Joshua is mentioned as the high priest in Zechariah 3:1-10, but who exactly was he?
First, a disambiguation: the Joshua mentioned in Zechariah is a different person from the Joshua whose name is used as the title of the biblical book of Joshua. That Joshua was the assistant to Moses who led Israel across the Jordan River and led their conquest of the Promised Land in 1400 B.C.
The Joshua of Zechariah 3 was a Levite and descendant of Aaron in post-exilic Jerusalem in approximately 538 B.C. Joshua’s name also appears as “Jeshua” and is listed as one of the first of those returning from Babylon in Nehemiah 7:7: “They came with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah. . . .”
The prophet Haggai also refers to the high priest Joshua: “In the second year of Darius the king [537 B.C.], in the sixth month, on the first day of the month, the word of the LORD came by the hand of Haggai the prophet to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest” (Haggai 1:1).
Joshua would soon help rebuild the temple (Ezra 5:1-2). God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to communicate His command to rebuild the temple and encourage the people in their work. Joshua served as the spiritual leader and high priest who supported the effort, and Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah, also involved in the work.
As the first high priest in the rebuilt Jerusalem, Joshua played a significant historical role and was a precursor to Ezra, who came to Jerusalem during the second wave of returning exiles.
God told the prophet Zechariah to place a crown on Joshua’s head: “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jehozadak” (Zechariah 6:11). Joshua was already the high priest, and the prophet was to symbolically crown him king. The coronation was to serve as an encouragement to Joshua in his work of rebuilding the temple. Also, it was a visual prophecy of the future Messiah—who would be both high priest (Hebrews 6:20) and king (Matthew 27:11). Significantly, the name “Joshua” is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek name “Jesus.” Thus, the priest-king Joshua was a foreshadowing of the coming Messiah, and the similarity extended even to his name.