Son of Jehozadak (Haggai 1:1,12,14; 2:2,4; Zechariah 3:1,3,6,8,9; 6:11 form (b)) and high priest in Jerusalem, called "Jeshua" in Ezra-Nehemiah. His father was among the captives at the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BC, and also his grandfather Seraiah, who was put to death at Riblah (2 Kings 25:18; 1 Chronicles 6:15).
Joshua appears in Ezra 3:2 with Zerubbabel at the head of the returned exiles and as leader in the work of building an altar and reestablishing sacrificial worship (538 or 537 BC). Ezra 3:8 tells of their laying the foundation of the temple, and in 4:1 the two heads of the community refuse to allow the Samaritans to cooperate in the building operations, with the result that the would-be helpers became active opponents of the work. Building then ceased until Haggai and Zechariah in 520 (Ezra 5; Haggai 1:1-11) exhort the community to restart work, and the two leaders take the lead (Haggai 1:12-15). The following are, in chronological order, the prophetic utterances in which Joshua is spoken of:
(1) Haggai 1:1-11;
(2) Haggai 2:1-9;
(3) Zechariah 1:1-6;
(4) Haggai 2:10-19;
(5) Haggai 2:20-23;
(6) the visions of Zechariah 1:7-6:8 together with
(7) the undated utterance of Zechariah 6:9-15.
1. The Vision of Zechariah 3:1-10:
Two of these call for special attention. First, the vision of a trial in which Joshua is prosecuted before the angel of Yahweh by Satan (ha-saTan, "the adversary"), who is, according to one view, "not the spirit of evil who appears in later Jewish writings; he is only the officer of justice whose business is to see that the case against criminals is properly presented" in the heavenly court of justice (H.P. Smith, Old Testament History, 356); while others regard him as the enemy of God's people (compare Orelli, Minor Prophets, English translation, 327). We are not told what the charge against Joshua is:
some hold him to be tried as in some way a representative of the people or the priesthood, and his filthy garments as symbolical of sin; while others explain the garments as put on to excite the court's pity. The adversary is rebuked by "the angel of Yahweh" (read at beginning of Zechariah 3:2, "and the angel of Yahweh said," etc.), and Joshua is acquitted. He is then ordered to be stripped of his old clothes and to be arrayed in "rich apparel" (Zechariah 3:4), while a "clean turban" (American Standard Revised Version margin) is to be put on his head. Conditional upon his walking in God's ways, he is promised the government of the temple and "free access" to God, being placed among the servants of the "angel of Yahweh." Joshua and his companions "are men that are a sign" (Zechariah 3:8), i.e. a guaranty of the coming of the Messiah; there is set before Joshua a stone which is to be inscribed upon, and the iniquity of the land will be removed, an event to be followed by peace and plenty (Zechariah 3:9).
In Zechariah 3:4 Nowack and Wellhausen (with the Septuagint mostly) read, "And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him (i.e. his servants) thus:
Take the filthy garments from off him, and clothe him with rich apparel, (5) and set a clean turban upon his head. So they set a clean turban upon his head and clothed him with clean garments. And the angel of Yahweh stood up, (6) and solemnly exhorted Joshua," etc. They also omit the first "for" in Zechariah 3:8 as a dittography.
Different interpretations are given of the vision:
(1) Some claim to see here a contest between the civil and religious powers as represented by Zerubbabel and Joshua respectively (Zechariah 6:13), and that Zechariah decides for the supremacy of the latter. The Messiah-King is indeed in Jerusalem in the person of Zerubbabel, though as yet uncrowned; but Joshua is to be supreme (see G.A. Smith, Jerusalem, II, 303; H.P. Smith, Old Testament History, 356 f). This explanation is dependent to a large extent upon Zechariah 6:9-15, and is not supported by 3:8. It is difficult to explain 3:2 on this view, for Zerubbabel could also be described as a "brand plucked out of the fire." What the vision says is that the vindication of Joshua is a sign for the coming of Yahweh's "servant, the Branch," a title that is not given to Joshua (compare Zechariah 3:7).
(2) Others maintain that the garments are symbolical of the sins of the predecessors of Joshua, who is tried for their offenses and himself regarded as being unworthy of the office because he had been brought up in a foreign and heathen land (so Keil, Orelli).
(3) Hitzig, followed by Nowack (Kleine Propheten, 325), holds that the idea which lies at the basis of the vision is that Satan is responsible for the ills which the community had suffered (compare Job 1; 2). The people had begun to think that their offerings were not acceptable to God and that He would not have pity upon them. There was a feeling among the most pious ones that God's righteousness would not allow of their restoration to their former glory. This conflict between righteousness and mercy is decided by silencing the accuser and vindicating Joshua.
It is difficult to decide which view, if any, is correct. "The brand plucked out of the fire" seems to point to God's recognizing that the community, or perhaps the priestly succession, had almost been exterminated by the exile. It reminds us of the oak of which, after its felling, the stump remaineth (Isaiah 6:13), and may perhaps point to God's pity being excited for the community. The people, attacked by their enemies and represented by. Joshua, are to be restored to their old glory:
that act being symbolized by the clothing of Joshua in clean raiment; and that symbolical act (compare Isaiah 8:18) is a sign, a guaranty, of the coming of the Messiah-King. The ritualistic tone of Malachi will then follow naturally after the high place given here to the high priest. It is noteworthy that the promise of Zechariah 3:7 is conditional.
One more point remains, namely, the meaning of the stone in Zechariah 3:9. It has been differently explained as a jewel in the new king's crown (Nowack); a foundation stone of the temple, which, however, was already laid (Hitzig); the chief stone of 4:7 (Ewald, Steiner); the Messiah Himself (Keil); the stone in the high priest's breastplate (Bredenkamp), and the stone which served as an altar (Orelli). Commentators tend to regard the words "upon one stone are seven eyes" as a parenthetical addition characteristic of the author of Zechariah 9.
2. Joshua's Crown, Zechariah 6:9-15:
The utterance of Zechariah 6:9-15 presents to us some more exiles coming from Babylon with silver and gold apparently for the temple. According to the present text, Zechariah is commanded to see that this is used to make a crown for Joshua who is to be a priest-king. This is taken to mean that he is to be given the crown that had been meant for Zerubbabel. But commentators hold that the text has been altered:
that the context demands the crowning of Zerubbabel--the Branch of Davidic descent. This view is supported by Zechariah 6:13, "And the counsel of peace shall be between them both"; and therefore the last clause of 6:11 is omitted. Wellhausen keeps 6:9 and 10, and then reads: "(11) Yea, take of them silver and gold and make a crown, (12) and say to them: Thus saith Yahweh of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the Branch, from whose root there will be a sprout, (13) and he will build the Temple of Yahweh, and he will obtain glory and sit and rule upon his throne. And Joshua will be a priest on his right hand, and there will be friendly peace between them both. (14) The crown shall be," etc.; Zechariah 6:15 is incomplete.
It will be objected that this does away with the idea of a priest-king, an idea found also in Psalms 110. But it seems fairly certain that Psalms 110 (see Kirkpatrick, The Book of Psalms) does not refer to Joshua, the point there being that the king referred to was a priest, although not descended from Aaron, being a priest after the order of Melchizedek, while here the point is, if the present text be correct, that a priest is crowned king. What became of Zerubbabel after this is not known. See Ed. Meyer, Der Papyrusfund
von Elephantine2, 70, 86. Joshua is called Jesus in Sirach 49:12.
See ZERUBBABEL; HAGGAI; ZECHARIAH.
David Francis Roberts
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