Meredith G. Kline, “The Servant and the Serpent”
[part 1] Kerux 8:1 (May 1993): 20-37.

Introduction. 1. Compositional Center: A key position is occupied by the fourth vision (Zechariah 3) within the series of seven night visions and within the macrostructure of the book.1

Zechariah’s work as a whole is built on a three-hinge framework with Zechariah 6:1-15 as the middle hinge between the two main panels of the overall diptych. Each of these panels in turn is a diptych with its own central hinge, Zechariah 3 for the first panel and Zechariah 11 for the second. A formal feature shared by the three hinge passages, and exclusive to them in the book, is the personal participation of Zechariah himself in the symbolic action. Another is the involvement of specific historical individuals in the episode. Further, coronation is their common theme, all three portraying the commissioning of Messiah to his royal-priestly task. By presenting this theme at each of these key structural points in the book, the formal framework brilliantly highlights “the figure of the coming Christ, ordained to priestly sacrifice and subsequent highest royal glory, the one who is the central hinge and focus of prophetic revelation.”2

Within the structure of the seven visions, Zechariah 3 occupies the center position. It is set apart from the three visions before and after it by the fact that it does not fit into the pattern of introductory formulae that characterizes these two triads (cf. 1:7, 8; 2:1; 2:5; 3:1; 4:1-2; 5:1; 6:1). It is also distinguished from the other six visions by the peculiar features it shares as one of the trio of hinges in the macrostructure of the book. Thus, while the other visions symbolize earthly realities by imaginary forms, actual persons (Joshua and his fellow priests) appear in Zechariah 3. And the prophet intervenes in the fourth vision to forward the action, whereas his role elsewhere in the visions is limited to witnessing the scenes and seeking explanations from the hierophant angel.

The centerpiece position of the fourth vision is accentuated by the chiastic form of the balancing triads on either side, producing an A-B-C-D-C’-B’-A’ schema. One aspect of this concentric arrangement has to do with the locus of the divine action in the several visions. The scene of the symbolic drama proceeds from the nations of the world in the outside (A and A’) visions, to the land of Judah-Israel in the B and B’ visions, to Zion, the theocratic capitol, in the C and C’ visions. Then in Zechariah 3, the central D vision of the chiasm, we find ourselves at the holy of holies, the ultimate center of the cosmos where the Lord is enthroned in the midst of his angelic council.

2. Christological Climax: Here at the center of the visions stands the Christ-figure, present as the Angel of the Lord and typified by Joshua in his reinvestment as royal highpriest. And here Messiah’s mission of salvation is set forth in the radical terms of its hidden, underlying dimension as a decisive encounter with Satan. The contention revolves about the Lord’s claim to the sinful but chosen people represented by Joshua (the Joshua still in his defiled garb at the outset of the vision). And the outcome of the ordeal between the messianic Servant and the diabolical serpent turns on the question of Joshua’s fate in the divine judgment: will this representative sinner be condemned and abandoned to the dominion of the devil or will he be justified and consigned as a holy minister to the service of the God of glory?

Implicit in the third vision were intimations that ultimately Satan was the enemy power threatening the people and kingdom of God and that the coming of the kingdom involved not just an overwhelming exercise of might to destroy the enemy but a working of Spirit-power in the conversion of enemies, transforming them into builders of the city of God. It required a coming of Christ to bind Satan and spoil his house, rescuing the prey from his grasp. All this becomes graphically explicit in the fourth vision. Moreover, the process of spiritual reclamation and transformation is now more precisely depicted as one of justification in the face of Satan’s accusations and as one of renewal in the image of the divine Glory. Present also are indications that the victory over the accuser will require the atoning sacrifice of the messianic Servant. In vision four we see ourselves—for we are Joshua—as in ourselves sinners in the hands of an angry God but, as God’s chosen in Christ, sinners in the pierced hands of the suffering Servant-Savior.

Biblico-theological climax, with focus on Christ, thus coincides with the compositional center of the visions. Remarkably similar to this fourth vision of Zechariah is the middle section of the Book of Revelation. Like Zechariah 3, Revelation 12:1 (or 11:19)-14:20 occupies the central point of an overall seven-member chiasm, and here again it is at the structural center that the depths of the redemptive-historical process are explored and exposed. The preceding apocalyptic visions of the seven letters, seven-sealed book, and seven trumpets display further parallelism to Zechariah. They lead up to the climactic centerpiece of the chiasm with themes and imagery that recall Zechariah’s first three visions: The Messiah figure in association with the Glory-council dominates scene and action. He stands in the midst of his persecuted saints and sends forth agents of judgment on the world. These heavenly agents are symbolized as horsemen. Intimations are given that lurking in the shadows of the world’s hostility to the church is the primeval leviathan. But, as in Zechariah, it is in the center-section of the Apocalypse that the conflict of the ages is directly and dramatically revealed as the contention of Christ with Satan over the church. And once more, as in Zechariah 3, it is the role of Satan as the accuser of the redeemed before God’s throne that is prominent (Rev. 12:10). And again the messianic man prevails in judgment against the dragon (Rev. 12:5, 9), a victory for the accused saints attributable to the blood of atonement shed by the suffering Servant (Rev. 12:11).

Comparison of Zechariah 3 and Revelation 12 constrains recognition of their common footage in Genesis 3. Further connections between Zechariah 3 and the Genesis 3 context will be noted in the exposition of the fourth vision below, but here we simply cite some major features of Genesis 3 that reappear in both Zechariah 3 and Revelation 12: the emergence of the gospel of salvation in the rebuke-damnation of the devil; the three principals of the redemptive drama—Messiah, his people, and Satan; Messiah’s identity as the royal offspring, born of the woman; Messiah’s contention with the devil; the two stages in Messiah’s mission of vanquishing Satan—his sufferings and the consequent glory. These central visions of the books of Zechariah and Revelation bring us back to the radical roots and fundamental realities of the holy war first announced in Genesis 3:14, 15 and destined to rage on through history from the loss of Eden’s holy paradise until its consummatory restoration in the new Jerusalem.

I. The Rebuke of Satan

A. Before Messiah’s Judgment-Seat: Common to all seven visions, as at least their background, is the divine council setting, represented directly by the divine presence (as in visions one, three, four, five and seven) or at least indirectly by agents of the council sent forth on missions (as in visions two and six). But the heavenly scene is most immediately and realistically displayed in this central fourth vision. Here the heavenly court coalesces with the holy throne room on earth, celestial beings whose proper sphere is the invisible, supernal realm appearing alongside the earthly highpriest Joshua. Such an interlinking of heavenly archetype and earthly ectype is what was involved in the non-visionary, external reality of the presence of the Glory-Spirit, the epiphany of the heavenly court, manifested in the Israelite tabernacle or temple.

Towering over the judgment scene, sovereignly directing the proceedings, stands the messianic figure of the Angel of Yahweh.3 He appeared in the first vision both as Judge of all the earth engaged in surveillance of the world powers through his angelic agents (Zech. 1:8-11) and as the Intercessor, effectively pleading the cause of God’s oppressed people (Zech. 1:12-17). Here in the fourth vision he is seen in this same dual role; he is the Judge who renders the verdict on the basis of reports from various sources and he also acts as Advocate for the covenant people. His double office of Judge and Advocate is the more remarkable here in that the party he is to judge, accused Joshua, is the same one he proceeds to defend.

As in vision one, it turns out to be the enemy power against whom condemnation and doom are actually pronounced. Here it is the enemy himself. He appears in the vision as a second principal, seen by Zechariah as taking his stand in court4 to oppose (satan) the defendant (hence his name, Satan) with slandering charges (for which he is known as diabolos/devil). The verb satan and the derived noun are used for others besides Satan himself, but the terms clearly refer to the prince of the evil principalities and powers in the prologue of Job, 1 Chronicles 21:1, and Zechariah 3:1, 2.5 Development of the usage of the noun as applied to the devil from an appellative to a proper name should not be misconstrued as evidence that the notion of a personal devil gradually emerged out of some more general concept. We are not dealing with the evolution of a metaphysical notion in the Israelite mind but with the progressive divine revelation of a specific historical entity. The fact of the existence of the personal devil confronted mankind at the outset of earthly history in Eden and it is presented to us in the revelation of that primeval encounter in Genesis 3, with occasional further disclosures concerning him in the subsequent biblical record.

Satan’s confrontation with the Angel of Yahweh in Zechariah 3 will be better understood if seen within the pattern of satanic enmity exhibited in the episodes narrated in Genesis 3 and the prologue of Job. But before tracing that dark labyrinth, notice must be taken of the third principal figure in the visionary trial scene—Joshua, the accused.

As the high priest, Joshua represented the covenant congregation. This representative relationship was signified by working into the design of the high priest’s vestments a double set of the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. They were engraved on the precious stones located on the shoulder straps of the ephod and again in the gems in the breastpiece (cf. Exod. 28:9-12, 21-29). While representing his contemporary Israelites, the highpriest also foreshadowed the future in that he was a type of the coming true priest-king over the house of God, the mediatorial priest who would bring the people he represented to God through the blood of the everlasting covenant.6

The typological dimension of Joshua’s priestly identity becomes explicit later in this vision. But when the scene opens Joshua appears in his capacity as the representative-equivalent of Jerusalem-Israel;7 more specifically, covenant-breaking Israel defiled by sin, for he appears in filthy garments, a shocking deviation from the ceremonial requirement that the high priest enter the heavenly court of the holy of holies in his vestments of holy glory. Though the people of God are thus depicted in old covenant idiom, Joshua is not a symbol for the old covenant faithful only. The messianic significance of Joshua later in the vision indicates that this vision as a whole, like the others for which it is the centerpiece, concerns all the elect of God in Christ, the holy company which attains perfection under the new covenant.

B. Har-Magedon Crisis: One thing that was obviously at stake in this judicial encounter was the destiny of Joshua. Although the specific charges made against him by the accuser are not quoted, they can be surmised from the context. Satan will have pointed to the transgression of the covenant symbolized by Joshua’s soiled garments. Apparently he will also have cited the fact that the Lord of the covenant had himself judged the Joshua-community guilty and had condemned them to undergo the extreme curse of exile, a judgment whereby he repudiated the nation as Lo-Ammi, “Not-My-People.” Such an argument by the accuser-prosecutor would account for the subsequent rejoinder of the Angel-Advocate reminding Satan that Joshua was a brand plucked from the consuming fire of God’s vengeance (v. 3c), restored to the covenantal status of Ammi, “My-People.” Would Satan’s charges prevail or would they be overcome by the considerations adduced in Joshua’s defense?

But something beyond Joshua’s fate was at issue in this court. With subtle indirection Satan was affronting the majesty of the divine Judge, challenging him as to his divine claims and prerogatives. Satan’s tactics here are similar to those he resorted to in his opposition to God’s servant Job.

As in Zechariah 3 the setting of the Book of Job is the heavenly council on a day when the court was in session (Job 1:6; 2:1). Again Satan is present and assumes the role of accuser of man. That his chief purpose is, however, to offer blasphemous challenge to the enthroned Lord is more readily discernible here. Confronted by God’s claim that Job was his loyal servant, a faithful family priest (Job 1:5, 8), a trophy of his redeeming grace, Satan contradicts: No—Job is no true servant. The prophetic gospel-decree of Genesis 3:15 is not being realized in Job or anyone else. God cannot snatch from Satan the prey he seized at the Fall. Job’s religious profession is false. He is a hypocrite, using a pretense of piety as the price of prosperity and God is guilty of complicity in this pious fraudulence (Job 1:9-11). God’s boast of Job’s devotion to him is an empty lie.

The trial by ordeal that follows is designed to test the validity of Satan’s accusations against Job and in that sense Job is on trial.8 But clearly the larger issue concerns the truth of the gospel, the validity of God’s claim to be the Savior of his elect from Satan, sin, and death. Under contention ultimately is the identity of Yahweh as true God, the God of truth, and so the rightful One to be Judge of heaven and earth.

Job serves then as the champion of God’s name. Through Job’s trial by ordeal God triumphs in the trial by ordeal between himself and Satan. The vindication of Job is the vindication of the Lord, Job’s sovereign Savior. The silencing of Job’s accuser is the victory of the divine Judge and his rebuke of Satan.9

The differences between the situations in the Book of Job and Zechariah’s fourth vision are only on the surface. To be sure, it is the genuineness of the piety of the family priest Job that is stressed while it is the sinfulness of the high priest Joshua that is conspicuous. But both these priests figure in the accounts as sinners saved by the grace of God. Both are examples of the efficacy of God’s redemptive wisdom and program. In Zechariah 3, no less than in the prologue to Job, Satan is then attacking the Lord for accepting the ministry of an allegedly unfit priest at his altar-throne. Posing as a cherub-guardian of the sanctity of God’s sanctuary, Satan challenges the presence of Job and Joshua; filthy and false, they defile the holy temple. To challenge them was in effect to call into question the holiness of the God who consorts with such sinners, welcomes their presence and delights in the worship they offer (cf. Matt. 11:19; Mark 2:16; Luke 5:30; 7:34).

Further light is shed on Satan’s secret objective in his incrimination of Joshua and Job by the temptation event in Eden. That episode differs from the other two in that Satan there maligns God to man rather than accusing man before God. Once man has fallen into sin, the attack on God gets camouflaged behind surface accusations against the sinners with whom God identifies in redemptive covenantal union. But before the Fall, Satan vilifies the Lord God more openly (Gen. 3:1-5), insinuating that his imposition of the unique prohibitory stipulation was dictated by jealous self-interest and a lack of benevolence (v. lb) and blatantly alleging that the death sanction was a deceptive, empty threat (v. 4).

Exhibited in this behavior of Satan in Eden is what may be called the Har-Magedon-revolt syndrome. Eden was the site of Har-Magedon, “the mountain of meeting,” i.e., the judicial assembly of God and his angels (cf. Ps. 82:1; Isa. 14:13). The proceedings in that heavenly council are the background of Satan’s appearance in the garden. A disclosure made to the council that God purposed to create man, like the angels a creature in the divine likeness, crowned with glory and given dominion over the creation (Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8:5-8), evoked in the cherub prince evil emotions—threatened pride, envy, malicious hate. He must thwart the announced development. He must redirect the man-creature’s covenantal allegiance from the Lord God to himself. He must challenge the Sovereign enthroned on Har-Magedon. His must be the glory, the power, and the kingdom forever, his throne exalted above all that is called Elohim.

So Satan schemed and his subtle strategy was successful—seemingly, for a second. Then suddenly, heralded by thunder, the King of Glory appeared (Gen. 3:8). A new decree was proclaimed: doom for the devil, reconciliation for God’s elect through a second Adam, the destined slayer of the dragon (Gen. 3:14, 15). Henceforth, until the final realization of all God decreed, Satan’s Har-Magedon revolt would be a conspiring against this messianic champion set as God’s anointed king in the midst of heaven’s hosts on the holy mountain. But the Almighty laughs at Satan’s raging against the Son (Ps. 2:4). He makes the hostility Satan instigates contribute to the fulfillment of his decree and the redemptive triumph of his messianic Servant (cf. Col. 2:14, 15). Satan’s continuance as a factor in human history is permitted according to God’s unfathomable counsel so that he can play his guilty part in the crucifixion (Acts 2:23-36), the bruising of the Servant’s heel, which by the alchemy of divine grace turns out to be the crushing of the serpent’s skull. Well named, the place called Golgotha.

Satan’s undertakings in the episodes depicted in the prologue of Job and Zechariah 3 are instances of his ongoing Har-Magedon rebellion, the desperate, irrational, but relentless enmity that finally produces the man of sin, son of perdition. When his role in Zechariah’s vision is perceived as part of this continuing undercurrent of antichrist evil, his ultimate point of attack is seen to be not the defendant but the Judge, not Joshua but the Christ-Angel.

By establishing the fact that Joshua was unclean, unacceptable on the holy hill of Zion (cf. Psalm 15), Satan would demonstrate that God’s announced program of redemption had proven a failure. Further, he would make the case that the Angel of the Lord was not worthy to sit as judge in the Har-Magedon council, for in countenancing the priestly service of defiled Joshua he was responsible for the contamination of God’s holy courts. The messianic Angel would thus be guilty of the very failing that had resulted in the expulsion of the first Adam from Eden’s holy garden and would thereby be disqualified for any future mission as the righteous Servant, a second Adam, a savior of sinners.

Satan repeats here a tactic employed in Eden. In each case it was his own evil presence that confronted a guardian of God’s house with the duty of repulsing such an unholy intrusion, and each time Satan’s strategy was to divert attention to something else and so maintain his own position at Har-Magedon. Would the strategy succeed with the Angel of the Lord as it had with Adam? The answer was not long in coming.

C. Trampling the Serpent: “Yahweh rebuke you, O Satan” (Zech. 3:2a). The Angel of the Lord dealt directly and decisively with the accuser and his blasphemous challenge. Yahweh’s thunderous10 rebuke does more than parry the thrust of the opponent; its effects are devastating.

Similar to the divine rebuke of Zechariah 3:2 is that in Psalm 9. The scene there too is judicial with the Lord seated on his throne judging righteously. He maintains the cause of his people against the enemy by rebuking the wicked nations (v. 5a[6a]), and by this action (whether understood as past or precative) he destroys them, blotting out their name forever, reducing them to perpetual ruin (vv. 5b, 6[6b, 7]). God’s roaring rebuke forces the waters of the sea to retreat (Isa. 50:2; Nab. 1:4; Ps. 18:15[16]) and turns to flight the tumultuous onrush of the nations (Isa. 17:13). In Psalm 18:15 (16) God’s “rebuke” against the deep as he delivers his people from the strong enemy (vv. 16ff. [17ff.]) is paired with “the blast of thy nostrils,” the phrase used in Exodus 15:8 for God’s vanquishing of the leviathan of the deep at the redemption of Israel from Egypt. Since the sea is the realm of Satan from which he brings forth the draconic enemies of the saints (Dan. 7:2ff.; Rev. 13:1ff.), Psalm 18:15 (16) is thematically of a piece with Zechariah 3:2. At times divine rebuke seems tantamount to a destructive curse (cf. Ps. 119:21; Mal. 2:2, 3). Indeed, the rebuke formula found in Zechariah 3:2 came to be used in excretory incantation. In the “Yahweh rebuke you, O Satan,” of Zechariah 3:2 we can hear reverberating the primal “Cursed are you” of Genesis 3:14.

The Angel of the Lord’s rebuke silenced the accusations, but further it constituted a condemnation of the accuser himself, repulsing him from the station he presumed to occupy in the divine council. It was a scornful repudiation of the devil’s pretensions to throne on Har-Magedon.

Here portrayed in advance is the history of our Lord as the stronger One, who by his rebuking of Satan, the deceiver-captor of the nations, sets his captives free. In the accounts of Jesus’ rebuking action in the Gospels12 we find the same objects as in the Old Testament references to divine rebuke. Jesus rebuked the roaring wind and waters of the sea, brought them to silence (Matt. 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24), and so rescued his perishing disciples. “Who then is this?” The very Creator Lord who commanded the waters to respect his bounds and made the dry land appear. The very Redeemer Lord who divided the sea and made the waters a way of salvation for the Israelites. And Jesus rebuked Satan. He did so when he saw him behind Peter’s counsel (Mark 8:33), and again when, repeatedly, he encountered him in his demonic agents, defeating them and delivering their victims from satanic tyranny (Matt. 17:18; Mark 1:25; 9:25; Luke 4:35, 41; 9:42; Acts 5:16; 8:7; 19:12). Jesus is the divine warrior who at last repels Satan’s final antichrist attack by the Spirit-breath of his mouth, the rebuking blast of his nostrils (2 Thess. 2:8).

The judicial confrontation of Messiah and Satan depicted anticipatively in Zechariah 3 is presented as actualized in Revelation 12. The dragon’s attempt to do away with Jesus fails (vv. 3, 4); the anointed Son ascends and occupies the throne on heavenly Zion (v. 5; cf. Ps. 2:6-9). Assumption of the throne meant warfare in heaven, Messiah-Michael with his angel-agents of the divine court suppressing the revolt of the dragon and his demons (v. 7) and casting Satan, accuser of the brethren, out of heaven, down from Har-Magedon (vv. 8, 9). So began the execution of the messianic Angel’s word of judgment: “Yahweh rebuke you, O Satan.”

Comparing what is disclosed in the Old and New Testaments, it appears that prior to Christ’s exaltation Satan was permitted some kind of access to the heavenly council and was suffered to pose in some way as prosecuting attorney against the saints before God’s throne. But with the enthronement there of Christ as priest-king, prevailing in his advocacy of the cause of his own on the basis of his accomplished atonement, Satan’s anomalous, attenuated tenure in the divine council was terminated—and his time until final doom was short (Rev. 12:12).

D. Law and Gospel: Like the primeval curse pronounced on the serpent, which was at the same time the primal promise of salvation in Christ (Gen. 3:15), so Messiah’s rebuke of Satan in Zechariah 3 was tantamount to a verdict rendered in favor of the Joshua-community (vv. 4, 5). For Satan’s assault on God’s throne came disguised as a feigned concern for the sanctity of heaven’s holy court, a concern expressed in the form of accusations against the sinners God would welcome there. Similarly in Revelation 12, it is as a victory of the redeemed over their accuser (vv. 10, 11) that the Lord’s ejection of Satan from the heavenly court is celebrated.

In Revelation 12, the explanation of the triumph of the saints who overcome Satan and his demons is the blood of the lamb. Such is also the explanation for the rebuking of Satan and the dismissal of his charges in Zechariah 3. The principle governing the judicial decision and action of the Angel-Judge is revealed in his amplified repetition of the verdict-curse: “Yahweh who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (v. 2b, c). Those whom Satan would have condemned were God’s elect, and who shall lay anything to their charge (Rom. 8:33a)? The principle that operates in their case is grace, sovereign grace, not works. They were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, foreordained unto adoption according to the good pleasure of God’s will, to the praise of the glory of his grace bestowed on us in the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Eph. 1:4-7). It is God that justifies; who is he that condemns (Rom. 8:33b, 34)?

In accusing the brethren Satan directs attention to their status in the first Adam, in whom they have transgressed the original covenant of works and become liable to its curse of death. In relation to that breakable covenant all are deserving of a verdict of condemnation and a sentence of expulsion from the holy garden of life and abandonment in the abyss of Hell. Satan would pretend that history was frozen in the situation produced by his success as tempter of the first Adam. He would ignore and would have the court ignore the divine decree announced immediately after the Fall of the first Adam, declaring God’s eternal purpose of grace for a countless throng of elect and revealing the opening up of a new redemptive way to justification and life through a second Adam, a serpent-trampling Savior (Gen. 3:15).

The story of the typological kingdom of Israel was an historical parable in which mankind under the covenant of works in Adam was represented by Israel under the law. For according to Jeremiah the Torah-covenant viewed as a grant of the land of Canaan to Israel for a temporal, typical inheritance was another breakable works-arrangement, unlike the new covenant of grace to be made in the days to come (Jer. 31:31). The apostle of that new covenant, the apostle of justification by faith, proclaimed justification through Christ from all things “from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39). “That no man is justified by the law before God is evident,” said Paul, “for, ‘The righteous shall live by faith,’ and the law is not of faith, but ‘He that doeth them shall live in them”‘ (Gal. 3:11, 12). And again, “For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise” (Gal. 3:18). It is the typological story of Israel’s history under its covenant of works that provides the symbolism of the prophet’s gospel for mankind in Zechariah 3.

The half-truth lie urged by Satan is expressed in that figurative idiom: Behold Joshua/Israel standing before the tribunal in filthy clothes, shamefully defiled transgressors of the Torah-covenant of works. Consider the exile—God himself repudiated Israel, drove them out of their inheritance, handed them over as captives to serve the enemy.

The Angel-Judge’s rebuke of the accuser is also cast in that typological idiom: “Yahweh who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you.” He refers to the elect in Christ, the second Adam, as Jerusalem. To express their predestination to be a holy temple, builded together into a habitation of God in the Spirit (Eph. 1:4; 2:21, 22; cf. 1 Pet. 2:5), he uses the Mosaic formula for God’s selection of the location of the temple city where his name would dwell under the old covenant (cf. e.g. Deut. 12:5,11). Employing this typological metaphor, the Angel brings to light the decisive factor the accuser had concealed—God’s eternal purpose of grace.

Before the foundations of the world a covenant was sealed in heaven. The Father covenanted to grant the Son a kingdom of glory as the just reward for the accomplishment of an earthly mission. Through incarnation the Son was to undertake the office of a second Adam and fulfill all righteousness in behalf of an elect people, securing for them justification and earning for them title to heaven’s glory. By the obedience of this One, the many were to be made righteous (Rom. 5:19) and Satan vanquished.

The Angel-Judge rejects the charge of Satan and proceeds to justify Joshua on the basis of what he, the messianic Angel, was one day to do. He would become flesh and perfectly discharge the office of second Adam in faithfulness to his covenant of works with the Father, thereby becoming the mediator of a covenant of grace to his redeemed. The salvation-kingdom covenanted unto him by the Father he would in turn covenant unto his people as his co-heirs (cf. Luke 22:29, 30), conferring it on them as a gift of grace, received by faith. Satan is rebuked because he reduced the judicial picture to the dimension of the first Adam and ignored the second Adam. He pointed the finger at Joshua and discounted the Ange1-Judge, the Redeemer-Advocate of Joshua-Jerusalem.

The fallacy of Satan’s case against Joshua may also be analyzed from the perspective of the relationship of the law to the prior covenant with Abraham. When Paul identified the Torah-covenant as a works arrangement, “not of faith,” he had to face the question whether it negated God’s promissory commitments to Abraham. The apostle was eager to insist that the covenant of grace confirmed long before was not disannulled by the law so as to make the promise void (Gal. 3:17). Satan, on the contrary, by identifying Joshua exclusively in terms of his filthy garments (i.e., his transgression of the law) insinuated an interpretation of the Mosaic covenant of works as overriding and abrogating the Abrahamic covenant.

In doing so, Satan was suppressing counter-evidence of the continuing validity of the program of grace. Though God had indeed cast off Israel for breaking the Mosaic covenant of works, when the appointed seventy years were completed (cf. Zech. 1:12), he had regathered a remnant from exile in remembrance of his covenant with Abraham (Lev. 26:42; cf. 2 Kgs. 13:23) and with a view to the true fulfillment of that covenant in the eventual coming of Christ from Israel as the promised seed of Abraham. This act of restoration from the Babylonian captivity was in fact a prophetic portrayal at the typological level of the promised antitypical restoration of the elect to covenant fellowship with God as a heavenly kingdom of priests and holy nation, the fruit of the redemptive accomplishment of the second Adam.

What Satan would conceal, the Angel-Judge cited as telling evidence: “Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” (Zech. 3:2). From the consuming curse of the exile-judgment God had saved a remnant, like the survivors of the fiery overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah (cf. Amos 4:11). That divine act of redemption attested to the truth that a principle of sovereign grace was operating in the trial of Joshua as the decisive factor that must result in a verdict of justification.

The accusing serpent, he with the power of death (Heb. 2:14), was overcome by divine rebuke because the messianic Servant would give his life as a ransom, the One for the many (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45), to redeem them from the lake of fire, the second death (Rev. 2:10, 11; 12:11; 20:6). Joshua overcame in judgment because of the atoning blood of the Lamb, the priestly self-sacrifice to be offered unto God by the Christ of whom the high priest was a type (Zech. 3:4-10), the Judge before whom he stood (Zech. 3:1, 3; 2 Cor. 5:10).


* This study of Zechariah 3 continues the series on Zechariah’s night visions begun in Kerux 5:2 (September, 1990).

1. Cf. my study “The Structure of the Book of Zechariah,” JETS 34:2 (1991), pp. 179-193 for substantiation of the structural analysis above.

2. Ibid. p. 193. Cf. Kerux 6:1 (May, 1991), p. 29.

3. His designation can be abbreviated to “Yahweh” (v. 2) or “the angel” (v. 3).

4. Cf. Acts 25:18.

5. Cf. Ps. 109:6, where, as in Zechariah 3, the reference is to a prosecuting attorney.

6. Messianic typology is present in all priestly functioning after the Fall that involves the symbolism of atonement, the effecting of reconciliation between God and sinners. In Israel that messianic aspect of the cult was accentuated by the separation of the chosen Aaronic line to an exclusive priestly office that served as a mediatorial bridge between the rest of the covenant people and God. This special arrangement did not, however, negate the universal office of priesthood that is always the privilege of God’s people.

7. Accordingly the decision reached on Joshua is based on the divine election of Jerusalem (v. 2).

8. For an analysis of the juridical framework of the Book of Job see my “Trial by Ordeal” in Through Christ’s Word: A Festschrift for Dr. Phillip E. Hughes, ed. W. R. Godfrey and Jesse L. Boyd III (Phillipsburg, 1985), pp. 81-93.

9. Implicit in the presenting of Satan’s appeal for a trial by ordeal before God’s judgment seat was an acknowledgment that the Lord was the God of truth, the One who determines the outcome of judicial ordeals. Satan thus contradicted his charge that God was not true God in the very process of making it.

10. Cf. Ps. 104:7; Isa. 17:12,13.

11. A pronouncing of this rebuke-curse on the devil is cited in Jude v. 9, whether in allusion to Zechariah 3:2 or its appearance in the Assumption (or Testament) of Moses. If the latter, we would have to assume that this work preserved a true tradition not recorded in the canonical literature about an historical encounter between Michael and Satan on the occasion of Moses’ burial. In the former case, the “body of Moses” concept must be understood after the analogy of the body of Christ as a designation of the community under the covenant mediated by Moses (cf. 1 Cor. 10:2), the people of Jerusalem represented by Joshua the high priest. If Jude v. 9 refers to Zechariah 3:2, it clearly identifies the Angel of the Lord by the name Michael. On the other alternative, this identification would still not be contradicted. On either view, what Jude recommends is the recognition that final judicial authority resides in God. The episodes in both Zechariah 3 and the Assumption of Moses involve the idea that whatever claim Satan makes on sinful believers, it is countermanded by the Lord God’s redemptive claim on them.

12. The verb employed, epitimao, is used in LXX for ga’ar, “rebuke,” in Zechariah 3:2.