(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 7)
Lecture One Hundred and Fortieth. 
Zechariah 3:5 
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a 
fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the 
angel of the LORD stood by. 
    The Prophet had said that Joshua was clothed in splendid and 
beautiful garments, who had on before such as were sordid, and that 
this was done by the command of the angel: he now adds, that he 
wished that a still greater glory should be bestowed on him, for he 
saw that something was wanting. He therefore desired that the high 
priest should be adorned with a crown, so that his dress might in 
every way correspond with the dignity of his office. But what is 
here stated, that the Prophet spoke, is not to be taken as spoken 
authoritatively, but rather expressed as a wish, as though he had 
said, that it was indeed a pleasant and delightful spectacle to see 
the high priest decently and honourably clothed; but that it was 
also desirable, that a crown or a diadem should be added, as a 
symbol of the priesthood, and not of royalty. There is indeed no 
disadvantage in considering royalty also as signified; for the 
kingly office, we know, is united with the priestly in the person of 
Christ: but I take the crown here to be the priest's mitre; for we 
know that this was the chief ornament whenever the priest came to 
the altar of incense. But as to the main point, we must bear in mind 
the design of the Prophet, - that the high priest was adorned with 
splendid vestments, and yet his dignity appeared only in part; 
therefore the Prophet desires that a pure crown or mitre should be 
added: and he says that this took place even in the presence of the 
angel, thereby intimating that his wish was by God approved. 
    Now we ought first to contemplate the zeal and godly concern of 
the Prophet, which he had for the glory and honour of the 
priesthood; for though he regarded with joy the splendid dress of 
the high priest, he could not restrain himself from wishing that the 
highest ornament should be added. And this example is exhibited to 
us for imitation, so that we ought to desire the increase of those 
favours of God, by which the priesthood of Christ is signalised, 
until it arrives at the most perfect state. But we see that many are 
against such a wish; for at this day there are those who profess 
some zeal for true religion, but are satisfied with a mere shadow; 
or at least, it would abundantly satisfy them to see the Church half 
purified: and the world is full of men who indeed confess that the 
Church is defiled by many pollutions, but wish only for some small 
measure of reformation. But the Prophet seems to invite us to do a 
very different thing: he saw that the high priest was already 
adorned with new garments; but when he considered that the honour of 
the priesthood was not fully restored, he wished the mitre to be 
also added. And by saying that the angels seconded his wish, he 
encourages us fully to believe, that if we desire from the heart 
that his glory should be given to Christ, God will hear our prayers: 
for the Prophet, when he sighed, did not in vain ask the angel to 
put a mitre on the high priest. 
    The expression, that the angel of God stood, is not without 
meaning. He was not an idle spectator; and it is intimated that God 
had not only once a care for the priesthood, but that the angel was 
always watching to defend Joshua; for it would not be enough to be 
once adorned by God, who presides over the Church, except his 
guardianship were perpetual. We now then understand the import of 
the words. It follows - 
Zechariah 3:6,7 
6 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, 
7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if 
thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and 
shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among 
these that stand by. 
    Here the Prophet shows for what purpose he gave Joshua his 
appropriate dress and splendour; and he teaches us, that it was not 
done simply as a favour to man, but because God purposed to protect 
the honour of his own worship. This is the reason why the angel 
exhorts Joshua; for it behaves us ever to consider for what end God 
deals so liberally with us and favours us with extraordinary gifts. 
All things ought to be referred to his glory and worship, otherwise 
every good thing he bestows on us is profaned. And this is 
especially to be regarded when we speak of his Church and its 
government; for we know how ready men are to turn what God gives to 
his Church to serve the purpose of their own tyranny. 
    It is God's will that he should be attended to when he speaks 
by his servants and those whom he has appointed as teachers. But we 
see from the beginning of the world how ambitious and proud men 
under this pretence exercised great tyranny, and thus expelled God 
from his own government: nay, the vassals of Satan often arrogate to 
themselves a full and unlimited power over all the faithful, because 
God would have the priesthood honoured, and approves of a right 
discipline in his Church. As then Satan has in all ages abused the 
high eulogies by which God commends his Church, this exhortations, 
now briefly given by the Prophet, ought always to be added; for it 
is not God's will to extol men, that he himself might be as a 
private individual and give up his own place and degree, but that 
the whole excellency bestowed on the Church is intended for this 
purpose - that God may be purely worshipped, and that all, not only 
the people, but also the priest, may submit to his authority. 
Whatever glory then belongs to the Church, God would have it all to 
be subservient to his purpose, so that he alone may be the supreme 
and that rightly. We now then perceive the Prophet's design. 
    And to give some weight to what is taught, he says, that the 
angel bore witness; for the word used is forensic or legal: one is 
said to bear witness to another, when he uses, so to speak, a solemn 
protestations. In short, bearing witness differs from a common 
declaration, as an oath, or an appeal to lawful authority, is 
interposed, so that the words are sacred. It was then the design of 
the holy spirit by this expression to render us more attentive, so 
that we may know that not a common thing is said, but that God 
interposes an oath, or some such thing, in order to secure more 
reverence to his order or command. 
    Protest then did the angel of Jehovah to Joshua, saying, Thus 
saith Jehovah, If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if my charge thou 
wilt observe, &c. The angel now briefly teaches us, that the priests 
do not excel, that they may exult at pleasure; but he interposes a 
condition, that they are to exercise faithfully their office, and to 
obey the call of God. We then see that those two things are united - 
the dignity of the priesthood, and the faithfulness which God's 
ministers, who have been called to that office, are to exhibit. 
Hence they who seek to domineer without control, do thereby 
sufficiently show that they are not the lawful priests of God; for 
Joshua typified Christ, and yet we see how God bound him by a 
certain condition, lest relying on his honour and title he should 
take to himself more than what was lawful or right. 
    If Joshua, who was a type of Christ, together with his 
successors, was not to regard himself dignified, but in order to 
obey God, we hence see how foolish and even abominable is the 
arrogance of the Pope, who, being content with a naked title, seeks 
to reduce the whole world to himself, as if God had given up his own 
    But let us at the same time see what he means by ways and by 
charge. These two words ought, no doubt, to be confined to the 
office of the priest. God commands us all in common to follow where 
he leads us; and whatever he prescribes as to the way of leading a 
godly and righteous life may be called a charge; for the Lord 
suffers us not to wander and go astray, but anticipates errors and 
shows what we are to follow. There is then a general charge with 
regard to all the faithful; but the priestly charge, as I have 
already stated, is to be confined to that office. We yet know that 
men are not raised on high by God, that he may resign his own 
authority. He indeed commits to men their own offices, and they are 
rightly called the vicars of God, who purely and faithfully teach 
from his mouth: but the authority of God is not diminished when he 
makes use of the labours of men and employs them as his ministers. 
We hence see that the priestly charge is this - to rule the Church 
according to the pure Word of God. 
    He therefore adds, Thou also shalt govern my house. This 
condition then is ever to be observed, when the governors of the 
Church demand a hearing, even that they keep the charge of God. It 
is indeed true, that all the ministers of the Word are adorned with 
honourable titles; but, as I have said, their dignity is degraded if 
it obscures the glory of God. As then God would have men to be 
heard, so that nothing may be taken from him, this condition ought 
ever to be observed, "Thou shalt govern my house, if thou wilt walk 
in my ways." 
    It may however be asked, can priests be rightly deprived 
instantly of their office when they depart from their duty? To this 
I answer, that the Church ought, as far as possible, to be reformed; 
but yet legitimate means ought to be used, so that the Church may 
reject all the ungodly, who respond not to their duty, nor exhibit 
due sincerity, nor discharge their office in obedience to God. All 
then who depart or turn aside from the right course ought rightly to 
be rejected, but by legitimate authority. But when the majority 
desire to have pastors, such as cannot but be deemed really wolves, 
they must be borne with, though unworthy of the honour, and yet so 
borne with that they be not allowed to oppress the Church with their 
tyranny, or to take to themselves what belongs to God alone, or to 
adulterate the worship of God or pure doctrine. 
    However this may be, none are lawful priests before God, except 
those who faithfully exercise their office and respond to the 
calling of God, as we shall hereafter see in the second chapter of 
Malachi. But I am not disposed to enlarge; it is enough to adduce 
what an explanation of the passage may require. In short, pastors 
divinely appointed are so to rule over the Church as not to exercise 
their own power, but to govern the Church according to what God has 
prescribed, and in such a manner that God himself may always rule 
through the instrumentality of men. 
    What he adds, Thou shalt keep my courts, appears not to be an 
honour to the priest, for it was an humble service to wait in the 
courts of the temple. But taking a part for the whole, the Prophet 
includes the charge of the whole temple: and it was no common honour 
to have the charge of that sacred habitation of God. It is not then 
improperly added that Joshua would be the keeper of the temple, if 
he walked in the ways of the Lord. Nevertheless we see at this day 
how the masked rulers of the Church, under the Papacy, not only 
disregard the keeping of the temple, but wholly repudiate it, as it 
seems to be unworthy of their high dignity. I call the charge of the 
temple, not that which is the duty of overseers, but whatever 
belongs to the worship of God: but to feed the flock, to discharge 
the office of pastors, and to administer the sacraments, is to these 
a sordid employment. Hence the Pope, with all his adherents, can 
easily bear to be relieved from the charge of the temple; but yet he 
seeks to rule in a profane and tyrannical manner, and according to 
his own pleasure. But we here see that the charge of the temple is 
especially intrusted to the priest, as it was a special honour. We 
also see on what condition God allowed the priests to continue in 
their dignity, even on that of walking in his ways. 
    He afterwards adds, I will give thee passages (intercourses) 
among those who stand by, that is, I will cause all the godly to 
admit and freely to receive thee. The angels who stood there, no 
doubt, represented the body of the Church; for they are mingled with 
the faithful whenever they meet together in the name of Christ, as 
Paul teaches us in 1 Cor. 11: 10. Angels alone then stood by; but it 
is the same as though God had said, "Thee will all the faithful 
acknowledge, so that a free passage will be open to thee among them, 
provided thou walkest in my ways." And he puts passages in the 
plural number, for he speaks of continued homage and regard. 
    The meaning is, that the priest is ever worthy of regard and 
honour when he faithfully performs his office and obeys the call of 
God. We may, on the other hand, conclude that all masked pastors 
ought justly to be excluded, when they not only are apostates and 
perfidious against God, but seek also to destroy the Church; yea, 
when they are also voracious wolves and spiritual tyrants and 
slaughterers. All those who are such, the angel clearly intimates, 
are not only unworthy of being received, but ought also to be 
excluded and exterminated from the Church. We now then perceive what 
I have stated, that whatever excellency belongs to the pastors of 
the Church ought not to be separated from the honour due to God; for 
God does not resign his authority to mortals, nor diminish anything 
from his own right; but he only constitutes men as his ministers, 
that he may by them govern his Church alone, and be alone supreme. 
It hence follows, that they are unworthy of honour who perform not 
faithfully their office; and when they rob God of what belongs to 
him, they ought to be deprived of their very name; for it is nothing 
else but the mask of Satan, by which he seeks to deceive the simple. 
He afterwards adds - 
Zechariah 3:8 
Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit 
before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring 
forth my servant the BRANCH. 
    The angel shows here, that what had been hitherto shown to 
Zechariah was typical; for the reality had not as yet come to light, 
but would appear in its time. We have said that God's design was to 
lead the godly to the expectation of Christ; for these beginnings of 
favour were obscure. It behaved them, therefore, to hope for far 
more than they saw; and this appears evident from the verse before 
us, in which the angel says, hear now. He makes this preface to gain 
attention, as though he said, that he was going to speak of 
something remarkable. Then he adds, thou and thy associates who 
stand before thee; I will send my servant the Branch. 
    Let us notice this, which is the main part of the verse, 
Behold, I send my servant, the Branch. The God of hosts no doubt 
refers to the priest, who is eminent beyond the common comprehension 
of men. He is called a Branch, because he was to come forth as a 
stem, according to what is said in Isaiah, the eleventh chapter, and 
in other places. It is then the same as though he had said, "this 
priesthood is as yet disregarded, nevertheless my servant, the 
priest, shall come forth like a branch which arises from the earth, 
and it will grow." The word "tsemach" means a shoot. He then 
compares Christ to a shoot, for he seemed, as we say, to rise up 
from nothing, because his beginning was contemptible. For what 
excellency had Christ in the estimation of the world when he was 
born? how did he commence his kingdom? and how was he initiated into 
his priesthood? Doubtless, whatever honour and glory the Father had 
given him was regarded we know with contempt. It is then no wonder 
that he is on this account called a Branch. 
    Now the reason for the similitude is apparent enough: and 
though the angel speaks indefinitely, the person of Christ is no 
doubt intended. How so? We may judge by the event itself. What 
priest succeeded Joshua who equalled him in honour, or who in the 
tenth degree approached him? We know that nearly all were profane 
and ungodly men; we know that the priesthood became venal among 
them; we know that it was contended for with the most cruel hatred; 
nay, we know that a priest was slain in the temple itself; ambition 
was burning so furiously that no success could be gained without 
shedding innocent blood. After the death of Joshua nothing could 
have been more base and more disgraceful than the Jewish priesthood. 
Where then is to be found this servant of God, the Branch? This 
principle must also be ever borne in mind, that the reformation of 
the temple was to be made by Christ: we must, therefore, necessarily 
come to him, that we may find the servant mentioned here. And why he 
is called a servant has been stated elsewhere; for he humbled 
himself that he might be not only the minister of his Father, but 
also of men. As then Christ condescended to become the servant of 
men, it is no wonder that he is called the servant of God. 
    Let us now enquire why the angel bids Joshua and his companions 
to hear. He indirectly reproves, I doubt not, the common unbelief, 
for there were very few then who had any notion of a future and 
spiritual priesthood. Indeed, the people had the promises in their 
mouths, but nearly all had their thoughts fixed on the earth and the 
world. This is the reason why the angel directed his words 
especially to Joshua and his companions: he saw that the ears of 
others were almost closed; he saw so much indifference in the 
people, that hardly any one was capable of receiving his doctrine: 
and thus he intended to obviate a trial which might have weakened 
the courage of Joshua. For we know how ready we are to faint when 
the whole world would drive us to apostasy; for when any of us is 
weak, we wish to be supported by others; and when there is no faith, 
no religion, no piety among men, every one is ready to quail. In 
short, we can hardly believe God, and continue firm in his word, 
except we have many companions, and a large number in our favour; 
and when unbelief prevails everywhere our faith vacillates. Hence 
the angel now addresses Joshua and his companions apart; as though 
he had said, that there was no reason for them to depend on the 
multitude, but, on the contrary, to look to God, and by relying on 
his word to wait patiently for what he promised, though all the rest 
were to reject his favour: Thou then and thy friends who stand 
before thee. 
    He adds, for they are men of wonder; or though they are men of 
wonder; but the meaning is the same. For God means, that though the 
whole people rejected what he now declares as to the renewal of the 
priesthood, it would yet be found true and confirmed in its own 
time. Some render the words, "men of prodigy," because they were 
objects of wonder and they think that the companions of Joshua were 
signalised by this title or encomium, because their faith was 
victorious and surmounted all hindrances. But the meaning of the 
prophet seems to me to be wholly different: and, I doubt not, but 
that this passage is the same with another in Isaiah, the eighth 
chapter, where he says, that the faithful were men of prodigy, or, 
that they were for a sign or prodigy, because they were objects of 
hatred, "what do these seek for themselves?" As then all were 
astonished as at a spectacle new and unwonted, when any one of the 
faithful met them, the Prophet says, that the true servants of God 
were then for a sign and prodigy. So here they are men of prodigy, 
for we see clearly, that the companions of Joshua were separated 
from the rest, or the common multitude. Why? not because they were 
objects of wonder, for that would be frigid, but because they were 
objects of reproach to all; and they were hardly borne with by the 
people, who clamoured, "what do these seek for themselves? they seek 
to be wiser than the Church." 
    In the same way we find ourselves at this day to be condemned 
by the Papists. "Oh! these, forsooth, will create a new world, they 
will create a new law: the rule of our great men will not satisfy 
these; we have a Church founded for so many ages, antiquity is in 
our favour. In short these men tear asunder what has been sanctioned 
from the beginning until now." But in the time of Joshua and in the 
time of Isaiah, all who simply believed God were regarded as strange 
men; for the people had become then so unrestrainedly licentious, 
that to retain the pure worship of God was viewed as a strange thing 
on account of its novelty. 
    We now apprehend the meaning of the words, when the angel bids 
Joshua and his companions to attend, and when he calls them the men 
of prodigy, and when at last he promises that a priest should arise 
like a Branch, for God would make Christ to rise up, though hid, not 
only under the feet, but under the earth itself, like a shoot which 
comes forth from the root after the tree has been cut down. It 
follows - 
Zechariah 3:9 
For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone 
shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, 
saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land 
in one day. 
    He more fully sets forth what we have observed in the last 
verse; but he speaks figuratively. He says that there were seven 
eyes on the stone which was set before Joshua; and that God would in 
one day take away the iniquity of the land, so that nothing would 
prevent it from recovering its ancient glory. This is the import of 
the whole; but interpreters vary, especially as to the eyes. 
    Almost all Christians agree as to the stone; for they think 
Christ to be meant; and we know that there are many similar 
passages, where Christ is called a stone, because the Church is on 
him founded; "Behold, I lay in Zion a precious stone," says Isaiah 
in the 28th chapter; and in Psalm 118 and in other places there are 
similar words. I yet think that the Prophet alludes to the temple, 
which was then begun to be built; but at the same time I take this 
as admitted, that Christ is called metaphorically a stone, as before 
he was called a Branch. But we must bear in mind that the external 
figure of the visible temple is applied to Christ himself. Behold, 
says God, the stone which I have set before Joshua has seven eyes; 
and further, I will engrave it with sculptures, that it may appear 
wonderful before the whole world. We now perceive what the subject 
is, and the mode of speaking here adopted. 
    As to the subject, the angel says, that the temple which Joshua 
had begun to build, was a celestial building; for God here declares 
himself to be its founder and builder, - The stone, he says, which I 
have set; and he says this, that Joshua might know that he laboured 
not in vain in building the temple. For had it been the work of men, 
it might have fallen, and might have been pulled down a hundred 
times by the hand of enemies; but God declares that the temple was 
founded by his own hand. He, at the same time, as I have said, 
raises up the thoughts of the godly to Christ, which is the 
substance and reality of the temple. Hence he says, I set a stone 
before Joshua; that is, "Though Joshua builds, and workmen 
diligently labour with him, yet I am the chief framer and architect 
of the temple." 
    He then says, on this stone shall be seven eyes. Some apply 
this to the seven graces of the Spirit: but the definition which 
they make, who have said, that the grace of the Spirit is sevenfold, 
is puerile; they know not about what they prattle and vainly talk; 
for Scripture speaks of many more. They also falsely adduce a 
passage from the 11th of Isaiah; for they mistake there as to the 
number: the Latin version has led them astray. Others think that the 
seven eyes have a reference to the whole world; as though the angel 
had said, that all will direct their eyes to this stone, according 
to what is said by Christ, that he was raised up on high, that he 
might draw all men to himself: then seven eyes, that is the eyes of 
all men, shall be turned to this stone. Some again apply this to the 
fullness of grace which has been given to Christ. But I think that 
the simpler view is, that his glory is set forth, according to what 
immediately follows, - I will engrave its engravings. For it is a 
vain refinement to say, that God engraved engravings when the side 
of Christ was pierced, when his hands and his feet were perforated: 
this is to trifle, and not seriously to explain Scripture. But the 
Prophet by engraving, means the valuable and extraordinary character 
of this stone; as though he had said, "It will be a stone remarkable 
for every excellency; for God will adorn this stone with wonderful 
engravings; and then it will be a stone having eyes, that is, it 
will not only turn to itself the eyes of others, but it will 
illuminate them, and exhibit as it were such brightness as will, by 
its own reflection, lead men to behold it." We now understand the 
full meaning of the Prophet. What remains I cannot finish now. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that as by nature we do not willingly 
submit to the reproach and contempt of the world, - O grant, that 
with our hearts lifted up to heaven, we may become indifferent to 
all reproaches, and that our faith may not succumb nor vacillate, 
though profane men may ridicule us while serving thee under the 
cross: but may we patiently wait, until Christ shall at length 
appear in the splendour of his priesthood and kingdom; and may we, 
in the meantime, contemplate the excellency with which thou hast 
adorned thy Church, and be thus encouraged to connect ourselves with 
those few and despised men, who faithfully and sincerely follow thy 
word, and disregard the arrogance of the whole world, and never 
doubt, but that if we remain grounded in the pure doctrine of the 
gospel, thou wilt raise us up to heaven, yea, and above all heavens, 
where we shall enjoy that blessedness which thine only-begotten Son 
has obtained for us by his own blood. - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 8...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-07.txt