August 14, 2017: Verse of the day

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4 The NIV, probably correctly, identifies the unnamed (see MT) speaker as the “angel” of the Lord. The removal of the filthy clothes (apparently by angels—“those who were standing before him”) may connote that Joshua is thereby deprived of priestly office. If so, he is reinstated in v. 5. Theologically, however, there also seems to be a picture here of the negative aspect of what God does when he saves a person. Negatively, he takes away sin. Positively, he adds or imputes to the sinner saved by grace his own divine righteousness (cf. v. 5). The act of causing Joshua’s sin to pass from him (cf. Heb.) represents justification, not sanctification. It is forensic forgiveness that is in view, as seen from v. 9, which interprets Joshua’s cleansing by applying it to the land (i.e., the people)—another evidence that more than Joshua himself is in view here.

Next, Joshua is to be clothed with rich or fine garments—God’s representative clothed in God’s righteousness. God’s servant goes from filthy clothes to festive garments. The “rich garments” (the Hebrew word is used only here and in Isa 3:22) speak of purity, joy, and glory; but their chief significance is that they symbolize the restoration of Israel to her original calling (Ex 19:6; Isa 61:6). There is a contrast here: Joshua in filthy garments, representing Israel as a priest but defiled and unclean, versus Joshua in festive garments, representing Israel’s future glory in reconsecration to the priestly office.

“I have taken away” emphasizes the agent of the forgiveness. It is God who causes sin to be removed, ultimately on the basis of the messianic Servant’s substitutionary death. But here it was actually the Angel of the Lord who forgives sin, thus identifying him with deity (cf. Mk 2:7, 10), or at least as God’s representative.[1]


3:4 The removal of filthy garments by the angels (“who were standing before him”) depicted the promised future forensic justification, the salvation of the nation (cf. v. 9; 12:10–13:1; Ro 11:25–27). The High-Priest was symbolically clothed with rich robes, which spoke of righteousness imputed (cf. Is 61:10) and the restoration of Israel to her original calling (cf. Ex 19:6; Is 61:6; Ro 11:1, 2).[2]


3:4 The Lord also acts to cleanse Joshua from his iniquity. He commands his servants to remove the filthy garments, so removing Joshua’s iniquity, and to clothe Joshua in pure vestments, garments suitable for him to wear in the presence of the King of kings. Since the filthy garments represent iniquity, these “pure vestments” represent a new righteousness imputed to Joshua.

3:4 The removal of iniquity symbolizes justification in Christ (Rom. 3:23–26; 5:1).[3]


3:4 the ones standing before him Probably refers to other angels, though human associates of the priest are possible.

will clothe you with rich garments The priests were to wear specially consecrated garments (see Lev 8:7–13, 30; 16:4).[4]


3:4 Remove the filthy garments. God makes Joshua fit for the priesthood by giving new garments. In this way Joshua is a type of the coming Branch (v. 8), who will fulfill a priestly function and provide clothing of righteousness for us from His own merit.[5]


[1] Barker, K. L. (2008). Zechariah. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 755–756). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Zec 3:4). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1755). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Zec 3:4). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1330). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

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