Prolegomena to the History of Ancient Israel, by Julius Wellhausen, , at sacred-texts.com
1. The problem now to be dealt with is exhibited with peculiar distinctness in one pregnant case with which it will be well to set out. The Mosaic law, that is to say, the Priestly Code, distinguishes, as is well known, between the twelve secular tribes and Levi, and further within the spiritual tribe itself, between the sons of Aaron and the Levites, simply so called. The one distinction is made visible in the ordering of the camp in Num. ii., where Levi forms around the sanctuary a cordon of protection against the immediate contact of the remaining tribes; on the whole, however, it is rather treated as a matter of course, and not brought into special prominence (Num. xviii. 22). The other is accentuated with incomparably greater emphasis. Aaron and his sons alone are priests, qualified for sacrificing and burning incense; the Levites are hieroduli (3 Esdras i. 3), bestowed upon the Aaronidæ for the discharge of the inferior services (Num. iii. 9). They are indeed their tribe fellows, but it is not because he belongs to Levi that Aaron is chosen, and his priesthood cannot be said to be the acme and flower of the general vocation of his tribe. On the contrary, rather was he a priest long before the Levites were set apart; for a considerable time after the cultus has been established and set on foot these do not make any appearance,—not at all in the whole of the third book, which thus far does little honour to its name Leviticus. Strictly speaking, the Levites do not even belong to the clergy: they are not called by Jehovah, but consecrated by the children of Israel to the sanctuary,—consecrated in the place of the first-born, not however as priests (neither in Num, iii., iv., viii., nor anywhere else in the Old Testament, is there a single trace of the priesthood of the first-born), but as a gift due to the priests, as such being even required to undergo the
usual "waving" before the altar, to symbolise their being cast into the altar flame (Num. viii.). The relationship between Aaron and Levi, and the circumstance that precisely this tribe is set apart for the sanctuary in compensation for the first-born, appears almost accidental, but at all events cannot be explained by the theory that Aaron rose on the shoulders of Levi; on the contrary, it rather means that Levi has mounted up by means of Aaron, whose priesthood everywhere is treated as having the priority. Equality between the two is not to be spoken of; their office and their blood relationship separates them more than it binds them together.
Now, the prophet Ezekiel, in the plan of the new Jerusalem which he sketched in the year 573, takes up among other things the reform of the relations of the personnel of the temple, and in this connection expresses himself as follows (xliv. 6-16):—"Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Let it suffice you of all your abominations, O house of Israel! in that ye have brought in strangers, uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and have broken my covenant by all your abominations. And ye have not kept the charge of my holy things, inasmuch as ye have set these 1 to be keepers of my charge in my sanctuary. Therefore, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, No stranger uncircumcised in heart and uncircumcised in flesh shall enter into my sanctuary; none, of all that are among the children of Israel. But the Levites who went away far from me when Israel went astray from me after their idols, they shall even bear their iniquity, and they shall be ministers in my sanctuary, officers at the gates of the house and ministers of the house; they shall slay for the people the burnt-offering and the thank-offering, and they shall stand before them to minister unto them. Because they ministered unto them before their idols, and caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity, therefore have I lifted up my hand against them, saith the Lord Jehovah, and they shall bear their iniquity. They shall not come near unto me to do the office of a priest unto me, nor to come near to any of my holy things, but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. And I will make them keepers of the charge of the house, for all its service, and for all that shall be done therein. But the priests,
the Levites, sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me, and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the Lord Jehovah; they shall enter into my sanctuary, and come near to my table to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge."
From this passage two things are to be learned. First, that the systematic separation of that which was holy from profane contact did not exist from the very beginning; that in the temple of Solomon even heathen (Zech. xiv. 21), probably captives, were employed to do hierodulic services which, according to the law, ought to have been rendered by Levites, and which afterwards actually were so rendered. Ezekiel, it is indeed true, holds this custom to be a frightful abuse, and one might therefore maintain it to have been a breach of the temple ordinances suffered by the Jerusalem priests against their better knowledge, and in this way escape accusing them of ignorance of their own law. But the second fact, made manifest by the above-quoted passage, quite excludes the existence of the Priestly Code so far as Ezekiel and his time are concerned. The place of the heathen temple-slaves is in future to be taken by the Levites. Hitherto the latter had held the priesthood, and that too not by arbitrary usurpation, but in virtue of their own good right. For it is no mere relegation back to within the limits of their lawful position when they are made to be no longer priests but temple ministrants, it is no restoration of the status quo ante, the conditions of which they had illegally broken; it is expressly a degradation, a withdrawal of their right, which appears as a punishment and which must be justified as being deserved; "they shall bear their iniquity." They have forfeited their priesthood, by abusing it to preside over the cultus of the high places, which the prophet regards as idolatry and hates in his inmost soul. Naturally those Levites are exempted from the penalty who have discharged their functions at the legal place,—the Levites the sons of Zadok,—namely, at Jerusalem, who now remain sole priests and receive a position of pre-eminence above those who hitherto have been their equals in office, and who are still associated with them by Ezekiel, under the same common name, but now are reduced to being their assistants and hieroduli.
It is an extraordinary sort of justice when the priests of the abolished Bamoth are punished simply for having been so, and conversely the
priests of the temple at Jerusalem rewarded for this; the fault of the former and the merit of the latter consist simply in their existence. In other words, Ezekiel merely drapes the logic of facts with a mantle of morality. From the abolition of the popular sanctuaries in the provinces in favour of the royal one at Jerusalem, there necessarily followed the setting aside of the provincial priesthoods in favour of the sons of Zadok at the temple of Solomon. The original author of the centralisation, the Deuteronomic lawgiver, seeks indeed to prevent this consequence by giving to the extraneous Levites an equal right of sacrificing in Jerusalem with their brethren hereditarily settled there, but it was not possible to separate the fate of the priests from that of their altars in this manner. The sons of Zadok were well enough pleased that all sacrifices should be concentrated within their temple, but they did not see their way to sharing their inheritance with the priesthood of the high places, and the idea was not carried out (2 Kings xxiii. 9). Ezekiel, a thorough Jerusalemite, finds a moral way of putting this departure from the law, a way of putting it which does not explain the fact, but is merely a periphrastic statement of it. With Deuteronomy as a basis it is quite easy to understand Ezekiel's ordinance, but it is absolutely impossible if one starts from the Priestly Code. What he regards as the original right of the Levites, the performance of priestly services, is treated in the latter document as an unfounded and highly wicked pretension which once in the olden times brought destruction upon Korah and his company; what he considers to be a subsequent withdrawal of their right, as a degradation in consequence of a fault, the other holds to have been their hereditary and natural destination. The distinction between priest and Levite which Ezekiel introduces and justifies as an innovation, according to the Priestly Code has always existed; what in the former appears as a beginning, in the latter has been in force ever since Moses,—an original datum, not a thing that has become or been made. 1 That the prophet should know nothing about a priestly law with whose tendencies he is in thorough sympathy admits of only one explanation,—that it did not then exist. His own ordinances are only to be understood as preparatory steps towards its own exactment.
2. Nöldeke, however, interprets the parallelism between the sons of Aaron and the sons of Zadok in favour of the priority of the Priestly Code, which, after all, he points out, is not quite so exclusive as Ezekiel. 1 But, in the first place, this is a point of subordinate importance, the main thing being that Ezekiel has to make the distinction between priests and Levites, which is regarded in the Priestly Code as very ancient. In presence of the fact that the former introduces as a new thing the separation which the latter presupposes, the precise degree of the distinction drawn by the two is of no consequence whatever. In the next place, to bring the sons of Aaron into comparison with the sons of Zadok, as a proof of their higher antiquity, is just as reasonable as to bring the tabernacle into comparison with the temple of Jerusalem for a similar purpose. The former are priests of the tabernacle, the latter of the temple; but as in point of fact the only distinction to be drawn between the Mosaic and the actual central sanctuary is that between shadow and substance, so neither can any other be made between the Mosaic and the actual central priesthood. In the Priestly Code the ancient name is introduced instead of the historical one, simply in order to maintain the semblance of the Mosaic time; if the circumstance is to be taken as betokening the earlier origin of the work, then a similar inference must be drawn also from the fact that in it the origin and character of the Levites is quite obscure, while in Ezekiel it is palpably evident that they are the priests thrown out of employment by the abolition of the Bamoth, whom necessity has compelled to take a position of subordination under their haughty fellow-priests at Jerusalem. In truth it is, quite on the contrary, a proof of the post-exilian date of the Priestly Code that it makes sons of Aaron of the priests of the central sanctuary, who, even in the traditional understanding (2 Chron. xiii. 10), are in one way or other simply the priests of Jerusalem. By this means it carries their origin back to the foundation of the theocracy, and gives them out as from the first having been alone legitimate. But such an idea no one could have ventured to broach before the exile. At that time it was too well known that the priesthood of the Jerusalem sept could not be traced further back than David's time, but dated from Zadok, who in Solomon's reign ousted the
hereditary house of Eli from the position it had long previously held, first at Shiloh and Nob, and afterwards at Jerusalem, at what had become the most prominent sanctuary of Israel.
In a passage of Deuteronomic complexion, which cannot have been written long before the exile, we read in a prediction made to Eli regarding the overthrow of his house by Zadok: "I said indeed, saith Jehovah the God of Israel, that thy house and the house of thy father shall walk before me for ever; but now I say, Be it far from me, for them that honour me I will honour, but they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. Behold, the days come that I will cut off thine arm and the arm of thy father's house, . . .and I will raise up for myself a faithful priest who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind; and I will build him a sure house, and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever" (1 Sam. ii. 27-36). Here it is the house of Eli, and of Eli's father, that is the priestly family duly chosen in Egypt; contrary to hereditary title, and contrary to a promise of perpetual continuance, is it deposed at the higher claims of justice. The faithful priest who is to fill the vacant place is Zadok. This is expressly said in 1 Kings 2:27; and no other than he ever had a "sure house" and walked uninterruptedly as its head and ruler before the kings of Judah. This Zadok, accordingly, belongs neither to Eli's house nor to that of Eli's father; his priesthood does not go back as far as the time of the founding of the theocracy, and is not in any proper sense "legitimate;" rather has he obtained it by the infringement of what might be called a constitutional privilege, to which there were no other heirs besides Eli and his family. Obviously he does not figure as an intermediate link in the line of Aaron, but as the beginner of an entirely new genealogy; the Jerusalem priests, whose ancestor he is, are interlopers dating from the beginning of the monarchical period, in whom the old Mosaic sacerdotium is not continued, but is broken off. If then they are called in the Priestly Code "sons of Aaron," or at least figure there among the sons of Aaron, with whom they can only in point of fact be contrasted, the circumstance is an unmistakable indication that at this point the threads of tradition from the pre-exilic period have been snapped completely, which was not yet the case in Ezekiel's time. 1
The relation between the priestly legislation and the Book of Ezekiel, which has now been shown, gives direction and aim to the following sketch, in which it is sought to exhibit the individual phenomenon in its general connection.
1. The setting apart from the rest of the people of an entire tribe as holy, and the strongly accentuated distinction of ranks within that tribe, presuppose a highly systematised separation between sacred and profane, and an elaborate machinery connected with cultus. In fact, according to the representation given in the Priestly Code, the Israelites from the beginning were organised as a hierocracy, the clergy being the skeleton, the high priest the head, and the tabernacle the heart. But the suddenness with which this full-grown hierocracy descended on the wilderness from the skies is only matched by the suddenness with which it afterwards disappeared in Canaan, leaving no trace behind it. In the time of the Judges, priests and Levites, and the congregation of the children of Israel assembled around them, have utterly vanished; there is hardly a people Israel,—only individual tribes which do not combine even under the most pressing necessities, far less support at a common expense a clerical personnel numbering thousands of men, besides their wives and families. Instead of the Ecclesiastical History of the Hexateuch, the Book of Judges forthwith enters upon a secular history completely devoid of all churchly character. The high priest, who according to the Priestly Code is the central authority by the grace of God, is here quite left out in the cold, for the really acting heads of the people are the Judges, people of an entirely different stamp, whose authority, resting on no official position, but on strength of personality and on the force of circumstances, seldom extends beyond the limits of their tribe. And it is plain that in this we behold not the sorry remains of an ecclesiastico-political system once flourishing under Moses and Joshua, now completely fallen into ruins, but the first natural beginnings of a civil authority which after a course of further development finally led to the monarchy.
In the kernel of the Book of Judges (chaps. iii.-xvi.) there nowhere occurs a single individual whose profession is to take charge of the cultus.
[paragraph continues] Sacrifice is in two instances offered, by Gideon and Manoah; but in neither case is a priest held to be necessary. In a gloss upon 1 Sam. vi. 13 seq. the divergence of later custom reveals itself. When the ark of Jehovah was brought back from exile in Philistia upon the new cart, it halted in the field of Bethshemesh beside the great stone, and the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, who were at the time busy with the wheat harvest, broke up the cart and made on the stone a burnt-offering of the kine by which it had been drawn. After they have finished, the Levites come up (ver. 15) (in the pluperfect tense) and proceed as if nothing had happened, lift the ark from the now no longer existent cart, and set it upon the stone on which the sacrifice is already burning;—of course only in order to fulfil the law, the demands of which have been completely ignored in the original narrative. Until the cultus has become in some measure centralised the priests have no locus standi; for when each man sacrifices for himself and his household, upon an altar which he improvises as best he can for the passing need, where is the occasion for people whose professional and essential function is that of sacrificing for others? The circumstance of their being thus inconspicuous in the earliest period of the history of Israel is connected with the fact that as yet there are few great sanctuaries. But as soon as these begin to occur, the priests immediately appear. Thus we find Eli and his sons at the old house of God belonging to the tribe of Ephraim at Shiloh. Eli holds a very exalted position, his sons are depicted as high and mighty men, who deal with the worshippers not directly but through a servant, and show arrogant disregard of their duties to Jehovah. The office is hereditary, and the priesthood already very numerous. At least in the time of Saul, after they had migrated from Shiloh to Nob, on account of the destruction by the Philistines of the temple at the former place, they numbered more than eighty-five men, who, however, are not necessarily proper blood-relations of Eli, although reckoning themselves as belonging to his clan (1 Sam. xxii. 11). 1 One sanctuary more is referred to towards the close of the period of the Judges,—that at Dan beside the source of the Jordan. A rich Ephraimite, Micah, had set up to Jehovah a silver-covered
image, and lodged it in an appropriate house. At first he appointed one of his sons to be its priest, afterwards Jonathan ben Gershom ben Moses, a homeless Levite of Bethlehem-Judah, whom he counted himself happy in being able to retain for a yearly salary of ten pieces of silver, besides clothing and maintenance. When, however, the Danites, hard pressed by the Philistines, removed from their ancient settlements in order to establish a new home for themselves on the slopes of Hermon in the north, they in passing carried off both Micah's image and his priest; what led them to do so was the report of their spies who had formerly lodged with Micah and there obtained an oracle. It was in this way that Jonathan came to Dan and became the founder of the family which retained the priesthood at this afterwards so important sanctuary down to the period of the deportation of the Danites at the Assyrian captivity (Judges xvii., xviii.). His position seems very different from that of Eli. The only point of resemblance is that both are hereditary priests, Levites so called, and trace their descent from the family of Moses,—of which more anon. But while Eli is a man of distinction, perhaps the owner of the sanctuary, at all events in a position of thorough independence and the head of a great house, Jonathan is a solitary wandering Levite who enters the service of the proprietor of a sanctuary for pay and maintenance, and is indeed nourished as a son by his patron, but by no means treated with special respect by the Danites.
The latter case, it may well be conjectured, more nearly represents the normal state of matters than the former. An independent and influential priesthood could develop itself only at the larger and more public centres of worship, but that of Shiloh seems to have been the only one of this class. The remaining houses of God, of which we hear some word from the transition period which preceded the monarchy, are not of importance, and are in private hands, thus corresponding to that of Micah on Mount Ephraim. That of Ophra belongs to Gideon, and that of Kirjathjearim to Abinadab. In fact, it appears that Micah, in appointing one to minister at his sanctuary for hire, would seem to have followed a more general practice. For the expression מלא ידו, which still survived as a terminus technicus for the ordination of priests long after they had attained a perfectly independent position, can originally in this connection hardly have meant anything else than a filling of the hand with money or its equivalent; thus the priestly office would appear in the older time to have been a paid one, perhaps
the only one that was paid. Whom he shall appoint is at the discretion of the proprietor: if no one else is available, he gives it to one of his sons (Judges xvii. 5; 1 Sam. vii. 1),—of a "character indelibilis" there is of course in such a case no idea, as one can learn from the earliest example, in which Micah's son retires again from the service after a brief interval. David, when he removed the ark, intrusted it in the first instance to the house of Obededom, a captain of his, a Philistine of Gath, whom he made its keeper. A priest of regular calling, a Levite, is, according to Judges xvii. 13, a very unusual person to find at an ordinary sanctuary. Even at Shiloh, where, however, the conditions are extraordinary, the privilege of the sons of Eli is not an exclusive one; Samuel, who is not a member of the family, is nevertheless adopted as a priest. The service for which a stated minister was needed was not that of offering sacrifice; this was not so regular an occurrence as not to admit of being attended to by one's self. For a simple altar no priest was required, but only for a house which contained a sacred image; 1 this demanded watching and attendance (1 Sam. vii. 1)—in fact, an ephod like that of Gideon or that of Micah (Judges viii. 26, 27, xvii. 4) was an article well worth stealing, and the houses of God ordinarily lay in an open place (Exodus xxxiii. 7). The expressions שׁמר and שׁרת to denote the sacred service were retained in use from this period to later times; and, while every one knows how to sacrifice, the art of dealing with the ephod and winning its oracle from it continues from time immemorial to be the exclusive secret of the priest. In exceptional cases, the attendant is occasionally not the priest himself, but his disciple. Thus Moses has Joshua with him as his ædituus 2 (Exod. xxxiii. 11), who does not quit the tent of Jehovah; so also Eli has Samuel, who sleeps at night in the inner portion of the temple beside the ark of the covenant; even if perhaps the narrative of Samuel's early years is not quite in accordance with the actual circumstances as they existed at Shiloh, it is still in any case a perfectly good witness to a custom of the existence of which we are apprised from other sources. Compare now with this simple state of affairs the fact that in the Priestly Code the sons of Aaron have something
like the half of a total of 22,000 Levites to assist them as watchers and ministers of the sanctuary.
Any one may slaughter and offer sacrifice (1 Sam. xiv. 34 seq.); and, even in cases where priests are present, there is not a single trace of a systematic setting apart of what is holy, or of shrinking from touching it. When David "entered into the house of God and did eat the shewbread, which it is not lawful to eat save for the priests, and gave also to them that were with him" (Mark ii. 26), this is not represented in 1 Sam. xxi. as illegitimate when those who eat are sanctified, that is, have abstained on the previous day from women. Hunted fugitives lay hold of the horns of the altar without being held guilty of profanation. A woman, such as Hannah, comes before Jehovah, that is, before the altar, to pray; the words ותתיצב לפני ײ (1 Sam. i. 9) supplied by the LXX, are necessary for the connection, and have been omitted from the Massoretic text as offensive. In doing so she is observed by the priest, who sits quietly, as is his wont, on his seat at the temple door. The history of the ark particularly, as Vatke justly remarks (pp. 317, 332), affords more than one proof of the fact that the notion of the unapproachableness of the holy was quite unknown; I shall content myself with the most striking of these. Samuel the Ephraimite sleeps by virtue of his office every night beside the ark of Jehovah, a place whither, according to Lev. xvi., the high priest may come only once in the year, and even he only after the strictest preparation and with the most elaborate atoning rites. The contrast in the tone of feeling is so great that no one as yet has even ventured to realise it clearly to himself.
2. With the commencement of the monarchical period the priests forthwith begin to come into greater prominence along with the kings; the advance in centralisation and in publicity of life makes itself noticeable also in the department of worship. At the beginning of Saul's reign we find the distinguished Ephraimitic priesthood, the house of Eli, no longer at Shiloh, but at Nob, in the vicinity of the king, and to a certain degree in league with him; for their head, Ahijah the priest, is in immediate attendance on him when arms are first raised against the Philistines, shares the danger with him, and consults the ephod on his behalf. Subsequently the entente cordiale was disturbed, Ahijah and his brethren fell a sacrifice to the king's jealousy, and thus the solitary instance of an independent and considerable priesthood to
be met with in the old history of Israel came for ever to an end. Abiathar, who alone escaped the massacre of Nob (1 Sam. xxii.), fled with the ephod to David, for which he was rewarded afterwards with high honours, but all that he became he became as servant of David. Under David the regius priesthood began to grow towards the importance which it from that time forward had. This king exercised unfettered control over the sanctuary of the ark which stood in his citadel, as also over the appointment of the priests, who were merely his officials. Alongside of Abiathar he placed Zadok (and subsequently Ira also), as well as some of his own sons. For when it is stated in 2 Sam. viii. 18 that the sons of David were priests, the words must not out of regard to the Pentateuch be twisted so as to mean something different from what they say. We also (1 Kings iv. 5) find the son of the prophet Nathan figuring as a priest, and on the other hand the son of Zadok holding a high secular office (ver. 2); even at this date the line of demarcation afterwards drawn between holy and non-holy persons has no existence. What under David was still wanting to the institution of the royal worship and the regius priests—a fixed centre—was added by the erection of the temple under his successor. At the beginning of Solomon's reign there was still no Israelite place of sacrifice such as sufficed for the greater contingencies; he was compelled to celebrate his accession at the great Bamah at Gibeon, a town in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, which, although it had been subjugated for a considerable time, was still entirely Canaanite. He now took care to make it possible that his colossal festivals should be celebrated at his own sanctuary. And next he made Zadok its priest after having previously deposed and relegated to his patrimonial property at Anathoth, a village adjoining Jerusalem, the aged Abiathar, a man of pure and honourable priestly descent, on account of the support he had given to the legitimate heir to the crown, thereby bringing to pass the fate with which the once so proud and powerful family of Eli had in 1 Sam. ii. been threatened. Doubtless other priests also by degrees attached themselves to the family of Zadok, and ultimately came even to call themselves his sons, just as the Rechabites regarded Jonathan ben Rechab, or the "children of the prophets" one or other of the great prophets, as their father.
Regarding their sanctuaries as their own private property, precisely as Micah does in the classical instance recorded in Judges xvii., xviii., and proceeding quite untrammelled in the appointment and removal
of the officials employed, neither do these early kings hesitate in the least to exercise personally the rights which had emanated from themselves, and been delegated to others. Of Saul, who indeed was in the habit of delegating but seldom, and of doing with his own hand all that required to be done, it is several times mentioned that he sacrificed in person; and it is clear that this is not brought as a charge against him in 1 Sam. xiv. and xv. David sacrificed on the occasion of his having successfully brought the ark to Jerusalem; that it was he himself who officiated appears from the fact that he wore the priestly ephod—the ephod bad—and at the close of the offering pronounced the benediction (2 Sam. vi. 14, 18). In the same way was the consecration of the temple conducted by Solomon; it was he who went before the altar, and after praying there upon his knees with outstretched arms, rose and blessed the people (1 Kings viii. 22, 54, 53),—doubtless also it was he who with his own hands offered the first sacrifice. The priests’ technical skill is necessary only for inquiring of the oracle before the ephod (1 Sam. xiv. 18).
3. These beginnings are continued in the history of the priesthood after the division of the kingdom. Jeroboam I., the founder of the kingdom of Israel, is treated by the historian as the founder also of Israel's worship in so far as the latter differed from the Judæan ideal: "he made the two calves of gold, and set them up at Bethel and at Dan; he made the Bamoth-houses and made priests from the mass of the people, who were not of the sons of Levi, and ordained a feast in the eighth month and ascended to the altar to burn incense" (1 Kings xii. 28 seq., xiii. 33). Here indeed after the well-known manner of pious pragmatism retrospective validity is given to the Deuteronomic law which did not come into force until three centuries afterwards, and judgment is thus passed in accordance with a historically inadmissable standard; moreover, the facts on which the judgment is based are on the one hand too much generalised, and on the other hand laid too exclusively to the charge of Jeroboam. The first king bears the weight of all the sins in worship of all his successors and of the whole body of the people. But the recognition of the sovereign priesthood of the ruler, of the formative influence which he exercised over the worship, is just. The most important temples were royal ones, and the priests who attended at them were the king's priests (Amos vii. 10 seq.). When therefore Jehu overthrew the house of Ahab, he did not extirpate all its members merely,
and its officials and courtiers, but also its priests as well; they too were servants of the crown and in positions of trust (2 Kings x. 11; comp. 1 Kings iv. 5). The statement that they were chosen at the pleasure of the king is therefore to be taken as implying that, as in David's and Solomon's time, so also later they could and might be chosen at pleasure; on the other hand, in point of fact the sacred office, in Dan at least, continued from the period of the Judges down to the Assyrian deportation hereditary in the family of Jonathan. One must, moreover, avoid imagining that all the "houses of the high places" and all the priestly posts 1 belonged to the king; it was impossible that the government should be so all-pervading in such matters. At this period most of the sanctuaries were public, but not therefore as yet on that account royal, and so also doubtless there were numerous priests who were not servants of the king. The preponderance of official cultus and of an official personnel to carry it on was counteracted in the northern kingdom by the frequent dynastic changes and the unattached particularism of the separate tribes; the conditions may be presumed to have developed themselves with great variety and freedom, hereditary and unhereditary priests, priests with independent benefices and others in complete poverty, subsisting side by side; the variety and the equality of rights enjoyed by all is the distinguishing mark of the time.
Speaking generally, however, the priesthood has distinctly consolidated itself as compared with its former condition, and gained not a little alike in number and in influence; it has become an important power in public life, without which the nation cannot be imagined. It would perhaps be somewhat bold to assert this on the strength merely of the brief and inadequate indications in the Book of Kings, which is chiefly interested in the extraordinary interventions of the prophets in the course of Israel's history, but other and more authentic testimonies justify us in doing so. First of these is the Blessing of Moses, an independent document of northern Israel which speaks for itself. Here we read: "Thy Thummim and thy Urim belong to the man of thy friendship, whom thou didst prove at Massah, for whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; who saith of father and mother,
[paragraph continues] I have never seen them, and acknowledgeth not his brethren nor knoweth his own children—for they observe thy word and keep thy covenant, they teach Jacob thy judgments and Israel thy law; they bring savour of fat before thee and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar; bless, O Lord, his strength, and accept the work of his hands; smite through the loins of them that rise up against him, and of them that hate him that they rise not again" (Deut. xxxiii. 8-11). In this passage the priests appear as a strictly close corporation, so close that they are mentioned only exceptionally in the plural number, and for the most part are spoken of collectively in the singular, as an organic unity which embraces not merely the contemporary members, but also their ancestors, and which begins its life with Moses, the friend of Jehovah who as its beginning is identified with the continuation just as the man is identified with the child out of which he has grown. The history of Moses is at the same time the history of the priests, the Urim and Thummim belong—one is not quite sure to which, but it comes to the same thing; every priest to whom the care of an ephod has been intrusted interrogates before it the sacred oracle. The first relative clause relating to Moses passes over without change of subject into one that refers to the priests, so that the singular immediately falls into plural and the plural back to the singular. Yet this so strongly marked solidarity of the priesthood as a profession rests by no means upon the natural basis of family or clan unity; it is not blood, but on the contrary the abnegation of blood that constitutes the priest, as is brought out with great emphasis. He must act for Jehovah's sake as if he had neither father nor mother, neither brethren nor children. Blind prepossession in people's conceptions of Judaism has hitherto prevented the understanding of these words, but they are thoroughly unambiguous. What they say is, that in consecrating himself to the service of Jehovah a man abandons his natural relationships, and severs himself from family ties; thus, with the brotherhood of the priests in northern Israel the case is precisely similar as with that of the religious guilds of the sons of the prophets—the Rechabites, and doubtless too the Nazarites (Amos ii. 11 seq.)—also native there. Whosoever chose (or, whomsoever he chose) was made priest by Jeroboam—such is the expression of the Deuteronomic redactor of the Book of Kings (1 Kings xiii. 33). A historical example of what has been said is afforded by the young Samuel, as he figures in the narrative of his early years contained in
[paragraph continues] 1 Samuel i.-iii.—a narrative which certainly reflects the condition of things in Ephraim at the period of the monarchy. The child of a well-to-do middle class family at Ramah, in the district of Zuph Ephraim, he is even before his birth vowed to Jehovah by his mother, and as soon as possible afterwards is handed over to the sanctuary at Shiloh,—not to become a Nazarite or one of the Nethinim in the sense of the Pentateuch, but to be a priest,—for in his ministry he wears the linen ephod, the ephod bad, and even the pallium (1 Sam. ii. 18) 1 And it is made very plain that the mother's act, in thus giving up her son, who is properly hers, or (as she expresses it) lending him to Jehovah for ever (1 Sam. i. 28: מושאל = שמואל), is regarded as a renunciation of family rights. The circumstance that it is by the parents and not by Samuel himself that the consecration is made makes no material difference; the one thing is on the same plane with the other, and doubtless occurred as well as the other, although seldomer. But, on the other hand, it can hardly have been the rule that any one should abandon not parents and brethren merely, but also wife and children as well in order to enter the priesthood; in Deut. xxxiii. 9 this is adduced only as an extreme instance of the spirit of self-sacrifice. In any case it is not to be inferred that celibacy was demanded, but only that the priestly office was often barely sufficient to support the man, not to speak of a family.
So fixed and influential, so independent and exclusive had the priesthood become at the date of the composition of the Blessing of Moses, that it takes a place of its own alongside of the tribes of the nation, is itself a tribe, constituted, however, not by blood, but by community of spiritual interests. Its importance is brought into clearness even by the opposition which it encounters, and which occasions so vigorous a denunciation of its enemies that one might well believe the person who committed it to writing to have been himself a priest. The cause of the hostility is not stated, but it seems to be directed simply against the very existence of a professional and firmly organised clergy, and to proceed from laymen who hold fast by the rights of the old priestless days.
Next to the Blessing of Moses the discourses of Hosea contain our most important materials for an estimate of the priesthood of Northern
[paragraph continues] Israel. How important that institution was for public life is clear from his expressions also. The priests are the spiritual leaders of the people; the reproach that they do not fulfil their high vocation proves in the first place that they have it. Degenerate they are, to be sure; in Hosea's representation they are seen in the same light as that in which the sons of Eli appear as described in 1 Sam. ii. 22 seq., from which description one conjectures the author to have derived his colours from a state of matters nearer his own day than the period of the judges. The priests of Shechem are even taxed by the prophet with open highway robbery (vi. 9), and in one charge after another he accuses them of taking advantage of their office for base gain, of neglecting its most sacred duties, and in this way having the principal blame for the ruin of the people. "Hear the word of Jehovah, ye children of Israel, for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. (2.) There is swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery; they use violence and add murder to murder. (3.) Therefore the land mourneth, and every creature that dwelleth therein languisheth, even to the wild beasts of the field and the fowls of heaven; and even the fishes of the sea are taken away. (4.) Yet let no man strive and no man reprove; for the people do just as their priests. (5.) Therefore shall ye (priests) stumble on that day, and also the prophets with you on that night; and I will destroy your kin. (6.) My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, because ye yourselves reject knowledge; I will therefore reject you that ye shall be no longer priests unto me; ye have forgotten the doctrine of your God, so will I forget your children. (7.) The more they are, the more they sin against me; their glory they turn into shame. (8.) They eat up the sin of my people, and they set their heart on their iniquity. (9.) And it shall be as with the people so with the priest; I will punish them for their ways and requite them for their doings. (10.) They shall eat and not have enough, they shall commit whoredom and shall not increase, because they have ceased to take heed to the Lord" (Hos. iv. 1-10). 1
[paragraph continues] In the northern kingdom, according to this, the spiritual ascendancy of the priests over the people seems hardly to have been less than that of the prophets, and if in the history we hear less about it, 1 the explanation is to be sought in the fact that they laboured quietly and regularly in limited circles, taking no part in politics, and fully submissive to the established order, and that for this reason they attracted less notice and were less talked about than the prophets who, like Elijah and Elisha, stirred up Israel by their extraordinary and oppositional action.
4. In Judah the nucleus of the development was the same as in Israel. The idea that in Judah the genuine Mosaic priesthood had by
the grace of God been maintained, while in Israel, on the other hand, a schismatic priesthood had intruded itself by the favour of the king and man's device, is that of the later Judæans who had the last word, and were therefore of course in the right. The B’ne Zadok of Jerusalem as contrasted with the B’ne Eli whom they superseded were originally illegitimate (if one may venture to apply a conception which at that time was quite unknown), and did not inherit their right from the fathers, but had it from David and Solomon. They always remained in this dependent condition, they at all times walked, as 1 Sam. ii. 35 has it, "before Jehovah's anointed," as his servants and officers. To the kings the temple was a part of their palace which, as is shown by 1 Kings vii. and 2 Kings xi., stood upon the same hill and was contiguous with it; they placed their threshold alongside of that of Jehovah, and made their door-posts adjoin to His, so that only the wall intervened between Jehovah and them (Ezek. xliii. 8). They shaped the official cultus entirely as they chose, and regarded the management of it, at least so far as one gathers from the epitome of the "Book of the Kings," as the main business of their government. They introduced new usages and abolished old ones; and as they did so the priests always bent to their will and were merely their executive organs. 1 That they were at liberty to offer sacrifice also is a thing of course; they did it, however, only on exceptional occasions, such as, perhaps, at the dedication of a new altar (2 Kings xvi. 12, 13). Even with Jeremiah, who as a rule does not consider sacrifice and drawing near to Jehovah (Num. xvi 5) as every man's business, the king as such is held to be also the supreme priest; for at the beginning of the exile and the foreign domination his hope for the future is: "Their potentate shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them, and I will cause him to draw near, and he shall approach unto me; for who else should have the courage to approach unto me? saith the Lord" (xxx. 21). Ezekiel is the first to protest against dealing with the temple as a royal dependency; for him the prerogative of the prince is reduced to this, that it is his duty to support the public cultus at his own expense.
The distinction between the Judæan and the Israelite priesthood did not exist at first, but arose out of the course of events. The sheltered and quiet life of the little state in the south presents a marked
contrast with the external and internal conflicts, the easily raised turmoil, of the northern kingdom. In the latter, the continual agitation brought extraordinary personalities up to the surface; in the former, institutions based upon the permanent order of things and supported by permanent powers were consolidated. 1
Naturally the monarchy itself benefited most by this stability. The king's cultus, which in the kingdom of Samaria was in no position to supersede the popular and independent worship, easily obtained a perceptible preponderance in the smaller Judah; the king's priesthood, which in the former was incidentally involved in disaster by the overthrow of the dynasty, in the latter gained in strength side by side with the house of David—even Aaron and Amminadab were according to the Priestly Code related to the royal family, as Jehoiada and Ahaziah were in actual fact. Thus at an early period was the way paved for the Act of Uniformity by which Josiah made the king's cultus the official and the only one. One effect which accompanied the measures he took was naturally the exclusive legitimation of the king's priesthood at Jerusalem. But the principle of heredity had already pervaded the other priestly families so thoroughly that to enter any secular calling was nowhere expected of them. The Deuteronomic legislator had conferred upon them the right of carrying on their office at Jerusalem, and of executing it there on behalf of any one who requested their services; but this regulation, from the opposition of the B’ne Zadok, was found on the whole impracticable (2 Kings xxiii. 9), although doubtless some extraneous elements may at that time have succeeded in making their way into the temple nobility. The bulk of the priests of the high places who had been superseded had to content themselves (since they could not now get rid of their spiritual character) with being degraded among their brethren at Jerusalem, and with admission to a subordinate share in the service of the sanctuary (comp. 1 Sam. ii. 36). It was thus, at the close of the pre-exilic history, that the distinction between priests and Levites arose to which Ezekiel is at pains to give the sanction of law.
1. On the whole it is easy here to bring the successive strata of the Pentateuch into co-ordination with the recognisable steps of the historical development. In the Jehovistic legislation there is no word of priests (Exod. xx.-xxiii., xxxiv.), and even such precepts as "Thou shalt not go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon" (Exod. xx. 26) are directed to the general "thou," that is, to the people. With this corresponds the fact that in the solemn ratification of the covenant of Sinai (Exod. xxiv. 3-8), it is young men of the children of Israel who officiate as sacrificers. Elsewhere in the Jehovist Aaron (Exod. iv. 14, xxxii. 1 seq.) and Moses (xxxiii. 7-11; Deut. xxxiii. 8) figure as the founders of the clerical order. Twice (in Exod. xix. 22 and xxxii 29) mention is made of other priests besides; but Exod. xxxii. 29 rests upon Deuteronomy, and even Exod. xix. 22 can hardly have been an original constituent of one of the Jehovistic sources.
2. In Deuteronomy the priests, as compared with the judges and the prophets, take a very prominent position (xvi. 18-xviii. 22) and constitute a clerical order, hereditary in numerous families, whose privilege is uncontested and therefore also does not require protection. Here now for the first time begins the regular use of the name of Levites for the priests,—a name of which the consideration has been postponed until now.
In the pre-exilic literature apart from the Pentateuch it occurs very seldom. First in the prophets, once in the Book of Jeremiah (xxxiii. 17-22), in a passage which in any case is later than the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldæans, and certainly was not written by Jeremiah. 1 The use of the name is an established thing in Ezekiel (573 B.C.), and henceforward occurs without interruption in the writings of the later prophets, a sign that its earlier absence is not to be explained as accidental, not even in Jeremiah, who speaks so frequently of the priests. 2 In the historical books the Levites (leaving out of account
[paragraph continues] 1 Sam. vi. 15, 2 Sam. xv. 24, and 1 Kings viii. 4, xii. 31) 1 occur only in the two appendices to the Book of Judges (chaps. xvii., xviii., and xix., xx.), of which, however, the second is unhistorical and late, and only the first is certainly pre-exilic. But in this case it is not the Levites who are spoken of, as elsewhere, but a Levite, who passes for a great rarity, and who is forcibly carried off by the tribe of Dan, which has none.
Now this Jonathan, the ancestor of the priests of Dan, notwithstanding that he belongs to the tribe of Judah, is represented as a descendant of Gershom the son of Moses (Judges xviii. 30). The other ancient priestly family that goes back to the period of the Judges, the Ephraimitic, of Shiloh, appears also to be brought into connection with Moses; at least in 1 Sam. ii. 27 (a passage, however, which is certainly post-Deuteronomic), where Jehovah is spoken of as having made himself known to the ancestors of Eli in Egypt, and as thereby having laid the foundation for the bestowal of the priesthood, it is clearly Moses who is thought of as the recipient of the revelation. Historical probability admits of the family being traced back to Phinehas, who during the early period of the judges was priest of the ark, and from whom the inheritance on Mount Ephraim and also the second son of Eli were named; it is not to be supposed that he is the mere shadow of his younger namesake, as the latter predeceased his father and was of quite secondary importance beside him. But Phinehas is both in the Priestly Code and in Josh. xxiv. 33 (E) the son of Eleazar, and Eleazar is, according to normal tradition, indeed a son of Aaron, but according to the sound of his name (Eliezer) a son of Moses along with Gershom. Between Aaron and Moses in the Jehovistic portion of the Pentateuch no great distinction is made; if Aaron, in contradistinction from his brother, is characterised as The Levite (Exod. iv. 14), Moses on the other hand bears the priestly staff, is over the sanctuary, and has Joshua to assist him as Eli had Samuel (Exod. xxxiii. 7-11). Plainly the older claims are his; in the main Jehovistic source, in J, Aaron originally does not occur at all, 2 neither is he mentioned in Deuteronomy xxxiii. 8. In the
genealogies of the Priestly Code one main branch of the tribe of Levi is still called, like the eldest son of Moses, Gershom, and another important member is actually called Mushi, i.e., the Mosaite.
It is not impossible that the holy office may have continued in the family of Moses, and it is very likely that the two oldest houses in which it was hereditary, those at Dan and at Shiloh, may have claimed in all seriousness to have been descended from him. Afterwards, as Deut. xxxiii. 8 seq. informs us, all priests honoured Moses as their father, not as being the head of their clan but as being the founder of their order. The same took place in Judah, but there the clerical guild ultimately acquired a hereditary character, and the order became a sort of clan. Levite, previously an official name, now became a patronymic at the same time, and all the Levites together formed a blood-kinship, 1 a race which had not received any land of its own indeed, but in compensation had obtained the priesthood for its heritage. This hereditary clergy was alleged to have existed from the very beginning of the history of Israel, and even then as a numerous body, consisting of many others besides Moses and Aaron. Such is the representation made by Deuteronomist and subsequent writers, but in Deuteronomy we read chiefly of the Levites in the provincial towns of Judah and of the priests, the Levites in Jerusalem, seldom of Levi as a whole (x. 8 seq., xviii. 1) 2
That the hereditary character of the priesthood is here antedated and really first arose in the later period of the Kings, has already been shown in the particular instance of the sons of Zadok of Jerusalem, who were at first parvenus and afterwards became the most legitimate of the legitimate. But it is very remarkable how this artificial construction of a priestly family,—a construction which has absolutely nothing perplexing
in itself—was suggested and favoured by the circumstance that in remote antiquity there once actually did exist a veritable tribe of Levi which had already disappeared before the period of the rise of the monarchy. This tribe belonged to the group of the four oldest sons of Leah,—Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah,—who are always enumerated together in this order, and who settled on both sides of the Dead Sea, towards the wilderness. Singularly no one of them succeeded in holding its own except Judah; all the others became absorbed among the inhabitants of the wilderness or in other branches of their kindred. The earliest to find this destiny were the two tribes of Simeon and Levi (in Gen. xlix. regarded as one), in consequence of a catastrophe which must have befallen them at some time during the period of the judges. "Simeon and Levi are brethren, their shepherds’ staves are weapons of slaughter; O my soul, come not thou into their assembly! mine honour, be thou far from their band! for they slew men in their anger, and in their self-will they houghed oxen; cursed be their anger—so fierce! and their wrath—so cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them over Israel!" (Gen. xlix. 5-7). The offence of Simeon and Levi here rebuked cannot have been committed against Israelites, for in such a case the thought could not have occurred, which is here emphatically repelled, that Jacob, that is to say, Israel as a whole, could have made common cause with them. What is here spoken of must be some crime against the Canaanites, very probably the identical crime which is charged upon the two brothers in Gen. xxxiv., and which there also Jacob (ver. 30) repudiates,—the treacherous attack upon Shechem and massacre of its inhabitants, in disregard of the treaty which had been made. In Judges ix. it is related that Shechem, until then a flourishing town of the Canaanites, with whom moreover Israelite elements were already beginning to blend, was conquered and destroyed by Abimelech, but it is quite impossible to bring into any connection with this the violent deed of Simeon and Levi, which must have taken place earlier, although also within the period of the judges. The consequences of their act, the vengeance of the Canaanites, the two tribes had to bear alone; Israel, according to the indication given in Gen. xlix. 6, xxxiv. 30, did not feel any call to interfere on their behalf or make common cause with them. Thus they fell to pieces and passed out of sight,—in the opinion of their own nation a just fate. In the historical books they are never again mentioned.
It is quite impossible to regard this Levi of the Book of Genesis as a mere shadow of the caste which towards the end of the monarchy arose out of the separate priestly families of Judah. The utterance given in Gen. xlix. 5-7 puts the brothers on an exact equality, and assigns to them an extremely secular and blood-thirsty character. There is not the faintest idea of Levi's sacred calling or of his dispersion as being conditioned thereby; the dispersion is a curse and no blessing, an annihilation and no establishment of his special character. But it is equally an impossibility to derive the caste from the tribe; there is no real connection between the two, all the intermediate links are wanting; the tribe succumbed at an early date, and the rise of the caste was very late, and demonstrably from unconnected beginnings. But in these circumstances the coincidence of name is also very puzzling: Levi the third son of Jacob, perhaps a mere patronymic derived form his mother Leah, and Levi the official priest. If it were practicable to find a convincing derivation of Levi in its later use from the appellative meaning of the root, then one might believe the coincidence to be merely fortuitous, but it is impossible to do so. The solution therefore has been suggested that the violent dissolution of the tribe in the period of the judges led the individual Levites, who now were landless, to seek their maintenance by the exercise of sacrificial functions; this lay to their hand and was successful because Moses them an of God had belonged to their number and had transmitted to them by hereditary succession a certain preferential claim to the sacred office. But at that time priestly posts were not numerous, and such an entrance of the Levites en masse into the service of Jehovah in that early time is in view of the infrequency of the larger sanctuaries a very difficult assumption. It is perhaps correct to say that Moses actually was descended from Levi, and that the later significance of the name Levite is to be explained by reference to him. In point of fact, the name does appear to have been given in the first instance only to the descendants of Moses, and not to have been transferred until a later period to those priests as a body, who were quite unconnected with him by blood, but who all desired to stand related to him as their head. Here it will never be possible to get beyond conjecture.
3 While the clerical tribe of the Levites is still brought forward only modestly in Deuteronomy (x. 8 seq. xviii. 1; Josh. xiii. 14, 33), it is dealt with in very real earnest in the Priestly Code. The tribe of
[paragraph continues] Levi (Num. i. 47, 49, iii. 6, xvii. 3, xviii. 2) is given over by the remaining tribes to the sanctuary, is catalogued according to the genealogical system of its families, reckons 22,000 male members, and even receives a sort of tribal territory, the forty-eight Levitical cities (Josh. xxi.). At the beginning of this chapter we have already spoken of a forward step made in the Priestly Code, connected with this enlargement of the clergy, but of much greater importance; hitherto the distinction has been between clergy and laity, while here there is introduced the great division of the order itself into sons of Aaron and Levites. Not in Deuteronomy only, but everywhere in the Old Testament, apart from Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles, Levite is the priest's title of honour. 1 Aaron himself is so styled in the often-quoted passage, Exod. iv. 14, and that too to denote his calling, not his family, for the latter he has in common with Moses, from whom, nevertheless, it is intended to distinguish him by the style, "thy brother the Levite." In Deuteronomy we are struck by the deliberate emphasis laid on the equal right of all the Levites to sacrificial service in Jerusalem—"The priests, the Levites, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of Jehovah and his inheritance. . . .And if a Levite come from any of thy cities out of all Israel, where he sojourned, and come to the place which Jehovah shall choose, then he shall minister in the name of Jehovah his God as all his brethren the Levites do who stand there before Jehovah" (Deut. xviii. 1, 6, 7). Here the legislator has in view his main enactment, viz., the abolition of all places of worship except the temple of Solomon; those who had hitherto been the priests of these could not be allowed to starve. Therefore it is that he impresses it so often and so earnestly on the people of the provinces that in their sacrificial pilgrimages to Jerusalem they ought not to forget the Levite of their native place, but should carry him with them. For an understanding of the subsequent development this is very important, in so far as it shows how the position of the Levites outside of Jerusalem was threatened by the centralisation of the worship. In point of fact, the good intention of the
[paragraph continues] Deuteronomist proved impossible of realisation; with the high places fell also the priests of the high places. In so far as they continued to have any part at all in the sacred service, they had to accept a position of subordination under the sons of Zadok (2 Kings xxiii. 9). Perhaps Graf was correct in referring to this the prophecy of 1 Sam. ii. 36 according to which the descendants of the fallen house of Eli are to come to the firmly established regius priest, to beg for an alms, or to say, "Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests’ offices, that I may eat a piece of bread:" that historically the deposed Levites had no very intimate connection with those ancient companions in misfortune is no serious objection to such an interpretation in the case of a post-Deuteronomic writer. In this way arose as an illegal consequence of Josiah's reformation, the distinction between priests and Levites. With Ezekiel this distinction is still an innovation requiring justification and sanction; with the Priestly Code it is a "statute for ever," although even yet not absolutely undisputed, as appears from the Priestly version of the story of Korah's company. 1 For all Judaism subsequent to Ezra, and so for Christian tradition, the Priestly Code in this matter also has been authoritative. Instead of the Deuteronomic formula "the priests the Levites," we henceforward have "the priests and the Levites," particularly in Chronicles, 2 and in the ancient versions the old usus loquendi is frequently corrected. 3
The copestone of the sacred structure reared by the legislation of the middle books of the Pentateuch is the high priest. As the Aaronites are above the Levites so is Aaron himself above his sons; in his person culminates the development of the unity of worship inaugurated by Deuteronomy and the agency of Josiah. No figure of such incomparable importance occurs anywhere else in the Old Testament; a high priest of pre-eminent sanctity is still unknown to Ezekiel even. Even before the exile, it is true, the temple worship at Jerusalem had become so magnificent and its personnel so numerous as to render necessary an orderly division of offices and a gradation of ranks. In Jeremiah's time
the priests constituted a guild divided into classes or families with elders at their head; the principal priest had a potent voice in the appointment of his inferior colleagues (1 Sam. ii. 36); alongside of him stood the second priest, the keepers of the threshold, the captain of the watch as holders of prominent charges. 1 But in the Law the position of Aaron is not merely superior but unique, like that of the Pope in relation to the episcopate; his sons act under his oversight (Num. iii. 4); he alone is the one fully qualified priest, the embodiment of all that is holy in Israel He alone bears the Urim and Thummim and the Ephod; the Priestly Code indeed no longer knows what those articles are for, and it confounds the ephod of gold with the ephod of linen, the plated image with the priestly robe; but the dim recollections of these serve to enhance the magical charm of Aaron's majestic adornment. He alone may enter into the holy of holies and there offer incense; the way at other times inaccessible (Neh. vi. 10, 11) is open to him on the great day of atonement. Only in him, at a single point and in a single moment, has Israel immediate contact with Jehovah. The apex of the pyramid touches heaven.
The high priest stands forth as absolutely sovereign in his own domain. Down to the exile, as we have seen, the sanctuary was the property of the king, and the priest was his servant; even in Ezekiel who on the whole is labouring towards emancipation, the prince has nevertheless a very great importance in the temple still; to him the dues of the people are paid, and the sacrificial expenses are in return defrayed by him. In the Priestly Code, on the other hand, the dues are paid direct into the sanctuary, the worship is perfectly autonomous, and has its own head, holding not from man but from the grace of God. Nor is it merely the autonomy of religion that is represented by the high priest; he exhibits also its supremacy over Israel. He does not carry sceptre and sword; nowhere, as Vatke (p. 539) well remarks, is any attempt made to claim for him secular power. But just in virtue of
his spiritual dignity, as the head of the priesthood, he is head of the theocracy, and so much so that there is no room for any other alongside of him; a theocratic king beside him cannot be thought of (Num. xxvii. 21). He alone is the responsible representative of the collective nation, the names of the twelve tribes are written on his breast and shoulders; his transgression involves the whole people in guilt, and is atoned for as that of the whole people, while the princes, when their sin-offerings are compared with his, appear as mere private persons (Lev. iv. 3, 13, 22, ix. 7, xvi. 6). His death makes an epoch; it is when the high priest—not the king—dies that the fugitive slayer obtains his amnesty (Num. xxxv. 28). At his investiture he receives the chrism like a king, and is called accordingly the anointed priest; he is adorned with the diadem and tiara (Ezek. xxi. 31, A.V. 26) like a king, and like a king too he wears the purple, that most unpriestly of all raiment, of which he therefore must divest himself when he goes into the holy of holies (Lev. xvi. 4). What now can be the meaning of this fact,—that he who is at the head of the worship, in this quality alone, and without any political attributes besides, or any share in the government, is at the same time at the head of the nation? What but that civil power has been withdrawn from the nation and is in the hands of foreigners; that Israel has now merely a spiritual and ecclesiastical existence? In the eyes of the Priestly Code Israel in point of fact is not a people, but a church; worldly affairs are far removed from it and are never touched by its laws; its life is spent in religious services. Here we are face to face with the church of the second temple, the Jewish hierocracy, in a form possible only under foreign domination. It is customary indeed to designate in the Law by the ideal, or in other words blind, name of theocracy that which in historical reality is usually called hierarchy; but to imagine that with the two names one has gained a real distinction is merely to deceive oneself. But, this self-deception accomplished, it is easy further to carry back the hierocratic churchly constitution to the time of Moses, because it excludes the kingship, and then either to assert that it was kept secret throughout the entire period of the judges and the monarchy, or to use the fiction as a lever by which to dislocate the whole of the traditional history.
To any one who knows anything about history it is not necessary to prove that the so-called Mosaic theocracy, which nowhere suits the
circumstances of the earlier periods, and of which the prophets, even in their most ideal delineations of the Israelite state as it ought to be, have not the faintest shadow of an idea, is, so to speak, a perfect fit for post-exilian Judaism, and had its actuality only there. Foreign rulers had then relieved the Jews of all concern about secular affairs; they had it in their power, and were indeed compelled to give themselves wholly up to sacred things, in which they were left completely unhampered. Thus the temple became the sole centre of life, and the prince of the temple the head of the spiritual commonwealth, to which also the control of political affairs, so far as these were still left to the nation, naturally fell there being no other head. 1 The Chronicler gave a corresponding number of high priests to the twice twelve generations of forty years each which were usually assumed to have elapsed between the exodus and the building of Solomon's temple, and again between that and the close of the captivity; the official terms of office of these high priests, of whom history knows nothing, have taken the place of the reigns of judges and kings, according to which reckoning was previously made (1 Chron. v. 29, seq.). One sees clearly from Sirach l., and from more than one statement of Josephus (e.g., Ant., xviii. 4, 3, xx. 1, 11), how in the decorations of Aaron (where, however, the Urim and Thummim were wanting; Neh. vii. 65) people reverenced a transcendent majesty which had been left to the people of God as in some sense a compensation for the earthly dignity which had been lost. Under the rule of the Greeks the high priest became ethnarch and president of the synedrium; only through the pontificate was it possible for the Hasmonæans to attain to power, but when they conjoined it with full-blown secular sovereignty, they created a dilemma to the consequences of which they succumbed.
122:1 In ver. 7 for ויפרו read ותפרו, in ver. 8 for ותשימון read ותשימום, and for לכם read לכן, in each case following the LXX.
124:1 "If by reason of their birth it was impossible for the Levites to become priests, then it would be more than strange to deprive them of the priesthood on account of their faults,—much as if one were to threaten the commons with the punishment of disqualification to sit or vote in a house of lords" (Kuenen, Theol. Tijdschr., iii. 465).
125:1 Jahrb. f. prot. Theol., 1875, p. 351: "Its doctrine that the Aaronidæ alone are true priests has its parallel in Ezekiel, who still more exclusively recognises only the sons of Zadok as priests."
126:1 To satisfy the Pentateuch it is shown in the Book of Chronicles, by means of artificial genealogies, how the sons of Zadok derived their origin in an unbroken line from Aaron and Eleazar. Compare my Pharisäer u. Sadducäer, p. 48 seq. This p. 127 point was first observed by Vatke (p. 344 seq.), then by Kuenen (Theol. Tijdschr., iii. p. 463-509) and lastly by me (Text der BB. Sam., p. 48-51).
128:1 In 1 Sam. i. seq., indeed, we read only of Eli and his two sons and one servant, and even David and Solomon appear to have had only a priest or two at the chief temple. Are we to suppose that Doeg, single-handed, could have made away with eighty-five men?
130:1 בית אלהים, "house of God," is never anything but the house of an image. Outside of the Priestly Code, ephod is the image, ephod bad the priestly garment.
130:2 משרת משה, more precisely מ״ את ײ את פני משה הכהז, 1 Sam. ii. 11.
134:1 The parallelism between "Bamoth-houses" and a priestly appointment in 1 Kings xii. 31 seems not to be casual merely. Whilst a Bamah may be a simple altar, a "Bamoth-house" presupposes a divine image, and renders an ædituus necessary.
136:1 Comp. Koran, iii. 31: "I vow to thee that which is in my womb as a devotee of the mosque, to serve it."
137:1 In the introductory words the people are invited to hear what it is that Jehovah complains of them for; sin prevails to such an extent that the complete ruin of the country is inevitable (vers. 1-3). With the word "yet" at the beginning of the following verse the prophet changes the course of his thought; from the people he passes to the priests; the root of the general corruption is the want of divine knowledge (the knowledge, namely, that "I will have mercy and not sacrifice; "compare p. 138 Jer. xxii. 16), and for this the priests are to blame, whose task it was to diffuse "knowledge," but who, instead of this for their own selfish interests fostered the tendency of the people to seek Jehovah's grace by sacrifice rather than by righteousness. For if it be conceded that it is the priests who are addressed from ver. 6 onwards, then it is not easy to see why a change in the address should take place between ver. 5 and ver. 6, especially as the co-ordination of priests with prophets seems more reasonable in ver. 5 than that of prophets and people. As ver. 4 in this way occupies an intermediate position between the complaint made against the people in vers. 1-3, and that against the priests in vers. 5-10, the transition from the one to the other, indicated by the "yet," must occur in it. Hosea abruptly breaks off from reproaching the people, "Yet let no man strive and no man reprove"—why not, the words that follow must explain. In verse 4b some circumstance must be mentioned which excuses the people, and at the same time draws down indignation upon the priests who are the subjects of the following. These considerations necessarily determine the thought which we are to expect, namely, this—"for the people do just as their priests." This meaning is obtained by the conjectural reading ועמי ככמריו instead of ועמככמריב. Comp. ver. 9. The remaining יכה must be deleted. The ordinary view of ver. 4 is hardly worth refuting. The אל יוכח, it is said, is spoken from the people's point of view. The people repel the prophet's reproach and rebuke, because (such is the interpretation of ver. 4b) they themselves have no scruples in striving even with the priest. "Even," for want of subjection to the priests is held to be specially wicked. But the prophet Hosea would hardly have considered it a capital offence if the people had withheld from the priests the respect of which, according to his own language, they were so utterly unworthy. Moreover, every exegesis which finds in ver. 4 a reproach brought against the people, leaves in obscurity the point at which the transition is made from reproach of the people to reproach of the priests.
138:1 According to 2 Kings xvii. 27, 28, the foreign colonies introduced by the Assyrians into Samaria after it had been depopulated, were at first devoured by lions because they were ignorant of the right way of honouring the deity of the land. Esarhaddon therefore sent one of the exiled Samaritan priests, who fixed his abode at Bethel, the ancient chief sanctuary, and instructed (מורה) the settlers in the religion of the god of the country. This presupposes a definite priesthood, which maintained itself even in exile for a considerable time.
139:1 Compare for example 2 Kings xii. 5 seq. (Joash and Jehoiada), xvi. 10 seq. (Ahaz and Urijah), and, finally, chap. xxii. (Josiah and Hilkiah).
140:1 The Rechabites, who arose in the northern kingdom, continued to subsist in Judah, and Jeremiah prophesied to them that there should never fail them a priestly head of the family of their founder (xxxv. 19).
141:1 In the LXX, chap. xxxiii. 14-26 is wanting. The parallelism between vers. 17-22 and 23-26 is striking. It looks as if David and Levi arose out of a misunderstanding of the families mentioned in ver. 24, namely, Judah and Ephraim. In any case ודוד in ver. 26 is an interpolation.
141:2 Ezek. xl. 46, xliii. 19, xliv. 10, 15, xlv. 5, xlviii. 11-13, 22, 31; Isa. lxvi. 21; Zech. xii. 13; Mal. ii. 4, 8, iii. 3.
142:1 Upon 1 Sam. vi. 15 all that is necessary has been said at 128; on 1 Kings viii. 4 see. 43. That 1 Kings xii. 31 proceeds from the Deuteronomic redactor, the date of whose writing is not earlier than the second half of the exile, needs no proof. The hopeless corruptness of 2 Sam. xv. 24 I have shown in Text. d. BB. Sam. (Göttingen, 1871).
142:2 That Aaron was not originally present in J, but owed his introduction to tile redactor who combined J and E together into JE, can be shown best from Exod. vii. p. 143 x. For Jehovah's command to appear before Pharaoh is in J given to Moses alone (vii. 14, 26 [viii. 1], viii. 16 , ix. 1, 13, x. 1); it is only in the sequel that Aaron appears along with him four times, always when Pharaoh in distress summons Moses and Aaron in order to ask their intercession. But strangely enough Aaron is afterwards completely ignored again; Moses alone makes answer, speaking solely in his own name and not in Aaron's also (viii. 5, 22, 25 [9, 26, 29]; ix. 29), and although he has not come alone; he goes so and makes his prayer in the singular (viii. 8, 26 [12, 30], ix. 33, x. 18), the change of the number in x. 17 is under these circumstances suspicious enough. It appears as if the Jehovistic editor had held Aaron's presence to be appropriate precisely at the intercession.
143:1 The instance of the Rechabites shows how easily the transition could made.
143:2 On Deut xxvii. compare Kuenen, Theol. Tijdschr., 1878, p. 297.
146:1 Exod. iv. 14; Deut. xxxiii. 8; Judges xvii. seq.; Exod. xxxii. 26-28; Deut. x. 8 seq., xii. 12, 18 seq. xiv. 27, 29, xvi. 11, 14, xvii. 9, 18, xviii. 1-8, xxiv. 8, xxvii. 9, 14, xxxi. 9, 25; Josh. iii. 3, xiii. 14, 33, xiv. 3 seq., xviii. 7; Judges xix. seq., 1 Sam. vi. 15; 1 Kings xii. 31, Jer. xxxiii 17-22; Ezek. xliv. 8 seq.; Isa. lxvi. 2, Zech. xii. 13, Mal. ii. 4, 8, iii. 3. Only the glosses 2 Sam. xv. 24, and 1 Kings viii. 4 (compare, however, 2 Chron. v. 5) can rest upon the Priestly Code.
147:1 Distorted references to the historical truth are round also in Num. xvii. 25 and xviii. 23, passages which are unintelligible apart from Ezek. xliv. Compare Kuenen, Theol. Tijdschr., 1878, p. 138 seq.
147:2 Except in 2 Chron. v. 5, xxx. 27.
147:3 E.g., Josh. iii. 3 and Isa. lxvi. 21 in the LXX, Deut. xviii. 1 and Judges xvii. 13 in "Jerome; and many passages in the Syriac. On the carrying out of the new organisation of the temple personnel after the exile, see Vatke, p. 568, Graf (in Merx's Archiv, i., p. 225 seq.), and Kuenen (Godsdienst, ii. p. 104 seq.). With Zerubbabel and Joshua, four priestly families, 4289 persons in all, returned from Babylon in 538 (Ezra iv. 36-39); with Ezra in 458 came two families in addition, but the number of persons is not stated (viii. 2). Of Levites there came on the first occasion 74 (ii. 40); on the second, of the 1500 men who met at the rendezvous appointed by Ezra to make the journey through the wilderness, not one was a Levite, and it was only on the urgent representations of the scribe that some thirty were at last induced to join the company (viii. 15-20). How can we explain this preponderance of priests over Levites, which is still surprising even if the individual figures are not to be taken as exact? Certainly it cannot be accounted for if the state of matters for a thousand years had been that represented in the Priestly Code and in Chronicles. On the other hand, all perplexity vanishes if the Levites were the degraded priests of the high places of Judah. These were certainly not on the whole more numerous p. 148 than the Jerusalem college, and the prospect of thenceforward not being permitted to sacrifice in their native land, but of having slaughtering and washing for sole duties, cannot have been in any way very attractive to them; one can hardly blame them if they were disinclined voluntarily to lower themselves to the position of mere laborers under the sons of Zadok. Besides, it may be taken for granted that many (and more particularly Levitical) elements not originally belonging to it had managed to make way into the ranks of the Solomonic priesthood; that all were not successful (Ezra ii. 61) shows that many made the attempt, and considering the ease with which genealogies hoary with age were then manufactured and accepted, every such attempt cannot have failed.
How then came it to pass that afterwards, as one must conclude from the statements in Chronicles, the Levites stood to the priests in a proportion so much more nearly, if even then not quite fully corresponding to the law? Simply by the "Levitising" of alien families. At first in the community of the second temple the Levites continued to be distinguished from the singers, porters, and Nethinim (Ezra ii. 41-58), guilds which from the outset were much more numerous and which rapidly grew (Neh. xi. 17, 19, 36, xii. 28 seq.; 1 Chron. ix. 16, 22, 25). But the distinction had in fact no longer any actual basis, once the Levites had been degraded to the rank of temple-servitors and become Nethinim to the priests (Num. iii. 9). Hence, where the Chronicler, who is at the same time the author of the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, is not reproducing old sources but is writing freely, he regards the singers also and the porters as Levites. By artificial genealogies of rather a rough and ready kind the three families of singers, Heman, Asaph, and Ethan are traced up (1 Chron. vi. 1 seq.) to the old Levitical families of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari (see Graf, as above, p. 231; and Ewald, iii. p. 380 seq.). How far the distinction between the Nethinim and the Levites was afterwards maintained (Josh. ix. 21 seq., I Esdr. i. 3; Ezra viii. 20) is not clear. It would not be amiss if Ezekiel's intention of banishing foreigners from the temple found its fulfilment only through these heathen hieroduli, the Mehunim, the Nephisim, the sons of Shalmai, and the others whose foreign-sounding names are given in Ezra ii. 43 seq., obtaining admission into the tribe of Levi by artificial genealogies. A peculiar side light is thrown upon the course of development by the fact that the singers who in Ezra's time were not yet even Levites, afterwards felt shame in being so, and desired at least externally to be placed on all equality with priests. They begged of King Agrippa II. to obtain for them the permission of the synedrium to wear the white priestly dress.
149:1 The Kohen ha-rosh first occurs in 2 Sam. xv. 27, but here הראש (so read, instead of הרואה) comes from the interpolator of ver. 24. So again 2 Kings xii. 11, הכהז הנדול, but 2 Kings xii. is from the same hand as 2 Kings xvi. 10 seq. and xxii. seq. Elsewhere we have simply "the priest," compare besides 2 Kings xix. 2; Jer. xix. 1; 2 Kings xxiii. 4; xxv. 18; Jer. xx. 1; xxix. 25, 26; In 1 Sam. ii. 36 ספחני "incorporate me" shows that כהנה must mean "priestly guild" or "order." In connection with the name לוי it is noteworthy that ספח is parallel with לוה in Isa. xiv. 1.
151:1 Very interesting and instructive is Ewald's proof of the way in which Zech. vi. 9-15 has been tampered with, so as to eliminate Zerubbabel and leave the high priest alone. Just so in dealing with Caliphs and Sultans, the Patriarchs were and are the natural heads of the Greek and Oriental Christians even in secular matters.