The Word Made Fresh
1Then I saw the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD, and the Satan was standing on his right to accuse him. 2The LORD said to the Satan, “I rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you! This man is a firebrand taken from the fire.”
3Joshua was dressed in dirty rags, standing before the angel. 4The angel said to those who were standing around him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” He said to Joshua, “I have removed your guilt, and I will clothe you in proper clothes.”
5Then I said, “Tell them to give him a clean turban for his head.” They did, and dressed him in proper clothes while the angel stood by.
6Then the angel said to Joshua, “The LORD Almighty says if you live according to God’s law and keep God’s instructions, you will rule my house and oversee my courts. Among those standing here, I will give you the right to enter. 8So now listen, Joshua, along with the others gathered here with you. You are the high priest, and they are an omen of things yet to take place. I am going to send my servant, the Branch. 9On the stone I have placed before Joshua, on that single, seven-sided stone, I will engrave an inscription and remove the guilt of this land in a single day. 10On that day you will invite them to sit beneath your vine and your fig tree.”
1-5: Satan, the erstwhile prosecutor in God’s court (compare Job 1:6-12, 2:2-6), is accusing Joshua the high priest (see Ezra 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4). The filthy rags Joshua is wearing represent the sin of the people for which God laid Jerusalem to ruin. Now, however, Zechariah sees God rebuking Satan. God takes Joshua’s guilt away, and by proxy the guilt of all the people, and he is given clean clothes to symbolize the washing away of sin.
6-9: The angel of the LORD who is watching the proceedings instructs Joshua that as long as he does what he is supposed to do he will be given charge of the temple and its functions. Joshua and his colleagues are an omen: just as the priesthood is being reestablished, so too will the throne be reestablished by the coming of the “Branch,” a word which is used to refer a descendant of David. (Christian commentators have seen a hint of Jesus in that designation.) The one stone with seven facets or faces or eyes seems to be symbolic of the removal of guilt in one day, with the number seven indicating completion or perfection: God’s plan is thus set in God’s mind.
10: In Micah 4:4 each person will sit under his own vine and fig tree, a way of describing a time of peace and prosperity that will ensue. In Zechariah that peace and prosperity extends to the community as a whole as they gather freely under each other’s vines and fig trees.
It is interesting that Zechariah has Satan making charges against the people, whereas the prophets we have read before had God making the charges. This is an interesting change in perspective, and one that gives us hope that God really is on our side. And if God is for us, who can be against us?