Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 30: Zechariah, Malachai, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
Zech. 3:1, 2
1. And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
1. Et ostendit mihi Iehosuah sacerdotem magnum stantem in conspectu angeli Iehovae, et Satan stantem ad dexteram ejus, ut adversaretur illi.
2. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
2. Et dixit Iehova ad Satan, increpet te Iehova, Satan, et increpet (hoc est, iterum increpet) te Iehova, qui elegit Ierusalem: annon hic torris erutus ex igne?
We have said at the beginning that Zechariah was sent for this end — to encourage weak minds: for it was difficult to entertain hope in the midst of so much confusion. Some, but a small portion of the nation, had returned with the tribe of Judah: and then immediately there arose many enemies by whom the building of the city and of the temple was hindered; and when the faithful viewed all their circumstances, they could hardly entertain any hope of a redemption such as had been promised. Hence Zechariah labored altogether for this end — to show that the faithful were to look for more than they had reason to expect from the aspect of things at the time, and that they were to direct their eyes and their thoughts to the power of God, which was not as yet manifested, and which indeed God purposely designed not to exercise, in order to try the patience of the people.
This is the subject which he now pursues, when he says, that Joshua the priest was shown to him, with Satan at his right hand to oppose him 33 God was, however, there also. But when Zechariah says, that the priest Joshua was shown to him as here represented, it was not only done in a vision, but the fact was known to all; that is, that Joshua was not adorned with a priestly glory, such as it was before the exile; for the dignity of the priest before that time was far different from what it was after the return of the people; and this was known to all. But the vision was given to the Prophet for two reasons — that the faithful might know that their contest was with Satan, their spiritual enemy, rather than with any particular nations — and also that they might understand that a remedy was at hand, for God stood in defense of the priesthood which he had instituted. God, then, in the first place, purposed to remind the faithful that they had to carry on war, not with flesh and blood, but with the devil himself: this is one thing. And then his design was to recall them to himself, that they might consider that he would be their sure deliverer from all dangers. Since we now perceive the design of this prophecy, we shall proceed to the words of the Prophet.
He says that Joshua was shown to him. This was done no doubt in a prophetic vision: but yet Zechariah saw nothing by the spirit but what was known even to children. But, as I have already said, we must observe the intentions of the vision, which was, that the faithful might understand that their neighbors were troublesome to them, because Satan turned every stone and tried every experiment to make void the favor of God. And this knowledge was very useful to the Jews, as it is to us at this day. We wonder why so many enemies daily rage against us, and why the whole world burn against us with such implacable hatred; and also why so many intrigues arise, and so many assaults are made, which have not been excited through provocation on our part: but the reason why we wonder is this, — because we bear not in mind that we are fighting with the devil, the head and prince of the whole world. For were it a fixed principle in our minds, that all the ungodly are influenced by the devil, there would then be nothing new in the fact, that all unitedly rage against us. How so? Because they are moved by the same spirit, and their father is a murderer, even from the beginning. (Joh 8:44.)
We hence see that the faithful were taught what was extremely necessary, — that their troubles arose from many nations, because Satan watched for their ruin. And though this vision was given to the Prophet for the sake of his own age, yet it no doubt belongs also to us; for that typical priesthood was a representation of the priesthood of Christ, and Joshua, who was then returned from exile, bore the character of Christ the Son of God. Let us then know that Christ never performs the work of the priesthood, but that Satan stands at his side, that is, devises all means by which he may remove and withdraw Christ from his office. It hence follows, that they are much deceived, who think that they can live idly under the dominion of Christ: for we all have a warfare, for which each is to arm and equip himself. Therefore at this day, which we see the world seized with so much madness, that it assails us, and would wholly consume us, let not our thoughts be fixed on flesh and blood, for Satan is the chief warrior who assails us, and who employs all the rage of the world to destroy us, if possible, on every side. Satan then ever stands at Christ’s right hand, so as not to allow him in peace to exercise his priestly office.
Now follows another reason for the prophecy, — that God interposes and takes the part of his Church against Satan. Hence he says, Rebuke thee Satan let Jehovah, 34 rebuke thee let Jehovah, who has chosen Jerusalem. God speaks here; and yet he seems to be the angel of Jehovah: 35 but this is not inscrutable; for as in the last verse, where Zechariah says that Joshua stood before the Angel of Jehovah, Christ is doubtless meant, who is called an angel and also Jehovah; so also he may be named in this verse. But that no contentious person may say that we refine on the words too much, we may take them simply thus, — that God mentions here his own name in the third person; and this mode of so speaking is not rare in Scripture,
“Jehovah rained from God.” (Ge 19:24).
Why did Moses speak thus? Even to show that when God fulminated against Sodom, he did not adopt a common mode of proceeding, but openly showed that it was an unusual and a singular judgment. Thus the expression here is emphatic, Rebuke thee let Jehovah, that is, I myself will rebuke thee. However, were any one to consider well the whole context, he could not but allow that the words may properly be applied to Christ, who is the portion of his Church, and that therefore he was the angel before whom Joshua stood; and he himself shows afterwards that the Church would be safe under his patronage. Let Jehovah then rebuke thee, Satan, let him rebuke thee. The repetition more fully confirms what Zechariah meant to show, even that sufficient protection would be found in God alone for the preservation of the Church, how much soever Satan might employ all his powers for its ruin, and that though God would not immediately give help and restrain Satan, yet a firm hope was to be entertained, for this would be done in time the most seasonable. The import of the whole is, — that though God had hitherto let loose Satan to assail the Church as to the priesthood, yet God would be the faithful guardian of his Church, and would check Satan, that he might not execute what he intended; and further, that many contests must be patiently endured, until the period of the warfare be completed. We now then see what the Prophet had in view in these words.
But the rebuke of God is not to be regarded as being only in words, but must be referred to that power by which God subverts and lays prostrate all the attempts of Satan. At the same time he mentions the end for which this rebuke was given; it was, that the Church might continue safe and secure, Let Jehovah, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee. These words are to be read, not apart, but as joined with the former, as though he had said, “Let God raise up his hand for the salvation of his chosen people, so as to put thee, Satan, to flight with all thy furies.” This is the meaning. Let us therefore know, that God is not simply the enemy of Satan, but also one who has taken us under his protection, and who will preserve us safe to the end. Hence God, as our Redeemer and the eternal guardian of our salvation, is armed against Satan in order to restrain him. The warfare then is troublesome and difficult, but the victory is not doubtful, for God ever stands on our side.
But we are at the same time reminded, that we are not to regard what we have deserved in order to gain help from God; for this wholly depends on his gratuitous adoption. Hence, though we are unworthy that God should fight for us, yet his election is sufficient, as he proclaims war against Satan in our behalf. Let us then learn to rely on the gratuitous adoption of God, if we would boldly exult against Satan and all his assaults. It hence follows, that those men who at this day obscure, and seek, as far as they can, to extinguish the doctrine of election, are enemies to the human race; for they strive their utmost to subvert every assurance of salvation.
He at last adds, Is not this a brand snatched from the fire? 36 Here God makes known the favor he had manifested towards the high priest, that the faithful might be convinced that Joshua would overcome his enemies, as God would not forsake his own work; for the end ever corresponds with the beginning as to God’s favor; he is never wearied in the middle course of his beneficence. This is the reason why he now objects to Satan and says, “Why! God has wonderfully snatched this priest as a brand from the burning: as then the miraculous power of God appears in the return of the high priest, what dost thou mean, Satan? Thou risest up against God, and thinkest it possible to abolish the priesthood, which it has pleased him in his great favor hitherto to preserve. See whence has the priest come forth. While he was in Chaldea, he seemed to be in the lower regions; yet God delivered him from thence: and now, when he sits in the temple and is performing his office, is it possible for thee to pull down from heaven him whom thou could not detain in hell?” We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet as to this similitude. He then adds —
Zech. 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 37 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 38 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.
Grant, Almighty God, that as thou hast made us a royal priesthood in thy Son, that we may daily offer to thee spiritual sacrifices, and be devoted to thee, both in body and soul, — O grant, that we, being endued with thy power, may boldly fight against Satan, and never doubt but that thou wilt finally give us the victory, though we may have to undergo many troubles and difficulties: and may not the contempt of the world frighten or dishearten us, but may we patiently bear all our reproaches, until thou at length stretches forth thine hand to raise us up to that glory, the perfection of which now appears in our head, and shall at last be clearly seen in all the members, in the whole body, even when he shall come to gather us into that celestial kingdom, which he has purchased for us by his own blood. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Fortieth
5. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
5. Et dixit, Ponant cidarim puram (aut, diadema purum) super caput ejus: et posuerunt didema super caput ejus, et induerant (id est, postquam induerant) illum vestibus: et angelus Iehovae stabat.
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, 39 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 —
6. And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying,
6. Et contestatus est Angelus Iehovae Iehosuam dicendo,
7. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.
7. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Si in viis meis ambulaveris, et custodiam meam custodieris, tu quoque judicabis domum meam (vel, gubernabis; [דוז] est judicare, sed verbum illud refertur ad quodlibet regimen, ut alibi visum; gubernabis ergo domum meam, hoc est, praeris Templo meo;) atque etiam custodies atria mea: et dabo tibi transitus inter istos qui adstant.
Here the Prophet shows for what purpose he gave Joshua his appropriate dress and splendor; and he teaches us, that it was not done simply as a favor to man, but because God purposed to protect the honor of his own worship. This is the reason why the angel exhorts Joshua; for it behaves us ever to consider for what end God deals so liberally with us and favors us with extraordinary gifts. All things ought to be referred to his glory and worship, otherwise every good thing he bestows on us is profaned. And this is especially to be regarded when we speak of his Church and its government; for we know how ready men are to turn what God gives to his Church to serve the purpose of their own tyranny.
It is God’s will that he should be attended to when he speaks by his servants and those whom he has appointed as teachers. But we see from the beginning of the world how ambitious and proud men under this pretense exercised great tyranny, and thus expelled God from his own government: nay, the vassals of Satan often arrogate to themselves a full and unlimited power over all the faithful, because God would have the priesthood honored, and approves of a right discipline in his Church. As then Satan has in all ages abused the high eulogies by which God commends his Church, this exhortations, now briefly given by the Prophet, ought always to be added; for it is not God’s will to extol men, that he himself might be as a private individual and give up his own place and degree, but that the whole excellency bestowed on the Church is intended for this purpose — that God may be purely worshipped, and that all, not only the people, but also the priest, may submit to his authority. Whatever glory then belongs to the Church, God would have it all to be subservient to his purpose, so that he alone may be the supreme and that rightly. We now then perceive the Prophet’s design.
And to give some weight to what is taught, he says, that the angel bore witness; for the word used is forensic or legal: one is said to bear witness to another, when he uses, so to speak, a solemn protestations. In short, bearing witness differs from a common declaration, as an oath, or an appeal to lawful authority, is interposed, so that the words are sacred. It was then the design of the holy spirit by this expression to render us more attentive, so that we may know that not a common thing is said, but that God interposes an oath, or some such thing, in order to secure more reverence to his order or command.
Protest then did the angel of Jehovah to Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if my charge thou wilt observe, etc. The angel now briefly teaches us, that the priests do not excel, that they may exult at pleasure; but he interposes a condition, that they are to exercise faithfully their office, and to obey the call of God. We then see that those two things are united — the dignity of the priesthood, and the faithfulness which God’s ministers, who have been called to that office, are to exhibit. Hence they who seek to domineer without control, do thereby sufficiently show that they are not the lawful priests of God; for Joshua typified Christ, and yet we see how God bound him by a certain condition, lest relying on his honor and title he should take to himself more than what was lawful or right.
If Joshua, who was a type of Christ, together with his successors, was not to regard himself dignified, but in order to obey God, we hence see how foolish and even abominable is the arrogance of the Pope, who, being content with a naked title, seeks to reduce the whole world to himself, as if God had given up his own right.
But let us at the same time see what he means by ways and by charge. These two words ought, no doubt, to be confined to the office of the priest. God commands us all in common to follow where he leads us; and whatever he prescribes as to the way of leading a godly and righteous life may be called a charge; for the Lord suffers us not to wander and go astray, but anticipates errors and shows what we are to follow. There is then a general charge with regard to all the faithful; but the priestly charge, as I have already stated, is to be confined to that office. We yet know that men are not raised on high by God, that he may resign his own authority. He indeed commits to men their own offices, and they are rightly called the vicars of God, who purely and faithfully teach from his mouth: but the authority of God is not diminished when he makes use of the labors of men and employs them as his ministers. We hence see that the priestly charge is this — to rule the Church according to the pure Word of God.
He therefore adds, Thou also shalt govern my house. This condition then is ever to be observed, when the governors of the Church demand a hearing, even that they keep the charge of God. It is indeed true, that all the ministers of the Word are adorned with honorable titles; but, as I have said, their dignity is degraded if it obscures the glory of God. As then God would have men to be heard, so that nothing may be taken from him, this condition ought ever to be observed, “Thou shalt govern my house, if thou wilt walk in my ways.”
It may however be asked, can priests be rightly deprived instantly of their office when they depart from their duty? To this I answer, that the Church ought, as far as possible, to be reformed; but yet legitimate means ought to be used, so that the Church may reject all the ungodly, who respond not to their duty, nor exhibit due sincerity, nor discharge their office in obedience to God. All then who depart or turn aside from the right course ought rightly to be rejected, but by legitimate authority. But when the majority desire to have pastors, such as cannot but be deemed really wolves, they must be borne with, though unworthy of the honor, and yet so borne with that they be not allowed to oppress the Church with their tyranny, or to take to themselves what belongs to God alone, or to adulterate the worship of God or pure doctrine.
However this may be, none are lawful priests before God, except those who faithfully exercise their office and respond to the calling of God, as we shall hereafter see in the second chapter of Malachi Mal 2:1. But I am not disposed to enlarge; it is enough to adduce what an explanation of the passage may require. In short, pastors divinely appointed are so to rule over the Church as not to exercise their own power, but to govern the Church according to what God has prescribed, and in such a manner that God himself may always rule through the instrumentality of men.
What he adds, Thou shalt keep my courts, appears not to be an honor to the priest, for it was an humble service to wait in the courts of the temple. But taking a part for the whole, the Prophet includes the charge of the whole temple: and it was no common honor to have the charge of that sacred habitation of God. It is not then improperly added that Joshua would be the keeper of the temple, if he walked in the ways of the Lord. Nevertheless we see at this day how the masked rulers of the Church, under the Papacy, not only disregard the keeping of the temple, but wholly repudiate it, as it seems to be unworthy of their high dignity. I call the charge of the temple, not that which is the duty of overseers, but whatever belongs to the worship of God: but to feed the flock, to discharge the office of pastors, and to administer the sacraments, is to these a sordid employment. Hence the Pope, with all his adherents, can easily bear to be relieved from the charge of the temple; but yet he seeks to rule in a profane and tyrannical manner, and according to his own pleasure. But we here see that the charge of the temple is especially intrusted to the priest, as it was a special honor. We also see on what condition God allowed the priests to continue in their dignity, even on that of walking in his ways.
He afterwards adds, I will give thee passages (intercourses) among those who stand by, 40 that is, I will cause all the godly to admit and freely to receive thee. The angels who stood there, no doubt, represented the body of the Church; for they are mingled with the faithful whenever they meet together in the name of Christ, as Paul teaches us in 1Co 11:10. Angels alone then stood by; but it is the same as though God had said, “Thee will all the faithful acknowledge, so that a free passage will be open to thee among them, provided thou walkest in my ways.” And he puts passages in the plural number, for he speaks of continued homage and regard.
The meaning is, that the priest is ever worthy of regard and honor when he faithfully performs his office and obeys the call of God. We may, on the other hand, conclude that all masked pastors ought justly to be excluded, when they not only are apostates and perfidious against God, but seek also to destroy the Church; yea, when they are also voracious wolves and spiritual tyrants and slaughterers. All those who are such, the angel clearly intimates, are not only unworthy of being received, but ought also to be excluded and exterminated from the Church. We now then perceive what I have stated, that whatever excellency belongs to the pastors of the Church ought not to be separated from the honor due to God; for God does not resign his authority to mortals, nor diminish anything from his own right; but he only constitutes men as his ministers, that he may by them govern his Church alone, and be alone supreme. It hence follows, that they are unworthy of honor who perform not faithfully their office; and when they rob God of what belongs to him, they ought to be deprived of their very name; for it is nothing else but the mask of Satan, by which he seeks to deceive the simple. He afterwards adds —
8. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch
8. Audi nunc Jehoshua, sacerdos magne, tu et socii tui qui stant (vel, habitant) in conspectu tuo; quia viri portenti sunt isti; quia ecce prodire facio servum meum Gramen. (Ubi verti, quoniam viri portent sunt, potest ita resolvi oratio, quamvis sint viri portenti; sed de sensu Prophetae statim dicam.)
The angel shows here, that what had been hitherto shown to Zechariah was typical; for the reality had not as yet come to light, but would appear in its time. We have said that God’s design was to lead the godly to the expectation of Christ; for these beginnings of favor were obscure. It behaved them, therefore, to hope for far more than they saw; and this appears evident from the verse before us, in which the angel says, hear now. He makes this preface to gain attention, as though he said, that he was going to speak of something remarkable. Then he adds, thou and thy associates who stand before thee; I will send my servant the Branch
Let us notice this, which is the main part of the verse, Behold, I send my servant, the Branch. The God of hosts no doubt refers to the priest, who is eminent beyond the common comprehension of men. He is called a Branch, because he was to come forth as a stem, according to what is said in Isaiah, the eleventh chapter, Isa 11:1 and in other places. It is then the same as though he had said, “this priesthood is as yet disregarded, nevertheless my servant, the priest, shall come forth like a branch which arises from the earth, and it will grow.” The word צמח, tsamech means a shoot. He then compares Christ to a shoot, for he seemed, as we say, to rise up from nothing, because his beginning was contemptible. For what excellency had Christ in the estimation of the world when he was born? how did he commence his kingdom? and how was he initiated into his priesthood? Doubtless, whatever honor and glory the Father had given him was regarded we know with contempt. It is then no wonder that he is on this account called a Branch.
Now the reason for the similitude is apparent enough: and though the angel speaks indefinitely, the person of Christ is no doubt intended. How so? We may judge by the event itself. What priest succeeded Joshua who equalled him in honor, or who in the tenth degree approached him? We know that nearly all were profane and ungodly men; we know that the priesthood became venal among them; we know that it was contended for with the most cruel hatred; nay, we know that a priest was slain in the temple itself; ambition was burning so furiously that no success could be gained without shedding innocent blood. After the death of Joshua nothing could have been more base and more disgraceful than the Jewish priesthood. Where then is to be found this servant of God, the Branch? This principle must also be ever borne in mind, that the reformation of the temple was to be made by Christ: we must, therefore, necessarily come to him, that we may find the servant mentioned here. 41 And why he is called a servant has been stated elsewhere; for he humbled himself that he might be not only the minister of his Father, but also of men. As then Christ condescended to become the servant of men, it is no wonder that he is called the servant of God.
Let us now enquire why the angel bids Joshua and his companions to hear. He indirectly reproves, I doubt not, the common unbelief, for there were very few then who had any notion of a future and spiritual priesthood. Indeed, the people had the promises in their mouths, but nearly all had their thoughts fixed on the earth and the world. This is the reason why the angel directed his words especially to Joshua and his companions: he saw that the ears of others were almost closed; he saw so much indifference in the people, that hardly any one was capable of receiving his doctrine: and thus he intended to obviate a trial which might have weakened the courage of Joshua. For we know how ready we are to faint when the whole world would drive us to apostasy; for when any of us is weak, we wish to be supported by others; and when there is no faith, no religion, no piety among men, every one is ready to quail. In short, we can hardly believe God, and continue firm in his word, except we have many companions, and a large number in our favor; and when unbelief prevails everywhere our faith vacillates. Hence the angel now addresses Joshua and his companions apart; as though he had said, that there was no reason for them to depend on the multitude, but, on the contrary, to look to God, and by relying on his word to wait patiently for what he promised, though all the rest were to reject his favor: Thou then and thy friends who stand before thee
He adds, for they are men of wonder; or though they are men of wonder; but the meaning is the same. For God means, that though the whole people rejected what he now declares as to the renewal of the priesthood, it would yet be found true and confirmed in its own time. Some render the words, “men of prodigy,” because they were objects of wonder and they think that the companions of Joshua were signalised by this title or encomium, because their faith was victorious and surmounted all hindrances. 42 But the meaning of the prophet seems to me to be wholly different: and, I doubt not, but that this passage is the same with another in Isaiah, the eighth chapter, Isa 8:1 where he says, that the faithful were men of prodigy, or, that they were for a sign or prodigy, because they were objects of hatred, “what do these seek for themselves?” As then all were astonished as at a spectacle new and unwonted, when any one of the faithful met them, the Prophet says, that the true servants of God were then for a sign and prodigy. So here they are men of prodigy, for we see clearly, that the companions of Joshua were separated from the rest, or the common multitude. Why? not because they were objects of wonder, for that would be frigid, but because they were objects of reproach to all; and they were hardly borne with by the people, who clamored, “what do these seek for themselves? they seek to be wiser than the Church.”
In the same way we find ourselves at this day to be condemned by the Papists. “Oh! these, forsooth, will create a new world, they will create a new law: the rule of our great men will not satisfy these; we have a Church founded for so many ages, antiquity is in our favor. In short these men tear asunder what has been sanctioned from the beginning until now.” But in the time of Joshua and in the time of Isaiah, all who simply believed God were regarded as strange men; for the people had become then so unrestrainedly licentious, that to retain the pure worship of God was viewed as a strange thing on account of its novelty.
We now apprehend the meaning of the words, when the angel bids Joshua and his companions to attend, and when he calls them the men of prodigy, and when at last he promises that a priest should arise like a Branch, for God would make Christ to rise up, though hid, not only under the feet, but under the earth itself, like a shoot which comes forth from the root after the tree has been cut down. It follows —
9. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
9. Quia ecce lapis quem posui coram Iehosua, super lapidem unum septem oculi: ecce ego sculpo sculpturam ejus (lapidis) dicit Iehova exercituum: et aufero iniquitatem terrae hujus die una.
He more fully sets forth what we have observed in the last verse; but he speaks figuratively. He says that there were seven eyes on the stone which was set before Joshua; and that God would in one day take away the iniquity of the land, so that nothing would prevent it from recovering its ancient glory. This is the import of the whole; but interpreters vary, especially as to the eyes.
Almost all Christians agree as to the stone; for they think Christ to be meant; and we know that there are many similar passages, where Christ is called a stone, because the Church is on him founded; “Behold, I lay in Zion a precious stone,” says Isaiah in the Isa 28:1; and in Ps 118:1 and in other places there are similar words. I yet think that the Prophet alludes to the temple, which was then begun to be built; but at the same time I take this as admitted, that Christ is called metaphorically a stone, as before he was called a Branch. But we must bear in mind that the external figure of the visible temple is applied to Christ himself. Behold, says God, the stone which I have set before Joshua has seven eyes; and further, I will engrave it with sculptures, that it may appear wonderful before the whole world. We now perceive what the subject is, and the mode of speaking here adopted.
As to the subject, the angel says, that the temple which Joshua had begun to build, was a celestial building; for God here declares himself to be its founder and builder, — The stone, he says, which I have set; and he says this, that Joshua might know that he labored not in vain in building the temple. For had it been the work of men, it might have fallen, and might have been pulled down a hundred times by the hand of enemies; but God declares that the temple was founded by his own hand. He, at the same time, as I have said, raises up the thoughts of the godly to Christ, which is the substance and reality of the temple. Hence he says, I set a stone before Joshua; that is, “Though Joshua builds, and workmen diligently labor with him, yet I am the chief framer and architect of the temple.”
He then says, on this stone shall be seven eyes. Some apply this to the seven graces of the Spirit: but the definition which they make, who have said, that the grace of the Spirit is sevenfold, is puerile; they know not about what they prattle and vainly talk; for Scripture speaks of many more. They also falsely adduce a passage from the Isa 11:1 for they mistake there as to the number: the Latin version has led them astray. Others think that the seven eyes have a reference to the whole world; as though the angel had said, that all will direct their eyes to this stone, according to what is said by Christ, that he was raised up on high, that he might draw all men to himself: then seven eyes, that is the eyes of all men, shall be turned to this stone. 43 Some again apply this to the fullness of grace which has been given to Christ. But I think that the simpler view is, that his glory is set forth, according to what immediately follows, — I will engrave its engravings. For it is a vain refinement to say, that God engraved engravings when the side of Christ was pierced, when his hands and his feet were perforated: this is to trifle, and not seriously to explain Scripture. But the Prophet by engraving, means the valuable and extraordinary character of this stone; as though he had said, “It will be a stone remarkable for every excellency; for God will adorn this stone with wonderful engravings; and then it will be a stone having eyes, that is, it will not only turn to itself the eyes of others, but it will illuminate them, and exhibit as it were such brightness as will, by its own reflection, lead men to behold it.” 44 We now understand the full meaning of the Prophet. What remains I cannot finish now.
Grant, Almighty God, that as by nature we do not willingly submit to the reproach and contempt of the world, — O grant, that with our hearts lifted up to heaven, we may become indifferent to all reproaches, and that our faith may not succumb nor vacillate, though profane men may ridicule us while serving thee under the cross: but may we patiently wait, until Christ shall at length appear in the splendor of his priesthood and kingdom; and may we, in the meantime, contemplate the excellency with which thou hast adorned thy Church, and be thus encouraged to connect ourselves with those few and despised men, who faithfully and sincerely follow thy word, and disregard the arrogance of the whole world, and never doubt, but that if we remain grounded in the pure doctrine of the gospel, thou wilt raise us up to heaven, yea, and above all heavens, where we shall enjoy that blessedness which thine only-begotten Son has obtained for us by his own blood. — Amen.
Lecture One Hundred and Forty-first
We have to consider the last words of the ninth verse, in which God promises to remove the iniquity of the land in one day. Some refinedly take the one day for the one sacrifice, by which Christ once for all expiated for ever for the sins of the world; but the Prophet in my view speaks in a simpler manner; for he mentions one day for suddenly or quickly. I indeed allow that expiation was to be sought through the one sacrifice of Christ; but the Prophet intimates, that God would be so propitious to the Jews, as to deliver them from all the wrongs and molestations of their enemies. He then assigns a reason why he purposed to deal so bountifully with his people, even because he would not impute their sins. And we know this to be the fountain of all the blessings which flow from God to us, that is, when he forgives us and blots out our sins.
We now then apprehend the Prophet’s meaning: I will take away the iniquity of the land in one day, that is, “Though hitherto I have in various ways punished this people, I shall of a sudden be pacified towards them, so that no iniquity shall come to an account before me, or prevent me from favoring this people.” It now follows in the Prophet -
10. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.
10. In illo die, dicit Iehova exercituum, vocabitis quisque proximum suum sub vite et sub ficu.
We see from this verse that a particular time is signified by one day; for the Prophet wished to inspire the Jews with confidence, lest they should think that their misery would continue, because God had hitherto treated them with rigor and severity. Here then is shown to them a sudden change. He therefore adds, In that day, ye shall call every one his neighbor under his vine and under his fig-tree; that is, “Ye shall dwell secure, beyond the reach of fear or of danger; for no one will be incensed against you.” This kind of expression signifies a safe and quiet state, that is, when it is said; that neighbors meet together under the vine and under the fig-tree. For they who fear, either remain inclosed in cities, or seek, when in the country, some fortified place and difficult of access, or watch their own doors that they may not be exposed to injuries; but they who joyfully meet together under the vine or under the fig-tree, show that they are free from every anxiety and fear.
The sum of the whole then is, — that when God shall openly make himself the guardian of his Church, the faithful shall be relieved from every fear, and shall cheerfully enjoy their freedom, so that they shall venture to have their repast under the vine and under the fig-tree, that is, in the open air and on the public road, as there will be none to terrify them. But as this promise is to be extended to the whole kingdom of Christ, what is said ought to be applied to that spiritual peace which we enjoy, when we are fully persuaded that God is reconciled to us; for then also us become reconciled among ourselves, so that we no longer seek to injure one another, according to what we have observed in Micah, (Mic 4:4,) and according to what Isaiah says in the second chapter Isa 2:1. Let us now proceed-
To retain the alliteration of the Hebrew, the words may be thus rendered — “and the opponent standing on his right hand to oppose him,” or, “the accuser standing on his right hand to accuse him.” The word Satan is rendered here and in Job by the Septuagint, “the accuser,” or “the devil,” ὁ διαβολος. The station on the right hand was that of the plaintiff, or the accuser, or of the pleader, as Grotius thinks. See Ps 109:6. The word [שטז], according to its use as a verb, participle, or a noun, means an opponent or adversary, rather than an accuser. See Ps 38:20; Nu 22:22; Ge 26:21
Blayney, as well as Kimchi, thinks that Sanballat is meant by [השטז]; but the article [ה], as it has been observed by Marckius and Henderson, seems to point out the great enemy of God and man, as ὁ διαβολος in Greek. — Ed.
We may render the words, —
Rebuke thee, Satan, will Jehovah,
Yea, rebuke thee will Jehovah,
Who hath chosen Jerusalem.
Thus Dathius and Blayney render the passage. Adam Clarke and Henderson adopt the notion that Jude 1:9, refers to this vision, taking evidently for just reasons, rejects this opinion. — Ed.
Newcome introduces the word angel at the beginning of the second verse unnecessarily, merely on the authority of the Syriac; for in the preceding visions, “Jehovah” and “the angel of Jehovah” are used indiscriminately. It is impossible not to see that here and in the first chapter a person is mentioned as being Jehovah, and the angel or messenger of Jehovah. See on this subject M’Caul’s observations in his translation of Kimchi on Zechariah, from page 9 to 27. — Ed.
“Out of Ur of the Chaldees, out of the Babylonian fiery furnace.” — Ass. Annot.
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.
[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.
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.
This is a difficult sentence. Kimchi, Marckius, Dathius, Newcome, Scott, and others, take the meaning given in our version, and regard [מהלכים] as a noun, signifying places to walk in, walkings. It is nowhere else found except in the singular number, [מהלך], a walk, or a journey: Jon 3:4; Eze 42:4: but as a participle, signifying walking, we meet with it in Ec 4:15, and in the singular number in Ps. 104:3, Prov. 6:11 Vatables, Pagninus, and Castalio render it “incessus, vias, aditus,” words of similar import with “transitus“ of Calvin and of Mede. The meaning is thus given by Drusius, “I will give thee the privilege of walking among these;” that is, the angels who stood there. Jerome’s version is, “Et dabo tibi ambulantes de his qui nunc hic assistant — And I will give thee walkers of those who now stand here.” The same is given by Grotius, who explains “walkers” in the sense of protectors, and refers to Ps 91:11, and Mt 4:6. To the same purpose, as to the meaning, is the version of Henderson; only he renders [מהלכים], guides, conceiving it to be a hiphil of participle, “causing to walk,” a designation of leaders, guides, or contractors. According to this view, the promise made is, that angels would be the guardians and protectors of Joshua and his associates, and not according to the former view, that Joshua would have a place among angels in heaven, in which sense the Targum, as well as the Jewish Rabbins, understand the passage.
Blayney renders “walkers,” ministers, being persons ready to go and come when bidden: and by those who stood by, he understands the inferior priests, who are here promised to Joshua as his assistants, and are mentioned in the next verse as his “companions.” There is nothing in the verb [עמד], or [ישב], to prevent this meaning, as they do not necessarily denote a position but a presence.
May not “walkers,” or those who walk or perambulated, be the same as those mentioned in the first vision, Zech. 1:10, 11? If so, we may render the sentence thus —
And I will appoint for thee those who walk to and fro
From among those who stand here.
Angels have different offices; and the most probable meaning of the passage is, that it contains the promise of angels as guardians. — Ed.
Grotius and Newcome, (not Blayney, as misstated by Henderson,) following Theodoret and Kimchi, strangely consider that Zerubbabel is meant by the “Branch.” The Targum, Cyril, Drusius, and almost all modern divines, regard the Messiah as intended. See Isa. 4:2, Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5, Jer. 33:15, 16.
“The same person must needs by intended here as in Jer 23:5. Besides, it is evident that the Branch is promised as one that was to come, and not as one that had already enjoyed his estate, such as it was, for many years past.” — Blayney.
Christ is thus called, says Menochius, “because he came forth as a new shoot from the almost dead root of the Patriarchs.” — Ed.
The word [מופת] has two meanings — a miracle, such as those performed in Egypt, Ex 7:9 — and a sign, such as Isa 20:3, and Eze 12:6; who performed a particular action which was to be a sign or token of something else. If we render the words here, “the men of miracle,” the reference seems to be to their miraculous or extraordinary deliverance from captivity; but if we adopt the version of Menochius, Marckius, Blayney, and Henderson, “men of sign,” or symbolical men, the meaning is, that in their office they represented Christ, that what they did was a sign which foreshowed and prefigured what Christ, the Branch, was to do; and this is the explanation which Parkhurst offers.
The reading of Adam Clarke is not amiss, “figurative men, men whose office and ministry prefigured the Lord Jesus Christ.” — Ed.
“Seven eyes looking to it,” is the explanation of Kimchi. “Seven being taken for an indefinite number.” “The eyes of Patriarchs, Prophets, and of all Christians,” says Menochius. The words may indeed admit of this construction, that is, that “seven” or many “eyes” are fixed on the same; but the probability is that eyes are ascribed to the stone, which betoken vigilance and care. See Ps 32:8. — Ed.
With this view correspond the remarks of Marckius, and also of Drusius, Piscator, and Pemble. The address of the Angel of Jehovah from verse 7 to the end, seems to consist of two parts; the first is spoken to Joshua and his associates, to the middle of verse 8, — and the second, to the Prophet, beginning with the words, “Verily men of sign are these,” or “they,” as though he pointed to Joshua and his companions. Then the “Branch” and the “stone,” are proofs of the men being symbolical persons. To separate the two, as Henderson does, does not appear right. I give the following version of the whole passage: —
7. Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, —
If in my ways thou wilt walk,
And if my charge thou wilt keep,
Then shalt thou also rule my house,
And keep also my courts,
And I will give to thee perambulators
From among those who stand here:
8. Hear this now, Joshua, the high priest,
Thou and thy associates.
Verily men of sign are these;
For behold, I will bring my servant, the Branch;
9. For behold the stone, which I have set before Joshua,
On one stone seven eyes;
Behold, I engrave its engraving,
And will remove the iniquity of that land in one day:
In that day saith Jehovah of hosts,
10. Ye shall invite every one his neighbor,
Under the vine and under the fig-tree.
The “Branch” and the “Stone,” as designative of the Messiah, were symbols well known to the Jews, as they had been used by former Prophets. Vitringa, Blayney, and others have rendered “eyes” fountains, and the following line thus, “Behold I open its opening,” that is, the orifice through which the fountains were to flow; they conceived the allusion to be to the rock smitten by Moses in the wilderness. The main objection to this, as observed by Marckius and Henderson, is, that the word rendered “eyes” is masculine, and means “fountains” only when in the feminine gender. — Ed.