From Zionist To Anti Semitism
One of the groups that Hitler sent to concentration camps were Jehovah’s Witnesses. They were forced to endure unspeakable atrocities and many lost their lives. The individual actions of many Witnesses are commendable and the Watchtower holds up this part of their history in great esteem.
What is not discussed is the hypocritical actions of Rutherford in the lead up to these events. Early in 1933, the Watchtower office in Berlin was closed and Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in many German states.
In an attempt to appease Hitler, Rutherford instigated a Declaration of Facts and sent a letter to Hitler discussing the Watchtower’s support of the Nazi regime.
Current Watchtower references provide a deceptive portrayal of these documents, through selective quoting. The Proclaimer’s book mentions that Rutherford wrote a letter to Hitler under the context of “facing Nazi oppression”, in which the Watchtower Society is made to sound as if they were firmly against the Nazi regime.
“Therefore, on June 25, 1933, a declaration regarding their ministry and its objectives was adopted by Jehovah’s Witnesses at an assembly in Berlin. Copies were sent to all the high government officials, and millions more were distributed to the public. Nevertheless, in July 1933 the courts refused to grant a hearing for relief. Early the following year, a personal letter regarding the situation was written by J. F. Rutherford to Adolf Hitler and delivered to him
by special messenger. Then the entire worldwide brotherhood went into action.
On Sunday morning, October 7,1934, at nine o’clock, every group of Witnesses in Germany assembled. They prayed for Jehovah’s guidance and blessing.
Then each group sent a letter to German government officials declaring their firm determination to keep on serving Jehovah.” – Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimer’s Of God’s Kingdom p.693
It is quite surprising to find the opposite is true, which can be identified when reading the content of Rutherford’s
1933 letter to Hitler and the Declaration of Facts.
Russell, founder of the Watchtower, was a Zionist and sympathetic to Jews as part of modern-day fulfilment of Bible prophecy. Rutherford initially continued such support, but changed by the 1930’s to an anti-Semitic stance.
“Be it known once and for all that those profiteering, conscienceless, selfish men who call themselves Jews, and who
control the greater portion of the finances of the world and the business of the world, will never be the rulers in this new earth.
God would not risk such selfish men with such an important position” The Golden Age 1927 Feb 23 p.343
“The Jews were evicted from Palestine and ‘their house left unto them desolate’ because they rejected Christ Jesus, the beloved and anointed King of Jehovah. To this day the Jews have not repented of this wrongful act committed by their forefathers. … In 1917 the Balfour Declaration, sponsored by the heathen governments of Satan’s organization, came forth, recognized the Jews, and bestowed upon them great favors. … The Jews have received more attention at their hands than they really deserved.” Vindication – Book II (1932) pp.257-258
During the time of Rutherford, Witnesses became known as a religion of hate, due to the Watchtower’s tirade of insults against other Churches and governments. The Catholic Church come under the greatest condemnation and bought this to the attention of the Nazi government, petitioning against the Watchtower Society. In 1933, the Nazi government banned the Watchtower’s German operations.
“In June of the so-called “Holy Year” of 1933 Adolf Hitler’s regime seized the Watch Tower Society’s property in Magdeburg and banned the activities of Jehovah’s people in Germany as regards meetings and literature distribution, though the property was returned that October.” Yearbook 1975 p.174
In an effort to overturn the ban, Rutherford sent a Letter and a Declaration to Hitler, in which he could rightfully praise Hitler for his anti-Anglo/American campaign and his stance against the Jews.
“Following is part of an English translation of the Letter to Hitler. (known as the Declaration of Facts)
The Brooklyn headquarter of the Watchtower Society is pro-German in an exemplary way and has been so for many years. For that reason, in 1918, the president of the Society and seven members of the board of directors were sentenced to 80 years in prison, because the president refused to use two of the magazines published in America under his direction for war propaganda against Germany. These two magazines, “The Watchtower” and “Bible Student” were the only magazines in America which refused to engage in anti-German propaganda and for that reason were prohibited and suppressed in America during the war.
In the very same manner, in course of the recent months the board of directors of our Society not only refused to engage in propaganda against Germany, but has even taken a position against it. The enclosed declaration underlines this fact and emphasizes that the people leading in such propaganda (Jewish businessmen and Catholics) also are the most rigorous persecutors of the work of our Society and its board of directors. This and other statements of the declaration are meant to repudiate the slanderous accusation, that Bible Researchers are supported by the Jews.
The conference of five thousand delegates also noted – as is expressed in the declaration that the Bible Researchers of Germany are fighting for the very same high ethical goals and ideals which also the national government of the German Reich proclaimed respecting the relationship of humans to God, namely: honesty of the created being towards its creator. The conference came to the conclusion that there are no contradictions when it comes to the relationship between the Bible Researchers of Germany to the national government of the German Reich. To the contrary, referring to the purely religious and unpolitical goals and efforts of the Bible Researchers, it can be said that these are in full agreement with the identical goals of the national government of the German Reich.
We are looking forward to your kind approval, which we hope to receive soon, and want to assure our highest respect to you, honorable Mr. Reichskanzler.
Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society Magdeburg”
Excerpt from: nairaland.com/…/watchtower-scandal-rutherfords-letter-hitler
Since that time two groups have formed. One supporters of C. T. Russell (at some times called ‘Russellites’), and another group who support the views and teachings of J. F. Rutherford (Rutherfordites). This schism continues to exist until today. Each group claiming the other is wrong. The reality is that they are both out of harmony with the teachings of the Bible and both fall short of true obedience as disciples of Christ.
They each cling to an earthling man as their spiritual leader. They prove themselves to be disciples of men and not of Christ Jesus.
Paul spoke of this very phenomenon occurring in the first century.
1 Corinthians 1:10-13
“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”
Just substitute the names Cephas and Apollos with Russell and Rutherford. They both are doing the very thing the Apostle warned against.
Was it Russell that died for you? Was it in Rutherford’s name you were baptized?
They are divided because their discipleships are founded on men and their warring is divisive and hinders the operation of the Holy Spirit. They glorify men and man-made organization and entice others to follow their path.
It is Jesus Christ is who is to be followed. They need to stop putting faith in earthling man.
Charles Taze Russell mixed Bible belief with mysticism (example: seeking answers by studying the Giza pyramid). He was a man who held Zionist beliefs and expectations. He was a man who preached that a person could not come to an accurate understanding of the Bible without reading his books. And he shared other non biblically based thinking.
Joseph Franklin Rutherford was an anti-Semite who groveled at Adolf Hitler’s feet using anti-Semitic speech to appease him. He turned what Russell started into an organizational structure. He also initially share Russell’s Zionist vision of the restoration of physical Israel.
The followers of Russell and the followers of Rutherford offer a false dichotomy. If one chooses either, they are not true followers of Christ and they would have those who listen and believe what they teach remain connected to a house that has been condemned. They will not as Jesus admonished, “Get out of her my people, that you be not partakers of her sins, and that you receive not of her plagues”.
These have not really heeded Christ warning as they will not make a clean break from the Watchtower Society. They continue to malinger in a house that Christ has condemned.
See also: https://brotherjohnsite.org/2018/08/25/was-ct-russell-founder-of-jehovahs-witnesses-a-zionist/
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Do You Believe The Martyr Stephen Was Cross-Eyed?
At first notion that may seem to be a silly question to ask. But there is a good reason to ask it.
What was it that Stephen saw in Heaven?
The Bible in the Book of Acts chapter six, describes the man Stephen as, “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit)…”. (KJV)
Stephen had a vision by means of Holy Spirit just before his death. After eloquently defending his faith in Jesus Christ before a mob who were about to take him out and stone him, this is the account of what he saw: Acts 7:55-60
55 “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.
60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep”. (KJV)
Stephen said that he saw the resurrected Jesus standing, “on the right hand (on the right side) of God”. Stephen saw two distinct personages. He saw Jesus and he saw that he stood next to God Almighty.
This does not square with those who teach and believe that Jesus Christ was God come down to Earth in flesh.
For that belief to be true then either Stephen had a vision of God standing next to Himself which is impossible, or….Stephen had to have been cross-eyed and suffered from double-vision.
He didn’t see just one, he saw two individuals.
At the time when Jesus was baptized by John the baptizer, a voice was heard out of Heaven, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased”. Matthew 3:17 (KJV)
Do you believe that Jesus in some sort of trickery, pitch his voice in order to deceive those with him? Who then was it that spoke from Heaven if he were God on Earth?
Those who believe Jesus and God Almighty are one and the same person misinterpret John’s personal expression in found at John 1:1 as he begins his gospel in which he gives an account of what Jesus himself said and did. The words at John 1:1 are not the words of Jesus, but of John.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. (KJV)
The John who wrote what is recorded as the Book of John is the same John who wrote what is recorded in the Book of Revelation. In reading the Book of Revelation it is quite obvious the John did not believe Jesus was God Almighty.
How is Jesus ‘godly‘?
Jesus is unique from all other creation. He is divine in that he is “begotten” of God. This mean God took of himself and formed His son. As your offspring are of your flesh, Jesus is of the same of what God’s body consist of and shares in this way godliness.
Jesus states himself as John records, what his relationship to God Almighty is. In John chapter 14 verse 28 we read:
“Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I“. (KJV)
Jesus clearly states that God the Father is greater than himself.
Also in the same Bible book of John chapter 6 verse 38, Jesus makes this statement regarding himself:
“For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me”. (KJV)
Who can send God Almighty anywhere? No one.
But God Almighty can send a lesser than himself to Earth and He did in sending His only begotten son.
Also note what occurred at the transfiguration scene found at Luke 9:34-35:
34 “While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him”. (KJV)
If Christ were God in flesh, who was it that spoke from Heaven?
Paul said this about Almighty God,
“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen”. 1 Timothy 1:17 (KJV)
God is and has alway been immortal. Therefore it is impossible for Him to die.
Yet we know the Jesus Christ did die and had to be resurrected. Ask yourself: By whom was he resurrected?
According to what is written in 1 Corithians chapter 15, it wasn’t until after Christ resurrection that he put on immortality.
While the picture illustration that accompanies this article may seem humorous, it should cause you to think quite seriously about the subject and what you have been taught.
Do you believe Stephen full of Holy Spirit and what he saw?
Do you believe Jesus and the words from his own mouth identifying himself as lesser than God the Father?
Do you believe God Almighty who twice identified Jesus as His son?
Or do you stubbornly insist on believing the misinterpretation of John 1:1 and ignore what the Bible clearly states concerning God the Father and Christ Jesus his son?
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2 Peter 3:8
“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”
The root of the number 144,000 is explained in this brief but informative article.
Twelve priest served the daily offerings in the Temple.
Twelve priest serving twelve loaves equals 144.
“Twelve per day”
One of the central Temple vessels is the golden Table for the Showbread, which stands within the Sanctuary itself, on the north side. This table is constructed of wood overlain with gold, and the specific instructions for its design are described in Exodus Chapter 25.
The priests are commanded to see to it that 12 loaves of bread are constantly displayed on this table before the presence of G-d, hence the name showbread: “And you shall place showbread on the table before Me at all times” (Ex. 25:30).
These 12 loaves were baked in pans which gave them a specific form, and when done they rested on golden shelves upon this table. The loaves were replaced every Sabbath with new ones.
It is said that bread is the staff of life, and represents man’s physical sustenance. This is certainly so, and it is important that G-d’s blessing for goodness and bounty be found in the bread which we partake of… for without His munificent blessing, all of man’s efforts would neither satisfy nor satiate. Thus we endeavor to fulfill His will throughout every aspect of our endeavors, and in so doing, we earn His favor and blessing… for each area wherein man fulfills the Holy One’s will becomes a channel receiving Heavenly blessing.
This was especially so in the case of the Showbread, and one aspect of its function was indeed to elicit Divine guidance and providence. The sages teach that since these loaves were in essence the vehicle for fulfilling G-d’s commandment, and they were used to accomplish His will, special blessing could be found in it, and indeed, the Divine blessing was seen and felt particularly in the context of the Showbread. The Talmud describes that a miracle took place every week: When the priests came to replace the breads with new loaves every Sabbath, they found that those of the previous week remained fresh and hot upon the table, like the moment they were baked.
This miracle was seen as a clear confirmation that the Divine Presence indeed rested in this holy place.
In this light we find the sages’ comment that when the Holy Temple stood, every facet of human existence was similarly blessed by a corresponding aspect of the Divine service:
The produce of the fields were blessed on account of the showbread and the omer offering;
The yearly rainfall, on account of the water libations during the Holiday of Sukkot;
Clothing kept one warm in the merit of the priestly garments;
The economy prospered because of the daily sacrifices.
When the Temple was destroyed, all these benefits were discontinued, as recorded by the prophet Hagai: “You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but you are not satiated; you drink; but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves; but no one is warm; and he that earns wages earns them to put them into a bag with holes” (Hagai 1:6).
Water Baptism-Ritual Cleansing
Did John the Baptizer Invent Baptism? When, how, and why was the practice begun?
A Jewish man called Yochanan (John the Baptizer) was baptizing people in the Jordan River in first century Israel, including his cousin who would later become world-famous: Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus of Nazareth).
Many Jewish people responded to the call of this Jewish man to immerse themselves in the river as a sign of repentance, and a desire to get right with God. Some of the Pharisees were also among them. Did Yochanan (John the Baptizer) invent baptism at this time? Or was it part of Jewish tradition and practice before that?
No he didn’t, and yes it was.
And the Hebrew word for an immersion pool built for this purpose, “mikveh”, also points us in the right direction in understanding deeper meaning in the practice.
Immersion in Jewish Tradition
The Jewish laws which had been passed down orally from generation to generation had several things to say about the need for ritual washing, and the most desirable places to do it. There are six different options suggested that satisfy the requirements, starting with pits or cisterns of standing water as acceptable but least desirable, moving up to pits that are refreshed by rainwater as slightly more desirable, then the custom-built ritual bath, or “mikveh” with 40 se’ahs (300 liters) or more of water, then fountains, then flowing waters.
But “living waters” (as found in natural lakes and rivers) which were considered to be the best possible situation.
The Mishnah specifies what makes the water clean or unclean, and expresses a preference for a larger, fresher body of water, “For in it persons may immerse themselves and immerse others”.
So Yochanan (John the Baptizer) immersing people in the “Living waters” of the River Jordan was perfectly within Jewish law and practice at the time.
The Essenes, a strict Jewish sect, were doing it too out in the Judean Desert. But why were Jewish people immersing themselves in water? Is baptism in the Jewish Scriptures? Well, sort of, yes.
Ritual Bathing in the Bible
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: You shall also make a laver of bronze, with its base also of bronze, for washing. You shall put it between the tabernacle of meeting and the altar. And you shall put water in it, for Aaron and his sons shall wash their hands and their feet in water from it. When they go into the tabernacle of meeting, or when they come near the altar to minister, to burn an offering made by fire to the LORD, they shall wash with water, lest they die. So they shall wash their hands and their feet, lest they die. And it shall be a statute forever to them– to him and his descendants throughout their generations.” Exod 30:17-21
The priests had to be ritually clean (tahor) in order to serve at the tabernacle, and Israelites who had become ritually unclean (tamay) had to restore their situation with the passing of time and bathing their whole body in fresh, ritually clean (tahor) water, according to Leviticus 15.
Later, when the temple had been built, it was necessary for everyone to be immersed in a mikveh to become ritually clean before entering the temple. There are many ancient mikva’ot (plural of mikveh) to be seen in Jerusalem, and it is clear to see the two sets of steps for each one – a set of steps going down to the mikveh in an impure (tamay) state on one side, and on the other side, steps where the pilgrim will emerge fresh and ritually clean (tahor).
What did it look like in the time of Jesus?
Following the upheaval of the 1967 war, archaeologists were presented with the opportunity to excavate parts of the upper city of Jerusalem, giving a new window into daily life in ancient times. Many of the houses were grand and spacious, with their own water cisterns and ritual baths in the basements. Some houses were found to have had several of these mikva’ot, since it is thought that as well as providing for the household (which could even be up to fifty people) they would have been able to welcome and host pilgrims arriving for the Jewish feasts, catering for many more. Many of this upper city aristocracy were among the priestly class, who would have to stay in a state of ritual purity as much as possible, and so would have to immerse themselves in a mikveh frequently. Archaeologists also believe that the pools of Siloam and Bethsaida could have been used for ritual bathing in the Second Temple period for those visiting Jerusalem for the high holy days.
So immersion in a mikveh was quite common at the time of Yeshua, but the New Testament also describes baptisms taking place not only in rivers, but in any available body of water. In Acts 8, we read of a visiting pilgrim from Ethiopia, who came to believe in Yeshua as he read Isaiah on the way home:
“As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” (verse 36).
By this point baptism had come to signify a decision to accept Yeshua as Messiah and Lord.
The word “Mikveh”
The Hebrew noun for a ritual bath (mikveh) can help us understand a bit more about the Jewish notion of immersion. Often the Hebrew language reveals keys in the Hebrew thought behind the words. The word mikveh shares the same root as the word for hope (tikvah), for line (kav) and alignment, and the concept of hoping or waiting on God (kiviti l’Adonai).
Here is what Strong’s Lexicon has to say about the word:
מִקְוֶה miqveh, mik-veh’;
something waited for, i.e. confidence (objective or subjective);
also a collection, i.e. (of water) a pond, or (of men and horses) a caravan or drove:—abiding, gathering together, hope, linen yarn, plenty (of water), pool.
and the same root word:
קָוָה qâvâh, kaw-vaw’;
to bind together (perhaps by twisting), i.e. collect; (figuratively) to expect:—gather (together), look, patiently, tarry, wait (for, on, upon).
The ideas of binding together, or twisting together, of yarn, gives us a good mental picture of what it means to align ourselves with God, and wait for him. We gather ourselves and bind ourselves to his word and to him, we line ourselves up with him, and wait for him in confidence and hope. When you read that the Psalmist says he waits upon the Lord, this is usually the word he is using.
The linked concepts of mikvah (collected pool of water) and tikvah (hope, confidence) are played out beautifully in Jeremiah 17:5-6, where the prophet poetically expresses the ideas through the metaphor of trees either rooted and flourishing beside water when we trust in God, or drying up for the lack of water when we put our trust in man. A few verses later, Jeremiah summarises:
Lord, you are the hope (mikveh) of Israel; all who forsake you will be ashamed (or dried out).
Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water.
This is a word play – the text actually says “The Lord is the MIKVEH of Israel, and all who forsake him will be ashamed or dried out!” So it makes more sense now that Jeremiah continues, to say that when we turn away from this mikveh of water and hope, we will be ashamed, which can also be translated “dried out”. Through this word play, Jeremiah deliberately points us back to the analogy of the man who trusts in God being like a tree beside plenty of water, and the one who leaves God ending up in dry, dusty shame.
A “Mikveh” of living water represents the bounty and resources of the new life that we can enjoy in God. Those who put their hope in God, choosing to align their lives with him, will never be dried out, but will always have fresh life in him.
Next time you see someone being immersed in water to signify their new life in Yeshua, the hope of Israel, the mikveh of Israel, call to mind all that he said about being the water of life, the well of living water that springs up to eternal life… because that’s exactly who He is!
 Tractate Mivaoth, Babylonian Talmud, Mishnah 1-8
There are six degrees of gatherings of water, each superior to the other.
The water of pits… The same rules apply to the water of pits, the water of cisterns, the water of ditches, the water of caverns, the water of rain drippings which have stopped, and mikwehs of less than forty se’ahs: they are all clean during the time of rain; when the rain has stopped those near to a city or to a road are unclean, and those distant remain clean until the majority of people pass [that way].
Superior to such [water] is the water of rain drippings which have not stopped.
Superior to such [water] is [the water of] the mikveh containing forty se’ahs, for in it persons may immerse themselves and immerse others.
Superior again is [the water of] a fountain whose own water is little but has been increased by a greater quantity of drawn water; it is equivalent to the mikveh inasmuch as it may render clean by standing water, and to an [ordinary] fountain in as much as one may immerse in it whatever the quantity of its contents.
Superior again are ‘smitten waters’ which can render clean even when flowing.
Superior again are ‘living waters’ which serve for the immersion of persons who have a running issue and for the sprinkling of lepers, and are valid for the preparation of the water of purification.
Studying The Priesthood of God
What did God mean when he said concerning His priesthood, “You are to be holy to Me because I, Yahweh, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine”? Leviticus 20:26
What did Peter mean when counseling first century anointed disciples, “But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.” 1Peter 1:15,16
What is the difference between ‘spirituality’ and ‘holiness’?
The Levitical Priests:
Reaching levels of inspiration and revelation that are not rooted in holiness, as personified by the wicked heathen prophet Balaam, King Balak, and the elders of Moab and Midian, are all equally reprehensible (these practiced various forms of divination and occult arts in order to bring about prophetic revelation.
Their Function and Role in the Holy Temple
“And it shall be for them an appointment as priests forever, for all generations.” (Ex. 40:15)
“For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes, to stand to serve in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever.” (Deut. 18:5)
Who are the Priests?
The first kohen, the founder of the priestly clan, was Aaron, brother of Moses, of the tribe of Levi. All of Israel are descended from the twelve sons of Jacob. Jacob’s third son was Levi, and Aaron was a fourth generation descendant of Levi.
Aaron and his four sons were designated as the first priests; Aaron served as the first High Priest. All of his male descendants were chosen by God to be priests forever; it is an eternal covenant. Thus even today, a kohen amongst the Jewish people is genealogically a direct descendant of Aaron.
The Role of the Priests
The Holy One chose these men to be in a position of spiritual leadership. In the days of the Temple, they were responsible for the sacred service. The Hebrew word kohen actually means “to serve,” and a deeper linguistic connection can be found in the word ken, meaning “yes,” itself related to kivvun, “to direct.” Thus a kohen is called upon to direct himself, and others, in the proper service of God: “And you, separate your brother Aaron and his sons from among the Israelites, and bring them close to you… so they can serve me.” (Ex. 28:1)
A Conduit for the Reception of Divine Blessing
The reader is undoubtedly most familiar with the primary role which the priests perform in the Temple, that of officiating at the sacrifices and other parts of the service. But more importantly, by attending to the various aspects of the Divine service, the priests serve as a conduit to bring down God’s radiant blessing and influence into this world. In fact, it is on this account that they are commanded to deliver God’s blessing of peace and love to the people, as well: “Say to Aaron and his sons… Thus shall you bless the people of Israel: ‘May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord shine His face upon you, and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift up His face to you and may He grant you peace’.” (Numbers 6:22 – 26)
The Priestly Blessing is Delivered Daily in the Temple
Every day in the Temple, at the conclusion of the morning service, this blessing was performed by the officiating priests, standing on the steps leading up to the sanctuary. Thus while it is only God who has the power to bestow blessing upon people, the function of the priests was to serve as a vehicle, a medium, through which the Divine influence may descend.
“… He stands behind our wall… “
This concept of the priests “directing” the flow of Divine blessing is alluded to by a verse in the Song of Songs (2:9 – 10): “Behold, He stands behind our wall, watching through the windows, glancing through the cracks.”
The sages of the Midrash interpret these words to mean that it is God who stands behind the priests as they deliver His blessing. The illumination of His Presence shines through their hands, which are outstretched as they utter the priestly blessing.
The Priests Possess Special Qualities
The priests represent kindness, and the focusing of life’s energies on sanctity and Divine purpose. It was the attribute of kindness, understanding and love for all which Aaron, the first High Priest, was best known for, and his descendants are entrusted to exemplify Hillel’s famous dictum in the Chapters of the Fathers (Avot 1:12): “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving your fellow-creatures, and drawing them near to the Torah.” This quality was highly visible and crucially instrumental following the rebellion of Korach, when it was Aaron who saved the people from the full extent of Divine wrath (see Numbers 17).
Because of their ability to invoke Heavenly influence, the sages even record that the priestly families possess distinctive character traits and qualities which are part of their special spiritual heritage: they are known to be joyful, giving, and driven by a loftier nature. In the era of the Temple, they were praised for their zeal and dedication to fulfill the commandments and give honor to the Creator.
Later, through the ensuing course of history, it was generally the tribe of Levi and the priestly family in particular that were exemplary in their zealousness for the honor of God. Thus it was the priestly family of the Hasmonaim – the famous “Maccabees” – who led the revolt against foreign idolatrous influence and rededicated the Holy Temple, events marked by the holiday of Chanukah.
The daily blessing of the priests in the Temple serves to open the Heavenly gates of mercy. Through it, the people of Israel merit not only material well-being – including offspring and longevity – but spiritual blessings as well; mercy, Divine protection and the greatest blessing of all… true peace. Since the priests themselves represent the attribute of kindness, their service brings the flow of God’s blessing down to His people.
General Rules of Priestly Conduct
The priest must be holy to his God. You must keep him holy, for he presents the offering to your God… He must be holy, for I am God – I am holy and I am making you holy” (Lev. 21).
God Has Sanctified The Priests Above All Men
The Holy One ordained special laws which effect the lives of the priests. The fundamental understanding behind these principles is that the status of the priest is different than that of other men. Their lot is one of dedication, of separation – for they are the servants of the Lord, and the custodians of His service. “… For he presents the offering to your God… ”
Because of this, “… he must be holy, for I am God – I am holy and I am making you holy.” The Creator has sanctified these men above the rest for all time, and drawn them to Himself through unique commandments.
These laws are recorded in the book of Leviticus, and by way of an introduction, let us examine the verse quoted above. The priests are expected and commanded to keep holy… but what is meant by “holiness?” What is the Bible’s intention?
“He must be holy, for I, God, am holy.” How are we to understand this state of holiness? How can we best explain such a concept? It seems intangible at best – for in the context of this verse, it seems that the priest is called upon to be holy in the same sense that God Himself is holy.
It would surely be instructive at this point for us to attempt a definition for the word “holy.” For we can see that the Bible uses this word quite emphatically in the context of the priests: they are actually mandated to be holy, to lead holy lives, because God is holy. But how can a person be holy like God?
Many people seem to equate the concept of holiness with spirituality in general; anything ethereal or mystical is presumed to be holy. According to this mentality, one supposes that holiness is a matter of secret knowledge, or simply a question of allegiance to any proscribed ritual claimed by its adherents to bring the devotee closer to fulfillment.
To Be Spiritual Does Not Automatically Imply Holiness
This is a serious misconception, one which is completely out of tune with the Biblical idea of holiness as exemplified by the “holiness” which is expected and required of Aaron’s descendants. For holy and spiritual are not the same things and they are certainly not equal.
Consulting Webster’s Dictionary, we find that the word “spiritual” is derived from the Latin spiritualis, “of breathing; of wind; relating to or consisting of spirit.” Thus: “INCORPOREAL,” (fortunately, we are also given “of or relating to sacred matters,”) and since the primary meaning of this word seems to be that which is non-physical, we end with “of or relating to ghosts or similar supernatural beings(!)”
Thus many people, disciplines, philosophies and the like may be considered spiritual in nature, they may concern themselves with the esoteric, they may even occupy themselves with the service of God – but this does not necessarily imply that they are holy in any way.
Forbidden Spiritual Pursuits
In fact, some spiritual paths can most definitely be the absolute epitome of unholiness:
The Bible is clear in its prohibition of spiritualism which has not been authorized by God. “Do not act on the basis of omens… do not act on the basis of auspicious times” (Lev. 19:26), we are warned. These forbidden practices include one who acts on the basis of a superstitious omen, and those who seek out auspicious times through astrology.
When the Children of Israel were preparing to end their desert wanderings and enter into the Promised Land, they were specifically warned by God to uproot the perverted spiritual practices of the former inhabitants from the land, and to be particularly cautious not to be tempted to experiment with mystical occult practices. “When the Lord your God excises the nations to which you are coming, and drives them away before you, you shall dispossess them and live in their land. Be very careful not to fall into a trap by following after them, after they have been wiped out from before you. Do not try to find out about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations worship their gods? I would also like to try this.’ Do not worship the Lord your God with such practices. In worshipping their gods, these nations committed all manner of perversions hated by the Lord… ” (Deut. 12:29 – 31).
Reaching levels of inspiration and revelation that are not rooted in holiness, as personified by the wicked heathen prophet Balaam, King Balak, and the elders of Moab and Midian, are all equally reprehensible (these practiced various forms of divination and occult arts in order to bring about prophetic revelation. See Numbers 22).
So, while other nations may have their own routes to connect with the “Divine,” or their own conception thereof; or, perhaps they merely delude themselves and others into thinking that they are serving God, and the side of holiness – clearly, the Torah’s prohibitions instruct Israel that these other ways are not for her. There may be other paths of spirituality, but they are not for Israel; she is to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).
But we have not yet come any closer to an understanding of the priests’ exhortation to live holy lives “because God is holy;” neither have we come any closer to a grasp on how an individual can be holy like God. If God is incorporeal, if God is spirit, is a man therefore commanded to be spirit? Spirituality is clearly a separate concept, and one that is not necessarily pure, at that.
Holiness Means Separation
By contrast to the concept of “spiritual” – which seems to be rather unstable for our liking, since it can actually apply to things quite far from all which we have considered sacred – we find that the primary definition of “holy” is “set apart to the service of God.”
God Himself is called holy because He is completely separate; unique and unequaled in all of His creation. Nothing can be compared to Him because He is peerless; He is the Creator of the universe and all existence, and absolutely different from anything else that exists. It is in this light that Israel is collectively called upon to be a “holy nation” – that is, a nation set apart from all others, completely different from any other, whose Divinely-mandated lifestyle serves as living proof that an entire nation can walk with God in its midst… “it is a nation dwelling alone in peace; not counting itself among other nations” (Numbers 23:9).
This separation is the true Biblical view of holiness. This is why the opposite of something holy is said to be mundane or profane; ordinary. To be holy is to be removed from the realm of the ordinary. Israel lives separately, according to the Torah’s commandments, precisely because God is separate… for the highest form of religious experience is to reflect, to imitate the Divine. Man must strive to be a reflection of his Creator.
So too, the priests in the Holy Temple “must be holy for I, God, am holy.” If Jewish life is to be holy, then the priests must take care to be especially holy. They have been distinctively sanctified by the Creator Himself for all time and singled out for a life dedicated to Him. The vehicle that accomplishes this sanctification is the commandments, which obligate them to their Creator. These commandments reflect their unique status.
For anyone to seriously consider themselves chosen to serve as a priest under High Priest Jesus Christ, they should be eager to learn about what it is a priest does. The only method to understand what God and Christ expect is by examining the pattern of the priesthood God established as His example of what is required.
It is reasonable to believe that anyone with that prospect held before them would be consumed with gaining and growing in an understanding of what the role is about and its disciplines. All called to the priesthood in God’s arrangement with Israel were both well-trained and well-disciplined in proper ritual conduct.
The following article from the Jewish Encyclopedia offers insight into understanding the life and service functions of a priest of God.
Laymen as Priests-The Priestly Code
One consecrated to the service of the sanctuary and, more particularly, of the altar. This definition, however, holds true rather for the later than for the earlier stages of Hebrew priesthood. In ancient Israel one was not required to be specially consecrated in order to perform the sacrificial functions; any one might approach the altar and offer sacrifices. Thus Gideon, of the tribe of Manasseh (Judges vi. 26 et seq.), and the Danite Manoah (ib. xiii. 16, 19) sacrificed in person at the express command of God and the angel of God respectively; similarly, David sacrificed on the altar he had built at God’s command on the thrashing-floor of Araunah (II Sam. xxiv. 25); and Solomon, before the ark in Jerusalem (I Kings iii. 15). David, on the occasion of the transference of the Ark to Zion, and Solomon, at the dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem, ministered as priests (II Sam. vi. 14, 17, 18;. I Kings viii. 22, 54 el seq.); the latter continued to personally offer sacrifices on the altar of Yhwh at regular intervals (I Kings ix. 25). Similar instances, in later times, are presented by Elijah, sacrificing on Mount Carmel (I Kings xviii. 32 et seq.), and by Ahaz, in the Temple at Jerusalem (II Kings xvi. 12 et seq.).
In accordance with this usage in ancient Israel, the ordinances contained in the Book of the Covenant, the oldest code, concerning the building of altars and the offering of sacrifices are addressed not to the priest, but to the people at large (Ex. xx. 24-26). Even where there was a sanctuary with a priesthood, as at Shiloh, any layman might slaughter and offer his sacrifices without priestly aid (comp. I Sam. ii. 13-16). As access to the altar was not yet guarded in accordance with later Levitical ordinances, so the priesthood was not yet confined to one family, or even to one tribe. The Ephraimite Samuel became priest of the sanctuary at Shiloh, wearing the priestly linen coat (“efod bad”) and the pallium (I Sam. ii. 18 et seq., iii. 1). The kings of Israel ordained as priest whomever they chose (I Kings xli. 31); David, too, invested his own sons, as well as the Jairite Ira, of the tribe of Manasseh, with the priestly office (II Sam. viii. 18, xx. 26).
Functions of the Priest.
If a distinct established priesthood is nevertheless found at the sanctuary of Shiloh and at that of Dan as early as the time of the Judges, it is obvious that its real office can not have been connected with the altar or the sacrifices, and that, consequently, its origin can not be looked for in the sacrificial functions. Wherein the origin of the Israelitish priest-hood really lies is sufficiently apparent from the older Biblical records of the time of the Judges and the following period. According to these, the functions of the priest were twofold: to care for and guard the sanctuary and its sacred images and palladia, and (of still greater importance) to consult the oracle. Thus the Ephraimite Micah, after having provided an ephod and teraphim (see Ephod) for his shrine, installed one of his sons as priest to take care of them, but only until he could secure a professional priest, a Levite, for the purpose, one who was qualified to consult the oracle (Judges xvii. 5-13). (a mediator with God)
It is evident that not the shrine, but the images it sheltered, were the essential thing. These it was that the migrating Danites coveted and carried off to their new home, together with the priest, who had consulted the oracle in behalf of their exploring party with auspicious results (ib. xviii.). The sacred palladium of the sanctuary at Shiloh was the ARK, over which the sons of Eli and Samuel kept guard. The former carried it when it was taken to the battle-field, while the latter, having special charge of the doors, slept nightly near it (I Sam, iii. 3, 15; iv. 4 et seq.). When, later, the ark was returned from the field of the Philistines and brought to the house of Abinadab at Kirjath-jearim, Abinadab’s son Eleazar was at once consecrated guardian over it (ib. vii. 1). The bearing of the ark, with which, at Shiloh, the sons of Eli were entrusted, remained, as the frequent statements to this effect in later Biblical literature show, a specific priestly function throughout pre-exilic times (comp. Deut. x. 8, xxxi. 9; Josh. iii. 6 et seq., iv. 9 et seq., vi. 12, viii. 33; I Kings viii. 3). After the capture of its ark by the Philistines the sanctuary of Shiloh disappeared from history (its destruction is referred to in Jer. vii. 12, 14; xxvi. 6); its priesthood, however, appeared in the following period at the sanctuary of Nob, which also had an ephod (I Sam. xiv. 3; xxi. 1, 10; xxii. 9, 11).
After the massacre of the priesthood of Nob, Abiathar, who was the sole survivor, fied with the ephod to David (ib. xxiii. 6), whom thenceforward he accompanied on all his military expeditions, bearing the ephod in order to consult the oracle for him whenever occasion demanded (ib. xxiii. 9, xxx. 7). Similarly, in the campaign against the Philistines, Ahiah accompanied Saul and the Israclites, “bearing the ephod” and ascertaining for them the decisions of the oracle (ib. xiv. 3, 18, the latter verse being so read by the LXX.). The priests’ duty of guarding the sanctuary and its sacred contents accounts for the use, in pre-exilic times, of “shomer hasaf,””doorkeeper” (corresponding to the Arabic “sadin”), as synonymous with “kohen” (II Kings xii. 10), and explains also how “shamar” and “sheret” became the technical terms of priestly service and were retained as such even after the nature of the service had materially changed.
To fill the office of doorkeeper no special qualification was necessary, but, as hinted above, to consult the oracle required special training, such as, no doubt, could be found only among professional priests. So, though the doorkeepers were in many cases not of priestly lineage (comp., besides the case of Samuel and of Eleazar of Kirjath-jearim, that of Obededom; II Sam. vi. 10 et seq.), those who consulted the oracle were invariably of priestly descent, a fact which makes it seem highly probable that the art of using and interpreting the oracle was handed down from father to son. In this way, no doubt, hereditary priesthood developed, as indicated by the cases of the sons of Eli at Shiloh and Nob, and of Jonathan and his descendants at Dan, both these priestly houses extending back to the very beginning of Israelitish history. The descendants of Jonathan made express claim to lineal descent from Moses (comp. I Sam. ii. 27; Judges xviii. 30; the reading “Menashshch” in Judges xviii. 30 is, as the suspended נ shows, due to a later change of the original “Mosheh,” a change which is frankly acknowledged in B. B. 109b; comp. also Rashi and Ḳimḥi ad loc., and to ib. xvii. 7); in fact, their claim is supported by Ex. xxxiii. 7-11, according to which not Aaron, but Moses, was the priest of the “tent of meeting” (R. V.) in the wilderness, while Joshua kept constant guard over it.
Interpreters of the Law.
“Whosoever had to consult God went out to the tent of meeting,” where Moses ascertained the will of God; and just as Moses, in his capacity of priest, was the intermediary through whom Yhwh revealed the Torah to the Israelites in the wilderness, and through whom His judgment was invoked in all difficult cases, such as could not be adjusted without reference to this highest tribunal (Ex. xviii. 16 et seq.), so the priests, down to the close of pre-exilic times, were the authoritative interpreters of the Law, while the sanctuaries were the seats of judgment.
Thus the Book of the Covenant prescribes that all dubious criminal cases “be brought before God,” that is, be referred to Him by the priest for decision (Ex. xxii.7, 8). That “Elohim” here means “God” (not, as the A. V. translates, “the judges”) is clear from I Sam. xiv. 36, where the same phrase, “niḳrab el Elohim” is applied to consulting the oracle by means of the Urim and Thummim (comp. the following verses, 37-42, the last two verses as read by the LXX.). The urim and thummim were employed together with the ephod in consulting the oracle, the former, as may be inferred from the description in I Sam. xiv. 41, 42, being a kind of sacred lots: in all probability they were cast before the ephod. Josh. vii. 14 and I Sam. ii. 25 may be cited in further proof of the fact that direct appeal to divine judgment was made in ancient Israel. This primitive custom is reflected even in as late a passage as Prov. xviii. 18. The Blessing of Moses proves that the sacred lots continued to be cast by the priests during the time of the monarchy, inasmuch as it speaks of the urim and thummim as insignia of the priesthood (Deut. xxxiii. 8). This document shows, as does also the Deuteronomic code, that throughout pre-exilic times the expounding of the Torah and the administration of justice remained the specific functions of the priests. It declares that the priests are the guardians of God’s teachings and Law, and that it is their mission to teach God’s judgments and Torah to Israel (Deut. xxxiii. 9, 10), while the Deuteronomic code decrees that all difficult criminal as well as civil cases be referred to the priests (ib. xvii. 8-11, xxi. 5). Further proof to the same effect lies in the frequent references of the Prophets to the judicial and teaching functions of the priesthood (comp. Amos ii. 8; Hos. iv. 6; Isa. xxviii. 7; Micah iii. 11; Jer. ii. 8, xviii. 18; Ezek. vii. 26).
Offering of the Sacrifices.
In addition to the duties thus far discussed, the offering of sacrifices, in the time of the monarchy, must have become the office of the priest, since the Blessing of Moses mentions it with the other priestly functions. No direct information is obtainable from the Biblical records as to the conditions and influences which brought this about, but it may be safely assumed that one of the factors leading thereto was the rise of the royal sanctuaries. In these, daily public sacrifices were maintained by the king (comp. II Kings xvi. 15), and it must certainly have been the business of the priests to attend to them. There is evidence also that among the priests of Jerusalem there were, at least in later pre-exilic times, gradations of rank. Besides the “chief priest” (“kohen ha-rosh”) mention is made of the “kohen mishnch,” the one holding the second place (II Kings xxv. 18 et al.).
As yet, however, it seems apparent that the priest-hood was not confined to one particular branch of the family of Levi, but, as both the Blessing of Moses and the Deuteronomic code state, was the heritage of the whole tribe (comp. Deut. x. 8, 9; xviii. 1 et seq., 5; xxxiii. 8-10; Josh. xviii, 7). This explains why, in the Deuteronomic code, the whole tribe of Levi has a claim to the altar-gifts, the first-fruits, and the like, and to the dues in kind from private sacrifices (Deut. xviii. 1-5), while in Ezekiel and the Priestly Code the Levites have no share therein. It explains also how it comes that, not only in Judges xvii. (see above), but throughout pre-exilic literature, the terms “Levite” and “priest” are used synonymously (comp. Deut. xvii. 9, 18; xviii. 1; xxi. 8; xxiv. 8; xxvii. 9; Josh. iii. 3; Jer. xxxiii. 18, 21: the only exception is I Kings viii. 4, where, however, as the parallel text, H Chron. v. 5, shows, the ו of is a later insertion).
Levites and Priests.
Since, in pre-exilic times, the whole tribe of Levi was chosen “to stand before Yhwh in order to minister unto Him,” It is but consistent that the office “of blessing in Yhwh’s name” (which in the Priestly Code is assigned to Aaron and his sons—Num. vi. 23) should, in the Deuteronomic code, pertain to all the Levites (comp. Deut. x. 8, xxi. 8). A very strong proof that all membersof the Levitical tribe were entitled to priesthood is furnished in the provision which was made by the Deuteronomic code for those Levites who were scattered through the country as priests of the local sanctuaries, and who, in consequence of the Deuteronomic reformation, had been left without any means of support. It stipulated that those Levites who desired to enter the ranks of the priesthood of Jerusalem should be admitted to equal privileges with their brethren the Levites who ministered there unto God, and should share equally with them the priestly revenues (Deut. xviii. 6-8). As a matter of fact, however, this provision was not carried out. The priests of Jerusalem were not willing to accord to their brethren of the local sanctuaries the privileges prescribed by Deuteronomy, and although they granted them support from the priestly dues, they did not allow them to minister at the altar (comp. II Kings xxiii. 8, 9). In this way the Deuteronomic reformation marks, after all, the first step toward the new development in the priesthood in exilic and post-exilic times.
The attitude of the priests of Jerusalem toward those of the local sanctuaries was sanctioned by Ezekiel. In his book (and later in II Chron. xxxi. 10) the priesthood of Jerusalem is called “bene Ẓadoḳ” or “the house of Zadok,” after Zadok, who replaced Abiathar, Eli’s descendant, when Abiathar, because of his partizanship for Adonijah, was deposed by Solomon (comp. I Kings ii. 27, 35). Ezekiel ordained that of all the Levite priests only the Zadokites, who had ministered to God in His legitimate sanctuary at Jerusalem, should be admitted to the service of the altar; the rest, who had defiled themselves by officiating at the local sanctuaries, should be degraded to the position of mere servants in the sanctuary, replacing the foreign Temple attendants who had heretofore performed all menial services (Ezek. xl. 46, xliii. 19, xliv. 6-16). Naturally, the altar-gifts, the tribute of the first-fruits, and the like, were to be awarded thenceforward to the Zadokites alone (xliv. 29, 30). Though Ezekiel assigns to the priests the duty of sitting in judgment in legal disputes, as before (xliv. 24), he makes their ritual functions, not their judicial functions, the essential point in his regulations governing the priests. Administering the Law, according to him, extends only to matters of ritual, to the distinctions between holy and profane, clean and unclean, and to the statutory observance of Sabbaths and festivals (xliv. 23, 24).
The Priestly Code.
Ezekiel’s new regulations formed, in all essentials, the basis of the post-exilic priestly system which is formulated in detail in the Priestly Code. A striking difference between Ezekiel and the Priestly Code, however, is at once evident in that the latter betrays no idea of the historical development of things. Whereas Ezekiel records the old usage and, by virtue of his authority as a prophet, declares it abolished, the Priestly Code recognizes only the new order of things introduced by Ezekiel, which order it dates back to the time of Moses, alleging that from the very first the priest-hood had been confined to Aaron and his sons, while the mass of the Levites had been set apart as their ministers to fill the subordinate offices of the sanctuary (comp. Ex. xxviii. 1; Num. i. 48 et seq.; iii. 3-10; viii. 14, 19, 24-26; xviii. 1-7; I Chron. vi. 33 et seq.). The priestly genealogy of I Chron. v. 29-41 and vi. 35-38 was but the logical result of this transference of post-exilic conditions back to the period of the wandering in the wilderness. This genealogy, the purpose of which was to establish the legitimacy of the Zadokite priesthood, represents the Zadokites as the lineal descendants of Phinehas (the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron), who, for his meritorious action in the case of Zimri, according to Num. xxv. 10-13, had been promised the priesthood as a lasting heritage. That this genealogy and that of I Chron. xxiv. 1-6, in which the descent of the Elite Abiathar is traced from Aaron’s son Ithamar, are fictitious is evident from the fact that they conflict with the authentic records of the books of Samuel and Kings: (1) they know nothing of the priesthood of Eli; (2) Ahitub, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, and father of Ahimelech of Nob (comp. I Sam. xiv. 3; xxii. 9, 11), appears in them as the son of an unknown Amariah and the father of Zadok; (3) contrary to I Kings ii. 27, 35 (see above), Abiathar and his descendants remain priests at the Temple of Jerusalem.
The Priestly Orders.
Regarding the characteristic attribution of postexilic conditions to pre-exilic times, a notable example may be pointed out in Chron. xxiii.-xxvi. Both priests and Levites were, in post-exilic times, divided into twenty-four families or classes, with a chief (called “rosh” or “sar”; comp. especially I Chron. xv. 4-12; xxiii. 8 et seq.; xxiv. 5, 6, 31; Ezra viii. 29) at the head of each. The institution of this system, as well as of other arrangements, is, in the passage cited, ascribed to David.
The prominence which the ritual receives in Ezekiel reaches its culmination in the Priestly Code, where the judicial functions of the priest, formerly much emphasized, have given way altogether to the ritualistic. To minister at the altar and to guard the sanctity of Israel, which means practically the sanctity of the sanctuary, constitute from this time on the priest’s exclusive office. For this purpose, it is pointed out, God chose Aaron and his sons, distinguishing them from the rest of the Levites, and bid them consecrate themselves to their office (comp. Ex. xxviii. 1, 41-43; xxix. 1, 30, 33, 37, 43-46; xxx. 20, 29 et seq.; Lev. i.-vii., xiii. et seq., xvii. 5 et seq.; Num. vi. 16 et seq., xvi. 5-11, xviii. 3-7; I Chron. xxiii. 13; II Chron. xxvi. 18). Any one not of priestly descent was forbidden, under penalty of death, to offer sacrifice, or even to approach the altar (Num. xvii. 1-5, xviii. 7). As the guardians of Israel’s sanctity the priests formed a holy order (comp. Lev. xxi. 6-8), and for the purpose of protecting them against all profanation and Levitical defilement they were hedged about with rules and prohibitions. They were forbidden to come in contact with dead bodies, except in the case of their nearest kin, nor were they permitted to perform the customary mourning rites (Lev. x. 6, xxi. 1-5; Ezek. xliv. 20, 25). They were not allowed to marry harlots, nor dishonored or divorced women (Lev. xxi. 7).They were required to abstain from wine and all strong drink while performing sacerdotal duties (Lev. x. 9; Ezek. xliv. 21). Any priest having incurred Levitical defilement was excluded, under penalty of death, from priestly service and from partaking of holy food during the time of his uncleanness (Lev. xxii. 2-7, 9; Ezek. xliv. 26 et seq.). If afflicted with any bodily blemish the priest was held permanently unfit for service; such a one was, however, permitted to eat of the holy food (Lev. xxi. 17-23).
A noteworthy feature of the post-exilic priestly system is the place which the high priest occupies in it, for which see High Priest.
Baudissin, Gesch. des Alttestamentlichen Priestertums, 1889;
Benzinger, Hebräische Archäologie, 1894, pp. 405-428;
Nowack. Lehrbuch der Hebräischen Archäogic. 1894, il. 87-130:
Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Gesch. Isracls, 1899, pp. 118-165.
To Make Atonement.
—In Rabbinical Literature:
The status of the priesthood in later Judaism and the views that prevailed concerning it were in full accordance with the Priestly Code. Like the latter (comp.Ex. xxix. 42-46; Lev. ix. et seq.; xv. 15, 30-33; xvi.; Num. vi. 27; Zech. iii. 7; Mal. ii. 7), later Judaism saw in the sanctuary the manifestation of God’s presence among His people, and in the priest the vehicle of divine grace, the mediator through whose ministry the sins of the community, as of the individual, could be atoned for. In Yoma 39b and Lev. R. i. (where Zech. xi. 1 is taken as referring to the Temple) the name “Lebanon” (= “white one”) for the Temple is explained by the fact that through the Temple Israel is cleansed from its sins. That the chief purpose of altar and priesthood is to make atonement for, and effect the forgiveness of, sin is stated again and again in Talmud and Midrash (comp. Ber. 55a; Suk. 55b; Ket. 10b; Zeb. 85b; Lev. R. xvi. 2; Tan. to Ex. xxvii. 2; Yalḳ. ii. 565). Even the priestly garments were supposed to possess efficacy in atoning for sin (Zeb. 85b; Yalḳ. i. 108). According to the rabbinical decision, “the priests were the emissaries, not of the people, but of God”; hence, a person who had sworn that he would not accept a service from a priest might nevertheless employ him to offer sacrifices and might make atonement for sin through him (Yoma 19a; Ned. iv. 3; 35b; Ḳid. 23b).
Importance of Pedigree.
Later Judaism enforced rigidly the laws relating to the pedigrees of priests, and even established similar requirements for the women they married. Proof of a spotless pedigree was absolutely necessary for admission to priestly service, and any one unable beyond all doubt to establish it was excluded from the priesthood (comp. Ket. 13a, b, 14a, 23a, b, 27a, b; Ḳid. 73a, b; Maimonides, “Yad,” Issure Biah, xx. 2, 16; Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Eben ha-‘Ezer, 3, 6, 7). Unless a woman’s pedigree was known to be unimpeachable, a priest, before marrying her, was required to examine it for four generations on both sides, in case she was of priestly lineage; for five generations if she was not of priestly descent (Ḳid. iv. 4, 5; 77a, b; “Yad,” l.c. xix. 18; Eben ha-‘Ezer, 2, 3). How scrupulously such examinations were made may be seen from the observations of Josephus regarding this custom (“Contra Ap,” i., § 7). In addition to the persons enumerated in Lev. xxi. 7, the Talmudic law enjoined the priest even from marrying a ḥaluẓah (see ḤALIẒAH). In a dubious case of ḥaluẓah, however, the priest was not obliged to annul his marriage, as he was in the case of a woman excluded by the Levitical law; nor were the sons born of such a marriage debarred from the priesthood (comp. Yeb. vi. 2; 54a; Soṭah iv. 1; Ḳid. iv. 6; Sifra, Emor, i. 2; “Yad,” l.c. xvii. 1, 7; Eben ha-‘Ezer, 6, 1). Neither might a priest marry a proselyte or a freedwoman. Regarding a daughter of such persons, opinion in the Mishnah is divided as to whether or not it was necessary that one of the parents should be of Jewish descent. The decision of later authorities was that, in case both of the woman’s parents were proselytes or freed persons, a priest should not marry her, but if he had done so, then the marriage should be considered legitimate (Bik. i. 5; Yeb. vi. 5; 60a, 61a; Ḳid. iv. 7; 78b; “Yad,” l.c. xviii. 3, xix. 12; Eben ha-‘Ezer, 6, 8; 7, 21).
Contact with Dead Prohibited.
The Levitical law which forbids the priest to defile himself by coming in contact with a dead body is minutely defined in the Talmud on the basis of Num. xix. 11, 14-16. Not only is direct contact with the dead prohibited, but the priest is forbidden to enter any house or enclosure, or approach any spot, where is lying or is buried a dead body, or any part of a dead body—even a piece of the size of an olive—or blood to the amount of half a “log” (about a quarter of a liter); he is forbidden also to touch any one or anything that is unclean through contact with the dead (comp. Sifra, Emor, i. 1, ii. 1; Naz. vii. 2, 4; 42b, 43a, 47b, 48b, 56a, b; Yer. Naz. 56c, d; “Yad,” Bi’at ha-Miḳdash, iii. 13-15; ib. Ebel, iii.; Shulḥan ‘Aruk, Yoreh De’ah, 369, 371). In contradistinction to Lev. xxi. 2-4, the Talmudic law includes the wife among the persons of immediate relationship. It specifies, moreover, that it is the duty of the priest to defile himself for the sake of his deceased wife or, in fact, for any of his immediate kin, and that compulsion must be used in the case of any priest who refuses to do so, as in the case of the priest Joseph on the occasion of his wife’s death (Sifra, l.c.; M. Ḳ. 20b; Yeb. 22b, 90b; Naz. 47b, 48a, b; Zeb. 100a; “Yad,” Ebel, ii.; Yoreh De’ah, 373).
But even while occupied in burying a relative, the priest may not come in contact with other dead bodies (“Yad,” l.c. ii. 15; Yoreh De’ah, 373, 7). The Talmud prescribes, further, that if any priest, even the high priest, finds a corpse by the wayside, and there be no one in the vicinity who can be called upon to inter it, he himself must perform the burial: the technical term referring to such a case is “met miẓwah” (comp. Sifra, Emor, ii. 1; Naz. vii. 1; 43b, 47b, 48b; “Yad,” l.c. iii. 8; Yoreh De’ah, 374, 1, 2). Finally, the Talmud permits and indeed orders the priest to defile himself in the case of the death of a nasi; it relates that when Judah ha-Nasi died the priestly laws concerning defilement through contact with the dead were suspended for the day of his death (Yer. Ber. iii. 6a; Yer. Naz. vii. 56a, Ket. 103b; “Yad,” l.c. iii. 10; Yoreh De’ah, 374, 11).
Bodily Defects Incapacitate.
The Talmudic law also specifies minutely what constitutes a bodily defect sufficient to render the subject unfit for priestly service. Bek. vii. and Sifra, Emor, iii. enumerate 142 cases; whether the defect is permanent or only temporary is not taken into account (comp. Zeb. xii. 1; 102a, b; “Yad,” Bi’at ha-Miḳdash, vi.-viii.; Philo, “De Monarchia,” ii. 5; Josephus, “Ant.” iii. 12, § 2).
The division of the priests into twenty-four classes, mentioned in Chronicles, continued down to the destruction of the Second Temple, as statements to this effect by Josephus (“Ant.” vii. 14, § 7; “Vita,” § 1) and the Talmudic sources show. These divisions took turns in weekly service, changing every Sabbath, but on the festivals all twenty-four were present in the Temple and took part in the service. These twenty-four divisions or classes were subdivided, according to their numbers, into from five to nine smaller groups, each of which was assigned to service in turn. The main divisions were called “mishmarot,” the subdivisions “batte abot” (terms which in Chronicles are used interchangeably). There was a chief at the head of each main division, and also one at the head of each subdivision (Ta’an. ii. 6, 7; iv. 2; 27a, b; Yer. Ta’an. 68a; Tosef., Ta’an. ii.; Suk. v. 6-8; 25a, b, et al.; ‘Ar. 12b; Yoma iii. 9, iv. 1; Yer. Hor. iii.; 48b).
Besides the various chiefs, the Talmudic sources frequently mention also the “segan” as an official of high rank. As early as Tosef., Yoma, i. 6; Yoma 39a, Naz. 47b, and Soṭah 42a the view is found that the segan was appointed for the purpose of serving as substitute for the high priest on the Day of Atonement in case the high priest should incur Levitical defilement. Schürer (“Gesch.” 3d ed., ii. 265) rightly points out, however, that this view is erroneous, since, according to the statement in Yoma i. 1, it was customary every year, seven days before the Day of Atonement, to appoint a priest to perform the service on that day in case the high priest should become Levitically unclean; and there would have been no need for such an appointment if, in the person of the segan, a permanent provision existed for such an emergency. (Further reference to this custom is found in Yoma 12b; Tosef., Yoma, i.) Conclusive proof of Schürer’s argument may be found in the fact that in Sanh. 19a the priest appointed as the high priest’s potential substitute for the Day of Atonement is called “mashuaḥ she-‘abar” (anointed one that has been retired), and is clearly distinguished from the segan. The passage reads: “If the high priest offers consolation the segan and the mashuaḥ she-‘abar stand at his right hand, and the chief of the ‘bet ab,’ with the mourners and the rest of the people, at his left hand. . . . And if he receives consolation the segan stands at his right hand, and the chief of the bet ab, with all the people, at his left; the mashuaḥ she-‘abar, however, is not admitted for fear the high priest, in the excitement of his grief, might think that he looked with complacency on his bereavement.”
The name “mashuaḥ she-‘abar” is to be accounted for by the fact (stated in Tosef., Yoma, i.; Yer. Yoma i., 38a, and Yoma 12b, and illustrated by the case of Jose ben Illem) that a substitute who has actually taken the place of the high priest on the Day of Atonement may not thereafter perform the services of an ordinary priest; neither may he aspire to the high-priesthood. In the light of this statement it can readily be understood why Meg. i. 9 calls the temporary substitute of the high priest “Kohen she-‘abar.” The names “mashuaḥ she-‘abar” and “Kohen she-‘abar” are in themselves proof of Schürer’s assertion, inasmuch as the office of the segan was a permanent one. But apart from this negative evidence, which merely shows that the segan was not identical with the mashuaḥ she’abar, there is (contrary to Schürer, l.c. ii. 264) positive evidence in the Talmudic sources to show that his real office was identical with that of the latter. Thus, in the baraita Sanh. 19a, quoted above, the title “Segan” is used to designate the “memunneh” spoken of in the preceding mishnah (ii. 1), a circumstance which would point to the conclusion drawn by the Gemara (ib.) that the segan and the memunneh were identical. This conclusion is, in fact, corroborated by Mishnah Tamid, where the titles “segan” and “memunneh” are used interchangeably. There can be no doubt that in Mishnah Tamid iii. 1-3, v. 1-2, vi. 3, vii. 3 these titles refer to one and the same official, whose office is described in great detail—the office, namely, of superintendent of the whole Temple service. Note especially vi. 3 and vii. 3, which define the duty of the superintending priest when the high priest offers incense or sacrifice: in vi. 3 this official is called” memunneh”; in vii. 3, “Segan.”
It may logically be inferred from these passages that the duties ascribed to the segan on the Day of Atonement in Yoma iii. 9, iv. 1, vii. 1 were a regular part of his office as superintendent of the service. Indeed, this is borne out by Yer. Yoma iii., 41a, where, together with the Day of Atonement duties of the segan that are specified in the Mishnah, is mentioned that of waving a flag as a signal to the Levites to join in with their singing, the giving of which signal, according to Mishnah Tamid vii. 3, was a regular feature of the segan’s daily official routine. The fact that the segan had to act as superintendent of the service even on the Day of Atonement fully precludes the idea that he could ever have been appointed substitute for the high priest for that day.
Considering the importance of such a position of superintendence, some weight must be attached to the statement in Yer. Yoma (l.c.) that “no one was appointed high priest unless he had previously occupied the office of segan.” It substantiates, at least, the conclusion drawn by Schürer (ib.) from the fact that the segan invariably appears at the right hand of the high priest (comp. the baraita Sanh. 19a, quoted above)—the conclusion, namely, that the segan was the next in rank to the high priest. Schürer is probably correct, too, in pointing out (ib.) that the segan is identical with the στρατηγóς τοῦ ἱεροῡ, frequently mentioned by Josephus and in the New Testament.
Other important officials were the “gizbarim” (treasurers), who had charge of the Temple property, and the “amarkelin” (a word of Persian origin,meaning “cashier”), who probably shared the duties of the gizbarim (comp. Josephus, “Ant.” xiv. 7, § 1; xv. 11, § 4; xviii. 4, § 3; Peah i. 6, ii. 8, iv. 8; Shek. ii. 1; v. 2, 6; Me’i. iii. 8; Men. viii. 2, 7; et al.). Yer. Sheḳ. v., 49c, mentions also the “ḳaṭolikin” (καθολικοι), placing them in rank before the amarkelin.
According to Talmudic law, the regulations demanding an unimpeachable pedigree and relating to Levitical defilement continued to be binding on the priest, even after the Temple had been destroyed, in order that he might be fit for priestly service when, on the advent of the Messiah, the Temple would be rebuilt and the service of the altar renewed. Any one not complying with these requirements is not allowed to give the priestly blessing, the pronouncing of which remained the duty of the priest, according to Talmudic law, even after the destruction of the Temple (see Blessing, Priestly). Talmudic law prescribes further that the honor of being first called upon for the reading of the Torah should belong to the priest (comp. “Yad,” Issure Biah, xx. 13; ib. Tefillah, xiv., xv.; Eben ha-‘Ezer, 3, 1; Oraḥ. Ḥayyim, 128; 135, 3, 4; Soṭah 38b; Giṭ. v. 8; see, however, Hor. iii. 8).
Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., ii. 225-279;
Carpzow, Apparatus Historio-Criticus Antiquitatum Sacri Codicis;
Haneberg, Die Religiösen Altertümer der Bibel;
Lightfoot, Ministerium Templi Quale Erat Tempore Nostri Salvatoris;
Lundius. Die Alten Jüdischen Heiligtümer, Gottesdienste und Gewohnheiten, etc.:
Selden. De Successione in Pontificatum Ebrœorum;
Ugolini, Saccrdotium Hebraicum.