The Priestly Branch on the Throne

Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. It is he who … shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne” (vv. 12–13).

- Zechariah 6:9-15

The Old Testament is filled with messianic prophecies that Christ has fulfilled. Zechariah 6:9–15 is one of the most important of these prophecies, as it confirms the union of the priestly and kingly offices in the person of our Savior.

We read in today’s passage of a series of actions that the Lord commanded Zechariah to perform. The prophet was to take Heldi, Tobijah, and Jedaiah to the house of Joshua the high priest and place on his head a royal crown (vv. 9–11). Not much information is given about these three men; the most we can say is that they were probably recent arrivals from Babylon who returned to the covenant community in Judah after the initial group of exiles came back to the Promised Land. The key thing to note about them is that these Jews were not residents of Judah, as Zechariah will have some things to say about foreigners in verse 15.

After Zechariah put the crown on Joshua’s head, God told him to announce the Branch who would sit as a priest on David’s throne (vv. 12–13). At first glance, we might want to see the Lord identifying Joshua himself as the Branch, but this cannot be the case. The Hebrew word translated as “man” in verse 12 lacks the definite article, so the phrase is better translated as “a man whose name is the Branch” and not “Joshua, the man who is the Branch.” Furthermore, the Lord said that the man in question would “build the temple of the LORD.” This points to the future, which in the immediate context means that the temple in question could not be the second temple built by the exiles. Whoever the Branch was, he would have to build a temple not yet standing in Zechariah’s day. Finally, the crown did not remain on Joshua’s head but was placed in the temple to await its rightful wearer (v. 14).

The title Branch is used elsewhere in the prophetic literature for the Messiah (Isa. 11:1; Jer. 23:5). Thus, Zechariah’s actions showed the people that the Savior who was yet to come in his day would, unlike any ruler before Him, be a priest who is also fit to be the king.

As Hebrews 7 indicates, this priest-king Messiah is none other than Christ Jesus our Lord, who now lives to make intercession for the people whom He leads against His foes (see also Rom. 8:34). This Jesus builds His temple—His church—on the Apostles, who serve as the church’s foundation even as Christ is its cornerstone (Matt. 16:18). Moreover, our Lord enlists the help of foreigners to build His temple (Zech. 6:15), namely, Gentiles who like Zechariah’s three friends will come to the kingdom from far off and work for its glory.

Coram Deo

John Calvin writes that today’s passage must refer to “the building of the spiritual temple, when Gentiles, formerly remote from God’s people, joined them as friends, and brought their labor 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.” We are fulfillments of prophecy, the foreigners honored to build Christ’s church in Him. Let us not forget this great blessing.

Passages for Further Study

Jeremiah 33:14–26
Zechariah 3
Matthew 2:1–12
Luke 13:18–19

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