Priests at the Temple

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An interesting statement is made in the Bible regarding some of the fruit generated by the early New Testament church. Acts 6:7 states that a great number of temple PRIESTS repented and became believers in Jesus Christ. This was a partial fulfilment of what was written by the prophet Malachi (Malachi 2:7).

We can imagine how the temple priests who served, when the house of God was empty of worshippers, gathered to discuss the things of God and tell of the awesome things which had happened in the city. Jesus' arrest, his trials, and at the bequest of the religious leaders he being given to the Gentiles must have consumed many a discussion at the temple. There were always a great quantity of priests in the city. Tradition states twelve of the twenty-four priestly courses were at all times living in Jerusalem.

Those priests who served in the temple, and everything they wore and did, were to be symbolic. In fact, Israel itself was to be to God "Now if you will faithfully obey me, you will be my very own people. The whole world is mine, but you will be my holy nation and serve me as priests" (Exodus 19:5 - 6, CEV). This goal was realized when the time was right.

What did Herod's temple look like?
What is the Holy of Holies?
How much influence did temple priests possess?

Entering Israel cost a man a half-shekel, which over the course of time became a regular offering that would ultimately reach the priests.

12. "When you count the children of Israel, of those who are to be counted, then they shall each man give a ransom for himself to the LORD . . . 13. They shall give this, every one that passes among those who are counted, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary (a shekel is twenty gerahs) . . .

Ancient Israel was ultimately destined to be a nation of holy priests brought near to him (Exodus 19:6). Everything from the anointing oil, the vessels in the temple, the altar, the laver and so on was designated as holy by the Eternal (Exodus 40:9 - 13).

The Courses

The first peculiarity of the time after the days of Moses is how the priests were divided into courses, initially by King David. Such a division existed from the time the temple was erected by Solomon until captivity. When the captivity ended only 4 of 24 courses came back to serve.

7 - 18 This is the order in which the twenty-four family groups were given their assignments: 1) Jehoiarib; 2) Jedaiah; 3) Harim; 4) Seorim; 5) Malchijah; 6) Mijamin; 7) Hakkoz; 8) Abijah; 9) Jeshua; 10) Shecaniah; 11) Eliashib; 12) Jakim; 13) Huppah; 14) Jeshebeab; 15) Bilgah; 16) Immer; 17) Hezir; 18) Happizzez; 19) Pethahiah; 20) Jehezkel; 21) Jachin; 22) Gamul; 23) Delaiah; 24) Maaziah. (1Chronicles 24)

5. There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest of the course of Abijah, Zacharias by name; and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.

During the days of King David the Levites had been arranged into 24 courses which were to act as assistants to the priests, provide music, serve as guards and keepers of the gates and act as officers (1Chronicles 23:4, 28, 25:6, 26:6, etc.). These also looked after the sacred vestments and vessels (1Chronicles 23:28 - 32) that would ultimately be housed in Solomon's temple.

Breastplate, Mitre, Phylacteries, Ziz

Of the four distinctive articles in the high priest's dress, the breastplate, alike from its square form and the twelve jewels on it, bearing the names of the tribes, suggest the description of the city of Jerusalem in the book of Revelation (see Revelation 21:16 - 21)

Priestly income

Tradition states priests received their income from offerings made at the temple and elsewhere (Leviticus 7:12, see also 22:29 - 30). Of the ten offerings which might be used throughout the land for their support, five could be given at will to any priest. These were the tithe of the tithe, the heave-offering of the dough, the first of the fleece and the priest's due of meat (see Numbers 15:20, Deuteronomy 18:3, Romans 11:16). The other five were given to the priests of the special course on duty for the week. Ultimately, however, the high priest had the right to take whatever part of the offerings he decided he wanted. The officiating temple priesthood ultimately went away and did not leave behind any of its arrangements (Hebrews 10:1).

Additional Study Materials
What GEMS were in the priestly breastplate?
First Century High Priests
New Testament Religious Groups

Priests at the Temple
Bibliography

Holy Bible, a Faithful Version
The Temple at the Time of Christ


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