Doctrine of Levitical Priesthood

July 19, 2010

Doctrine of Levitical Priesthood
1. Three Characteristics of : Numbers 16:5
a. Chosen of God
b. Set apart–or holy
c. Permitted to “draw near”; a spiritual function
2. Aaron: first High Priest: Ex, 28:1, Numbers 18:7-8.
3. Priesthood was to descend through Aaron’s four sons, but only two
survived. Numbers 18:1, 10:6.
4. However, any sons of Aaron’s with any -physical defects disqualified him.
Lev. 21:17-23
5. Function of the Priesthood:
a. Teach the Law (Doctrine). Lev. 10:11 They handled the written
Word, the prophets handled the verbal Word (which became
b. Offer sacrifices – Lev. 9.
c. Maintain the Tab ernacle or Temple – Num. 18:3.
d. Conduct all ritual – Lev. 24:5-8.
e. Inspect unclean persons – Num. 6:22
f. Judge controversies. Deut. 19:17.
g. Functioned in the Holy Place – Ex 30:7-10
h. Collected taxes from the people – Num 18:21; Heb 7:5
6. Priests assisted by Levites – 2 Chron, 35:14; 29:34 on occasions when it is
humanly impossible to perform the tasks, i.e. Passover; when offering
thousands of sacrifices.
7. The priesthood was reorganized in David’s day into 24 orders. 1 Chron,
8. Some priests had also the office of a prophet: Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and
9. The entire nation of Israel was originally intended to be priests , but the
Golden Calf incident cut it off to just Aaron’s family – Ex. 19:4-6.
However, the Church Age finds each individual as a believer-priest. (Those
born again.)
10. The support of the priesthood: consisted of certain portions of the
sacrificial offerings (Num. 18:8-14); one regular tithe (Num. 18:21-24;
cf. Lev 27:30- 33), of which a tenth part went to the priests (Num. 18:26-
28); thirteen cities assigned to them (Josh. 21:13-19) a special tithe every
third year (Deut.14:27-29; 26:12); the redemption money for the
firstborn in Israel (Lev. 27); a percentage of the booty of war (Num.
31:25-27); and the shewbread (Lev.24:5-9).
11. Assistants to the priests: the Levites – 2 Chron. 29:34:
a. Chosen by God to assist in sacrifices and in the care and
administration of holy things – Num. 3:5, ff; 8:14-19.
b. Function:
1. Preserved and transmitted the Law – Lev. 10:11; Deut. 17:18;
33:10; Neh. 8:9; Ezek. 44:23.
2. Served the priests – Num. 18:4.
3. Set up, dismantled and transported the Tabernacle –
Num.4;10:17, 21.
4. Taught doctrine and the administration of justice – Deut.
12. Period of service : twenty-five years, from age 25-50 – Num. 8:24, 25.
13. The three branches of Levi, in the tribe but not of the Aaronic line –
Num.4; their responsibilities:
a. The KOHATHITES (articles of furniture, vessels and veil),
b. The GERSHONITES (Coverings, hangings and door).
c. The MERARITES (planks, bars and cords).
14. The appointment of the Levites: God had chosen the entire nation to be
his priests – Ex. 19:5, 6. Upon their failure (Ex. 32:7-10), the Levites,
who had rallied around Moses (Ex. 26-28), were commissioned for the
priesthood (Num. 3:5-9).
15. Dress of the high priest (Ex. 28): except on ceremonial occasions, the
dress of the priests and the high priest was no different from that of the
common people. On ceremonial occasions, the high priest’s uniform
consisted of the following: white linen shorts; a white linen coat, approximately
hip-length; a belt in the same colors as the curtains – white,
blue, scarlet and purple; a turban-like cap with a golden crown,
inscribed: “Holy to Jehovah,” (this was the badge of his rank); an ephod
of blue, lavishly embroidered in colors; a breast-plate of gold and cloth,
with the urim and the thummin on the shoulders, and twelve stones,
representing the tribes, engraved with their names and fastened with a
golden clasp.
16. The consecration of the priests and high priests – Ex. 29.
17. The high priest’s “big” day – the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16): On that
high holy day, the high priest donned his ceremonial robes and entered
the Tabernacle, where he sprinkled the blood of the bullock of the sin
offering for himself over the top of the mercy seat (verses 6, 14). If he
emerged from the Holy of Holies, his priesthood was assured for another
year. He reentered a second time with the blood of the goat of the sin
offering for the people to do likewise for them. His return to the
Israelites signified that he had obtained national pardon. The people
of Israel were spared (verse 30).
18. The reorganization of the priesthood in David’s day, due to population
increase: twenty-four courses (classes or orders); descent through
Eleazar – sixteen; descent through Ithamar – eight courses (1 Chron. 15;
16:4-6, 37-43).
19. The descendents of the high priest:
a. Succession occurred upon the officiating high priest’s death with the
eldest surviving son’s installation (Num. 20:28).
b. The line was promised to pass down through Phinehas, eldest son of
Eleazar, the son of Aaron (Num. 25:10-13). Eli was a legitimate
priest and descendant of Ithamar, but not a high priest; the switch in
the line took place during Saul’s reign. It was rightfully restored to
the line of Eleazar during Solomon’s reign (1 Kgs. 2:26, 27, 35).
When Israel was about to go under the fifth cycle of discipline in
Jeremiah’s day, Seraiah was high priest. He was captured by,
Nebuzar-adan and executed at Riblah (2 Kgs. 25:18-21). His son,
Josedech, who should have inherited the office, never served as high
priest but lived and died in captivity at Babylon (Hag. 1:1, 14). His
son Joshua assumed the office when the high priesthood was restored
in the days of Zechariah and Zerubbabel (Zech. 3:1). His successors
were: Joiakim, Eliashib, Joiada, Johanan and Jaddua, who served in
the time of Alexander the Great. He met Alexander’s conquering army
with a scroll of Daniel in his hand. By reading him those passages
dealing with him, Jaddua won Alexander’s friendship for the Jews.
Jaddua’s successors were: Onias I, Simon the Just; Onias II, too
young to become the high priest, was set aside in favor of Simon’s
brother, Eleazar. Onias II became known as Menelaus, an evil priest,
and was followed, in turn, by an equally evil man – Alcimus. The high
priesthood was passed down to the Asmonaean family, of the course
(class or order) of Joiarib (1 Chron. 9:10; 24:7; Neb. 11:10), and
continued in that line until Herod the Great destroyed the family, the
last high priest, Aristobulus, being murdered by order of Herod
(Herod the Great’s brother -in-law) in 35 B.C. (twenty-eight high
priests until the year 70 A.D.). The two high priests related to the
death of Christ were Caiaphas and Annas.