zechariah 3

I took a different approach to my through-the-bible-in-a-year reading in 2009, resulting in it taking 13 months rather than the 12.  In other words, I’m still working on it.  I was still trying for my goal through October and November, but my final stretch was in the old testament prophets.   I gave it up.  I can skim genealogies quickly, but the prophets require too much thought, prayer, and study.

To me, the vision Zechariah records in chapter 3 is one of the most intriguing things in the bible.   Every time I read it I stop and ask “God, just what does this mean?”  Two nights ago I was going to finish off the book (of Zechariah), but I got completely hung up in that ten-verse chapter.

The list of characters is a lot of what makes it interesting.   They are, in order of appearance:

  • Joshua, the high priest (in dirty clothes, in front of the angel)
  • The angel of the Lord
  • Satan, standing to Joshua’s right.
  • The Lord of Hosts
  • A crowd (later identified as Joshua’s friends)
  • “The Branch” (a servant of the Lord)
  • Zechariah
  • A stone with seven eyes

The dialog flows like this:

The Lord (to Satan): The Lord rebuke you Satan.  Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?

The Lord (turning to the people standing around): Remove his filthy clothes from him [Joshua].

The Lord (turning to Joshua): See, I’ve taken your iniquity away from you and will dress you in party clothes.

Zechariah: Let them put a clean turban on his head

[the crowd put a clean turban on Joshua’s head and dressed him up nice while the angel of the Lord stands and waits]

The angel of the Lord (to Joshua): If you walk in my ways and if you will perform my service  then you will also govern my house and have charge of my courts and I will grant you free access to those who are standing.  Now listen Joshua, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you, indeed they are men who are a symbol.  Look, I’m going to bring in my servant “The Branch”.  Look at the stone I’ve set in front of Joshua.  On one stone are seven eyes.  I’m going to engrave an inscription on it and I will remove the iniquity of the Land in one day.  In that day every one of you will invite his neighbor over to sit under his vine and his fig tree.

My first, and probably best, guess is that “Joshua = Jesus”.  In fact, the name “Jesus” is a transliteration of the hebrew name “Joshua”.  From that point of view, the vision takes place in heaven as Jesus takes on the sins of the world (his dirty clothes) and God is taking away that sin and declaring his future reign.

The stone with seven eyes might be the Holy Spirit.   I’m guessing this because of the “seven spirits of the Lord” in Proverbs 8:12-14, Isaiah 11:1-2,  and Revelation 4:5.  And though I don’t recognize the stone’s face, who could forget those eyes? (Zechariah 4:10 and 2 Chronicles 16:9).

The angel of the Lord is interesting because of other places that God’s angel shows up, like to Abraham and Moses.  Commentators like to suggest that he’s really a pre-incarnate Jesus (i.e.: before he was born on earth).  This passage seems to clearly show that the two are distinct.

The thing that gets my attention though is “the Branch”, which the footnotes say this literally means “the sprout”.  The translaters change branch to sprout to make it agree with Isaiah (4:2, 11:1, and “sapling” in 53:2) and Jeremiah (23:5-8 and 33:15-18).  The Branch throws  me off because the Lord seems to be talking about someone distinct from Joshua/Jesus.  He’s mentioned again in chapter 6:11-15.  There the Lord is speaking prophetically through Zechariah to Joshua the high priest.  He says “behold, the Branch” but not “you are the Branch”, leaving it ambiguous whether Joshuah/Jesus and “the Branch” are one and the same.

In any case, all the branch and sprout verses refer to a time when Israel and Judah will be restored to their own land and a king will permanently be on the throne in Jerusalem.  The next time a pastor derides the Jews of Jesus’ day for not understanding his first coming they should read these prophecies.  Their clear message is that when the King comes he will subdue the nations and Jerusalem will be preeminent in the world.


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