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The Priesthood

The Priesthood

  1. Ancient History. The idea of a priest and his intercessory work underlies all religion. From the time that the smoke of Abel's sacrifice ascended to God to the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, the history of the human race is inseparably associated with altars, priests and sacrifices. It may be safely asserted that in the early ages every man was his own priest. Cain and Abel "brought" their sacrifices and presented them to Jehovah ( Genesis 4:1-5 ). The fact that the distinctions "clean" and "unclean" ( Genesis 7:1-3 ) were recognized in the antediluvian ages, goes to prove that offering sacrifice was a general custom among men. After the flood, Noah, in acknowledgment of God's goodness, erected an altar upon the purified earth and offered sacrifices to his great Deliverer ( Genesis 8:20 ). Further on, the head of the family officiated at the altar and led the family worship. Numerous examples are offered"
    1. Abram built altars at Sichem, between Bethel and Hai ( Genesis 12:6-8 ; Genesis 13:1-3 ) and on Mount Moriah ( Genesis 22:1-9 ;
    2. Isaac built an altar at Beersheba ( Genesis 26:18 Genesis 26:23-25 );
    3. Jacob offered sacrifices at Beersheba on his way to Egypt ( Genesis 46:1 ).

    During the ages before the exodus there was not established priesthood, and no special law regulating the offering of sacrifices; but the sacrifices were undoubtedly offered in obedience to Divine command ( Genesis 4:1-5 ; Genesis 22:1-9 ; Genesis 35:1-3 ; Romans 10:17 ; Hebrews 11:4 ). God was gradually preparing the people of his choice for a more perfect revelation of Himself and a more explicit code of laws for their government. He was gradually cutting them off from other nations in order to preserve the blood of Abraham. During the sojourn in Egypt the chosen people largely fell into the corruptions of their surroundings. Tribal relations and conditions had to some extent been developed and preserved, even during the enslavement; but there is no proof that there was any general bond of union or any public worship.

  2. The Lords Choice'. During the last night in Egypt the angel of the Lord passed through the land of Egypt, smiting all the firstborn of man and beast among the Egyptians ( Exodus 12:1-29 ). In memory of the preservation of the firstborn of the children of Israel, he subsequently took unto Himself the firstborn of man and beast ( Exodus 13:2 Exodus 13:11-16 ). After this, He chose the entire tribe of Levi in place of the firstborn of the children of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites in the place of their cattle ( Numbers 3:40-43 ).

  3. Divisions of the Levites. The first intimation of the selection of the Levites was in the choice of Moses and Aaron ( Exodus 3:1-10 Exodus 4:14-16 ). The Levites first showed their devotion to God when Moses returned from the mountain and found all Israel engaged in idol worship. In obedience to the invitation of Moses they gathered around him, and, at his command, slew many of the idolaters ( Exodus 32:1-28 ). The tribe was divided as follows:
    1. Aaron and his sons were to be priests ( Exodus 28:1 ; Numbers 18:1-7 );
    2. the Kohathites were charged with the responsibility of transporting the holy vessels of the tabernacle and court ( Numbers 4:1-15 );
    3. the Gershonites had charge of the coverings, curtains, hanging and cords, or fabrics of the tabernacle ( Numbers 4:21-28 );
    4. the Merarites had charge of the boards, bars, pillars, sockets, pins and cords of the tabernacle and court, and the tools needed in setting them up ( Numbers 4:29-33 ).

  4. Period of Service. The Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites entered partially upon their service at the age of twenty-five ( Numbers 8:24 ), fully upon their duties at the age of thirty ( Numbers 4:2-49 ), and were relieved at the age of fifty ( Numbers 8:23-26 ; The age at which the sons of Aaron became priests were not specified by the law. In the time of David they entered upon their duties at age of twenty ( 2 Chronicles 31:17 ).

  5. Consecration of the Levites. The rites by which the Levites were consecrated to the service of the Lord were, first, they had water of purifying sprinkled upon them; they then shaved themselves and washed their clothes; afterward they offered a young bullock with its meat offering for a burnt offering, and a second bullock for a sin offering; the Israelites approached and laid their hands on the heads of the Levites to the Lord as an offering from the Israelites; the Levites then placed their hands on their burnt offering and sin offering which were slain, and atonement was made for them ( Numbers 8:5-15 ).

  6. Consecration of Aaron and His Sons. The Lord commanded Moses to bring Aaron and his sons before the door of the tabernacle and call all the congregation of Israel together. A young bullock for a sin offering, a ram for a burnt offering, and a ram of consecration were then brought, with a basket containing loaves of unleavened bread, oiled cakes of unleavened bread and wafers anointed with oil. Aaron and his sons were then washed, and their official raiment, which was made for "glory and for beauty" ( Exodus 28:2 ), and was put on them, and the holy anointing oil was poured upon Aaron's head. The bullock was then brought to the north side of the altar, and was killed after Aaron and his sons put their hands upon its head; Moses then took its blood upon his finger and put it upon the horns of the altar and poured the remainder at the side of the altar. The fat of the bullock he burned upon the altar, but the skin, flesh and dung he burned without the camp. Aaron and his sons then placed their hands on the head of the ram for a burnt offering; it was then killed, and Moses took of its blood and sprinkled it upon and round about the altar; he then cleansed and washed it and burned its fat and flesh upon the altar. The ram of consecration was next brought, and after Aaron and his sons had put their hands on its head, it was slain, and Moses took its blood upon his finger and put it upon the tip of the right ears of Aaron and his sons, and on the thumbs of their right hands, and on the great toes of their right feet. Moses then took the fat and rump, and placed them upon the right shoulder of the ram, and also took a loaf of the unleavened bread and a cake of the oiled unleavened bread, and an oil-anointed wafer, and placed them all on the hands of Aaron and his sons to be waved before the Lord; after which he burned them on the altar. And Moses took the breast of the ram of consecration and waved it before the Lord. Moses then took the anointing oil and the blood which was upon the altar, and sprinkled it upon Aaron and his sons. He also took the flesh of the ram of consecration and boiled it, and commanded Aaron and his sons to eat it with the unleavened bread in the basket, requiring them to remain at the door of the tabernacle for seven days. On each of the seven days of consecration a bullock was sacrificed at the altar to consecrate it. On the eighth day Aaron and his sons offered sin, burnt and peace offerings on the altar; and Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and came down from the altar. Then Moses and Aaron went into the holy place, and when they came out Aaron blessed the people, and fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the offerings on the altar, and when the congregation saw it, they fell on their faces and shouted ( Exodus 29:1-37 ; Leviticus 8:1-36 ; Leviticus 9:1-24 ).

  7. Dress of the Priests. The dress of the ordinary priest was made of fine linen and consisted of a coat, girdle, bonnet and breeches ( Exodus 28:40-42 ; Exodus 39:27-29 ).

  8. Dress of the High Priest. The dress of the high priest consisted of breeches, broidered coat, girdle, robe of the ephod, ephod, curious girdle, breastplate, mitre, in all eight parts ( Exodus 28:4 Exodus 28:40-42 ; Leviticus 8:7 ).
    1. The breeches were made of fine twined linen, and reached from the loins to the thighs ( Exodus 28:42 ).
    2. The broidered coat was a long robe of fine twined linen, with sleeves, and reached from the neck to the ankles ( Exodus 28:39 ; Exodus 39:27 ).
    3. The girdle was made of fine twined linen embroidered with blue, purple and scarlet ( Exodus 28:40 ; Exodus 39:29 ).
    4. The robe of the ephod was made entirely of blue material, and was woven ( Exodus 39:22 ). It was worn under the ephod, but was much longer than the ephod. It had a hole for the head to pass through. It had a strong band around the hole to prevent it from rending. The bottom of it was ornamented with bells alternating with pomegranates ( Exodus 28:31-35 ; Exodus 39:22-26 ).
    5. The ephod was made of gold wire, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen. It consisted of two parts; one part covered the back and the other the front of the upper portion of the body. The two parts were fastened together on the shoulders with two large onyx stones on which were engraved the names of the children of Israel according to their birth. It was further united by the curious girdle ( Exodus 28:6-14 ; Exodus 39:2-4 ).
    6. The curious girdle was made of blue, the same material as the ephod ( Exodus 28:8 ; Exodus 39:5 ).
    7. The breastplate was the high priest's outermost article of dress, and was worn above the ephod to which it was closely bound. It was made of gold wire, blue, purple, scarlet and fine twined linen, and was two spans long and one span wide; but it was doubled and was therefore square. It was fastened at the top by rings and chains of gold to the two onyx stones on the shoulders, and at the bottom to the ephod by a lace of blue, fastened in its rings and the rings of the ephod ( Exodus 28:15-29 ; Exodus 39:8-21 ). Three rows, of four each, of precious stones in gold settings, were inserted in the breastplate, having engraven on them the names of the twelve sons of Jacob--one on each stone ( Exodus 28:16-21 ; Exodus 39:8-14 ). The great mystery of the high priest's dress was the Urim and Thummim. In some way not explained in Scripture the Lord communicated to the high priest through the stones of the breastplate ( Exodus 28:30 ; Judges 20:28 ; 1 Samuel 14:3 1 Samuel 14:18 1 Samuel 14:19 ; 1 Samuel 23:2 1 Samuel 23:3 1 Samuel 23:11 1 Samuel 23:12 ).
    8. The mitre was the high priest's head dress and was made of fine linen. A plate of gold with the words "Holiness to the Lord" inscribed on it, was fastened with a blue ribbon to the forefront of the mitre ( Exodus 28:36-38 ; Exodus 39:30 Exodus 39:31 ).

  9. Stones of the Breastplate.
      | Carbuncle | Topaz     | Sardius    |  | Zebulon  | Issachar    | Judah     |  | Fire-red  | Golden tinge  | Blood-red   |  | Diamond  | Sapphire    | Emerald    |  | Gad    | Simeon     | Reuben    |  |      | Sky-blue   | Shining-green |  | Amethyst  | Agate     | Ligure    |  | Benjamin  | Manasseh    | Ephraim    |  | Violet-blue| Diverse colors |        |  | Jasper   | Onyx      | Beryl     |  | Naphtali  | Dan      | Asher     |  | Dark-red  | Sea-green   | Deep golden  |

  10. Terms of Office. All the priests continued in office from the time of their consecration until their death ( Hebrews 7:23 Hebrews 7:28 ). The firstborn of Aaron's family in regular succession was the high priest, and to him the holy garments descended by Divine requirement ( Exodus 29:29 Numbers 20:20-29 ).

  11. Appellation of the High Priest. The high priest was known as the anointed priest ( Leviticus 4:3-16 ; Psalms 133:1-3 ). At the consecration of Aaron and his sons the anointing oil was poured profusely upon Aaron's head ( Leviticus 8:12 ). He was also anointed with blood and oil combined, while the other priests were only anointed with the blood and oil ( Leviticus 8:30 ).

  12. Personal Duties of the High Priest. The high priest was required to lead a life of sobriety, marry and live according to the requirements of the laws of God ( Leviticus 10:8-11 ; Leviticus 21:1-12 ).

  13. Qualifications Necessary to the Priestly Office. Every priest was required to prove his descent from Aaron, but only those who were without physical imperfections were eligible to the office ( Leviticus 21:16-24 ).

  14. Representative Character of the High Priest. The high priest represented the entire nation, hence he bore upon his shoulders and his breast the names of all the tribes of Israel ( Exodus 28:9-21 ).

  15. Duties of the Priests, Aarons Sons'. The priests, Aaron's sons, officiated at the brazen altar and in the holy place from day to day ( Leviticus 1:1-17 ; Hebrews 9:6 ).

  16. Public Duties of the High Priest. The high priest was required to attend to the golden candlestick, burn incense morning and evening ( Exodus 30:1-10 ), and stand before the ark of the covenant and make atonement for the children of Israel once every year ( Leviticus 16:1-34 Hebrews 10:9 ). He was also required to teach the people the law of God ( Leviticus 10:8-11 ; Deuteronomy 17:8-13 ).

  17. Blessing the People. It was the high priest's duty to bless the people. The occasions on which he was to do this are not specified, but we may reasonably suppose that it was at the national festivities ( Leviticus 9:22-24 ). The form of the blessing is given and is superlatively grand. He called upon the Lord to bless and keep them, to make his face shine upon them, and be gracious unto them; to lift His countenance upon them, and give them peace ( Numbers 6:22-27 ).

  18. Priests as Types.
    1. The priests were types of Christians ( Exodus 29:38-42 ; Romans 12:1 ; Hebrews 10:5-7 ).
    2. The high priest was a type of Jesus Christ ( Leviticus 16:1-34 ; Hebrews 10:7-14 ).

  19. Support of the Priesthood. The priests derived their living from:
    1. One-tenth of the tithes which the people paid to the Levites ( Numbers 18:26-28 );
    2. a special tithe every third year ( Deuteronomy 14:28; ; Deuteronomy 26:12 );
    3. redemption money ( Numbers 18:14-19 );
    4. redemption money of things specially devoted to the Lord ( Leviticus 27:1-34 );
    5. spoils of war ( Numbers 31:25-47 );
    6. showbread and parts of certain offerings ( Leviticus 6:25-30 ; Leviticus 7:6-10 ; Numbers 18:8-14 );
    7. an undefined amount of the first fruits of corn, wine and oil ( Exodus 23:19 ; Leviticus 2:14 ; Deuteronomy 26:1-10 );
    8. on their settlement in Canaan they were given thirteen cities, with pasture grounds of their flocks ( Joshua 21:13-19 ).