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Fourth Vision: Joshua and Satan


Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the L ord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2And the L ord said to Satan, “The L ord rebuke you, O Satan! The L ord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” 3Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.” 5And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with the apparel; and the angel of the L ord was standing by.

6 Then the angel of the L ord assured Joshua, saying 7“Thus says the L ord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. 8Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch. 9For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the L ord of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. 10On that day, says the L ord of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.”

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.

The Prophet had said that Joshua was clothed in splendid and beautiful garments, who had on before such as were sordid, and that this was done by the command of the angel: he now adds, that he wished that a still greater glory should be bestowed on him, for he saw that something was wanting. He therefore desired that the high priest should be adorned with a crown, so that his dress might in every way correspond with the dignity of his office. But what is here stated, that the Prophet spoke, 3939     Calvin has followed the punctuists as to the verb “said,” in the beginning of the verse, and regarded it as in the first and not in the third person. It is omitted in the Septuagint, (except in the comp. ed., where it is in the third person,) but the sentence is continued as the words of the angel. Jerome has et dixit, and he said, that is, the angel. It appears that the Targum, the Syriac, and the Vulgate retain the third person; and Dathius, Newcome, and Henderson so render the verb, “And he said,” that is, the angel; and this seems more consistent with the general tenor of the passage; for it is more reasonable to suppose that the words which follow are those of the angel than the words of the Prophet, and that the command to put on the mitre issued from the same as the command to clothe the high priest with holy garments. — Ed. is not to be taken as spoken authoritatively, but rather expressed as a wish, as though he had said, that it was indeed a pleasant and delightful spectacle to see the high priest decently and honorably clothed; but that it was also desirable, that a crown or a diadem should be added, as a symbol of the priesthood, and not of royalty. There is indeed no disadvantage in considering royalty also as signified; for the kingly office, we know, is united with the priestly in the person of Christ: but I take the crown here to be the priest’s mitre; for we know that this was the chief ornament whenever the priest came to the altar of incense. But as to the main point, we must bear in mind the design of the Prophet, — that the high priest was adorned with splendid vestments, and yet his dignity appeared only in part; therefore the Prophet desires that a pure crown or mitre should be added: and he says that this took place even in the presence of the angel, thereby intimating that his wish was by God approved.

Now we ought first to contemplate the zeal and godly concern of the Prophet, which he had for the glory and honor of the priesthood; for though he regarded with joy the splendid dress of the high priest, he could not restrain himself from wishing that the highest ornament should be added. And this example is exhibited to us for imitation, so that we ought to desire the increase of those favors of God, by which the priesthood of Christ is signalised, until it arrives at the most perfect state. But we see that many are against such a wish; for at this day there are those who profess some zeal for true religion, but are satisfied with a mere shadow; or at least, it would abundantly satisfy them to see the Church half purified: and the world is full of men who indeed confess that the Church is defiled by many pollutions, but wish only for some small measure of reformation. But the Prophet seems to invite us to do a very different thing: he saw that the high priest was already adorned with new garments; but when he considered that the honor of the priesthood was not fully restored, he wished the mitre to be also added. And by saying that the angels seconded his wish, he encourages us fully to believe, that if we desire from the heart that his glory should be given to Christ, God will hear our prayers: for the Prophet, when he sighed, did not in vain ask the angel to put a mitre on the high priest.

The expression, that the angel of God stood, is not without meaning. He was not an idle spectator; and it is intimated that God had not only once a care for the priesthood, but that the angel was always watching to defend Joshua; for it would not be enough to be once adorned by God, who presides over the Church, except his guardianship were perpetual. We now then understand the import of the words. It follows —

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