“And the word of the Lord came to me saying, take from the exiles, from Heldai, from Tobijah, and from Jedaia, come on that same day, and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah who have come from Babylon. And take silver and gold and make crowns and place on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak the high priest. And say unto him saying, thus said the Lord of hosts saying behold a man his name is Zemah and he will flourish in his place, and he will build the sanctuary of the Lord. And he will build the sanctuary of the Lord and he will bear majesty, and he will sit and rule upon his throne, and the priest will be on his own throne and there will be a counsel of peace between the two of them. And the crowns will be for Helem, and for Tobijah, and for Jedaiah, and for Hen the son of Zephaniah as a remembrance in the sanctuary of the Lord. People will come from afar and they shall build in the sanctuary of the Lord, then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me unto you, and this shall come to pass if you will truly listen to the voice of your God.”
This prophecy takes place in the early days of the Second Temple. The man who served as High-Priest at that time, was a certain Joshua son of Jehozadak. Now the prophet Zechariah was commanded to take gold and silver and create crowns (in the plural). He was then to place a crown on the head of the High- Priest . The prophet then informs us that an individual will appear who will build the Temple. The prophet refers to this man as “Zemah” – which translates into “branch” – a possible reference to the Messiah. The prophet goes on to tell us that this man will bear glory and rule from his throne, the priest will be on his own throne and there will be peace between the two of them. In other words, when the Branch arrives, he will take office as ruler, the priest will still retain his own office, and there will be peace between these two rulers.
It is not the Messiah – Branch who is portrayed as a priest, it is the priest who is described as one who sits on a throne and bears a crown. This passage does not speak of a priestly Messiah as missionaries would have us believe; it speaks of a governing priest – as a personality distinct from the person of the Messiah. This concept fits right in with the general teaching of scripture concerning this matter.
The three prophets who prophesied during the early days of the Second Temple (Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi) all emphasized the role of the priests as guides to the people (Haggai 2:10 – 15, Zechariah 3;1 – 7, Malachi 2:4 – 8, 3:3,4). The prophets spoke of the holy responsibility of the priests in instructing the people, and the prophets rebuked the priests who were not fulfilling this responsibility in the proper manner. In Ezekiel’s description of the Messianic era, an entire chapter (Ezekiel 44) is devoted to a depiction of the role of the priests, with specific emphasis on their role as teachers to the people (verses 23, 24). In the context of a Messianic prediction, Jeremiah speaks of the two families who were chosen by God – the royal family of David, and the priestly family of Levi (Jeremiah 33:17 – 26). The prophet assures us that God’s choices are permanent and irrevocable. It is clear that the Levitical priesthood plays a significant role in the Messianic era.
During the Second Temple era and in the period of exile that followed, the nation did not wield much political power . The leaders of the nation were the arbitrators of God’s Law, a function of the priesthood (Leviticus 10:11, Deuteronomy 33:10, Ezekiel 44:23, Malachi 2:7, 2Chronicles 19:11). The priests were then prominent in the government of the nation from the times of Zechariah onward. In the Messianic era the priesthood will also join the office of royalty in governing the nation. In that era, when everyone will observe the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 30:8, Jeremiah 31:32, Ezekiel 36:27, 37:24), the teaching role of the priests will be significantly exalted.
The prophet Zechariah accurately predicted the increase in the governing power of the priesthood. He said nothing about a priestly role for the royal ruler.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal