By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
For the past two years, our Sunday morning adult Bible class at church has been trying to go through the entire Bible in a Book by Book format.
We had almost finished the entire Old Testament- and then we got to the Book of Zechariah. Keeping in mind our goal of doing one Book of the Bible per week in an overview system, we have now been on Zechariah for six weeks.
This Book is, without a doubt, one of the most profound Books of the entire Bible. I would like to share with you something that we studied about this past Lord’s Day that has had me shocked and amazed since I began to understand it: the crowning of Joshua.
Now before I relay the passage to you, let me set the context.
In the Old Testament, the Twelve Tribes of Israel underwent a terrible division and civil war (around the year 931 B.C.). The ten northern tribes became known as the nation of Israel, and the two southern tribes became known as the nation of Judah (you can read about this in 1 Kings 12). The ten northern tribes continued in their wickedness until the year 722 B.C., when the nation of Assyria deported most of them back to their land (and there is good evidence that the Assyrians eventually brought some of those Hebrews to America, but that’s covered in other articles I have written, so I just mention it here for detail). You can read about this event in 2 Kings 17. The two southern tribes, Judah and Benjamin, were carried away to the land of Babylon (in the years 606, 597, and 586 B.C.). You can read about these deportations in 2 Kings 24-25.
God had declared through Jeremiah the Prophet that the Jews would be in captivity in Babylon for seventy years (Jeremiah 29:10). After that, God would bring the captives back to the land of Israel, where they would be commissioned to begin rebuilding the Temple and Jerusalem to start getting ready for the coming Messiah.
They returned to their land at three different times (536, 457, and 444 B.C.) under the commission of Cyrus king of Persia (of which we also have good archaeological evidence). They started rebuilding the Temple in 536 when they returned, but soon stopped because of the persecution from their Gentile neighbors. In 520 B.C., God commissioned two Prophets, Zechariah and Malachi, to stir up the people to begin rebuilding the Temple once more. The governor of the land was named Zerubbabel, and the high priest was named Joshua.
In Zechariah 6, we read of an astonishing command that God gave to Zechariah the Prophet.
Read with me:
Zechariah 6:9-15-9 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
10 “Receive the gift from the captives—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah.
11 Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.
12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD;
13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” ‘
14 “Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the LORD for Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.
15 Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”
Priests Could Not Be Kings
The main reason why this passage is so incredible is that under the Old Law of Moses, a priest could not be eligible to become a king.
The Law stated that kings could only come from the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and that priests could only come from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 16:40; 18:7; Hebrews 7:14). One king who tried to serve as priest was named Uzziah. He was struck with leprosy by God as a punishment (2 Chronicles 26:16-23).
Zechariah the Prophet knew all of these things, and yet he goes and crowns this man Joshua the priest as king.
How did this make any sense?
Furthermore, it seems as if Zechariah is calling Joshua the Branch, which was an Old Testament designation for the Messiah (Isaiah 4:2; 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15).
So, how could an inspired Prophet of God call Joshua the Messiah?
How could an inspired Prophet of God crown a priest as king?
What are we missing here?
The answers to our questions will be found in recognizing that Zechariah’s Crowning of Joshua was not about Joshua at all, but rather looked to something else entirely.
This Is Not About Joshua
The first thing to really notice about this passage is that Joshua is not really in view at all.
When we first read this, it sounds like Zechariah is telling everyone on the sidelines, “Listen up everyone, behold this man I’m crowning is the Branch!”
However, a study of the original languages (and the English also bears this out when we look carefully) helps us to see that it is actually Joshua being told to see that the Branch will one day be coming!
Look at how the Amplified Version translates this passage:
Zechariah 6:12 (Amplified)-And say to him, Thus says the Lord of hosts: [You, Joshua] behold (look at, keep in sight, watch) the Man [the Messiah] whose name is the Branch, for He shall grow up in His place and He shall build the [true] temple of the Lord.
Please notice that Joshua is told to behold the fact that the Branch is coming.
This is one of the reasons why the ancient Jewish interpreters of our passage saw that the entire scene was somehow descriptive of the Messiah who was to come.
Zech. vi. 12 [Then say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord.'”] is universally admitted to be Messianic. So in the Targum, the Jerusalem Talmud (Ber. 5 a), in the Pirqé de R. Eliez. c. 48, and in the Midrashim.” (Alfred Edersheim & Edited by Robert C. Newman, Messianic Passages in the Old Testament as Cited in Rabbinic Literature, 1552 (Kindle Edition); Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute http://www.ibri.org)
Several researchers, carefully investigating the ancient Hebrew commentaries on this passage, concur:
“To explanations, such as that of Grotius, who, by the righteous Branch, understands Zerubbabel, we here need the less to pay any attention, that the fact of his being in this without predecessors or followers palpably proves it to be erroneous. If, indeed, we could rely on Theodoret’s statement (“The blinded Jews endeavour, with great impudence, to refer this to Zerubbabel”-then follows the refutation), the older Jews must have led the way to this perverted interpretation. But we cannot implicitly rely on Theodoret’s statements of this kind. In the Jewish writings themselves, not the slightest trace of such an interpretation is to be found. The Chaldean Paraphrast is decidedly in favour of the Messianic interpretation: אתן אמר יי ואקים הא יומיא לדוד משיח דצדקה “Behold the days shall come, and I will raise up to David the righteous Messiah, (not דצדקיא ‘the Messiah of the righteous,’ as many absurdly read), saith the Lord…For Josedech, the father of Joshua the high-priest, is a person altogether obscure. All which they intended, by their retaining the Hebrew form, was certainly only the wish, to express that it was a nomen proprium which occurred here; and they were specially induced to act thus by the circumstance, that this name was, in their time, generally current, as one of the proper names of the Messiah.” (Ernst Wilhelm Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament: And a Commentary on the Messianic Predictions (Complete), 15677-15687 (Kindle Edition); Library Of Alexandria).
The most ancient Jewish commentators underwood this passage as being a prophecy of the future Messiah; yet when the Messiah came and the Jews rejected Him, later Jewish scholars began to try and change the meaning of the text to reflect an anti-Christian interpretation.
One author, speaking specifically of this willful and prejudiced mishandling of the text by later Hebrew authorities , tells us:
“Another example of Rashi’s influence in changing messianic interpretation is seen in Zech 6: 9–15. This passage relates a role-play wherein Joshua the high priest is crowned as a representative of the Messiah, who will unite the offices of priest and king and be named “Branch.”…In either case, Joshua is viewed as symbolic, enacting a role-play of the future Messiah. 64 This is the view of the Midrash as well. It asks, “What is the name of the Messiah?” Then, after giving various names from differing Old Testament texts, it says, “His name is ‘Branch’ as it is stated, ‘Behold, a man whose name is Branch, and who shall branch forth from his place, and build the Temple of the Lord’ (Zech. 6: 12).” 65…To summarize the point of this section, Rashi and other medieval Jewish interpreters, in seeking a polemical tool to combat Christian interpretation of the Old Testament, adjusted the meaning of peshat, changing it from the literal (or literary) sense to the historical sense. They then used the peshat, even if it contradicted the messianic interpretation of earlier rabbinic sages, to combat the messianic interpretation of the Old Testament and the identification of Jesus as the Messiah.” (Michael Rydelnik, The Messianic Hope: Is the Hebrew Bible Really Messianic? 126-127 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; B& H Publishing Group)
Why would so many of the later Jewish rabbis be so intent on perverting the obvious intent of this passage of Scripture?
Without a doubt, one reason has to do with the fact that this passage clearly prophesies the very NAME of the Messiah-YESHUA!
This Messiah was Himself put to death by the Hebrews when He finally came to the world. Michael Brown writes:
“Zechariah 6:9-15, however, is explicit: Joshua the high priest is to be crowned—remember that only kings were crowned—and it is he who symbolizes the Branch: “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak. Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch [once again, the Targum calls him the Messiah], and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD’” (Zech. 6:11-12).292…”It is the high priest Joshua, crowned and sitting on a throne, who is symbolic of the Branch, thus emphasizing the priestly role of the Messiah—making atonement for Israel and the nations—who is elsewhere known in the Scriptures as the royal son of David. What makes this all the more interesting is that this man Joshua is normally known by a shortened name in the Tanakh, just as someone named Michael could be called Mike. And what is that shortened name? Yeshua!…”And so, the one and only man directly singled out in the Bible as a symbol of the Messiah was called Yeshua. The Lord knew exactly what he was doing when he laid this all out in advance, giving enough clues along the way that, once discovered, the evidence would be indisputable. Is the picture becoming clearer to you?296”. (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus-Volume Three: Messianic Prophecy Objections, 144-145 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books)
Summing Up Thus Far
Now, what have we said thus far?
First, Joshua could not be crowned as a king because he was a high priest. This therefore must have been an event which was symbolic of something else.
Second, Joshua is commanded by Zechariah to take comfort in the fact that the Messiah (the Branch) would one day come into the world and build the temple of the Lord.
Third, the most ancient Jewish commentators understood that this Branch was not Joshua, but was instead a reference to the coming Messiah.
Fourth, the prophecy of Zechariah 6 is so detailed that it even prophesies the very name of the Messiah.
Fifth, later Jewish interpreters put forth the idea that the Branch was Joshua because of the passage’s clear prophecies about Jesus Christ Himself.
How Is Jesus Both A Priest And A King?
Of course, this still leaves us with the same question we had at the beginning of our study: how can Jesus be both Priest and King as the Messiah?
After all, He was not from the tribe of Levi but from Judah (Hebrews 7:14).
So even if this passage is a prophecy of the future Messiah, how can the Messiah be both Priest and King?
The answer is simple: Jesus could not be both Priest and King under the Old Testament Law.
Therefore, the Law had to be changed.
This was one of the central teachings of the Book of Hebrews. Jesus cannot be both Priest and King under the authority of the Old Testament Law. Therefore, since Jesus is both Priest and King, the Law must have been changed. Paul writes:
Hebrews 7:12-14-12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.
13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar.
14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.
The Bible teaches that Jesus is a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek. This priest was also a king of the city of Jerusalem, nearly five hundred years before the Levitical priesthood was established. We first read about Melchizedek in the Book of Genesis:
Genesis 14:18-20-18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.
19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.
This Melchizedek was both a priest and king. We are told in Psalm 110:4 that the Messiah would be a a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek.
In the crowning of Joshua, we see a prophecy that there would be a New Law and a new Priesthood one day.
In stunning accuracy, the “hidden message” of the crowning of Joshua was revealed for all to see.
The coming Messiah would one day be brought into the world under a New Law, and would become both Priest and King for God’s people.
Some Powerful Lessons From The Text
First, this event went far beyond what Zechariah himself understood.
When I was talking about this event with my wife, her first statement surprised me: “I feel bad for Zechariah.” When I asked “why,” she pointed out, “Well, he didn’t know what was going on! He knew that it was against the Law to crown a priest as king, and yet God told him to do just that.”
While it is clear that Zechariah understood there was some hidden significance to this action, it does not change the fact that there was much God called Zechariah to do that he did not fully understand.
Think about the connection to us today.
Often times, God calls us to follow Him and His Word, even if we do not fully understand “why.” I think of faithful Abraham, who went out now knowing where he was going (Hebrews 11:8). He had to leave behind EVERYTHING to follow the Lord, and he had no idea where he would end up!
Following God does not require perfect understanding on our part; it requires trusting God and obeying what we know of His commandments, even when we do not fully understand every aspect of those commands.
Second, please notice that this event describes to us the powerful message that the Word of God is true!
Think about it: Zechariah did all of this, and these events forecast in extremely incredible detail, the Messiah who was to come.
The Prophet himself did not fully understand everything, yet the God Who was orchestrating all of this clearly foresaw what would be.
The evidence of prophecy and fulfillment is one of the strongest evidences that the Bible is the Word of God and that Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Son of God.
Third, we are reminded here of the important fact that the priesthood of Christ would be under a New Law. The Old Testament was not sufficient to bring redemption, and it was designed to be temporary.
Hebrews 8:6-13-6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
8 Because finding fault with them, He says: “BEHOLD, THE DAYS ARE COMING, SAYS THE LORD, WHEN I WILL MAKE A NEW COVENANT WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AND WITH THE HOUSE OF JUDAH—
9 NOT ACCORDING TO THE COVENANT THAT I MADE WITH THEIR FATHERS IN THE DAY WHEN I TOOK THEM BY THE HAND TO LEAD THEM OUT OF THE LAND OF EGYPT; BECAUSE THEY DID NOT CONTINUE IN MY COVENANT, AND I DISREGARDED THEM, SAYS THE LORD.
10 FOR THIS IS THE COVENANT THAT I WILL MAKE WITH THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL AFTER THOSE DAYS, SAYS THE LORD: I WILL PUT MY LAWS IN THEIR MIND AND WRITE THEM ON THEIR HEARTS; AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.
11 NONE OF THEM SHALL TEACH HIS NEIGHBOR, AND NONE HIS BROTHER, SAYING, ‘KNOW THE LORD,’ FOR ALL SHALL KNOW ME, FROM THE LEAST OF THEM TO THE GREATEST OF THEM.
12 FOR I WILL BE MERCIFUL TO THEIR UNRIGHTEOUSNESS, AND THEIR SINS AND THEIR LAWLESS DEEDS I WILL REMEMBER NO MORE.”
13 In that He says, “A NEW COVENANT,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
We are blessed to live under the New Covenant, which has a better Priest, a better Mediator, better laws, and better promises.
Finally, notice with me that the Bible here teaches that Christ would be a High Priest while He reigned. Since Jesus is now serving as High Priest (Hebrews 7:25-28), then we see that He is also now reigning as King.
Many in the religious world (such as our premillennial friends) teach that Jesus will not be King until the Second Coming.
Yet Scripture teaches that He is king NOW, over His kingdom, the church (Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28; Matthew 16:18-19).
Christ will not establish His kingdom at the Second Coming, for He did that at His First Coming!
1 Corinthians 15:23-26-23 But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.
24 Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.
25 For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.
26 The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.
I want to ask you the question: have you made Jesus your King and Priest? He came to this world to die for the sins of mankind on the Cross of Calvary (Isaiah 53). He died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The Word of God has the power to save us (Romans 1:16). God declares that all who hear His Word (Acts 18:8; Romans 10:17), believe in Jesus Christ (John 8;24), repent of sins (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37; 1 Timothy 6:12), and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38) will be saved (Mark 16:15-16) and added by God to His church (Acts 2:47).
If you have never obeyed that Word, will you not do so today?
And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16).
If you are a child of God who has turned away from the Lord in sin (Galatians 5:4), will you not today repent of that sin and confess it to the Lord to be forgiven (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?
The churches of Christ stand ready to assist you.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.