Devotional Commentary on Zechariah 3


It is said that stn stood at the right hand to stn Joshua. The name and the action that he is doing has some correlation. The noun is derived from the verb. The meaning of stn is somewhat not clear. It could well be that this term was an Egyptian creole that was taken up in the Hebrew tongue during Zechariah’s time from the Egyptian word sswn meaning “consume or destroy”. The /s/ in second position would then be read /t/ in Palestine. The verb stn would then mean that Satan came “to destroy him”. A similar meaning to the characteristics of Satan was attributed to him by Jesus in John 8:44 where Jesus indicated that Satan was “a murderer from the beginning”.

The verse is playing with the name and action of the name using the same root: “the destroyer standing at his right hand in order to destroy him”.

There is a change in verbal forms from the one vision to the other in Zechariah:

Vision I: KJV 1:8 “I saw [Qal Perfectum = past] by night”.

Vision II: KJV 1:18 “Then lifted I up [Qal Imperfectum which is translated as a past tense although it has a future form because of the waw consecutive “and” that is added to the verbal form. This addition in the narratives are known to create this shift from future meaning past in the biblical prose.

On should be careful not to superimpose grammatical principles derived from the genre of narratives over that of the genre of prophecy or the genre of poetry. One curious example is where scholars ran into much difficulty in Joel 2:23a, 24, 25 and 26. These verbal forms are ambiguous (B. Kedar Kopstein, “The Hebrew text of Joel as Reflected in the Vulgate,” Textus IX [1981]: 25).

“Yet the Hebrew is ambiguous [that is either future or past] except verse 26 which is undoubtedly future”. In form, Vallarsi’s Commentary of Jerome VI (1734-1742) corresponds exactly to the LXX in verse 23a [past] and 23b [future], verse 24 [future] and verse 25 [future], verse 26 [future]. The solution is that one should realize that the semantics of the tense forms [Perfectum or Imperfectum plus waw] will function differently in different genres. In the genre of narratives the forms may be aspect, potentiality or constativeness. In the genre of poetry it may be aspect, potentiality but in the genre of the prophets it will be future potentiality or futuristic. Here in Zechariah it functions the way like prose and narratives in this verse.

In verse 2 Zechariah wrote: “The Lord rebuke you. The chosen one in Jerusalem, is this not a [KJV reads brand] offering that was saved from the fire?”

Instead of reading ‘wd as “brand” like the KJV this uncommon word should be seen as a Hebrew form of the Egyptian word 3wt meaning “offering or oblation”. The meaning is that the chosen one in Jerusalem is now safe but was meant to be offered [persecuted] but was then plucked out [of the fire of tribulation] and now are viewed as saved from the fire [of persecution].

In verse 3 he wrote: “And Joshua was dressed in [KJV “filthy”] clothes.

The word sw’ym for “filthy” is not a common word in the Old Testament.

Could it be possible that sw’ [of which sw’ym is the plural] is the Hebrew form of the Egyptian cognate sw3 meaning “cut off”? This will mean that he was dressed in “torn” garments.

This idea of “torn” and the previous idea of “offering” would suggest that a persecution motif is prevalent in these few verses.

Although it was thought to be from the same root as the Arabic wswy by Judaism in the Tosefta and other writings, such an understanding is too forced. Arabic cannot be a tool to unlock semantics in the Old Testament since Mohammed lived more than a millennium after Zechariah. Arabic underwent just as many changes of semantics in one hundred years, as modern Arabic linguistics indicate, so that such a long period of constancy for a rare word is not possible.

The waw is not after the aleph as Judaism is explaining but before it. In the Sanhedrin Talmud 93a this Arabic meaning was ascribed to the Hebrew Masoretic Text reading when it asked: “Was it Joshua’s habit to wear dirty clothes?”

The actual idea is not “filthy” clothes but “torn” clothes.

The persecution motif started in verse 1 already with Satan who wants to destroy him. Therefore the chosen one is an offering [meant to be persecuted] saved from the fire [persecution] in verse 2. No wonder Joshua is standing in torn clothes in verse 3.

In verse 4 he said to him: “Look, I have caused to pass by from over you, your [KJV “iniquity”].

The word for iniquity is common in the Psalms and this specific root `wn is also used by David in his penitence Psalm of 51:4. It is tempting in the light of the already common use of Egyptian glosses at this period (520 BCE) to suggest that `wn in the Hebrew of Zechariah, is the Hebrew cognate loaded with Egyptian meaning `wn meaning “be rapacious or defraud”.

The word appears in Egyptian normally with hr or m and is it just coincidental that here in the Hebrew Masoretic Text the word is preceded by the preposition m?

Translated thus: “I have caused to pass by from you, your defraud/plundering”.

The Midrash Rabbah to Deuteronomy 5:3 translated this root with the meaning “perversion or wrong”. The Byzantine Aramaic meanings are sometimes influenced by Arabic roots [after 650 CE] but caution should be displayed whether our dictionary meanings was deduced from a Byzantine Jewish meaning. Biblical Semantics is not yet properly solved and much needed to be done in this science. All scholars will tell you that. Judaism of a 1000 years after Zechariah will not necessarily have preserved the “original meanings” especially when they were influence by Arabic as they were [See the subject and books on influences in Jewish Philosophy].

Zechariah said in verse 5: “Let them place [KJV “a fair mitre] upon his head”.

The word “fair” is used by nearly all translations from the cognate Hebrew word thr meaning “pure”. However, Egyptian also had a word twr for “pure” sometimes in an abbreviated form of tr or t(r)i meaning “to show respect for” or “awe”.

The word snyp before this word thyr is problematic. However if one can expect Egyptian influence to be strong in this period and in this verse, the expression snyp (pronounced snyf) thyr of the Hebrew Masoretic text of Zechariah can correspond to the Egyptian idiom sdf3 tryt which indicates the action of “showing respect, awe or swearing”.

Translate thus: “Let them place honorific respect upon his head.

Then in verse 6 he said: “And the angel of the Lord [KJV protested] unto Joshua.”

The very unusual word wyy`d is used [Qal Imperfectum of the verb y`d] which most dictionaries would like to take as “determine or appoint”. The word is not very common in this form. My suggestion is to use the Egyptian word `d which means “perceive, recognize” as semantics for this root. Translate then: “and the angel of the Lord was recognizing unto Joshua saying”.

In verse 7 there is a double conditional sentence:

a)   If …then also b) If….then also.

If Joshua walks in His ways then also (7d) will he judge His house.

If Joshua shall keep His charges (7c) [which is legal language?] then also (7e) will he keep his dispellings ([KJV courts].

Translate here “dispellings” on the basis that the Egyptian word hsr means “dispelling, to drive off, to ward off”. In this context such a word might indicate legal dispellings.

With the authority to charge (7c) judge (7d) and dispel (7e), God will give to Joshua “from the walking ones between those who are standing here”.

The KJV sees it as “places of walking”. Because both these words are participles, it is suggested that they are referring to people and that the fact that in verse 8b that participle is definitely people, this should clear up the issue to keep “people” [my translation] instead of “places” [KJV]. The participles are mhlkym (7e) h`mdym (7f) and hyysbym (8b).

In this verse the angel is giving Joshua the message that he will be instituted with legal judgmental authority.

It is not certain whether their court actions took place in a setting where the accused stand still and the accuser walks around the accused?

Maybe if 3:1-2 is taken in to account with Joshua standing and the destroyer at his righthand taken to be the walking one, then what the Lord is saying to Joshua is that by having him instituted as Judge, He will take these Judging roles of the walking ones and give “these things” h’llh (7g) to Joshua “the standing one(s)”?

In verse 8 again the particle n’ is used. It is translated as “Listen now” or “Hear now”. Maybe it was used in Egypt after cohortatives in the strengthening of the verbal action and that when it was indexed in the Egyptian dictionary in those examples they mean “repulse or refuse”.

Translate here: “Listen! Repulse! Joshua the High Priest”. It brings the question: repulse from what?

If Joshua friends are sitting before him. If he is the highpriestly Judge and his friends are sitting around him then the accused are probably standing and the accusers are walking around and between them.

“because men of wonder they are”.

These are the friends of Joshua. It is really not clear here whether it is Joshua’s friends who are men of wonder and if it is the walking ones that are given to Joshua that are these men of wonder.

The reason they must listen is that “behold I will bring forth my servant, a Branch”.

This is a Messianic promise.

In verse 9 the symbol of the branch smh flows forth in this verse into the symbol of the stone with 7 eyes.

If the words for eyes is taken in the Egyptian meaning `jn = “beautiful” and thus means “seven beautiful ones” then it means that inscription that the Lord will engrave on it, then it can mean that `ynym could refer to seven prophetic words given in the last part of the verse:

(1) And I will remove (2) the (3) plunder of (5) that (6) land (7) one day.

The Lord removed the plunder of Joshua by Satan by installing him as Judge. Now He promises on an engraving stone before Joshua the Judge that He will remove the plunder of the Lord in one day. It is not easy to say whether this prophecy of the removal of the plunder of the Lord should have reference to the Branch. The question is, does God give to Zechariah in 520 BCE the return under Zerubabel in one day? Does the Branch refer to Christ and that land’s plunder to Satan destructive accusations which will be removed in one day in 31 CE on the cross? Or does this Branch refer to the remnant at the eschatological time of the end when God’s theophany and apocalyptic cataclysmic intervention in history will cause the plunder of the land to stop in one day? We have three paradigms here: Zerubabel, Christ and Eschatology. Which one is appropriate?

If we carefully weigh Micah 5:2 and bring it to Daniel 12:1 there is a possibility that the Time of Trouble will not last longer than 9 months.

One day is one year in prophecy and 9 months will be a shortening of this Time of Trouble.

In verse 10 Zechariah said: “In that day said the Lord of Hosts, shall you [plural] call each on to his neighbor towards under the vine and towards under the fig tree”.

It is not certain whether this symbolism of the vine and fig tree should be connected to the branch and whether this is the telic part of a process in verse 10 which is started in verse 9 with just a branch? That means, from a branch it went and end with vines and fig trees, high enough for them to be “under” tht.

The next question is, who is addressed here? Is it Joshua’s friends wr`yk (verse 8) that will call here each one to his neighbor (lr`hw) (verse 10)?

Is this prophecy and the prophecy of the branch and the inscription tied together as been placed before the consideration (listen now in verse 8) of Judge Joshua, his perception (stone laid before him in verse 9) to his remembrance as an abiding oath (the inscription of removal of plunder in verse 9) and that verse 10 is connected to these promises painting the picture of friends calling each other towards the beautiful orchards at a future time of peace and tranquility?

When is that future time of peace and tranquility?

The other returns from exile still need to take place in 520 BCE although one happened in 538-6 BCE.

Verse 10 says: “you will call”. Did this mean Zechariah’s immediate audience? Are all these promises or were all of them fulfilled by 516 BCE or 457 BCE?

If Satan is pictured in this Persian Period as the plunderer of people or land does the peace and tranquility of verse 10 in an orchard refer to the after effects of the removal of the plunder by a Branch?

Does this Branch refer to the remnant at the end time and the removal of plunder to God’s eschatological intervention and “that day” to the time of the peace and tranquility of which Revelation 20 is talking, namely the heavenly paradise motif, namely Urzeit ist Endzeit motif?

Or is this Branch, Christ Who will in one day remove the plunder of Satan in 31 CE that will have the effect that each one will call on his neighbor to proclaim the good news?

Three paradigms are possible here.

Ellen White said about the time of this chapter:

“Now is reached the complete fulfillment of the words of the Angel recorded in verse 8. Christ is revealed as the Redeemer and Deliverer of His people. Now indeed are the remnant ‘men wondered at,’ as the tears and humiliation of their pilgrimage give place to joy and honor in the presence of God and the Lamb.”—Ellen White in Prophets and Kings, page 592.

She also said:

“Zechariah's vision of Joshua and the Angel applies with peculiar force to the experience of God's people in the closing scenes of the great day of atonement. The remnant church will then be brought into great trial and distress. . . . They will be 'betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends,' even unto death. Their only hope is in the mercy of God; their only defense will be prayer. . . . As the people of God afflict their souls before Him, pleading for purity of heart, the command is given, `Take away the filthy garments,’ and the encouraging words are spoken, `Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment’ The spotless robe of Christ's righteousness is placed upon the tried, tempted, faithful children of God.”—Ellen White in Prophets and Kings, pages 587-591.

Delitzsch saw the fulfillment as in one day by Christ on the cross in which all iniquity of the church is taken away (1884: 262) “This one day is the day of Golgotha”.


Dear Lord

Your name was also Joshua on earth or Jesus. Also You were the Branch. Satan also tempted and accused You. If Joshua heard what is going to happen in our future, help us to have a part in it. In Jesus Name Amen.