By means of a vision, Zechariah was shown the high priest (literally, “great priest”) Joshua or Jeshua (Jesus [LXX]) “standing before the face of the angel of YHWH.” Standing at his right was Satan (“the resister”) or, according to the Septuagint, the devil (“the slanderer”) to resist, oppose, or accuse him. There is a measure of ambiguity about the one on whose right the adversary was standing. Since Joshua is the one against whom the adversary made his case, it may be concluded that he stood at Joshua’s right. A number of translations are specific in conveying this significance. “Satan was standing to the right of Jeshua. He was there to bring charges against the high priest.” (NIRV) “And there was Satan, standing at Joshua’s right side, ready to accuse him.” (CEV) Although not specifically stated, the context suggests that the adversary maintained that Joshua was unfit for the priestly office and that Jerusalem and the temple should remain in a devastated state. (3:1)
The angel of YHWH avoided involvement in a direct confrontation with the resister but made his appeal for YHWH to act, responding with the words, “YHWH rebuke you, Satan [devil (LXX)]; YHWH rebuke you, the One choosing Jerusalem.” According to the text, the angel, as the direct representative of YHWH and as one who thus spoke for him, is referred to as YHWH (the designation “angel” is not included). The expressions of the resister were in opposition to YHWH’s purpose and merited rebuke, and so the angel twice invoked YHWH to administer the rebuke. YHWH had chosen Jerusalem, indicating that it should cease to be in ruins and that the temple should be rebuilt. In this rebuilt temple, a high priest needed to carry out the required services, and Joshua, as the context reveals, would gain an acceptable standing before YHWH for this purpose. (3:2)
With apparent reference to Joshua, the question is raised, “[Is] this not [like (LXX)] a firebrand snatched from the fire?” Left in the fire, a firebrand would be consumed. Joshua, however, had escaped a fate that could have ended his life and had returned to Jerusalem as a survivor of the Babylonian exile, indicating that he was someone precious to YHWH and, therefore, should not have unwarranted accusations hurled against him respecting his functioning as high priest. (3:2)
Joshua did not appear in a presentable state before the angel of YHWH but was dressed in filthy (tsoh’) garments. The Hebrew adjective tsoh’ can apply to an item made filthy with excrement. In view of the neglect of the temple rebuilding work, the people were defiled from YHWH’s standpoint, and the high priest, as the one who represented the people before YHWH, would be the one to bear that uncleanness. (Leviticus 10:16, 17; Numbers 18:1; Haggai 2:14) Accordingly, the defilement that came to be attached to him is portrayed under the figure of filthy attire. This aspect could also serve to imply that the defiled appearance was part of the adversary’s accusation against Joshua. (3:3)
The angel of YHWH “answered” or responded concerning the unclean condition of Joshua’s attire. Based on verse 7, those standing “before the face” or in the presence of the angel were other angels who had close access to YHWH. These angels were directed to take off Joshua’s filthy garments. As representing YHWH, the angel of YHWH then said to him, “I have taken away your iniquity [transgressions; the plural form of the Greek word anomía, lawlessness (LXX)] from you.” This would be for him to be clothed with dignified garments (not common attire) or, according to the Septuagint, a garment reaching to the feet (a long, stately robe). (3:4)
Neglect of the temple rebuilding work had been the prevailing reason for the defilement of the people and of Joshua as the representative of his people. An official governmental ban on the rebuilding of Jerusalem had brought about a complete stop to all work on the temple, and that ban had been imposed by the Persian monarch, the supreme human authority. (Ezra 4:23, 24) Accordingly, God’s help would have been needed for the Jewish exiles to resume rebuilding the temple. The fact that in the vision angels were shown as involved in removing Joshua’s filthy garments may indicate that the cause of the uncleanness — the neglect of temple rebuilding — would be taken away with divine assistance. At the same time, the cooperative effort of the Jewish exiles in courageously resuming their labors and completing their work on the temple would put them in position to have their iniquity for previous neglect forgiven, as it would have been an evidence of their genuine repentance. This would also mean that YHWH then took away the guilt that Joshua had to bear as the representative of the people. With the uncleanness represented by the filthy garments having been removed, Joshua could be attired with the splendid clothing that was suitable for him to represent his people before YHWH. (3:4)
According to the Hebrew text, the next verse opens with the words, “And I said,” which may indicate that Zechariah was so emotionally moved by what he saw that it prompted him to want to see Joshua appropriately attired. The Vulgate, however, reads, et dixit (“and he said”), referring to the angel of YHWH. In the Septuagint, this opening expression is not included. The request was for Joshua to have a clean turban placed on his head. Based on verse 7, angels then put a clean turban on his head and dressed him with suitable garments. While they did so, the angel of YHWH stood by. (3:5; see the Notes section.)
YHWH’s angel solemnly declared (literally, “testified”) to Joshua a revealed message. This message indicated what YHWH expected from Joshua and the privileges he would enjoy by living up to the requirements for a high priest. (3:6; see the Notes section.)
The angel conveyed the words of YHWH of hosts (the Lord Almighty [LXX]), the God with hosts of angels in his service. “If in my ways you will walk and if my obligation [regulations (LXX)] you will keep, then you will judge my house and have guardianship of my courts [court (LXX)], and I will give you access among these who are standing.” For Joshua, walking in YHWH’s ways meant conducting himself in harmony with his commands. The obligation or charge applying to him included his faithfully carrying out all aspects of his duties as high priest or, as expressed in the Septuagint, the “regulations” associated with the priestly office. As one fully devoted to YHWH and loyally adhering to his law, Joshua would properly be representing him when rendering judgments respecting fellow Israelites, members of YHWH’s house or household. The “courts” (“court” [LXX]) that would be under Joshua’s watch were those of the temple. Being part of YHWH’s house, the courts were also his courts. (3:7; see the Notes section.)
The kind of approach to YHWH to be granted to Joshua would be comparable to his having access to his intimate presence like that of the angels that were represented as standing in the closest proximity. In the Septuagint, the wording obscures this aspect (“I will give you those staying in the midst of these standing ones”). (3:7)
After the temple would be rebuilt and all priestly services conducted according to God’s law, the time would come for the restoration of the royal house of David. This is the subject of the next message. Joshua the high priest (“great priest”) and his “companions,” associates, or fellow priests “sitting before his face” or being in his presence are directed to “hear” or to listen. These priests, as men carrying out their duties in the divinely prescribed manner, constituted a “sign” that the royal house of David would also be restored. YHWH would bring in his “servant Sprout” who, according to Zechariah 6:13, would be both king and priest. The name “Sprout” reflected the situation that then existed. Whereas descendants of David had returned from Babylonian exile, no member of the family of David ruled as king. Therefore, a “sprout” had to appear in the royal line that would come to exercise kingly rule. (Compare Isaiah 11:1-5.) This one proved to be Jesus, the Anointed One, Messiah, or Christ in the royal line of David, and a member of the tribe of Judah serving in the capacity of both king and high priest. (3:8; Hebrews 1:8, 9; 7:14-17, 26-8:6; see the Notes section.)
The context is not specific enough to identify the “stone” that YHWH “set before the face of Joshua” and upon which stone were “seven eyes” or seven pairs of eyes. Based on Zechariah 4:7, it could refer to the stone that would complete the rebuilt temple, with the “seven eyes” or seven pairs of eyes representing the full attention that YHWH would be giving this stone as the last one, assuring that the temple rebuilding work would come to a successful conclusion. The reference to his “engraving” the “engraving” of this stone could indicate that, as the stone in the topmost position, it would be specially marked. (3:9)
In view of the earlier mention of YHWH’s “servant Sprout,” the stone could designate the future Messiah or Christ (Jesus), which is an application found elsewhere in the Scriptures. (Psalm 118:22, 23; Isaiah 8:14; Matthew 21:42, 43; Romans 9:32, 33; 1 Peter 2:4-9) YHWH’s eyes were upon him as his dearly beloved Son, and the “engraving” could represent the high honors bestowed on him after his resurrection. He was exalted to the position of King of kings and Lord of lords, with all authority in heaven and on earth. (3:9; Matthew 28:18; Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 19:16)
During the time the people had neglected the temple rebuilding work, they were defiled from YHWH’s standpoint. Upon the completion of the temple and the priestly services being fully carried out there, that unclean condition would be rectified. Then, as “in one day,” YHWH would remove the “iniquity of the land,” granting forgiveness to his people for their error. With the people no longer being defiled, the land also ceased to be unclean. (Compare Numbers 35:33, 34; Jeremiah 2:7.) A far grander deliverance from sin is enjoyed by all who accept Jesus as their Lord and his sacrificial death for them as the basis to be forgiven of their transgressions. (3:9; John 8:34-36; Acts 15:7-11; 26:18; see the Notes section.)
As a forgiven people, the returned Jewish exiles would enjoy YHWH’s blessing. The prosperous and secure circumstances they would experience “in that day” or at that time, according to the utterance of YHWH of hosts (their God with hosts of angels in his service), is likened to their being under their own grapevine and under their own fig tree. While individually in this peaceful setting, they would be able to call out to one another. All who have Jesus, the promised Messiah, as their king may especially be described as blessed with security and peace. (3:10)
In Rahlfs’ printed text of the Septuagint of verse 5, the order is reversed. Joshua is clothed and then has the turban placed on his head. A Greek Minor Prophets scroll (8HevXIIgr), though only fragmentary for this verse, follows the wording of the extant Hebrew text. This scroll preserves the last two letters (waw [W] and he [H]) of the divine name (YHWH) in paleo-Hebrew script.
In verse 6, a Greek Minor Prophets scroll (8HevXIIgr) preserves the last letter (he [H]) of the divine name (YHWH) in paleo-Hebrew script.
The partially preserved text of verse 7 in a Greek Minor Prophets scroll (8HevXIIgr) contains the divine name (YHWH) in paleo-Hebrew script and the expression associated with the name may be rendered “forces” (YHWH of forces).
In verse 8, the Septuagint rendering for the Hebrew word translated “sign” is the plural of teratoskópos, an expression that designates an observer of wonders or signs and can refer to one who interprets signs. In case of the Hebrew word rendered “sprout,” the corresponding term in the Septuagint is anatolé, which word can also apply to sunrise or to dawn.
For the concluding part of verse 9, the Septuagint translator read the Hebrew text in a different manner. The rendering is, “Look! I am digging [a verb akin to engraving] a pit [Hebrew, engraving], says the Lord Almighty, and I will search out [Hebrew, remove] all the injustice of that land in one day.”