Zechariah 3:1
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.
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Zechariah 3:1 - Zechariah 3:10

Zechariah worked side by side with Haggai to quicken the religious life of the people, and thus to remove the gravest hindrances to the work of rebuilding the Temple. Inward indifference, not outward opposition, is the real reason for slow progress in God’s work, and prophets who see visions and preach repentance are the true practical men.

This vision followed Haggai’s prophecy at the interval of a month. It falls into two parts-a symbolical vision and a series of promises founded on it.

I. The Symbolical Vision {Zechariah 3:1 - Zechariah 3:5}.

The scene of the vision is left undetermined, and the absence of any designation of locality gives the picture the sublimity of indefiniteness. Three figures, seen he knows not where, stand clear before the Prophet’s inward eye. They were shown him by an unnamed person, who is evidently Jehovah Himself. The real and the ideal are marvellously mingled in the conception of Joshua the high priest-the man whom the people saw every day going about Jerusalem-standing at the bar of God, with Satan as his accuser. The trial is in process when the Prophet is permitted to see. We do not hear the pleadings on either side, but the sentence is solemnly recorded. The accusations are dismissed, their bringer rebuked, and in token of acquittal, the filthy garments which the accused had worn are changed for the full festal attire of the high priest.

What, then, is the meaning of this grand symbolism? The first point to keep well in view is the representative character of the high priest. He appears as laden not with individual but national sins. In him Israel is, as it were, concentrated, and what befalls him is the image of what befalls the nation. His dirty dress is the familiar symbol of sin; and he wears it, just as he wore his sacerdotal dress, in his official capacity, as the embodied nation. He stands before the judgment seat, bearing not his own but the people’s sins.

Two great truths are thereby taught, which are as true to-day as ever. The first is that representation is essential to priesthood. It was so in shadowy and external fashion in Israel; it is so in deepest and most blessed reality in Christ’s priesthood. He stands before God as our representative-’And the Lord hath made to meet on Him the iniquity of us all.’ If by faith we unite ourselves with Him, there ensues a wondrous transference of characteristics, so that our sin becomes His, and His righteousness becomes ours; and that in no mere artificial or forensic sense, but in inmost reality. Theologians talk of a communicatio idiomatum as between the human and the divine elements in Christ. There is an analogous passage of the attributes of either to the other, in the relation of the believer to his Saviour.

The second thought in this symbolic appearance of Joshua before the angel of the Lord is that the sins of God’s people are even now present before His perfect judgment, as reasons for withdrawing from them His favour. That is a solemn truth, which should never be forgotten. A Christian man’s sins do accuse him at the bar of God. They are all visible there; and so far as their tendency goes, they are like wedges driven in to rend him from God.

But the second figure in the vision is ‘the Satan,’ standing in the plaintiff’s place at the Judge’s right hand, to accuse Joshua. The Old Testament teaching as to the evil spirit who ‘accuses’ good men is not so developed as that of the New, which is quite natural, inasmuch as the shadow of bright light is deeper than that of faint rays. It is most full in the latest books, as here and in Job; but doctrinal inferences drawn from such highly imaginative symbolism as this are precarious. No one who accepts the authority of our Lord can well deny the existence and activity of a malignant spirit, who would fain make the most of men’s sins, and use them as a means of separating their doers from God. That is the conception here.

But the main stress of the vision lies, not on the accuser or his accusation, but on the Judge’s sentence, which alone is recorded. ‘The Angel of the Lord’ is named in Zechariah 3:1 as the Judge, while the sentence in Zechariah 3:2 is spoken by ‘the Lord.’ It would lead us far away from our purpose to inquire whether that Angel of the Lord is an earlier manifestation of the eternal Son, who afterwards became flesh-a kind of preluding or rehearsing of the Incarnation. But in any case, God so dwells in Him as that what the Angel says God says and the speaker varies as in our text. The accuser is rebuked, and God’s rebuke is not a mere word, but brings with it punishment. The malicious accusations have failed, and their aim is to be gathered from the language which announces their miscarriage. Obviously Satan sought to procure the withdrawal of divine favour from Joshua, because of his sin; that is, to depose the nation from its place as the covenant people, because of its transgressions of the covenant. Satan here represents what might otherwise have been called, in theological language, ‘the demands of justice.’ The answer given him is deeply instructive as to the grounds of the divine forbearance.

Note that Joshua’s guilt as the representative of the people is not denied, but tacitly admitted and actually spoken of in Zechariah 3:4. Why, then, does not the accuser have his way? For two reasons. God has chosen Jerusalem. His great purpose, the fruit of His undeserved mercy, is not to be turned aside by man’s sins. The thought is the same as that of Jeremiah: ‘If heaven above can be measured . . . then I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done’ {Jeremiah 31:37}. Again, the fact that Joshua was ‘a brand plucked from the burning’-that is, that the people whom he represented had been brought unconsumed from the furnace of captivity-is a reason with God for continuing to extend His favour, though they have sinned. God’s past mercies are a motive with him. Creatural love is limited, and too often says, ‘I have forgiven so often, that I am wearied, and can do it no more.’ He has, therefore he will. We often come to the end of our long-suffering a good many times short of the four hundred and ninety a day which Christ prescribes. But God never does. True, Joshua and his people have sinned, and that since their restoration, and Satan had a good argument in pointing to these transgressions; but God does not say, ‘I will put back the half-burned brand in the fire again, since the evil is not burned out of it,’ but forgives again, because He has forgiven before.

The sentence is followed by the exchange of the filthy garments symbolical of sin, for the full array of the high priest. Ministering angels are dimly seen in the background, and are summoned to unclothe and clothe Joshua. The Prophet ventures to ask that the sacerdotal attire should be completed by the turban or mitre, probably that headdress which bore the significant writing ‘Holiness to the Lord,’ expressive of the destination of Israel and of its ceremonial cleanness. The meaning of this change of clothing is given in Zechariah 3:4 : ‘I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee.’ Thus the complete restoration of the pardoned and cleansed nation to its place as a nation of priests to Jehovah is symbolised. To us the gospel of forgiveness fills up the outline in the vision; and we know how, when sin testifies against us, we have an Advocate with the Father, and how the infinite love flows out to us notwithstanding all sin, and how the stained garment of our souls can be stripped off, and the ‘fine linen clean and white,’ the priestly dress on the day of atonement, be put on us, and we be made priests unto God.

II. The remainder of the vision is the address of the Angel of the Lord to Joshua, developing the blessings now made sure to him and his people by this renewed consecration and cleansing.

First {Zechariah 3:7} is the promise of continuance in office and access to God’s presence, which, however, are contingent on obedience. The forgiven man must keep God’s charge, if he is to retain his standing. On that condition, he has ‘a place of access among those that stand by’; that is, the privilege of approach to God, like the attendant angels. This promise may be taken as surpassing the prerogatives hitherto accorded to the high priest, who had only the right of entrance into the holiest place once a year, but now is promised the entrée to the heavenly court, as if he were one of the bright spirits who stand there. They who have access with confidence within the veil because Christ is there, have more than the ancient promise of this vision.

The main point of Zechariah 3:8 is the promise of the Messiah, but the former part of the verse is remarkable. Joshua and his fellows are summoned to listen, ‘for they are men which are a sign.’ The meaning seems to be that he and his brethren who sat as his assessors in official functions, are collectively a sign or embodied prophecy of what is to come. Their restoration to their offices was a shadowy prophecy of a greater act of forgiving grace, which was to be effected by the coming of the Messiah.

The name ‘Branch’ is used here as a proper name. Jeremiah {Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15} had already employed it as a designation of Messiah, which he had apparently learned from Isaiah 4:2. The idea of the word is that of the similar names used by Isaiah, ‘a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a Branch out of his roots’ {Isaiah 11:1}, and ‘a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground’ {Isaiah 53:2}; namely, that of his origin from the fallen house of David, and the lowliness of his appearance.

The Messiah is again meant by the ‘stone’ in Zechariah 3:9. Probably there was some great stone taken from the ruins, to which the symbol attaches itself. The foundation of the second Temple had been laid years before the prophecy, but the stone may still have been visible. The Rabbis have much to say about a great stone which had been in the first Temple, and there used for the support of the ark, but in the second was set in the empty place where the ark should have been. Isaiah had prophesied of the ‘tried corner-stone’ laid in Zion, and Psalm 118:22 had sung of the stone rejected and made the head of the corner. We go in the track, then, of established usage, when we see in this stone the emblem of Messiah, and associate with it all thoughts of firmness, preciousness, support, foundation of the true Temple, basis of hope, ground of certitude, and whatever other substratum of fixity and immovableness men’s hearts or lives need. In all possible aspects of the metaphor, Jesus is the Foundation.

And what are the ‘seven eyes on the stone’? That may simply be a vivid way of saying that the fulness of divine Providence would watch over the Messiah, bringing Him when the time was ripe, and fitting Him for His work. But if we remember the subsequent explanation {Zechariah 4:10} of the ‘seven,’ as ‘the eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the whole earth,’ and connect this with Revelation 5:6, we can scarcely rest content with that meaning, but find here the deeper thought that the fulness of the divine Spirit was given to Messiah, even as Isaiah 11:2 prophesies of the sevenfold Spirit.

‘I will engrave the graving thereof’ is somewhat obscure. It seems to mean that the seven eyes will be cut on the stone, like masons’ marks. If the seven eyes are the full energies of the Holy Spirit, God’s cutting of them on the stone is equivalent to His giving them to His Son; and the fulfilment of the promise was when He gave the Holy Spirit not ‘by measure unto Him.’

The blessed purpose of Messiah’s coming and endowment with the Spirit is gloriously stated in the last clause of Zechariah 3:9 : ‘I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.’ Jesus Christ has ‘once for all’ made atonement, as the Epistle to the Hebrews so often says. The better Joshua by one offering has taken away sin. ‘The breadth of Thy land, O Immanuel,’ stretched far beyond the narrow bounds which Zechariah knew for Israel’s territory. It includes the whole world. As has been beautifully said, ‘That one day is the day of Golgotha.’

The vision closes with a picture of the felicity of Messianic times, which recalls the description of the golden age of Solomon, when ‘Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree’ {1 Kings 4:25}. In like manner the nation, cleansed, restored to its priestly privilege of free access to God by the Messiah who comes with the fulness of the Spirit, shall dwell in safety, and shall be knit together by friendship, and unenvyingly shall each share his good with all others, recognising in every man a neighbour, and gladly welcoming him to partake of all the blessings which the true Solomon has brought to his house and heart.

Zechariah 3:1. And he showed me — He, that is, the angel, who talked with him, after delivering the message in the preceding chapter, proceeded to another representation; Joshua the high-priest, &c. — We find from Haggai, that Joshua the son of Josedech was at this time high-priest. He stands here as representing the whole Jewish people. Standing before the angel of the Lord — This angel was Christ, or the Logos, mentioned Zechariah 1:11, and called the Lord in the following verse, whose minister, or servant, the high-priest was, as well as a type of him. And Satan — Or the adversary, as the word may be rendered; standing at his right hand to resist him — That is, to be his accuser, as he is called Revelation 12:10. “So here he is represented as aggravating the faults of Joshua, the representative of the whole body of the Jews, (see Zechariah 3:2,) by this means to prevail with God to continue the Jews under the power of their adversaries. It was the custom in courts of judicature, for the accuser to stand at the right hand of the accused.” — See Lowth, and notes on Job 1:6; and Psalm 109:6. “It appears to me,” says Blayney, “the most probable, that by Satan, or the adversary, is here meant the adversaries of the Jewish nation in a body, or perhaps some leading person among them, Sanballat for instance, who strenuously opposed the rebuilding of the temple, and of course the restoration of the service of the sanctuary, and the re-establishment of Joshua in the exercise of his sacerdotal ministry.”

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.And He - God, (for the office of the attendant angel was to explain, not to show the visions) "showed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord;" probably to be judged by him ; as in the New Testament, "to stand before the Son of Man;" for although "standing before," whether in relation to man or God, , expresses attendance upon, yet here it appears only as a condition, contemporaneous with that of Satan's, to accuse him. Although, moreover, the Angel speaks with authority, yet God's Presence in him is not spoken of so distinctly, that the high priest would be exhibited as standing before him, as in his office before God.

And Satan - Etymologically, the enemy, as, in the New Testament, "your adversary the devil" 1 Peter 5:8, etymologically, the accuser. It is a proper name of the Evil one, yet its original meaning, "the enemy, was not lost. Here, as in Job, his malice is shown in accusation; "the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God, day and night" Revelation 12:10. In Job JObadiah 1:8-11; Job 2:3-5, the accusations were calumnious; here, doubtless, true. For he accused Job of what would have been plain apostacy Job 1:11; Job 2:5; Joshua and Zerubbabel had shared, or given way to, the remissness of the people, as to the rebuilding of the temple and the full restoration of the worship of God Ezra 3:1-13; 4. For this, Haggai had reproved the people, through them Haggai 1:1-11. Satan had then a real charge, on which to implead them. Since also the whole series of visions relates to the restoration from the captivity, the guilt, for which Satan impleads him with Jerusalem and Jerusalem in him, includes the whole guilt, which had rested upon them, so that for a time God had seemed to have cast "away His people" Romans 11:1. Satan "stands at his right hand," the place of a protector Psalm 16:8; Psalm 109:31; Psalm 121:5; Psalm 142:4, to show that he had none to save him, and that himself was victorious.


Zec 3:1-10. Fourth Vision. Joshua the high priest before the angel of Jehovah; accused by Satan, but justified by Jehovah through Messiah the coming Branch.

1. Joshua as high priest (Hag 1:1) represents "Jerusalem" (Zec 3:2), or the elect people, put on its trial, and "plucked" narrowly "out of the fire." His attitude, "standing before the Lord," is that of a high priest ministering before the altar erected previously to the building of the temple (Ezr 3:2, 3, 6; Ps 135:2). Yet, in this position, by reason of his own and his people's sins, he is represented as on his and their trial (Nu 35:12).

he showed me—"He" is the interpreting angel. Jerusalem's (Joshua's) "filthy garments" (Zec 3:3) are its sins which had hitherto brought down God's judgments. The "change of raiment" implies its restoration to God's favor. Satan suggested to the Jews that so consciously polluted a priesthood and people could offer no acceptable sacrifice to God, and therefore they might as well desist from the building of the temple. Zechariah encourages them by showing that their demerit does not disqualify them for the work, as they are accepted in the righteousness of another, their great High Priest, the Branch (Zec 3:8), a scion of their own royal line of David (Isa 11:1). The full accomplishment of Israel's justification and of Satan the accuser's being "rebuked" finally, is yet future (Re 12:10). Compare Re 11:8, wherein "Jerusalem," as here, is shown to be meant primarily, though including the whole Church in general (compare Job 1:9).

Satan—the Hebrew term meaning "adversary" in a law court: as devil is the Greek term, meaning accuser. Messiah, on the other hand, is "advocate" for His people in the court of heaven's justice (1Jo 2:1).

standing at his right hand—the usual position of a prosecutor or accuser in court, as the left hand was the position of the defendant (Ps 109:6). The "angel of the Lord" took the same position just before another high priest was about to beget the forerunner of Messiah (Lu 1:11), who supplants Satan from his place as accuser. Some hence explain Jude 9 as referring to this passage: "the body of Moses" being thus the Jewish Church, for which Satan contended as his by reason of its sins; just as the "body of Christ" is the Christian Church. However, Jude 9 plainly speaks of the literal body of Moses, the resurrection of which at the transfiguration Satan seems to have opposed on the ground of Moses' error at Meribah; the same divine rebuke, "the Lord rebuke thee," checked Satan in contending for judgment against Moses' body, as checked him when demanding judgment against the Jewish Church, to which Moses' body corresponds.Under the type of Joshua the high priest receiving clean garments, Zechariah 3:1-5, and a covenant of promise from God, Zechariah 3:6,7, Christ, the Branch and Corner-stone, is foretold, Zechariah 3:8-10.

And he; the Lord of hosts, whose servant Zechariah was, and in whose name he spake.

Showed me; in vision represented to me, Zechariah.

Joshua the high priest; for that office was by hereditary right descended on him, and how mean soever his state was, yet still he was that great officer of the church.

Standing; either as accused, and to make his defence; or rather ministering in his office, according to his duty.

Before the angel: this angel was Christ, whose minister, or servant, the high priest was, as well as type of him. Satan; that adversary, as we might render the word, either Satan the devil, or some instrument of his stirred up by him, Sanballat, or, &c.

Standing at his right hand; either because the accusation was true, or to hold his working hand from its work.

To resist him; Joshua.

And he showed me Joshua the high priest,.... Who was one that came up out of the captivity, and was principally concerned in building the temple, and had many enemies to obstruct him in it; and who falling into sin, or his sons, in marrying strange wives, Ezra 10:18, which he might connive at, Satan was ready to catch it up, and accuse him before God; though rather Joshua is to be considered, not personally, but typically, representing the state and condition of the priesthood, in which office he was; and which was very low, mean, and abject, under the second temple; or the church of God, which the priests, especially the high priest, were representatives of: and indeed this vision may be accommodated to the case of any single believer, fallen into sin, and accused by Satan, and whose advocate Christ is:

standing before the Angel of the Lord; not any created angel, but Christ the Angel of God's presence, who is called Jehovah, Zechariah 3:2 is the rebuker of Satan, and the advocate of his people; and who takes away their sins, and clothes them with his righteousness: and "standing before" him does not mean barely being in his sight and presence, but as ministering to him; this being the posture both of angels and men, the servants of the Lord, Daniel 7:10, either he was offering sacrifice for the people, or asking counsel of God for them; or rather giving thanks for his and their deliverance from captivity, being as brands taken out of the fire; and praying to be stripped of his filthy garments, and to be clothed with others more decent, and becoming his office; and for help and assistance in the building of the temple, and against those that obstructed him: also he was brought and placed here as a guilty person, charged with sin, and to be tried before him,

Satan standing at his right hand to resist him; either to hinder him in his work of building the temple, by stirring up Sanballat, and other enemies; or rather to accuse him of sin, and bring a charge against him, and get sentence passed upon him; so the accuser used to stand at the right hand of the accused. The Targum paraphrases it,

"and sin standing at his right hand to resist him:''

when the people of God fall into sin, Satan the accuser of the brethren, their avowed enemy, observes it, and accuses them before the Lord, and seeks their condemnation. Maimonides (p) understands this of his standing at the right hand of the angel; but it was not usual for the prosecutor, accuser, or pleader, whether for or against a person arraigned, to stand the right hand of the judge: indeed, in the Jewish sanhedrim, or grand court of judicature, there were two scribes stood before the judges; the one on the right hand, the other on the left; who took down in writing the pleadings in court, and the sentences of those that were acquitted, and of those that were condemned; he on the right hand the former, and the other on the left hand the latter (q). The prince or chief judge of the court sat in the middle; and his deputy, called "Ab Beth Din", or father of the court, sat at his right hand; and a wise man, a principal one, at his left (r); but it was usual for the pleader, who was called , "Baal Rib", to stand on the right hand of the party cited into the court, whether he pleaded for or against him (s): and to this custom is the allusion here, and in Psalm 106:6 where Satan, who is the accuser of men, and pleads against them, is placed at the right hand, as here; and God, who pleads the cause of his poor people, is also represented as standing on their right hand. The business of Satan here was to accuse, to bring charges, to plead for condemnation, and endeavour to get the sentence of it passed against Joshua; for he was at his right hand, to be an "adversary" to him, as his name (Satan) signifies, which he has from

the word here used; being an enemy to mankind in general, and especially to the people of God, and more especially to persons in sacred public offices; to whom he is "a court adversary", as the Apostle Peter calls him, 1 Peter 5:8 who appears in open court against them, and charges them in a most spiteful and malicious manner; and is a most, implacable, obstinate, and impudent one, as his name signifies, and the word from whence it is derived (t); though Maimonides (u) thinks the name is derived from which signifies to decline, or go back from anything; since he, without doubt, makes men to decline from the way of truth to the way of falsehood and error.

(p) Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 22. p. 398. (q) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 3. Maimon. Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 9. Mosis Kotsensis Mitzvot Torah, Pr. Affirm. 97. (r) Maimon. ib. sect. 3. Vid. Cocceium in Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 3.((s) Godwin's Moses and Aaron, l. 5. c. 3.((t) Vid. Schultens in Job i. 6. (u) Moreh Nevochim, ut supra. (par. 3. c. 22. p. 398.)

And he showed me Joshua the high priest {a} standing before the angel of the LORD, and {b} Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

(a) He prayed to Christ the Mediator for the state of the Church.

(b) Which declares that the faithful do not only war with flesh and blood, but with Satan himself, and spiritual wickedness; Eph 6:12.

Ch. Zechariah 3:1. he shewed me] i.e. Jehovah, from whom all the visions proceeded, Zechariah 1:7; Zechariah 1:20, shewed me. καὶ ἔδειξέ μοι κύριος, LXX.

Joshua] called in the Book of Ezra Jeshua (Zechariah 2:2; Zechariah 3:2, etc.). His grandfather, Seraiah, was taken captive by Nebuzar-adan after the sacking of the city and burning of the Temple, and was slain by Nebuchadnezzar at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18-21). Josedech, or Jehozadak, his son, the father of Joshua, was at the same time taken as a prisoner to Babylon (1 Chronicles 6:15), where Joshua probably was born. During the lifetime of Josedech, while the Temple was in ruins and the people in captivity, the High Priesthood was in abeyance. After an interval of about 52 years, Josedech being now dead, the office was revived in the person of his son. Joshua was the first of the third or last series of High Priests, those, namely, who came after the Captivity. He is spoken of with commendation in the Book of Ecclesiasticus (Sir 49:12; comp. 1Es 5:5; 1Es 5:48; 1Es 5:56), and is made a special type of the Great High Priest, both in this chapter and in chapter 6.

standing before the angel of the Lord] as before his judge, Deuteronomy 19:17; Joshua 20:6; Romans 14:10; Revelation 20:12. The Angel of the Lord is here, as elsewhere in the Old Testament, He to whom all judgment is committed (John 5:22). See note on Zechariah 1:12.

Satan standing at his right hand] The great Adversary (for Satan is here a proper name, as in Job 1:6-12; Job 2:1-7) here assumes the character (Revelation 12:10) and occupies the place (Psalm 109:6) of the accuser in the trial. See Appendix, note B.

to resist him] Lit. to play-the-adversary against him; to be his adversary, R. V. The verb and the noun (Satan) have the same root. The charge against Joshua has been thought to be a personal one, and reference has been made to Ezra 10:18, to prove that some of his sons had polluted themselves by marrying strange wives. The passage in Ezra however, is at least 60 years later than the vision in Zechariah. It is better to regard the intended accusation as including both personal and official transgressions, his own sins and the sins of the people (Hebrews 5:3; Hebrews 7:27). Sin, the sin of the man and of the order to which he belongs, of the individual and of the nation which he represents, stands in the way of the promised blessing, and must first be put away before that blessing can be enjoyed.

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). Zechariah 3:1In this and the following visions the prophet is shown the future glorification of the church of the Lord. Zechariah 3:1. "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan stood at his right hand to oppose him. Zechariah 3:2. And Jehovah said to Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; and Jehovah who chooseth Jerusalem rebuke thee. Is not this a brand saved out of the fire? Zechariah 3:3. And Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. Zechariah 3:4. And he answered and spake to those who stood before him thus: Take away the filthy garments from him. And he said to him, Behold, I have taken away thy guilt from thee, and clothe thee in festal raiment. Zechariah 3:5. And I said, Let them put a clean mitre upon his head. Then they put the clean mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of Jehovah stood by." The subject to ויּראני is Jehovah, and not the mediating angel, for his work was to explain the visions to the prophet, and not to introduce them; nor the angel of Jehovah, because he appears in the course of the vision, although in these visions he is sometimes identified with Jehovah, and sometimes distinguished from Him. The scene is the following: Joshua stands as high priest before the angel of the Lord, and Satan stands at his (Joshua's) right hand as accuser. Satan (hassâtân) is the evil spirit so well known from the book of Job, and the constant accuser of men before God (Revelation 12:10), and not Sanballat and his comrades (Kimchi, Drus., Ewald). He comes forward here as the enemy and accuser of Joshua, to accuse him in his capacity of high priest. The scene is therefore a judicial one, and the high priest is not in the sanctuary, the building of which had commenced, or engaged in supplicating the mercy of the angel of the Lord for himself and the people, as Theodoret and Hengstenberg suppose. The expression עמד לפני furnishes no tenable proof of this, since it cannot be shown that this expression would be an inappropriate one to denote the standing of an accused person before the judge, or that the Hebrew language had any other expression for this. Satan stands on the right side of Joshua, because the accuser was accustomed to stand at the right hand of the accused (cf. Psalm 109:6). Joshua is opposed by Satan, however, not on account of any personal offences either in his private or his domestic life, but in his official capacity as high priest, and for sins which were connected with his office, or for offences which would involve the nation (Leviticus 4:3); though not as the bearer of the sins of the people before the Lord, but as laden with his own and his people's sins. The dirty clothes, which he had one, point to this (Zechariah 3:3).

But Jehovah, i.e., the angel of Jehovah, repels the accuser with the words, "Jehovah rebuke thee;... Jehovah who chooseth Jerusalem."

(Note: The application made in the Epistle of Jude (Jde 1:9) of the formula "Jehovah rebuke thee," namely, that Michael the archangel did not venture to execute upon Satan the κρίσις βλασφημίας, does not warrant the conclusion that the angel of the Lord places himself below Jehovah by these words. The words "Jehovah rebuke thee" are a standing formula for the utterance of the threat of a divine judgment, from which no conclusion can be drawn as to the relation in which the person using it stood to God. Moreover, Jude had not our vision in his mind, but another event, which has not been preserved in the canonical Scriptures.)

The words are repeated for the sake of emphasis, and with the repetition the motive which led Jehovah to reject the accuser is added. Because Jehovah has chosen Jerusalem, and maintains His choice in its integrity (this is implied in the participle bōchēr). He must rebuke Satan, who hopes that his accusation will have the effect of repealing the choice of Jerusalem, by deposing the high priest. For if any sin of the high priest, which inculpated the nation, had been sufficient to secure his removal or deposition, the office of high priest would have ceased altogether, because no man is without sin. גּער, to rebuke, does not mean merely to nonsuit, but to reprove for a thing; and when used of God, to reprove by action, signifying to sweep both him and his accusation entirely away. The motive for the repulse of the accuser is strengthened by the clause which follows: Is he (Joshua) not a brand plucked out of the fire? i.e., one who has narrowly escaped the threatening destruction (for the figure, see Amos 4:11). These words, again, we most not take as referring to the high priest as an individual; nor must we restrict their meaning to the fact that Joshua had been brought back from captivity, and reinstated in the office of high priest. Just as the accusation does not apply to the individual, but to the office which Joshua filled, so do these words also apply to the supporter of the official dignity. The fire, out of which Joshua had been rescued as a brand, was neither the evil which had come upon Joshua through neglecting the building of the temple (Koehler), nor the guilt of allowing his sons to marry foreign wives (Targ., Jerome, Rashi, Kimchi): for in the former case the accusation would have come too late, since the building of the temple had been resumed five months before (Haggai 1:15, compared with Zechariah 1:7); and in the latter it would have been much too early, since these misalliances did not take place till fifty years afterwards. And, in general, guilt which might possibly lead to ruin could not be called a fire; still less could the cessation or removal of this sin be called deliverance out of the fire. Fire is a figurative expression for punishment, not for sin. The fire out of which Joshua had been saved like a brand was the captivity, in which both Joshua and the nation had been brought to the verge of destruction. Out of this fire Joshua the high priest had been rescued. But, as Kliefoth has aptly observed, "the priesthood of Israel was concentrated in the high priest, just as the character of Israel as the holy nation was concentrated in the priesthood. The high priest represented the holiness and priestliness of Israel, and that not merely in certain official acts and functions, but so that as a particular Levite and Aaronite, and as the head for the time being of the house of Aaron, he represented in his own person that character of holiness and priestliness which had been graciously bestowed by God upon the nation of Israel." This serves to explain how the hope that God must rebuke the accuser could be made to rest upon the election of Jerusalem, i.e., upon the love of the Lord to the whole of His nation. The pardon and the promise do not apply to Joshua personally any more than the accusation; but they refer to him in his official position, and to the whole nation, and that with regard to the special attributes set forth in the high priesthood - namely, its priestliness and holiness. We cannot, therefore, find any better words with which to explain the meaning of this vision than those of Kliefoth. "The character of Israel," he says, "as the holy and priestly nation of God, was violated - violated by the general sin and guilt of the nation, which God had been obliged to punish with exile. This guilt of the nation, which neutralized the priestliness and holiness of Israel, is pleaded by Satan in the accusation which he brings before the Maleach of Jehovah against the high priest, who was its representative. A nation so guilty and so punished could no longer be the holy and priestly nation: its priests could no longer be priests; nor could its high priests be high priests any more. But the Maleach of Jehovah sweeps away the accusation with the assurance that Jehovah, from His grace, and for the sake of its election, will still give validity to Israel's priesthood, and has already practically manifested this purpose of His by bringing it out of its penal condition of exile."

After the repulse of the accuser, Joshua is cleansed from the guilt attaching to him. When he stood before the angel of the Lord he had dirty clothes on. The dirty clothes are not the costume of an accused person (Drus., Ewald); for this Roman custom was unknown to the Hebrews. Dirt is a figurative representation of sin; so that dirty clothes represent defilement with sin and guilt (cf. Isaiah 64:5; Isaiah 4:4; Proverbs 30:12; Revelation 3:4; Revelation 7:14). The Lord had indeed refined His nation in its exile, and in His grace had preserved it from destruction; but its sin was not thereby wiped away. The place of grosser idolatry had been taken by the more refined idolatry of self-righteousness, selfishness, and conformity to the world. And the representative of the nation before the Lord was affected with the dirt of these sins, which gave Satan a handle for his accusation. But the Lord would cleanse His chosen people from this, and make it a holy and glorious nation. This is symbolized by what takes place in Zechariah 3:4 and Zechariah 3:5. The angel of the Lord commands those who stand before Him, i.e., the angels who serve Him, to take off the dirty clothes from the high priest, and put on festal clothing; and then adds, by way of explanation to Joshua, Behold, I have caused thy guilt to pass away from thee, that is to say, I have forgiven thy sin, and justified thee (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Samuel 24:10), and clothe thee with festal raiment. The inf. abs. halbēsh stands, as it frequently does, for the finite verb, and has its norm in העברתּי (see at Haggai 1:6). The last words are either spoken to the attendant angels as well, or else, what is more likely, they are simply passed over in the command given to them, and mentioned for the first time here. Machălâtsōth, costly clothes, which were only worn on festal occasions (see at Isaiah 3:22).; They are not symbols of innocence and righteousness (Chald.), which are symbolized by clean or white raiment (Revelation 3:4; Revelation 7:9); nor are they figurative representations of joy (Koehler), but are rather symbolical of glory. The high priest, and the nation in him, are not only to be cleansed from sin, and justified, but to be sanctified and glorified as well.

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