean and white, with which the bride, the Lamb's wife, is arrayed, Re 19:8. Joshua is restored to former honours and trusts. The crown of the priesthood is put on him. When the Lord designs to restore and revive religion, he stirs up prophets and people to pray for it.
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).
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments,.... Having fallen into sin. The Jewish writers (z) interpret this of the sin of his children in marrying strange wives, Ezra 10:18 or he had married one himself, as Jerom from the Jews, on the place; or a whore, as Justin Martyr (a) suggests; or had been slothful and sluggish in rebuilding the temple; and, be it what it will, Satan had aggravated it, and represented him as a most filthy creature, covered with sin, and as it were clothed with it: sins may well be called filthy garments, since righteousnesses are as filthy rags, Isaiah 64:6. It may also denote the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, and the pollutions in it, at least in those who officiated therein, and especially under the second temple; as well as may represent the defilements of the Lord's people by sins they fall into:
and stood before the angel: as an accused person, charged with sin, and waiting the issue of the process against him: he stood under an humble sense of his iniquities, looking to the blood and righteousness of Christ for pardon and justification; praying and entreating that these filthy garments might be took away from him, and he be clothed with fine linen, suitable to his character as a priest. Such a sordid dress was the habit of persons arraigned for crimes. It was usual, especially among the Romans, when a man was accused of, and charged with, capital crimes, and during his arraignment, to let down his hair, suffer his beard to grow long, to wear filthy ragged garments, and appear in a very dirty and sordid habit; hence such were called "sordidati" (b): nay, it was not only customary for the accused person, when he was brought into court before the people to be tried, to be in such a filthy dress; but even his near relations, friends, and acquaintance, before the court went to voting, used to appear in like manner, with their hair dishevelled, and clothed with garments foul and out of fashion, weeping and crying, and deprecating punishment; thinking, by such a filthy and deformed habit, to move the pity of the people (c). It is said of the ambassadors of the Rhodians at Rome, upon a certain victory obtained, that they appeared at first in white garments, suitable to a congratulation; but when they were told that the Rhodians had not so well deserved to be reckoned among the friends and allies of the Romans, they immediately put on sordid garments, and went about to the houses of the principal men, with prayers and tears entreating that cognizance might first be taken of their cause, before they were condemned (d): though, on the contrary, some, when arraigned, as defying their accusers, and as a token of their innocence, and to show the fortitude of their minds, and even, if they could, to terrify the court itself, would dress out in the most splendid manner; or, however, would not follow the above custom. It is reported of Scipio Africanus, that when he was arraigned in court, he would not omit shaving his beard, nor put off his white garments, nor appear in the common dress of arraigned persons (e): and when Manlius Capitolinus was arraigned in court, none of his relations would change their clothes; and Appius Claudius, when he was tried by the tribunes of the common people, behaved with such spirit, and put on such a bold countenance, as thinking that by his ferocity he might strike terror into the tribunes; and so Herod, when he was accused before Hyrcanus, went into the court clothed in purple, and attended with a guard of armed men (f): whether the above custom obtained in Judea, and so early as the times of this prophet, is not so evident; though Josephus ben Gorion says it was a custom for a guilty person to stand before the judges clothed in black, and his head covered with dust (g); however, it is certain that with the Jews a distinction was made in the dress of priests, who, by the sanhedrim, were found guilty or not; such as were, were clothed and veiled in "black"; and such as were not, but were found right and perfect, were clothed in white; and went in, and ministered with their brethren the priests (h).
(z) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1.((a) Dialog. cum Trypho, p. 344. (b) Salmuth. in Paneirol. Memorab. par. 1. tit. 44. p. 187. (c) Alex. ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 5. (d) Liv. Hist. l. 45. c. 20. (e) A. Gell. Noct. Attic. l. 3. c. 4. (f) Alex. ab Alex. ut supra. (Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 5) (g) Hist. Heb. c. 44. apud Drusium in Amos ii. 7. (h) Misn. Middot, c. 5. sect. 3. T. Bab. Yoma fol. 19. 1. Maimon. Biath Hamikdash, c. 6. sect. 11.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
3. filthy garments—symbol of sin (Pr 30:12; Isa 4:4; 64:6); proving that it is not on the ground of His people's righteousness that He accepts them. Here primarily the "filthy garments" represent the abject state temporally of the priesthood and people at the return from Babylon. Yet he "stood before the angel." Abject as he was, he was before Jehovah's eye, who graciously accepts His people's services, though mixed with sin and infirmity.
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