The oracle in this central and most prominent section of the book forms a hinge between the two larger sections. Like 3:1–10 it describes a messianic prototype receiving the signs of his office. The introduction, “the word of the Lord came to me” (occurring elsewhere only in Jeremiah and Ezekiel), also echoes 4:8, where it introduces an oracle promising Zerubbabel’s completion of the temple. Rather than Zerubbabel here, only Joshua and “the Branch” are mentioned. Zechariah is told to make royal crowns (in Hebrew the word is plural) and to crown Joshua. Then the crowns are to be placed in the temple as a reminder of what God was going to do.
But first Joshua receives a divine message that “the Branch” (since the message was for Joshua, “the Branch” designates someone else) would build the temple, be glorified, and rule (see 1 Chr. 29:25). Now the building of the postexilic temple was already assigned to Zerubbabel (4:9), who as a Davidic descendant prefigured the Messiah (Hag. 2:23). But the Messiah would build the temple associated with His earthly kingdom of righteousness, a future temple prefigured by Zerubbabel’s (4:8–10). Therefore, this oracle spans both contemporary and future fulfillment of God’s purposes. The passage’s ambiguity regarding the number of crowns and the number of thrones is due to the need for both Zerubbabel and Joshua to foreshadow the Messiah, who would be both king and priest. In ancient Israel the king’s throne as well as the ark in the Holy of holies were both the Lord’s throne (see 1 Chr. 29:23). The reference to “harmony between the two” in verse 13 either personifies the Messiah’s dual office or perhaps describes the relation between the Lord and His Anointed (see Ps. 45:6–7; 110:1; Dan. 7:9–14; Heb. 1:3, 13; Rev. 5:6). Finally, although the future kingdom was assured by God’s grace and power, the contemporary “sign” depended upon the diligent obedience of Zerubbabel, Joshua, and the remnant.