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Zechariah 3:3

3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. 4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. 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.

It seems from the above texts the filthy garments denote iniquity.

Could this iniquity be the marrying of pagan wives(Ezra 10:18)or the slothful rebuilding of the temple under Joshua the high priest?

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Hebrews would explain this, in my opinion. There we learn that the blood of bulls and goats could not possibly take away the sins of even the most devout Jew (Hebrews 10:1-4) and therefore those yearly sacrifices of the law could stand only as a reminder of sin, rather than a pathway to perfection. The law made nothing perfect but, as we know, the bringing in of a better hope did.

So here is this man Joshua, filthy not so much due to any particular sin, but due both to the naturally sinful nature of all men and to the inherent weakness and inadequacy of Moses' law which couldn't really sanctify anyone absolutely.

I think this passage is best understood if you compare it to Isaiah's equivalent experience: an otherwise righteous, law-abiding servant of Jehovah appears to be filthy and unrighteous with relationship to or in comparison to the holy God in whose presence (whether real, or experienced through a dream or vision) he suddenly finds himself.

Isaiah 6:1-7 "In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne...Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal...he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged." -KJV

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The filthy garments of the high priest Joshua depicts represents the works of the sinful man. All our righteous works are like filthy garments before God. In this discussion I will try to make a live illustration.

Isaiah 64:6

6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

The high priest Joshua serving stood before in a rooten filthy condition and Satan stood before him to oppose and accuse him. Satan lays claim on.sinners and hypocrites as his own. He was trying to serve God while still a captive of sin, under servitude to sin, which is liked to adultery, since he had a living husband ruling his heart by sin yet claiming to be bound to God by the law of liberty.

Romans 3:10-20

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Satan still had a claim over Joshua, clothed in Satan's garment. Sin was still ruling his heart:

Romans 7:1-4

1 Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth?

2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband.

3 So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.

4 Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

Joshua, serving under the law was still a servant of sin:

Romans 7:14-20

14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

15 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

16 If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good.

17 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.

20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

In the condition of adversity he was in, Grace stepped in to deliver him. Grace made a way for a change of garments:

Zechariah 3:1-7

1 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

2 And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.

4 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.

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.

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.

Grace delivered Joshua from the power of indwelling sin to serve the Lord in the law of spirit and life in Christ Jesus. Grace furnished the new garments of righteousness. Grace set the priest free from condemnation.

Romans 8:1-6 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.

3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.

6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

Grace set him free indeed.

John 8:32-36

32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?

34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.

35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.

36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. God made him a God's workmanship in Christ Jesus:

Ephesians 2:10

10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

In scripture of Joshua holds a deep mystery of law and Grace.

  • So would you say that there is no particular sin in view (that we are privy to) but rather God is concerned with the general sinfulness of the priest? IE: Is the answer to the question "no sin in particular, just his general sinfulness"? – Ruminator Jul 12 '18 at 13:28
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Your question: Could this iniquity be the marrying of pagan wives (Ezra 10:18 sq) or the slothful rebuilding of the temple under Joshua the high priest?

Apparently yes. I mean both.

Pagan wives: Jewish exegesis would rather confirm the idea of pagan wives:

It was due to the fact that his sons would marry women who were not fit for marriage into the priesthood, and he did not reprimand them, as it is stated: “And Joshua was clothed in filthy garments, and he stood before the angel” (Zechariah 3:3). And was it the typical manner of Joshua to wear filthy garments? Rather this verse teaches an allusion that his sons would marry women who were not fit for marriage into the priesthood, and he did not reprimand them. That is why he appeared with soiled garments in the vision of the prophet Zechariah.

Sanhedrin 93a:18; also in Sanhedrin 11:20

Both. This solution was held by Christian commentators ever since a very early stage of Biblical exegesis. For instance Justin Martyr has a comment on this:

For we, who once practiced fornication and every other kind of filthy action, have, through the grace conferred upon us by our Jesus according to the will of his Father, cast off all these foul garments of sin in which we were dressed.

Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 116

Christian commentators would stress on the fact that this iniquity is not only personal, but general, affecting the whole of the Jewish people and the building of the Temple. See: J.M.P. Smith & J. A. Bewer, A critical and exegetical commentary on Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi and Jonah, C. Scribner's sons, New York, 1912, p. 150-151

However, both perspectives seem to be related.

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