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
8. Audi nunc Jehoshua, sacerdos magne, tu et socii tui qui stant (vel, habitant) in conspectu tuo; quia viri portenti sunt isti; quia ecce prodire facio servum meum Gramen. (Ubi verti, quoniam viri portent sunt, potest ita resolvi oratio, quamvis sint viri portenti; sed de sensu Prophetae statim dicam.)
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 favor 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, Isaiah 11:1 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 tsmch, tsamech 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 honor 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 honor, 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 favor; 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 favor: 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, Isaiah 8:1 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 clamored, |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 favor. 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 --