Zechariah’s fourth vision
The angel of the LORD returns in the fourth of Zechariah’s eight visions. This time, however, the scene does not feature horses, a man, and myrtle trees. Rather, the prophet is granted access to a heavenly courtroom, where the high priest Joshua stands before the angel of the LORD (defender and judge), Satan (accuser), and attending angels. The setting here closely resembles that of the divine council before whom Satan accuses Job (Job 1-2). The key difference, however, is Joshua’s crushing guilt versus Job’s innocence. We pick up Zechariah’s fourth vision in verse 1 of chapter 3:
Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan: “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! May the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. So the angel of the LORDspoke to those standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then he said to him, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with festive robes.”
Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the angel of the LORD was standing nearby.
Then the angel of the LORD charged Joshua: “This is what the LORD of Armies says: If you walk in my ways and keep my mandates, you will both rule my house and take care of my courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.
“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring my servant, the Branch. Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it” — this is the declaration of the LORD of Armies — “and I will take away the iniquity of this land in a single day. On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the LORD of Armies.Zech. 3:1-10
It’s important to note, first of all, that this is not the same Joshua who succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites. Many centuries divide these two figures. Rather, Joshua serves as high priest on behalf of the nearly fifty thousand exiles who have returned from Babylonian captivity. His role is to represent all of God’s people. As such, his filthy garments symbolize not only his sin, but the sins of the Israelites, which have prompted Yahweh to vomit them out of the Promised Land for violating terms of the Mosaic Covenant (Lev. 18:24-30). In fact, the word translated “filthy” is linked to the Hebrew term for human excrement. It is one of the strongest expressions in the Hebrew language for something vile.Continue reading