Zechariah 3:8
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you, and your fellows that sit before you: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zechariah

A VISION OF JUDGEMENT AND CLEANSING

Zechariah 3:1 - Zechariah 3:10
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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 3:8. Hear now, O Joshua, and thy fellows that sit before thee — The angel directs his speech to Joshua and his assessors, or assistants in council. “Possibly these may have been some of those who were called chief priests; who, though subordinate to the high-priest, were entitled by their rank to assist in his councils.” — Blayney. The rabbins call these, of whom doubtless Zerubbabel was one, the heads of the captivity, and the men of the great synagogue, by whom they suppose the Jewish affairs, both ecclesiastical and civil, to have been settled after the captivity, and the canon of the Old Testament to have been completed. The angel bespeaks their attention to what follows, as containing matter of great importance. For they are men wondered at — Hebrew, מופת המה אנשׁי, men of wonder, or, men of sign are they: men intended for signs or tokens, or typical men, as some render the phrase. Thus Isaiah, walking naked and barefoot, was for a sign and wonder, or rather a type or example, to Egypt and Ethiopia, Isaiah 20:3; that is, a sign, or emblem, that they should be carried away without covering. So Ezekiel, in digging through the wall, &c., (as commanded chap. Zechariah 12:7-12,) and in not mourning for his wife, Ezekiel 24:24, was to be a sign, type, or emblem, to the Jews: in all which passages the same word, מופת, is used in the original. To this sense the Vulgate translates it here, viri portendentes, men foreshowing, namely, something to come, that is, the men that composed this council, with Joshua at the head of them, were an emblem, or figure, of the restoration of the church, under the government of the Messiah. Their wonderful deliverance from the Babylonish captivity; the fortitude and resolution which they manifested in returning to Jerusalem, when it lay in ruins; their perseverance amidst the various difficulties, hardships, and perils, which they had to encounter on their journey, and when they arrived in Judea; their preservation among their numerous, powerful, and inveterate enemies; not only rendered them objects of wonder to many, but proper types of the deliverance, restoration, and preservation of the church of God under the Messiah.

The next clause points out the person, of whom Joshua was to be a figure; as the verse following does those of whom his companions were to be representatives, or signs. For behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH — Namely, the Messiah, to whom this title, the BRANCH, is often given in the prophets, as descended from the stock of David: see the places referred to in the margin; in all which the word in the original is צמח, tsemach, as here; and all which texts the Chaldee explains of the Messiah; who is elsewhere called God’s servant in an eminent sense, because he was sanctified and sent into the world upon a message of the highest importance. Some, indeed, would explain this passage, and Zechariah 6:12, of Zerubbabel; but, as Dr. Blayney justly observes, there is no reasonable ground to conclude that he is designed in either place. “It is true he was a descendant from David, and appointed under the authority of the kings of Persia to be a subordinate governor of the Jews who returned from Babylon, and in that capacity he presided, and took an active part with Joshua the high-priest, and with the chief of the fathers, in forwarding the building of the temple. But there surely does not appear, in what we know of his character or performances, any thing to merit the particular notice imagined to be here taken of him. The same person must needs be intended here as is spoken of under the same title Jeremiah 23:5; nor is it conceivable that terms so magnificent as those used in this latter place especially can be applicable to one of so limited power and authority as Zerubbabel enjoyed. Besides, it is evident that the Branch is promised as one that was to come, or be brought forth, and not as one that had already enjoyed his estate, such as it was, for many years past. In short, for these and for many other reasons, it may be concluded against Zerubbabel; and, I think, against any other of less consequence than the great Messiah himself, through whom alone iniquity is put away, and the reign of perfect peace and righteousness is to be established: compare Psalm 132:17; Isaiah 4:2; Jeremiah 33:15-16.” The word which here, and in the places above referred to, is translated Branch, is by the LXX. rendered Ανατολη, the east, or sun-rising, from whence it is applied to Christ, Luke 1:78, and is translated there the day-spring. Hence the name of Oriens was probably given to the supposed king of the Jews by the Roman writers: see Tacit. Hist., lib. 5. cap. 13.3:6-10 All whom God calls to any office he finds fit, or makes so. The Lord will cause the sins of the believer to pass away by his sanctifying grace, and will enable him to walk in newness of life. As the promises made to David often pass into promises of the Messiah, so the promises to Joshua look forward to Christ, of whose priesthood Joshua's was a shadow. Whatever trials we pass through, whatever services we perform, our whole dependence must rest on Christ, the Branch of righteousness. He is God's servant, employed in his work, obedient to his will, devoted to his honour and glory. He is the Branch from which all our fruit must be gathered. The eye of his Father was upon him, especially in his sufferings, and when he was buried in the grave, as the foundation-stones are under ground, out of men's sight. But the prophecy rather denotes the attention paid to this precious Corner-stone. All believers, from the beginning, had looked forward to it in the types and predictions. All believers, after Christ's coming, would look to it with faith, hope, and love. Christ shall appear for all his chosen, as the high priest when before the Lord, with the names of all Israel graven in the precious stones of his breastplate. When God gave a remnant to Christ, to be brought through grace to glory, then he engraved this precious stone. By him sin shall be taken away, both the guilt and the dominion of it; he did it in one day, that day in which he suffered and died. What should terrify when sin is taken away? Then nothing can hurt, and we sit down under Christ's shadow with delight, and are sheltered by it. And gospel grace, coming with power, makes men forward to draw others to it.Thou and thy companions which sit before thee; yea men of marvelous signs are they - o It seems probable that the words addressed to Joshua begin here; else the "men of signs" would be the companions of Joshua, to the exclusion of Himself. His companions are probably ordinary priests, who sit as sharing his dignity as priest, but "before him," as inferiors. So Ezekiel says, "I was sitting in my house, and the elders of Israel were sitting before me" Ezekiel 8:1. They are "images of the things to come" Hebrews 10:1. Isaiah's two sons, with their prophetic names, "Haste-spoil speed-prey, and a-remnant shall-return," were with his own name, "salvation-of-the-Lord, signs and portents" Isaiah 8:18 of the future Israel. Isaiah, walking naked and barefoot, was "a sign and portent" Isaiah 20:3 against Egypt. God tells Ezekiel, that in the "removal of his stuff, as stuff for the captivity, I have set thee for a portent unto the house of Israel" Ezekiel 12:6.

I, he explains his act, "am your portent; like as I have done, so shall it be done unto you" Ezekiel 12:11. When forbidden to mourn on the death of his wife; "Ezekiel is unto you for a portent; according to all that he hath done, shall ye do; and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord God" Ezekiel 24:24. Wherein then were Joshua and the other priests portents of what should be? One fact alone had stood out, the forgiveness of sins. Accusation and full forgiveness, out of God's free mercy, were the substance of the whole previous vision. It was the full reinstatement of the priesthood. The priesthood so restored was the portent of what was to come. To "offer the offering of the people, and make an atonement for them; Leviticus 9:7; "to make an atonement for the children of Israel for all their sins once a year" Leviticus 16:34, was the object of the existence of the priesthood. Typical only it could be, because they had "but the blood of bulls and goats to offer, which could," in themselves, "never take away sins" Hebrews 10:4. But in this their act they were portents of what was to come. He adds here, "For, behold, I will bring My Servant the Branch."

The Branch - Had now become, or Zechariah made it, a proper name. Isaiah had prophesied, "In that day shall the Branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious for the escaped of Israel" Isaiah 4:2; and, in reference to the low estate of him who should come, "There shall come forth a rod out of the stump of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots" Isaiah 11:1; and Jeremiah, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a king shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth, and this is the name whereby He shall be called, The Lord our Righteouness" Jeremiah 23:5-6; and, "In those days and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land" Jeremiah 33:15. Of him Zechariah afterward spoke as, "a man whose name is the Branch" Zechariah 6:12.

Here Zechariah names him simply, as a proper name, "My servant, the, Branch," as Ezekiel prophesied of "My servant David." The title "My servant," which is Isaiah's chiefest title of the Messiah, occurs in connection with the same image of ills youth's lowly estate, and of His atoning Death. "He shall grow up before Him as a sucker, and as a root from a dry ground" Isaiah 53:2; "a scion shall grow out of his roots" Isaiah 11:1. . Lest then God should seem to have spoken untruly, in promising to the legal priesthood that it should ever have the oversight over His house, there was need to fore-announce the mystery of Christ, that the things of the law should cease and He Himself should judge His own house through the Scion from Himself, His Son.

Osorius: "Look ye to the Branch of the Lord; set Him as the example of life; in Him, as a most strong tower, place with most becoming faith all your hope of salvation and immortality. For He is not only a Branch, who shall fill you with the richness of divine fruit, but a stone also, to break all the essays of the enemy."

8. Hear—On account of the magnitude of what He is about to say, He at once demands solemn attention.

thy fellows that sit before thee—thy subordinate colleagues in the priesthood; not that they were actually then sitting before him; but their usual posture in consultations was on chairs or benches before him, while he sat on an elevated seat as their president.

they are—From speaking to Joshua He passes to speaking of him and them, in the third person, to the attendant angels (compare Zec 3:9).

men wondered at—Hebrew, "men of wonder," that is, having a typical character (Isa 8:18; 20:3; Eze 12:11; 24:24). Joshua the high priest typifies Messiah, as Joshua's "fellows" typify believers whom Messiah admits to share His Priesthood (1Pe 2:5; Re 5:10). This, its typical character, then, is a pledge to assure the desponding Jews that the priesthood shall be preserved till the great Antitype comes. There may be also an indirect reproof of the unbelief of the multitude who "wonder" at God's servants and even at God's Son incredulously (Ps 71:7; Isa 8:18; 53:1, &c.).

behold—marking the greatness of what follows.

my servant—the characteristic title of Messiah (Isa 42:1; 49:3; 50:10; 52:13; 53:11; Eze 34:23, 24).

the Branch—Messiah, a tender branch from the almost extinct royal line of David (Zec 6:12; Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15). Lu 1:78, where for "day spring," "branch" may be substituted (Mal 4:2, however, favors English Version). The reference cannot be to Zerubbabel (as Grotius thinks), for he was then in the full discharge of his office, whereas "the Branch" here is regarded as future.

Hear now; hitherto thou hast been entertained with emblems and hieroglyphics, but now, O Joshua, hear what these mean.

And thy fellows; the other priests, thy associates in the priestly office, though inferior to thee.

That sit before thee; as assessors or coadjutors in a council or assembly; the high priest as president, the other as members of the council sat with him; to let them know what these types mean.

They are men wondered at; the worldly, profane, unbelieving, and ignorant sort of Jews wonder at them, and their hopes; at their labour and expenses in attempting to build such a house, with so little helps to raise such a structure out of rubbish.

I, God the Father, will bring forth a much more wonderful work.

My servant the Branch; Christ, Messiah, the Branch, Isaiah 4:2 11:1 Jeremiah 33:15.

Hear now; hitherto thou hast been entertained with emblems and hieroglyphics, but now, O Joshua, hear what these mean.

And thy fellows; the other priests, thy associates in the priestly office, though inferior to thee.

That sit before thee; as assessors or coadjutors in a council or assembly; the high priest as president, the other as members of the council sat with him; to let them know what these types mean.

They are men wondered at; the worldly, profane, unbelieving, and ignorant sort of Jews wonder at them, and their hopes; at their labour and expenses in attempting to build such a house, with so little helps to raise such a structure out of rubbish.

I, God the Father, will bring forth a much more wonderful work.

My servant the Branch; Christ, Messiah, the Branch, Isaiah 4:2 11:1 Jeremiah 33:15. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest,.... What he was about to say further concerning the bringing forth of the Messiah, the antitype of him, and of all the priests:

thou and thy fellows, that sit before thee; the Jews interpret (w) these of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, for whom wonders were wrought in delivering them from the fiery furnace; but rather they design the priests and the prophets, and chief men, that came up with Joshua out of the captivity; and especially the young priests that sat before him as his disciples, to be instructed by him in things belonging to the priestly office:

for they are men wondered at; or, "men of a sign" (x), or "wonder"; typical of Christ, the great High Priest; they were "men wondered at", as all the people of God are: they are wondered at by themselves, that God should have any love to them, any thoughts concerning them; make a covenant with them in his Son; send him to die for them; call them by his grace; make them sons and heirs of his, and at last bring them to glory: and they are wondered at by the men of the world; that they should make such a choice as they have; that they should bear afflictions with so much cheerfulness and patience; that they should be so supported under them, and even thrive and flourish amidst them. The life of a believer is all a mystery, and wonderful: and they are wondered at by the angels, as they are the chosen of God, the redeemed of the Lamb, and called from among men; and they shall be the spectators of wonderful things themselves, which they will be swallowed up in the admiration of to all eternity. The Targum paraphrases the words thus,

"for they are men worthy to have miracles wrought for them;''

and indeed, though they are not worthy, yet miracles of grace are wrought for them, and one follows:

for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH; not Zerubbabel, as some interpret it; but the Messiah, as the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it; and which is the sense of some other Jewish writers. Kimchi, though he interprets the Branch of Zerubbabel, yet observes there are some of their interpreters who explain it of the Messiah; and it is as if it was said, though I bring you this salvation, yet I will bring you a greater salvation than this, at the time I shall bring forth my servant the Branch: and again they interpret it of him, because the name of the Messiah is Menachem, i.e. the Comforter; and which is numerically the same with "Tzemach", the Branch; and Aben Ezra, who first explains it the same way as Kimchi, yet adds, but many interpreters say this Branch is the Messiah: and he is called Zerubbabel, because he is of his seed, even as he is called David; and David my servant shall be their Prince for ever, Ezekiel 37:25 likewise another Jewish writer, R. Abraham Seba (y), understands it of the Messiah. The heathens used to call their heroes the branches of the gods; the branch of Jupiter, and the branch of Mars, &c. are frequently met with in the poets (z), and perhaps taken from this name of the Messiah; who is the servant of God as Mediator, and became so by being made of a woman, and made under the law; and is a servant of God's choosing, sending, and rewarding; the chief of whose service lay in the redemption of his people; and who was an obedient, diligent, prudent, and faithful servant. The name of "the Branch" is given him elsewhere, Isaiah 4:2 and designs his descent as man, and the meanness of it; and yet his fruitfulness in himself, and to his people: the "bringing" him "forth" intends his incarnation; and shows that he existed before, and was with God, and is brought forth by him as an instance of his grace and love to men; and because this was a matter of great moment, and very wonderful, and would certainly be done, and deserved attention, the word "behold" is prefixed to it. The Septuagint render this word by "the rising sun", or that part of the heavens where the sun rises, the east; and the Vulgate Latin version has "orientem", "the east": hence another Zechariah calls the Messiah "the Day spring from on high", Luke 1:78 and one of his titles is "the Sun of righteousness", Malachi 4:2. The eastern part of the heavens was attributed by the heathens to their gods, and reckoned their seat and abode (a); and from hence the Messiah came, that man from heaven; he was born in the eastern part of the world. Some render the words, in Micah 5:2, "his goings forth are out of the east" (b); and it was from the mount of Olives, which was to the east of Jerusalem, that he went up to heaven; and from the same point of the heavens will he come again, since his feet will stand on that mountain, Acts 1:11 he is the Angel said to ascend from the east, Revelation 7:2 and perhaps it is owing to this version of the word here, and elsewhere, when used of the Messiah, that he came to be known among the Gentiles by this name; to which it is thought Tacitus (c) has respect, when he says,

"many were persuaded that in the ancient books of the priests were contained a "prophecy", that at that time "Oriens", or the east, should prevail;''

that is, such an one should exist, or rule in the world, whose name is "Oriens", or the rising sun.

(w) T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1. & Jarchi in loc. (x) "viri portenti", Montanus, Calvin, Drusius, Cocceius; "viri prodigiorum", Vatablus; "viri prodigii", Burkius. (y) Tzeror Hammor, fol. 114. 2. 3. (z) Vid. Huet. Demonstr. Evangel. prop. 9. c. 59. p. 520. (a) Porphyry & Varro in Festus, apud Gregory's Notes and Observations, c. 18. p. 72. (b) Gregory, ib. p. 82. (c) Hist. l. 5. c. 13.

Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they {l} are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the {m} BRANCH.

(l) Because they follow my word, they are condemned in the world, and esteemed as monsters. See Geneva Isa 8:18

(m) That is, Christ, who did so humble himself, that he not only became the servant of God, but also the servant of men: and therefore in him they should have comfort, even though in the world they are condemned; Isa 11:1 Jer 23:5 33:14-15.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
8. that sit before thee] not, “who are now (seen) sitting,” for Joshua, the High Priest, alone appears in the vision, but “who are accustomed to sit,” as the inferior priests (“thy fellows”) before the High Priest to receive his commands. So “the sons of the prophets” sit before Elisha for instruction, 2 Kings 4:38; 2 Kings 6:1; and “the elders of Israel” in like manner before Ezekiel, Ezekiel 8:1; Ezekiel 14:1.

for they are men wondered at] Rather, men of sign, or type: men which are a sign, R. V. “Men who in their persons (and office) shadow forth future events. Ezekiel 12:6; Ezekiel 12:11; Ezekiel 24:24; Ezekiel 24:27.” Gesen. This clause is a quasi-parenthesis. The direct address is interrupted, and a reason, as it were, given for making it: “To Joshua and his fellows I foretell the coming of ‘my servant, Branch,’ because they, the priesthood, in all their office and ministry, as well as in what has just happened to them in the vision in the person of their chief, are types of Him.”

my servant] A frequent name of Messiah in Isaiah, e. g. Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:6; Isaiah 52:13; Isaiah 53:11. In Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26; Acts 4:27; Acts 4:30; the R. V. has restored the true rendering of παῖς, “Servant,” not “Son,” or “Child.” This vision is thus more distinctly Messianic than those which preceded it.

The Branch] Lit. Branch, or Shoot, or Sprout; the word being used as a proper name without the article. Comp. Zechariah 6:12; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15. The use by the LXX. of ἀνατολή, “that which rises or springs up,” for Branch in these passages has led to the “Dayspring” (rightly so rendered as the context shews) of Luke 1:78. The early and repeated failures of succeeding High Priests and their fellows to fulfil the conditions and claim the privilege of Zechariah 3:7, as we learn from the Books of Ezra (Ezra 10:18) and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 13:4-5; Nehemiah 13:28-29), and from the Gospel history, must have made this promise of the “Branch” especially precious to the faithful while they waited for its fulfilment (Luke 2:38).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. Coming of the Lord to judge the nations and to redeem His people. The description of this theophany rests throughout upon earlier lyrical descriptions of the revelations of God in the earlier times of Israel. Even the introduction (Habakkuk 3:3) has its roots in the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 33:2; and in the further course of the ode we meet with various echoes of different psalms (compare Habakkuk 3:6 with Psalm 18:8; Habakkuk 3:8 with Psalm 18:10; Habakkuk 3:19 with Psalm 18:33-34; also Habakkuk 3:5 with Psalm 68:25; Habakkuk 3:8 with Psalm 68:5, Psalm 68:34). The points of contact in Habakkuk 3:10-15 with Psalm 77:17-21, are still more marked, and are of such a kind that Habakkuk evidently had the psalm in his mind, and not the writer of the psalm the hymn of the prophet, and that the prophet has reproduced in an original manner such features of the psalm as were adapted to his purpose. This is not only generally favoured by the fact that Habakkuk's prayer is composed throughout after the poetry of the Psalms, but still more decidedly by the circumstance that Habakkuk depicts a coming redemption under figures borrowed from that of the past, to which the singer of this psalm looks back from his own mournful times, comforting himself with the picture of the miraculous deliverance of his people out of Egypt (see Hengstenberg and Delitzsch on Psalm 77). For it is very evident that Habakkuk does not describe the mighty acts of the Lord in the olden time, in order to assign a motive for his prayer for the deliverance of Israel out of the affliction of exile which awaits it in the future, as many of the earlier commentators supposed, but that he is predicting a future appearance of the Lord to judge the nations, from the simple fact that he places the future יבוא (Habakkuk 3:3) at the head of the whole description, so as to determine all that follows; whilst it is placed beyond the reach of doubt by the impossibility of interpreting the theophany historically, i.e., as relating to an earlier manifestation of God.

Habakkuk 3:3

"Eloah comes from Teman, and the Holy One from the mountains of Paran. Selah. His splendour covers the sky, and the earth is full of His glory. Habakkuk 3:4. And brightness appears like sunlight, rays are at His hand, and there His power is concealed. Habakkuk 3:5. Before Him goes the plague, and pestilence follows His feet." As the Lord God once came down to His people at Sinai, when they had been redeemed out of Egypt, to establish the covenant of His grace with them, and make them into a kingdom of God, so will He appear in the time to come in the terrible glory of His omnipotence, to liberate them from the bondage of the power of the world, and dash to pieces the wicked who seek to destroy the poor. The introduction to this description is closely connected with Deuteronomy 33:2. As Moses depicts the appearance of the Lord at Sinai as a light shining from Seir and Paran, so does Habakkuk also make the Holy One appears thence in His glory; but apart from other differences, he changes the preterite בּא (Jehovah came from Sinai) into the future יבוא, He will come, or comes, to indicate at the very outset that he is about to describe not a past, but a future revelation of the glory of the Lord. This he sees in the form of a theophany, which is fulfilled before his mental eye; hence יבוא does not describe what is future, as being absolutely so, but is something progressively unfolding itself from the present onwards, which we should express by the present tense. The coming one is called Eloah (not Jehovah, as in Deuteronomy 33:2, and the imitation in Judges 5:4), a form of the name Elohim which only occurs in poetry in the earlier Hebrew writings, which we find for the first time in Deuteronomy 32:15, where it is used of God as the Creator of Israel, and which is also used here to designate God as the Lord and Governor of the whole world. Eloah, however, comes as the Holy One (qâdōsh), who cannot tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13), and who will judge the world and destroy the sinners (Habakkuk 3:12-14). As Eloah and Qâdōsh are names of one God; so "from Teman" and "from the mountain of Paran" are expressions denoting, not two starting-points, but simply two localities of one single starting-point for His appearance, like Seir and the mountains of Paran in Deuteronomy 33:2. Instead of Seir, the poetical name of the mountainous country of the Edomites, Teman, the southern district of Edomitish land, is used per synecdochen for Idumaea generally, as in Obadiah 1:9 and Amos 1:12 (see p. 168). The mountains of Paran are not the Et-Tih mountains, which bounded the desert of Paran towards the south, but the high mountain-land which formed the eastern half of that desert, and the northern portion of which is now called, after its present inhabitants, the mountains of the Azazimeh (see comm. on Numbers 10:12). The two localities lie opposite to one another, and are only separated by the Arabah (or deep valley of the Ghor). We are not to understand the naming of these two, however, as suggesting the idea that God was coming from the Arabah, but, according to the original passage in Deuteronomy 33:2, as indicating that the splendour of the divine appearance spread over Teman and the mountains of Paran, so that the rays were reflected from the two mountainous regions. The word Selâh does not form part of the subject-matter of the text, but shows that the music strikes in here when the song is used in the temple, taking up the lofty thought that God is coming, and carrying it out in a manner befitting the majestic appearance, in the prospect of the speedy help of the Lord. The word probably signified elevatio, from sâlâh equals sâlal, and was intended to indicate the strengthening of the musical accompaniment, by the introduction, as is supposed, of a blast from the trumpets blown by the priests, corresponding therefore to the musical forte. (For further remarks, see Hvernick's Introduction to the Old Testament, iii. p. 120ff., and Delitzsch on Psalm 3:1-8.) In Habakkuk 3:3 the glory of the coming of God is depicted with reference to its extent, and in Habakkuk 3:4 with reference to its intensive power. The whole creation is covered with its splendour. Heaven and earth reflect the glory of the coming one. הודו, His splendour or majesty, spreads over the whole heaven, and His glory over the earth. Tehillâh does not mean the praise of the earth, i.e., of its inhabitants, where (Chald., Ab. Ezr., Ros., and others); for there is no allusion to the manner in which the coming of God is received, and according to Habakkuk 3:6 it fills the earth with trembling; but it denotes the object of the praise or fame, the glory, ἡ δόξα, like hâdâr in Job 40:10, or kâbhōd in Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 42:8, and Numbers 14:21. Grammatically considered, תּהלּתו is the accusative governed by מלאה, and הארץ is the subject.

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