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Zechariah 3:3, 4

3. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

3. Et Iehosuah erat induts vestibus sordidis; et stabat in conspectu angeli.

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.

4. Et respondit et dixit his qui stabant coram ipso, dicendo, Tollite vestes sordidas ab eo (de super eo, ad verbum;) et dixit ad eum, Ecce transire feci (hoc est, abstuli) abs te iniquitatem tuam, et vestiam te mutatoriis.


Zechariah adds here another thing, — that Joshua had on mean garments, but that new garments were given him by the angel’s command. And by this he means, that though the priesthood had been for a time contemptible, it would yet recover whatever dignity it had lost. But he ever leads the minds of the faithful to this point, — to look for what they did not then see, nor could conjecture from the state of things at that time. It is certain that the sacerdotal vestments, after the return from exile, were not such as they were before; for they were not sumptuously woven, nor had attached to them so many precious stones. Though Cyrus had bountifully supplied great abundance of gold and silver for the worship of God, yet the chief priest did not so shine with precious stones and the work of the Phrygians as before the exile. Hence, what was shown to Zechariah was then well known to all. But we ought to notice the latter clause, — that the angel commanded a change of garments. The Prophet then bids the faithful to be of good cheer, though the appearance of the priesthood was vile and mean, because God would not overlook its contemptible state; but the time of restoration had not yet come; when it came, the ancient dignity of the priesthood would again appear.

With regard to the words, the first thing to be observed is the fact, that Joshua stood before the angel, having on sordid or torn garments 3737     The word, [צואים], does not mean what is shabby, mean, or tattered, but what is filthy, dirty, as opposed to what is clean. Our version, “filthy,” adopted by Newcome and Henderson, is the most suitable. — Ed. The repetition seems to be without reason; for he had said before that Joshua stood before the angel of God. Why then does he now repeat that he stood before the angel? That the faithful might take courage; because it was God’s evident purpose that the chief priest should remain there in his sordid garments; for we think that God forgets us when he does not immediately succor us, or when things are in a confused state. Hence Zechariah meets his doubt by saying, that Joshua stood before the angel. He further reminded them, that though the whole world should despise the priesthood, it was yet under the eyes of God. Conspicuous were other priests in the eyes of men, and attracted the admiring observation of all, as it is well known; but all heathen priesthoods, we know, were of no account before God. Hence though heathen priesthoods shone before men, they were yet abominations only in the sight of God; but the priesthood of Joshua, however abject and vile it may have been, was yet, as Zechariah testifies, esteemed before God.

We now see that he who is often said to be Jehovah is called an angel: the name therefore of Angel as well as of Jehovah, I doubt not, ought to be applied to the person of Christ, who is truly and really God, and at the same time a Mediator between the Father and the faithful: and hence he authoritatively commanded the angels who were present; for Christ was there, but with his hosts. While therefore the angels were standing by, ready to obey, he is said to have bidden them to strip the high priest of his mean garments.

Afterwards the angel addresses Joshua himself, See, I slave made to pass from thee thine iniquity, and now I will clothe thee with new or other garments 3838     [מחלצות], from [חלף], to set loose, or to put off. Both Parkhurst and Blayney think that they were the garments which the high priest wore on particular and solemn occasions, and which he put off when he had performed his office. “Holy garments” would perhaps be the best rendering. Newcome has “goodly apparel;” and Henderson, “costly habiliments;” garments of the high priest. And that they were the holy garments, such as the high priest wore on especial occasions, appears probable from what follows respectng the mitre, which formed a part of the high priest’s dress. — Ed. When the angel said that he had taken away iniquity, he justly reminded them of the filthiness contracted by the priest as well as by the people; for they had denuded themselves of all glory by their iniquities. We hence see that the mouths of the Jews were here closed, that they might not clamor against God, because he suffered them still to continue in their sordid condition, for they deserved to continue in such a state; and the Lord for this reason called their filth, iniquity. He further teaches us, that though the Jews fully deserved by their sins to rot in their struggle and filthiness, yet the Lord would not finally allow their unworthiness to prevent him from affording relief.

The import of the prophecy then is this, — That however much the mean outward condition of the high priest might offend the Jews, they were still to entertain hope; for the remedy was in God’s power, who would at length change the dishonor and reproach of the high priest into very great glory, even when the time of gratuitous remission or of good pleasure arrived.

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