Question: "Who was Joshua the high priest?"
Answer: Joshua was the high priest when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity to Jerusalem (Ezra 3:8). This Joshua is different from the Joshua who served as Moses’ second-in-command and who led the Israelites into the Promised Land after Moses’ death.
Joshua the high priest is the son of Jozadak (Haggai 1:1). His name also appears as Jeshua, and in Nehemiah 7:7 he is listed as one of the group who returned from Babylon. The prophet Haggai also mentions Joshua the high priest: “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).
When the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile, they began building their own homes, but they did not think to reconstruct the temple. Through a message from Haggai the prophet, God called Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor to lead the rebuilding of the temple (Haggai 1:1–8). Haggai’s message convicted the people, and they began construction (Haggai 1:12). Joshua the high priest was the spiritual leader who served alongside the Israelites and encouraged them as they worked to rebuild the house of the Lord (Haggai 1:13–15).
God also used Joshua the high priest as a symbol of the future Messiah (Zechariah 3:8). Zechariah saw a vision of the angel of the Lord giving Joshua the high priest clean garments in place of his filthy garments. This action symbolized the removal of Israel’s sin (Zechariah 3:3–4). The angel then told Joshua of the Branch who will one day come to remove the sins of the people (Zechariah 3:8–9). Another vision recorded by Zechariah does not mention Joshua the high priest by name but alludes to his office. Zechariah sees a golden lampstand and two olive trees, with the lampstand being fed oil from the trees (Zechariah 4:1–3). The angel explains that the two olive trees are symbolic of “the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” (Zechariah 4:14). The two anointed ones would be Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest, through whom the Lord was accomplishing His work.
God also told the prophet Zechariah to make a crown of silver and gold and place it on Joshua’s head (Zechariah 6:11). Zechariah was to say, “Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two” (Zechariah 6:12–13). The coronation served as an encouragement to Joshua in his work of rebuilding the temple and also as a prophecy of the future Messiah—the priestly king who will be “clothed with majesty.” Even Joshua’s name foreshadowed the Messiah. The name Joshua is the Hebrew equivalent of Jesus in Greek.
Joshua the high priest foreshadowed the coming Messiah who would be both high priest (Hebrews 6:20) and king (Matthew 27:11). Jesus was the prophesied Branch who brought the forgiveness of sins for all who would believe, and Joshua the high priest served as a symbol of this promised Branch hundreds of years before the prophecy’s fulfillment.