A Vision of Joshua the High Priest
Zec 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.
Zec 3:2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Zec 3:3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
Zec 3:4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
Zec 3:5 And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
Zec 3:6 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying,
Zec 3:7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
Zec 3:8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.
Zec 3:9 For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
Zec 3:10 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.
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, Ezr 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, Zec 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, Dan 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 בעל ריב, “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 Psa 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 αντιδικος, “a court adversary”, as the Apostle Peter calls him, 1Pe 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 שטה, 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 the Lord said unto Satan,…. The same with the Angel of the Lord, Zec 3:1 having heard the charge brought by him against Joshua, here called Jehovah, being the Son of God, and properly God:
The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; these words may be considered, either as the intercession of Jehovah the Son with Jehovah the Father, for Joshua and his church, and against Satan; that he would reprove him for his malice and wickedness; stop his mouth, and silence him, that he might not go on to accuse; that he would confound his schemes, and restrain him from doing mischief; tread him down, and bruise him under the feet of his people, and pour out his wrath upon him: or as a declaration of what should be done to him, or what he himself would do; for it may be rendered, “the Lord will rebuke thee” (w); as the following clause is by some, who take this to be a wish, and the following a positive declaration, that Jehovah the Father would certainly rebuke Satan; as might be concluded from the reasons and arguments used by the angel, taken from God’s choice of Jerusalem; the building of which Satan endeavoured to hinder, though God had chosen it for his habitation and worship; and from the deliverance of Joshua out of the fire for that purpose: and this reproof of him on the behalf of his people is founded on their election of God:
even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; which act is eternal; springs from the love and grace of God towards them; antecedes all works, good or bad, done by them; stands firm, sure, and unalterable; such who are interested in it are called, justified, and shall be glorified; nor has Satan anything to do with them; nor will any charge of his be of any avail against them, Rom 8:33,
is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? which is to be understood of Joshua; not of his being delivered out of that fire, into which the Jews (x) say he was cast, along with Ahab and Zedekiah, whom the king of Babylon roasted in it, Jer 29:22 when he marvellously escaped; others say (y) 8000 young priests fled to the temple, and were burnt in it, and only Joshua was preserved; but of his deliverance out of the Babylonish captivity, and also of the priesthood, which, during the captivity, when the temple was destroyed, and temple service ceased, was like a brand in the fire; and though Joshua the high priest was returned, and the priesthood in some measure restored, yet not to its former glory, the temple not being yet built; and therefore was but like a smoking firebrand; likewise the people of God may be meant; see Amo 4:11, who are by nature like a branch cut off, a dry stick cast into the fire, and half burnt; they are in a state of separation from God, Father, Son, and Spirit; and they are unprofitable and unfruitful, and in danger in themselves of being consumed in the fire of divine wrath, of which they are as deserving as others, and are under the sentence of it; and, when convinced, have dreadful apprehensions of being consumed by it; but, through the grace, mercy, love, and power of God, they are plucked out of this state in the effectual calling, and are secured from everlasting destruction; wherefore Satan is rebuked for attempting to bring any who are instances of such grace and goodness into condemnation; it being wicked and malicious, bold and daring, vain and fruitless; since such are secured by the grace and power of God, and are preserved for everlasting glory and happiness.
יגער “increpabit”, Burkius. (x) Jarchi & Kimchi in loc. (y) T. Hieros. Taaniot, fol. 69. 2.
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, Ezr 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, Isa 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.
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 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, Eze 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, Isa 4:2and 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 ανατολη, “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”, Luk 1:78 and one of his titles is “the Sun of righteousness”, Mal 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 Mic 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, Act 1:11 he is the Angel said to ascend from the east, Rev 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.
T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 93. 1. & Jarchi in loc. (x) אנשי מופת “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.