Zechariah 3:3
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
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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.Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments - Such, it is expressed, was his habitual condition; he was one so clothed. The "filthy garment," as defilement generally, is, in Scripture, the symbol of sin. "We are all as the unclean, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6. "He that is left in Zion and he that remaineth in Jerusalem shall be called holy - when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion" Isaiah 4:3-4. "There is a generation, pure in its own eyes, and it is not washed from its filthiness" Proverbs 30:12. The same is expressed by different words, signifying pollution, defilement by sin; "Woe unto her that is filthy and polluted" Zephaniah 3:1; "The land was defiled with blood" Psalm 106:38; "they were defiled with their own works". It is symbolized also by the "divers washings" Hebrews 9:10 of the law, representing restored purity; and the use of the word by Psalmists and prophets; "Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity" Psalm 51:4; "wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes" Isaiah 1:16; "O Jerusalem, wash thy heart from wickedness" Jeremiah 4:14. In later times at least, the accused were clothed in black , not in defiled garments. 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. At the time Zechariah saw this vision he saw also in what a mean, dirty, and tattered garb he was who represented the high priest. It was the hieroglyphic of Joshua, not Joshua himself.

Filthy garments; emblem of a poor or sinful state, or both.

Stood: see Zechariah 3:1.

Before the angel; the Lord Christ, called the Angel.

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.

Now Joshua was clothed with {e} filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

(e) With regard to the glorious garments and precious stones that the priests wore before the captivity: and by this contemptible state the Prophet signifies, that these small beginnings would be made excellent when Christ will make the full restitution of his Church.

3. filthy garments] There is no allusion to the Roman custom of accused persons wearing sordid attire at their trials (reus sordidatus, Liv. ii. 54, vi. 20). Nor is there any ground for the idea that “an accusation had been lodged against” Joshua “in the Persian Court;” and that “the splendid attire of the High Priest, studded with jewels, had been detained at Babylon, or, at least, could not be worn without the special permission of the king; and until the accusations had been cleared away this became still more impossible” (Stanley, after Ewald, Jewish Church, iii. 103). The promise of the vision is not that “the soiled and worn clothing of the suffering exile shall be replaced, by the old magnificence of Aaron and of Zadok;” but that in accordance with the constant imagery of Holy Scripture and with the express statement of Zechariah 3:4, “I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee,” the guilt and pollution of sin shall be replaced by spotless purity and holiness (Leviticus 16:4; Isaiah 64:6; Revelation 7:14; Revelation 19:8).

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). Zechariah 3:3In 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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