(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 12)
Lecture One Hundred and Forty-fifth. 
Zechariah 6:9-11 
9 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 
10 Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of 
Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, 
and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; 
11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the 
head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; 
    This vision was given to Zechariah that he might inspire weak 
minds with better hope; for the Jews found that they were hardly 
pressed on every side by their neighbours, inasmuch as enemies rose 
up against them before and behind, so that there was no end to their 
troubles. Hence they who had returned from exile thought themselves 
wretched in such a state of things. They might indeed have lived in 
quietness among the Babylonians, and they had become accustomed to 
that kind of life, so that exile was not so very grievous to them. 
Thus then the favour of God was turned unto loathing, and was almost 
hated by them; for they thought it better to be deprived of their 
country, than to be daily exposed to new assaults. And further, the 
possession of the land was not of itself desirable, except with 
reference to the hope given them; that is, because God had promised 
by his Prophets that the kingdom of David would again be made 
glorious, and also that the grandeur and glory of the temple would 
be greater than ever before. When the Jews found themselves 
continually harassed by their enemies, they thought that all that 
had been promised was in vain. There is therefore no doubt but that 
many complaints and many clamours were everywhere raised. Hence that 
they might cease thus to murmur against God, this vision was given 
to the Prophet, in which he is bid to take silver and gold from four 
men, and to make two crowns to be set on the head of Joshua the high 
priest. The design was to make the Jews to feel assured, that the 
state of the people would be as safe as it was formerly, when the 
kingly office and the priesthood flourished: for these were the 
chief ornaments, or the two eyes, as it were, of the body - the 
priest, a mediator between God and men - and the king, sustaining 
the person of God in governing the people. 
    We hence see that by the two crowns is set forth the 
restoration of the Church: but we must also observe that the two 
crowns are placed on the head of Joshua, which was new and unusual. 
A mitre, we know, was given to the priests; and we know also that 
kings were adorned with a diadem; but no one individual was to wear 
a royal diadem and a sacerdotal mitre. Here then we find a union of 
royalty and priesthood in the same person, which had never before 
been the case; for God had in his law made a distinction between the 
two offices. We hence see that something unknown before is set forth 
by this prophecy, even this, that the same person would be both a 
king and a priest. For what Jerome says, among other things, that 
there might have been many crowns, is weak and frivolous; and 
further, he contradicts the words of the Prophet; for shortly after 
he subjoins, that there would be a counsel of peace between the two; 
that is, between royalty and priesthood. As to what the same author 
thinks, that there was one crown given to the high priest, it is 
also false; besides, he subverts as far as he can the whole doctrine 
of the Prophet. But I leave these trifles; for there is no ambiguity 
in Zechariah's words when he says, that God commanded him to take 
silver and gold, that he might make two crowns to set on the head of 
the high priest. We now perceive the design of the Prophet as to the 
object of the prophecy, and also the meaning of the words. 
    Let us now inquire, why the Prophet was bid to take gold from 
four men; for he says, Take from the transmigration. The word 
"hagolah" is to be taken in a collective sense, as in many other 
places. Take then from the exiles, who have now returned from 
Babylon to their own country. But he afterwards mentions four men; 
and there is some abruptness in the passage, but nothing that 
obscures the meaning of the Prophet; for he says, Take frown Heldai, 
and from Tobiah, and from Jedaiah; and then he adds, go in that day, 
enter the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. The Prophet no 
doubt had been commanded to go to these four, and to enter the house 
of one of them; and this is evident from the end of the tenth verse, 
where he says, who have come from Babylon. He had spoken only of 
Josiah the son of Zephaniah; and then he adds, that they had come 
from Babylon. I come now to the answer. Some interpreters think that 
these four men supplied the gold and the silver, because they were 
chief men among the people, and excelled others in piety. Hence they 
think that these four men were chosen, as a mark of distinction, to 
supply the gold and the silver to make the crowns: but I conjecture 
from the end of the chapter that their weakness is here pointed out, 
even because they were weak in faith and did not believe the 
promises of God, and thus disheartened others by their example. It 
is indeed certain that they were men in high authority, and excelled 
all others, so that the eyes of all were fixed on them; this is 
certain. But yet their want of faith is what is here reproved, 
because they did not attend sufficiently to God's promises, and 
thought themselves disappointed of their hope; for they had left 
Babylon, where they enjoyed great abundance, and returned to the 
holy land, and found it uncultivated and desolate. There was indeed 
required great patience, when they had to plow among thorns and 
brambles; for that land, as I have already said, had not been 
regularly cultivated. Those indeed who had been sent from the East, 
dwelt here and there in it; but lions and wild beasts had come into 
it, so that the desolation of the land rendered much work necessary, 
when the Jews returned. I hence doubt not but that the Holy Spirit 
does here reprove these four men, who ought to have been leaders and 
standard-bearers to others; on the contrary, they broke down the 
confidence of the common people. And this, I say, may be learnt from 
the end of the chapter, where God commands the two crowns to be 
placed in the temple, to be a memorial to them, that they might see 
there the condemnation of their unbelief, as we shall show in its 
    The Prophet is bid to set the two crowns on the head of the 
high priest. This, as I have said, was intended as a symbol to 
denote the union of the two dignities in the person of Christ. It 
was necessary until the coming of Christ to select the high priest 
from the posterity of Aaron; and it was also required that the kings 
should be from the seed of David; so that we observe a distinction 
between the royal office and the priesthood, not only as to the 
persons, but also as to the families. It would have indeed been a 
strange thing to see a king from the tribe of Levi; and it would 
have been contrary to God's appointed order to see a priest from the 
tribe of Judah and from the family of David. Since then the king was 
adorned with his own diadem, and since the high priest had his own 
proper mitre, what could this mean, but that the same man was to 
wear two crowns? Doubtless we observe that there is here some change 
in the past order of things, and that there is something unusual set 
forth. But there is nothing new in this, - that the Redeemer, who 
had been promised, should be eminent as a king and a priest; for 
this had been predicted in the hundred and tenth Psalm, "Jehovah 
said to my Lord, sit on my right hand," - this is what belongs to 
the right of a king; it afterwards follows, "Thou art a priest for 
ever, according to the order of Melchizedec." Though kings must then 
have been chosen from the family of David and the tribe of Judah, 
and though priests must have then been taken from the Levitical 
tribe, yet the Spirit foretold, that a king would come who was to be 
a priest, as had been the case with Melchisedec. This very thing is 
what the Prophet now confirms. 
    Zechariah being ordered to set the crowns on the head of 
Joshua, we are not so to regard this, as though Joshua had 
immediately undertaken the two offices of a king and a priest; for 
he was satisfied with his own: but the Prophet shows in the type 
what was to be looked for at the coming of the Messiah; for the time 
had not yet come, when Christ should receive the royal diadem, as it 
is said in Ezekiel, - "Take away the diadem;.... set it aside, set 
it aside, set it aside, until he shall come, whose it is." (Ezek. 
21: 26, 27.) We here see that the Prophet points out a length of 
time, during which the royal diadem was to be trodden as it were 
under foot. Though the royal crown had not yet laid in the dust 
sufficiently long, yet the Prophet did nothing presumptuously; for 
the Jews could not have conceived in their mind what is here 
promised, had not the typical priest come forth, wearing the two 
crowns. Nor could this have been so suitable to the person of 
Zerubbabel; for though he was of the family of David, and was a type 
of Christ, he had not yet the name of a king, nor had he any regal 
power: he could not therefore have been so suitable a person. It is 
then no wonder that God brought forth the high priest Joshua, who 
was a type and representative of Christ; and he brought him forth 
with a double crown, because he who was to come would unite, 
according to what follows, the priesthood with the kingly office. 
Zechariah 6:12,13 
12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, 
saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow 
up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: 
13 Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the 
glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a 
priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between 
them both. 
    The vision is now explained; for if the chief priest, without 
this explanation, had been adorned with two crowns, there must have 
been much talk among the people, "What means this?" God here shows 
that what he has commanded to be done to Joshua does not belong to 
him, but has a reference to another, Thou shalt say to him, Behold 
the Man, Branch is his name. It is the same as though the Prophet 
had expressly testified that Joshua was not crowned, because he was 
worthy of such an honour, or because he could look for royal 
dignity; but that he was to bear this honour for a time, in order 
that the Jews might understand that one was to arise who would be 
both a king and a priest. Hence he says, that there would be a Man, 
whose name was to be Branch. 
    As to this name, it has been explained elsewhere. I omit those 
refinements with which some are delighted; but as I have shown in 
another place, the simple and true reason why Christ is so called, 
is, because he was not like a tall tree, with deep and strong roots, 
but like a small plant. He is indeed called in another place, "a 
shoot from the root of Jesse." (Is. 11: 1.) But the meaning is the 
same; for that root of Jesse was obscure and of no repute. Besides, 
this kind of shoot has nothing in it that is illustrious. We hence 
see that Christ is called Branch, because his beginning was 
contemptible, so that he was of hardly any repute among heathens; 
nay even among his own nation. But God intimates at the same time, 
that this little plant would be set, as it were, by his own hand, 
and thus would gather strength. Though then the beginning of Christ 
was humble, yet God declares, that he would give vigour for 
continued growth, until he should attain to a great height. In this 
sense it is that Christ is called Branch: and we clearly conclude, 
that the minds of the people were transferred to Christ who was to 
come, that they might not fix their attention on Joshua, who was 
then but a typical priest. Say to Joshua, Behold the Man, whose name 
is Branch. Where is that man? He does not speak of Joshua; he does 
not say, "Thou art the man;" but he says, Behold the man, whose name 
is Branch, that is, who comes elsewhere. We then hence learn, that 
these crowns were those of Christ, but given to Joshua, that the 
Jews might see in the type, what was as yet hid under hope. 
    He afterwards adds, He shall arise from himself, or grow up 
from his own place, literally, from under himself. Here also some 
have too refinedly philosophised, - that Christ arose from himself 
by his own power, because he is the eternal God. I think, on the 
contrary, that all human means are only excluded, as though the 
Prophet had said, that though Christ was like a little plant, he 
would yet grow up as though he had roots deeply fixed in the earth. 
There is indeed no doubt, but that Christ grew up by his own 
celestial power, and this is what the words of the Prophet include; 
but what he meant was this, - that Christ had nothing in his 
beginning calculated to draw the admiration of men. Though then 
Christ was only a shoot, yet God had sufficient power, that he 
should grow from his own place, that though human means were absent, 
it would yet be enough, that God should bless this branch, so as to 
cause it to grow to its proper height. 
    He then says, And he shall build the temple of Jehovah. This is 
a remarkable passage: it hence appears that the temple which the 
Jews had then begun to build, and which was afterwards built by 
Herod, was not the true temple of which Haggai had prophesied, when 
he said, "The glory of the second house shall be greater than that 
of the first." (Hag. 2: 9.) For though the temple of Herod was 
splendid, yet we see what the Spirit declares in this place, - that 
to build the temple would be Christ's own work. Hence no one, had he 
heaped together all the gold and the silver of the world, could have 
built the true temple of which Haggai prophesied, and of which 
Ezekiel has so largely spoken near the end of his book. Christ alone 
then has been chosen by the Father to build this temple. Christ 
indeed himself was a temple as to his body, for the fullness of the 
Godhead dwelt in him, (Col. 2: 6;) but he built a temple to God the 
Father, when he raised up everywhere pure worship, having demolished 
superstitions, and when he consecrated us to be a royal priesthood. 
    We now then see what was shown to the Prophet, - that though 
the Jews were then exposed to many evils, to reproaches and wrongs, 
yet Christ would come to restore all things to a perfect order, that 
he would be not only a king but also a priest; and further, that his 
beginning would be obscure and despised by the world, and yet that 
he would attain without any earthly helps his own elevation; and, 
lastly, that his own proper office would be to build a temple to 
    He repeats the last thing which he had said, Even he shall 
build the temple of Jehovah. The Prophet seems here to reiterate to 
no purpose the same words without any additions of light: but it 
seems evident to me, that he meant in this way to confirm and 
sanction what seemed difficult to be believed. As the temple, then, 
begun at that time to be built, had but little splendour and glory 
connected with it, and could hardly be expected to become a better 
or more adorned building, the Prophet reiterates this promise, He, 
he shall build the temple of Jehovah; by which he means, "Let not 
your eyes remain fixed on this temple, for to look at it weakens 
your faith and almost disheartens you; but hope for another temple 
which ye see not now, for a priest and a king shall at length come 
to build a better and a more excellent temple." 
    He afterwards subjoins, Bear shall he the glory, and shall sit 
and rule on his throne. He fully confirms what we have already 
referred to - that this man, who was to grow by God's hidden power, 
would be made both a king and a priest, but by no earthly 
instrumentality. In the words, bear shall he the glory, there is no 
doubt an implied contrast between Joshua and Christ, the true 
priest. For Joshua, though he discharged in his time the office of a 
priest, was yet despised; but the Prophet bids his people to hope 
for more than what could have been conceived from the view of things 
at that time; for an illustrious priest was to come, full of royal 
dignity. And hence he adds, sit shall he and rule on his throne. 
This did not properly belong to the priesthood; but the Prophet 
affirms, that the man who was to come from above, would be a king, 
though he exercised the priestly office. He was then to be a priest, 
and yet to be on his throne and to rule as a king; and ruling is 
what belongs to a king and not to a priest. 
    At length he concludes by saying, The counsel of peace shall be 
between the two. I do not think that the discords which had been 
between kings and priests are here indirectly reproved. I indeed 
allow that such discords had often been seen among that ancient 
people; but the Prophet had regard to something far different, even 
this - that the priesthood would be united with the kingly office. 
He therefore did not refer to different persons who were to be at 
peace together; but, on the contrary, spoke of things or of the two 
offices; there shall then be the counsel of peace between the two, 
that is, between the kingly office and the priesthood. We hence 
learn that which I have already stated that what is here promised 
had not been found under the law, and could not have been expected 
under it; and that the fulfilment of this prophecy is the renovation 
which took place at the coming of Christ. It follows 
Zechariah 6:14 
And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, 
and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the 
    They who think that the crowns were deposited with these four 
men, pervert the meaning of the Prophet; for they were, on the 
contrary, placed in God's temple to be a memorial to them. It hence 
appears; that, as I have already said, they were not required to 
supply the gold, because they excelled all others in piety and 
holiness, but because it was necessary to condemn their want of 
faith, inasmuch as they thought that their hope was disappointed, as 
God did not immediately fulfil what he had promised. Let then these 
crowns, saith the Spirit, be a memorial to them, that is, that 
whenever they look on these crowns they may check themselves and 
know that their expectations are very unreasonable, and that they 
themselves are too hasty when they wish all prophecies to be 
accomplished in one day; and also that the whole people may know 
that they had complained without reason, as these suspended crowns 
shall be a memorial and a testimony. We now then see more clearly 
why the Prophet had been ordered to take gold and silver from these 
four men: it was, that he might make crowns, which were afterwards 
to be deposited in God's temple. At length he adds - 
Zechariah 6:15 
And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the 
LORD, and ye shall know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto 
you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the 
voice of the LORD your God. 
    The Prophet also states, that men would come from remote lands 
to contribute labour or wealth towards the building of the temple; 
for the word building may refer to either of these two things. Come 
then shall those from far. Before this time gifts had been presented 
by Gentile nations, but the temple was not built but by Solomon and 
his people. God then promises here something more, and that is, that 
helpers would assist in building the temple, who had been till then 
wholly aliens. It is indeed certain, that in the age of Zechariah 
contributions had been made by Cyrus; but the Prophet refers to 
nothing of this kind: he promises something more. It hence follows 
that this prophecy must necessarily be referred to the promulgation 
of the gospel; for then it was that strangers began to contribute 
their labour and their wealth towards building a temple to God. 
Though then Cyrus gave a large sum of money towards the erection of 
the temple, yet the allusion here is not to his liberality. And 
after Cyrus no stranger had been so liberal: for Herod, who raised 
up a great and a very splendid building, was not from far; nay, he 
wished to be thought one of the people. We then see that this 
prophecy cannot be otherwise referred than to the building of the 
spiritual temple, when Gentiles, formerly remote from God's people, 
joined them as friends, and brought their labour to the work of 
building the temple, not with stones or wood, or with other 
corruptible materials, but with the doctrine and the gifts of the 
Holy Spirit. 
    He then adds, ye shall know that Jehovah of hosts has sent me 
to you. Of this kind of knowledge we have spoken elsewhere. It 
indeed behaved the Jews from the first to feel assured respecting 
the truth of this prophecy; but when the effect or experience itself 
was added, they then began to know more clearly. It is then the same 
as thought the Prophet had said, "God, who speaks by my mouth, will 
not disappoint you, as he will at length accomplish what I now 
declare; and experience itself will be a witness that I have been a 
true and faithful Prophet." And he calls Him the God of hosts, that 
the Jews, hearing that what he had said proceeded from Him whose 
power is infinite, might be confirmed in their faith. There was then 
no reason for them to doubt as to the accomplishment, for there is 
nothing that can resist God, when it pleases him to unfold his 
    It follows, If by hearing ye will hear the voice of Jehovah 
your God. Zechariah promises to the Jews here conditionally - if 
they became obedient to God, and continued in obedience to his word 
and in his doctrine; for unbelief deprives men of all participation 
in God's favour. It is indeed true that had all become unbelieving, 
Christ would have come; for God as he is true would not change his 
purpose were the whole world to become false. Since then the 
faithfulness of God depends not on men, we ought not so to take what 
the Prophet says here, If ye will hear the voice of Jehovah, as 
though they could, by being unfaithful to God, have rendered void 
the accomplishment of this prophecy. Their defection, then, yea, 
that of the whole nation, could not have prevented Christ from 
coming forth in his own appointed time. But the Prophet had another 
thing in view, even this - that the Jews would become partakers of 
this blessing, or would enjoy, so to speak, this favour, if they 
embraced God's promise, and obediently submitted to his law. For 
though Christ has already come as the Redeemer of the world, yet we 
know that this benefit is not come to all, and why? Because many 
through unbelief close the door against God and his grace through 
Christ. Hence the faithful alone really know that God has spoken, 
and really partake of his favour, and for this reason, because they 
hear his voice; that is, they first by faith receive what God 
offers, and then they fall not away from his truth, but continue in 
the obedience of faith to the end. 
    What the Prophet then had in view, was to show to the Jews that 
those things were spoken in vain, as to them, if they did not attend 
to God. And he shows the way in which they were to be attentive, 
even by hearing the voice of God, that is, by renouncing their own 
thoughts, and by not esteeming God untrue, though he promised what 
seemed incredible. If then they denied themselves, banished their 
own imaginations, wholly attended to God's word, and believed what 
he had said as a Prophet, he assures them that they would really 
find that which he taught them to be true to their own salvation, 
even this - that Christ would come to be a king and a priest, to 
secure perfect happiness to his people. 
    Grant, Almighty God, that since thy Son has been made known to 
us, through whom is brought to us the perfection of all blessings 
and of true and real glory, - O grant, that we may continue settled 
in him, and never turn here and there, nor fluctuate in any way, but 
be so satisfied with his kingship and priesthood, as to deliver up 
ourselves wholly to his care and protection, and never doubt but 
that we are so sanctified by his grace as to be now acceptable to 
thee, and that relying on him as our Mediator, we may offer 
ourselves as a sacrifice to thee with full confidence of heart, and 
thus strive to glorify thee through the whole course of our life, 
that we may at length be made partakers of that celestial glory 
which has been obtained for us by the blood of thy only-begotten 
Son. - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 13...

file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-12.txt