The Levitical Priesthood

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The Levitical Priesthood

The Levitical Priesthood traces through the three sons of Levi, through the Sadducees until it went extinct at the death of Christ, when it was replaced with the Priesthood of Christians which endures until the second coming.

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The Levitical Priesthood

Introduction:

1.      The Levitical Priesthood traces through the three sons of Levi whose names are Gershon/Gershom (Gershonites/Gershomites), Kohath (Kohathites) and Merari (Merarites). Note: The Pentateuch spells Levi's firstborn "Gershon", but the book of Chronicles spells him "Gershom". Variations in name spelling are common in the Bible.

2.      A special place for the sons of Aaron: The Tabernacle began at Mt. Sinai in 1446 BC and it was at that time that special duties were given to each of the three lines of priests but only the sons of Aaron could offer animal sacrifices or incense.

3.      Levites seem to be assigned and located in every city, not just the 48 Levitical cities. This would indicate that each city, whether large or small, had a recognized Levite in charge of that city: “Now if a Levite comes from any of your towns throughout Israel where he resides, and comes whenever he desires to the place which the LORD chooses, then he shall serve in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand there before the LORD.” (Deuteronomy 18:6-7)

4.      High priests were appointed for life by Moses, but at the time of Jesus were appointed annually by the Romans. This is why we have multiple high priests at the trial of Jesus (Annas and Caiaphas). Annas was High Priest from 6-15 AD. Then from 16-30 AD Caiaphas was High Priest. In 60-63 AD, Annanias was the high priest who tried Paul in Acts 23:2.

5.      The priesthood continued down to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD when it became physically extinct, but it was rendered spiritually extinct at the death of Christ being replaced by the priesthood of believers in Christ.

6.      Today, every Christian is a priest and Christ is our high priest.

A. The three sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, Merari

1.       Gershonites: (descendants of Gershon/Gershon, first son of Levi)

a.      The Gershonites camped on the west side of the tabernacle: “The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle westward” (Numbers 3:23)

b.      Their duties: Moving tabernacle covers, curtains, screens & cords with ox carts: Num 4:24-26; 7:7-8

1.       "Now the duties of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting involved the tabernacle and the tent, its covering, and the screen for the doorway of the tent of meeting, and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the doorway of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords, according to all the service concerning them." (Numbers 3:25-26)

2.       ""This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, in serving and in carrying: they shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle and the tent of meeting with its covering and the covering of porpoise skin that is on top of it, and the screen for the doorway of the tent of meeting, and the hangings of the court, and the screen for the doorway of the gate of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and their cords and all the equipment for their service; and all that is to be done, they shall perform." (Numbers 4:24-26)

c.       The Gershonites got two carts:

1.       "Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service, and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. But he did not give any to the sons of Kohath because theirs was the service of the holy objects, which they carried on the shoulder." (Numbers 7:7-9)

d.      The 13 Levitical cities of the Gershonites:

1.       Located within Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, Manasseh in Bashan

2.       "The sons of Gershon received thirteen cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Issachar and from the tribe of Asher and from the tribe of Naphtali and from the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan." (Joshua 21:6)

2.       Kohathites: (descendants of Kohath, second son of Levi, Aaron and Moses were Kohathites but had special rank)

a.      The Kohathites camped on the south side of the tabernacle: Numbers 3:29

b.      Duties: holy items like carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the lampstand, altars, utensils with poles:

1.       "The families of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the southward side of the tabernacle, and the leader of the fathers' households of the Kohathite families was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. Now their duties involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, and the utensils of the sanctuary with which they minister, and the screen, and all the service concerning them; and Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was the chief of the leaders of Levi, and had the oversight of those who perform the duties of the sanctuary." (Numbers 3:29-32)

2.       Although the Kohathites were entrusted specifically with moving the Ark, David used the priests from Gershon, Merarites and Merari to move the Ark from the house of Obed-edom after Uzzah died in the first attempt: (1 Chronicles 15:1-15)

a.       "Now David built houses for himself in the city of David; and he prepared a place for the ark of God and pitched a tent for it. Then David said, "No one is to carry the ark of God but the Levites; for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of God and to minister to Him forever." And David assembled all Israel at Jerusalem to bring up the ark of the LORD to its place which he had prepared for it. David gathered together the sons of Aaron and the Levites: of the sons of Kohath, Uriel the chief, and 120 of his relatives; of the sons of Merari, Asaiah the chief, and 220 of his relatives; of the sons of Gershon, Joel the chief, and 130 of his relatives; of the sons of Elizaphan, Shemaiah the chief, and 200 of his relatives; of the sons of Hebron, Eliel the chief, and 80 of his relatives; of the sons of Uzziel, Amminadab the chief, and 112 of his relatives. Then David called for Zadok and Abiathar the priests, and for the Levites, for Uriel, Asaiah, Joel, Shemaiah, Eliel and Amminadab, and said to them, "You are the heads of the fathers' households of the Levites; consecrate yourselves both you and your relatives, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place that I have prepared for it. "Because you did not carry it at the first, the LORD our God made an outburst on us, for we did not seek Him according to the ordinance." So the priests and the Levites consecrated themselves to bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel. The sons of the Levites carried the ark of God on their shoulders with the poles thereon, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD." (1 Chronicles 15:1-15)

c.       The Kohathites got no carts but had to carry all the holy objects of furniture on poles and carrying bars:

1.       The Kohathites did not get any carts like the Gershonites and the Merarites because they were exclusively entrusted with these holy items.

2.       "Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service, and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. But he did not give any to the sons of Kohath because theirs was the service of the holy objects, which they carried on the shoulder." (Numbers 7:7-9)

3.       "This is the work of the descendants of Kohath in the tent of meeting, concerning the most holy things. “When the camp sets out, Aaron and his sons shall go in and they shall take down the veil of the screen and cover the ark of the testimony with it; and they shall lay a covering of porpoise skin on it, and shall spread over it a cloth of pure blue, and shall insert its poles. “Over the table of the bread of the Presence they shall also spread a cloth of blue and put on it the dishes and the pans and the sacrificial bowls and the jars for the drink offering, and the continual bread shall be on it. “They shall spread over them a cloth of scarlet material, and cover the same with a covering of porpoise skin, and they shall insert its poles. “Then they shall take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand for the light, along with its lamps and its snuffers, and its trays and all its oil vessels, by which they serve it; and they shall put it and all its utensils in a covering of porpoise skin, and shall put it on the carrying bars. “Over the golden altar they shall spread a blue cloth and cover it with a covering of porpoise skin, and shall insert its poles; and they shall take all the utensils of service, with which they serve in the sanctuary, and put them in a blue cloth and cover them with a covering of porpoise skin, and put them on the carrying bars.” (Numbers 4:4–12)

d.      The 23 Levitical cities of the Kohathites:

1.       Located in Ephraim, Dan, Manasseh in Canaan

2.       "Then the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites. And the sons of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, received thirteen cities by lot from the tribe of Judah and from the tribe of the Simeonites and from the tribe of Benjamin. The rest of the sons of Kohath received ten cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Ephraim and from the tribe of Dan and from the half-tribe of Manasseh." (Joshua 21:4-5)

3.       Merarites: (descendants of Merari, third son of Levi)

a.      Merarites camped on the north side of the tabernacle: Numbers 3:33-37

b.      Their duties: Moving tabernacle poles, boards, sockets, pillars and bars by hand. Each item is assigned individually to a man who carries it with his bare hands: Num 3:36-37; 4:29-33

1.       "The Levites, however, were not numbered among them by their fathers' tribe. For the LORD had spoken to Moses, saying, "Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel. "But you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings and over all that belongs to it. They shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it; they shall also camp around the tabernacle. "So when the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle encamps, the Levites shall set it up. But the layman who comes near shall be put to death. "The sons of Israel shall camp, each man by his own camp, and each man by his own standard, according to their armies. "But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there will be no wrath on the congregation of the sons of Israel. So the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the testimony."" (Numbers 1:47-53)

2.       "Of Merari was the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these were the families of Merari. Their numbered men in the numbering of every male from a month old and upward, were 6,200. The leader of the fathers' households of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the northward side of the tabernacle. Now the appointed duties of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, all its equipment, and the service concerning them, and the pillars around the court with their sockets and their pegs and their cords." (Numbers 3:33-37)

3.       "As for the sons of Merari, you shall number them by their families, by their fathers' households; from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, you shall number them, everyone who enters the service to do the work of the tent of meeting. "Now this is the duty of their loads, for all their service in the tent of meeting: the boards of the tabernacle and its bars and its pillars and its sockets, and the pillars around the court and their sockets and their pegs and their cords, with all their equipment and with all their service; and you shall assign each man by name the items he is to carry. "This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, according to all their service in the tent of meeting, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest." (Numbers 4:29-33)

c.       The 12 Levitical cities:

1.       Located within Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun

2.       "The sons of Merari according to their families received twelve cities from the tribe of Reuben and from the tribe of Gad and from the tribe of Zebulun." (Joshua 21:7)

3.       "To the families of the sons of Merari, the rest of the Levites, they gave from the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pasture lands and Kartah with its pasture lands. Dimnah with its pasture lands, Nahalal with its pasture lands; four cities. From the tribe of Reuben, they gave Bezer with its pasture lands and Jahaz with its pasture lands, Kedemoth with its pasture lands and Mephaath with its pasture lands; four cities. From the tribe of Gad, they gave Ramoth in Gilead, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands and Mahanaim with its pasture lands, Heshbon with its pasture lands, Jazer with its pasture lands; four cities in all. All these were the cities of the sons of Merari according to their families, the rest of the families of the Levites; and their lot was twelve cities." (Joshua 21:34-40)

4.       Aaronites: (descendants of Aaron and Moses)

a.      Aaron and Moses were sons of Kohath, the second son of Levi, but had special pre-eminence over all others

                                                              i.      Moses is called a priest in Ps 99:6

b.      Aaronites camped on the east side of the tabernacle. The east side was the entrance to the Tabernacle and the most important area. This was where Aaron and Moses camped. They have front and center prominence: “Now those who were to camp before the tabernacle eastward, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, are Moses and Aaron and his sons, performing the duties of the sanctuary for the obligation of the sons of Israel; but the layman coming near was to be put to death.” (Numbers 3:38)

c.       Special duties of the Aaronites:

                                                              i.      A special place for the sons of Aaron: The Tabernacle began at Mt. Sinai in 1446 BC and it was at that time that special duties were given to each of the three lines of priests.

                                                            ii.      It is important to notice that only the Aaronic priests (Aaron and his sons) were permitted to offer animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle or offer the incense. Only they had access to the Holy and Most holy place of the tabernacle in service.

d.      The rebellion of Korah at Sinai in Numbers was a challenge of the other two priest lines against this exclusive right that Aaronites had over them and it cost them their lives: “So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers which the men who were burned had offered, and they hammered them out as a plating for the altar, as a reminder to the sons of Israel that no layman who is not of the descendants of Aaron should come near to burn incense before the LORD; so that he will not become like Korah and his company—just as the LORD had spoken to him through Moses.” (Numbers 16:39–40)

5.       Moses as a priest: (descendants of Kohath)

a.      Aaron and Moses were sons of Kohath, the second son of Levi, but had special pre-eminence over all others

b.      Moses was called a priest: “Moses and Aaron were among His priests, And Samuel was among those who called on His name; They called upon the LORD and He answered them.” (Psalm 99:6)

c.       Moses functioned as a priest on three occasions, all before the priesthood was consecrated to serve "after the order of Aaron."

a.      Ex 24, when he sprinkled the book and the people at the ratification of the Law

b.      Ex 40:22f, when he set up the tabernacle, put bread on the table, burned incense on the altar of incense, and offed a burnt offering and meal offering on the altar of burnt offering

c.       Lev 8, when he anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, the priests, and offered a sin offering, a burnt offering and an ordination offering  for the consecration of the priests.

d.      After that priests must be "after the order of Aaron," Heb 7:11.

d.      Why Moses is called a priest in Ps 99:6 may be a matter a special privilege since he functioned as HIGH priest before Aaron got his exclusive rights. It really should not surprise us. Why would be LOSE this power and position when he appointed Aaron? I think the answer is that he did not. Moses must have been a full priest forever, but thereafter Aaron's sons were the chosen ones.

e.      It is interesting that Jonathan in 1300 BC was a son of Moses and functioned as a priest. “The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershon, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land.” (Judges 18:30) This Jonathan was in fact responsible for the paganism and idolatry that eventually sent the Danites in Laish (Dan) and the ten tribes into extinction in 722 BC.

B.    David reorganizes the priesthood in 1000 BC

1.       When King David designed the temple, had all the stones precut and ready for Solomon to build it without a cutting tool, he also reorganized the priesthood into 24 divisions. These 24 divisions continued down to the time of Christ.

a.       "Now the divisions of the descendants of Aaron were these: the sons of Aaron were Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. But Nadab and Abihu died before their father and had no sons. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests. David, with Zadok of the sons of Eleazar and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, divided them according to their offices for their ministry. Since more chief men were found from the descendants of Eleazar than the descendants of Ithamar, they divided them thus: there were sixteen heads of fathers' households of the descendants of Eleazar and eight of the descendants of Ithamar, according to their fathers' households. Thus they were divided by lot, the one as the other; for they were officers of the sanctuary and officers of God, both from the descendants of Eleazar and the descendants of Ithamar. Shemaiah, the son of Nethanel the scribe, from the Levites, recorded them in the presence of the king, the princes, Zadok the priest, Ahimelech the son of Abiathar, and the heads of the fathers' households of the priests and of the Levites; one father's household taken for Eleazar and one taken for Ithamar." (1 Chronicles 24:1-6)

2.       David's high priest was Abiathar, but because of insurrection he was replaced by Solomon with Zadok as high priest. This was to fulfill the prophecy that the priesthood of Eli (Aaron's son Ithamar) would go extinct, first in the death of Eli and his two sons, then second when Saul killed all the priests at Nob when David ate the holy bread of the temple.

a.       "'But I will raise up for Myself a faithful priest who will do according to what is in My heart and in My soul; and I will build him an enduring house, and he will walk before My anointed always. 'Everyone who is left in your house will come and bow down to him for a piece of silver or a loaf of bread and say, "Please assign me to one of the priest's offices so that I may eat a piece of bread." ' "" (1 Samuel 2:35-36)

b.      "Then the one who brought the news replied, "Israel has fled before the Philistines and there has also been a great slaughter among the people, and your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been taken." When he mentioned the ark of God, Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy. Thus he judged Israel forty years." (1 Samuel 4:17-18)

c.       "Then the king said to Doeg, "You turn around and attack the priests." And Doeg the Edomite turned around and attacked the priests, and he killed that day eighty-five men who wore the linen ephod. And he struck Nob the city of the priests with the edge of the sword, both men and women, children and infants; also oxen, donkeys, and sheep he struck with the edge of the sword." (1 Samuel 22:18-19)

d.      "Then to Abiathar the priest the king said, "Go to Anathoth to your own field, for you deserve to die; but I will not put you to death at this time, because you carried the ark of the Lord God before my father David, and because you were afflicted in everything with which my father was afflicted." So Solomon dismissed Abiathar from being priest to the Lord, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord, which He had spoken concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh." (1 Kings 2:26-27)

e.      "The king (Solomon) appointed Benaiah the son of Jehoiada over the army in his place, and the king appointed Zadok the priest in the place of Abiathar." (1 Kings 2:35)

3.       Zadok, Solomon's high priest, was a descendant of Levi's second son Kohath.

a.       The idea of a "Zadok" or Zakokite priesthood is an educated guess.

                                                               i.      From the time of David down to 70 AD it were the descendants of Zadok who were often the high priests.

                                                             ii.      There is, however, little information about the high priests after the return from Babylon.

b.       "Zadok the son of Ahitub and Ahimelech the son of Abiathar were priests, and Seraiah was secretary." (2 Samuel 8:17)

c.       The Sadducees have their origin in about 150 BC.

                                                               i.      The word Sadducee is etymologically linked to Zadok (Kohathite), who was David's priest.

                                                             ii.      The Sadducees controlled the Temple of Herod when Jesus was alive.

4.       David's key spiritual men were:

a.      Abiathar, who was high priest and was replaced by Zadok by Solomon after David died. (see above)

b.      Zadok, who was a key priest of David promoted to high priest by Solomon.

c.       David relied upon Asaph, the seer, in music and psalms composition:

                                                               i.      Asaph was a decendant of Gershon:  "Heman's brother Asaph stood at his right hand, even Asaph the son of Berechiah, the son of Shimea, the son of Michael, the son of Baaseiah, the son of Malchijah, the son of Ethni, the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei, the son of Jahath, the son of Gershon, the son of Levi." (1 Chronicles 6:39-43)

                                                             ii.      Asaph, a Gershonite was a prophet (seer), singer, music composer and he wrote 12 Psalms (50, 73-83):

                                                            iii.      "Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped." (2 Chronicles 29:30)

a.       "For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God." (Nehemiah 12:46)

b.      "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah," (1 Chronicles 15:16-17)

c.       "Heman's brother Asaph stood at his right hand, even Asaph the son of Berechiah, the son of Shimea, the son of Michael, the son of Baaseiah, the son of Malchijah, the son of Ethni, the son of Zerah, the son of Adaiah, the son of Ethan, the son of Zimmah, the son of Shimei, the son of Jahath, the son of Gershon, the son of Levi." (1 Chronicles 6:39-43)

d.      "Moreover, King Hezekiah and the officials ordered the Levites to sing praises to the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they sang praises with joy, and bowed down and worshiped." (2 Chronicles 29:30)

                                                           iv.      "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah," (1 Chronicles 15:16-17)

d.      David used Heman (Kohathite) as a wise man, prophet (seer), temple singer, music composer and author of Ps 88:

                                                               i.      Heman was a Kohathite through Izhar, Korah (who got killed at Kadesh Barnea for rebellion when the earth opened up and swallowed him), and was the grandson of the prophet Samuel.

1.       "These are those who served with their sons: From the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel," (1 Chronicles 6:33)

2.       "The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol and Dara; five of them in all." (1 Chronicles 2:6)

3.       "and Uzzi became the father of Zerahiah, and Zerahiah became the father of Meraioth, Meraioth became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Ahimaaz," (1 Chronicles 6:6-8)

4.       Either there are two Hemans or he was descended from two branches of the Koathites who intermarried in the past: Zerahiah (Aaron) and Samuel the prophet via Izhar (Kohath)

                                                             ii.      Notice that Heman was the second man who came to mind when thinking of the wisest men compared to Solomon!

1.       "For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations." (1 Kings 4:31)

                                                            iii.      Heman was a singer, musician and composer of music:

1.       "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah," (1 Chronicles 15:16-17)

2.       "With them were Heman and Jeduthun, and the rest who were chosen, who were designated by name, to give thanks to the LORD, because His lovingkindness is everlasting. And with them were Heman and Jeduthun with trumpets and cymbals for those who should sound aloud, and with instruments for the songs of God, and the sons of Jeduthun for the gate. Then all the people departed each to his house, and David returned to bless his household." (1 Chronicles 16:41-43)

3.       "Moreover, David and the commanders of the army set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph and of Heman and of Jeduthun, who were to prophesy with lyres, harps and cymbals; and the number of those who performed their service was: Of the sons of Asaph: Zaccur, Joseph, Nethaniah and Asharelah; the sons of Asaph were under the direction of Asaph, who prophesied under the direction of the king. Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun with the harp, who prophesied in giving thanks and praising the LORD. Of Heman, the sons of Heman: Bukkiah, Mattaniah, Uzziel, Shebuel and Jerimoth, Hananiah, Hanani, Eliathah, Giddalti and Romamti-ezer, Joshbekashah, Mallothi, Hothir, Mahazioth. All these were the sons of Heman the king's seer to exalt him according to the words of God, for God gave fourteen sons and three daughters to Heman. All these were under the direction of their father to sing in the house of the LORD, with cymbals, harps and lyres, for the service of the house of God. Asaph, Jeduthun and Heman were under the direction of the king. Their number who were trained in singing to the LORD, with their relatives, all who were skillful, was 288. They cast lots for their duties, all alike, the small as well as the great, the teacher as well as the pupil." (1 Chronicles 25:1-8)

                                                           iv.      Heman wrote Ps 88

1.       "A Song. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. For the choir director; according to Mahalath Leannoth. A Maskil of Heman the Ezrahite. O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You." (Psalm 88:title-1)

e.      David used Ethan, known as the next wisest man after Solomon.

                                                               i.      Ethan was a wise man, and also a singer and musician.

1.       "For he was wiser than all men, than Ethan the Ezrahite, Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was known in all the surrounding nations." (1 Kings 4:31)

2.       "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah," (1 Chronicles 15:16-17)

                                                             ii.      Who was Ethan descended from?

1.       The descendant of Zerah: "The sons of Zerah were Zimri, Ethan, Heman, Calcol and Dara; five of them in all." (1 Chronicles 2:6)

a.        "and Uzzi became the father of Zerahiah [Zerah], and Zerahiah became the father of Meraioth, Meraioth became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Ahimaaz," (1 Chronicles 6:6-8)

2.       The son of Marari: "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah," (1 Chronicles 15:16-17)

3.       Either there are two Ethans or he was descended from two branches of the Levi who intermarried in the past: Zerahiah (Aaron/Kohathite) and the Merarites ( 1 Chron 15:16-17).

4.       There is no reason why a priest could be descended from all three sons of Levi through intermarriage and this solves the puzzle of their identity.

5.       David used the Gershonites to serve in the temple, guarding the treasury:

a.       "David divided them into divisions according to the sons of Levi: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. Of the Gershonites were Ladan and Shimei. The sons of Ladan were Jehiel the first and Zetham and Joel, three. The sons of Shimei were Shelomoth and Haziel and Haran, three. These were the heads of the fathers' households of Ladan. The sons of Shimei were Jahath, Zina, Jeush and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. Jahath was the first and Zizah the second; but Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, so they became a father's household, one class." (1 Chronicles 23:6-11)

b.      "The Levites, their relatives, had charge of the treasures of the house of God and of the treasures of the dedicated gifts. The sons of Ladan, the sons of the Gershonites belonging to Ladan, namely, the Jehielites, were the heads of the fathers' households, belonging to Ladan the Gershonite. The sons of Jehieli, Zetham and Joel his brother, had charge of the treasures of the house of the Lord." (1 Chronicles 26:20-22)

6.       David used the priests from Gershon, Merarites and Merari to move the Ark from the house of Obed-edom after Uzzah died in the first attempt: (1 Chronicles 15:1-15)

a.       "Then David spoke to the chiefs of the Levites to appoint their relatives the singers, with instruments of music, harps, lyres, loud-sounding cymbals, to raise sounds of joy. So the Levites appointed Heman the son of Joel, and from his relatives, Asaph the son of Berechiah; and from the sons of Merari their relatives, Ethan the son of Kushaiah, and with them their relatives of the second rank, Zechariah, Ben, Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom and Jeiel, the gatekeepers. So the singers, Heman, Asaph and Ethan were appointed to sound aloud cymbals of bronze; and Zechariah, Aziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Maaseiah and Benaiah, with harps tuned to alamoth; and Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-edom, Jeiel and Azaziah, to lead with lyres tuned to the sheminith. Chenaniah, chief of the Levites, was in charge of the singing; he gave instruction in singing because he was skillful. Berechiah and Elkanah were gatekeepers for the ark. Shebaniah, Joshaphat, Nethanel, Amasai, Zechariah, Benaiah and Eliezer, the priests, blew the trumpets before the ark of God. Obed-edom and Jehiah also were gatekeepers for the ark." (1 Chronicles 15:16-24)

7.       David used the Kohathites in service of the temple:

a.       "These are those who served with their sons: From the sons of the Kohathites were Heman the singer, the son of Joel, the son of Samuel, the son of Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Eliel, the son of Toah, the son of Zuph, the son of Elkanah, the son of Mahath, the son of Amasai, the son of Elkanah, the son of Joel, the son of Azariah, the son of Zephaniah, the son of Tahath, the son of Assir, the son of Ebiasaph, the son of Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, the son of Israel." (1 Chronicles 6:33-38)

C.    Hezekiah's use of the priesthood in 722 BC

1.       At the time of the Assyrian captivity of 722 BC Hezekiah survived the attack. His spiritual devotion no doubt saved him. Here are the key men who worked at the time of Hezekiah from the priesthood:

2.       King Hezekiah used priests from all three branch of the Levitical priesthood: Kohathites, Merarites, Gershonites

a.       "In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. He brought in the priests and the Levites and gathered them into the square on the east." Then he said to them, "Listen to me, O Levites. Consecrate yourselves now, and consecrate the house of the Lord, the God of your fathers, and carry the uncleanness out from the holy place. ... Then the Levites arose: Mahath, the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah, from the sons of the Kohathites; and from the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; and from the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah;" (2 Chronicles 29:3-5,12)

D.    Josiah's use of the priesthood in 640 - 609 BC

1.      Josiah was a remarkable king whose high priest was spiritual efforts resulted in Hilkiah finding the lost book of the law of Moses. This energized a spiritual awakening that was too little too late to avoid the deportation to Babylon after Josiah died.

2.      Hilkiah, the high priest, found the lost book of the law and gave it to Josiah the king:

b.      "They came to Hilkiah the high priest and delivered the money that was brought into the house of God, which the Levites, the doorkeepers, had collected from Manasseh and Ephraim, and from all the remnant of Israel, and from all Judah and Benjamin and the inhabitants of Jerusalem." (2 Chronicles 34:9)

c.       "When they were bringing out the money which had been brought into the house of the Lord, Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord given by Moses." (2 Chronicles 34:14)

d.      Which Hilkiah was the High priest who found the lost book of the law and delivered it to Josiah?

                                                              i.      Hilkiah, the high priest at the time of Josiah, but he is not listed in any genealogy and we simply have no idea which of the three branches of Levi he descendant from.

1.      "and Azariah became the father of Amariah, and Amariah became the father of Ahitub, and Ahitub became the father of Zadok, and Zadok became the father of Shallum, and Shallum became the father of Hilkiah, and Hilkiah became the father of Azariah, and Azariah became the father of Seraiah, and Seraiah became the father of Jehozadak; and Jehozadak went along when the Lord carried Judah and Jerusalem away into exile by Nebuchadnezzar." (1 Chronicles 6:11-15)

2.      Adding to the puzzle is the fact that 1 Chron 6:11-15 traces some of the high priests from Zadok (950 BC) down to the Babylonian captivity (586 BC), but there is no Hilkiah at the time of Josiah. The Hilkiah that 1 Chron 6 does mention simply was not alive at the time of Josiah.

3.      Who was this mysterious High priest of Josiah without any genealogical trace? Which of Levi's three sons did he descend from? Was this High Priest appointed by Josiah in opposition to the pagan idol worshipping official high priest? It is impossible to know for sure.

                                                            ii.      Jeremiah was the son of a man called Hilkiah and they clearly lived at the same period of time. Hilkiah was alive between 640 - 609 BC and Jeremiah was born sometime around 610 BC. "The words of Jeremiah the son of Hilkiah, of the priests who were in Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, to whom the word of the LORD came in the days of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign." (Jeremiah 1:1-2)

                                                          iii.      Like Hilkiah who found he lost book, we have no idea who Jeremiah descended from except for his father named Hilkiah and his equally obscure uncle named Shallum.

e.      Reasons why Josiah's high priest named Hilkiah, who found the lost book is Jeremiah's Father:

                                                              i.      While is it argued that if Jeremiah's father was the high priest, such would be stated. However, the reverse may be true in that everyone know Jeremiah was the son of the high priest and that is why it was not necessary state such.

                                                            ii.      The town of Anathoth is where Jeremiah lived. This is used to connect Jeremiah with Abiathar the high priest who Solomon banished to Anathoth. If this is the intended connection, then Jeremiah would be a descendant of Eli and Hilkiah his father could not be the High priest who found the book of the law. However, a more careful reading of the text shows that Jeremiah bought land in Anathoth (Jer 32:7) and he lived there in the last days before the deportation, not as a youth. In other words, the text does not say Jeremiah was born in Anathoth, but that he merely lived there when wrote the book at the end of his life. Further, when Solomon banished Abiathar to Anathoth this city is directly beside Ramah and Naioth (Samuel's prophets school) which was the center of spiritual activity. Also the Tabernacle of Moses resided at Gibeon just before it was made extinct by the Temple in Jerusalem. It would be logical for Anathoth to be a general city of prophets and priests from all three lines of the sons of levi.

                                                          iii.      Since Jeremiah had a father named Hilkiah, and since the times fit perfectly with the time of Josiah and the deportation to Babylon, it is more than likely that Jeremiah's father was the high priest who found the lost book.

                                                           iv.      In the end, we have no idea who Josiah's high priest named "Hilkiah" was descended from.

3.      Josiah used the Merarites and Kohathites to fix the temple:

a.      "The men did the work faithfully with foremen over them to supervise: Jahath and Obadiah, the Levites of the sons of Merari, Zechariah and Meshullam of the sons of the Kohathites, and the Levites, all who were skillful with musical instruments." (2 Chronicles 34:12)

E. Ezra used the all three branches of the priesthood:

1.      Ezra counted only  20 men left from the Merarites who returned from Babylon:

a.       "According to the good hand of our God upon us they brought us a man of insight of the sons of Mahli, the son of Levi, the son of Israel, namely Sherebiah, and his sons and brothers, 18 men; and Hashabiah and Jeshaiah of the sons of Merari, with his brothers and their sons, 20 men;" (Ezra 8:18-19)

2.      Ezra used the descendants of Asaph (Gershonites) from David's time to serve:

a.      "Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel." (Ezra 3:10)

b.      "On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were leaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. So all Israel in the days of Zerubbabel and Nehemiah gave the portions due the singers and the gatekeepers as each day required, and set apart the consecrated portion for the Levites, and the Levites set apart the consecrated portion for the sons of Aaron." (Nehemiah 12:44-47)

Conclusion:

1.       The Levitical priesthood began at Mt. Sinai through Moses and ended when Christ abolished the Law of Moses on the cross: Col 2:14-17; Heb 8:6-7, 13; 4:1-4.

2.       Jesus is our high priest today after the Melchizedek priesthood: Hebrews 5:1-11

3.       Today every Christian is a Priest to God under Christ after the order of Melchizedek: Rev 1:6; 5:10; 1 Peter 2:5.

By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.

 

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