High Priest List

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The High Priest was a hereditary office in ancient Israel, usually held for life, that begun with Aaron, the older brother of Moses (Exodus 29:29-30, Leviticus 8:12, 16:32). He was anointed into this office at the age of 83 in 1445 B.C. He died on Mount Hor, which lies on the western edge of the land settled by the Edomites, at the age of 123 (Numbers 33:39).

Eleazar, Aaron's oldest surviving son at the time of his death, assumed his father's role as High Priest just as the Israelites were about to enter their inheritance in Canaan. He is noted as helping Joshua assign land to each of Israel's tribe after they entered Canaan (Numbers 34:17, Joshua 14:1). After his burial in the city of Gibeah (Joshua 24:33) his son Phinehas assumed his responsibilities.

Phinehas, Israel's third high priest (Numbers 25:10 - 13), was greatly blessed by God (1Chronicles 9:20). Because he killed a defiant Zimri and stopped a plague (Numbers 25:1 - 9) God promised that his descendants would serve as he did as well (verses 10 -13). His son Abishua served upon his death. Very little is known about Abishua apart from a few scant Biblical references (1Chronicles 6:4 - 5, 50, Ezra 7:5). Abishua's son Bukki serves next then Uzzi.

The High Priests from Uzzi to Eli and beyond is somewhat open to debate. There is no single place in the Bible that gives a comprehensive listing of these important individuals. Compounding this problem is the fact that several individuals who served in this capacity have the same name. 1Chronicles 6 contains a list of those who served in this office but omits the priestly line from Eli to Abiathar. It also omits others listed elsewhere in scripture such as Jehoiada and Zechariah (2Chronicles 24:20) and Meraioth (1Chronicles 9:11).

The priesthood line continued through the descendants of Eleazar until it transferred to the line of Ithamar, Aaron's younger son, through the person of Eli. He not only served as the head Priest (1Samuel 1:9) but was also a Judge of Israel from 1153 to 1113 B.C. Toward the latter part of his life Eli made his two sons, Phinehas II (to distinguish him from Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron) and Hophni serve jointly (1Samuel 1:3). They became so corrupt, however, that God caused them to die during a battle on the same day (1Samuel 2:27-36). After Eli and his two sons died, the Priesthood went to Ahitub, Eli's grandson. It then went to Ahimelech (Ahiah).

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Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub, was High Priest during the time when King Saul was trying to kill David (1Samuel 21:1). He was executed by order of Saul at the hands of Doeg the Edomite (1Samuel 22:16-19) for befriending David. Saul also had Doeg murder all the priests in the city of Nob. Ahimelech's son Abiathar escaped Saul's bloody purge at Nob and fled to David (1Samuel 22:20-23). Abiathar eventually became the top Priest.

During the time of David, two men served as Israel's Priest at the same time. They were Abiathar (a descendent of Eli, in the line Ithamar, whom was put in the position when the Ark of the Covenant was in Gibeon) and Zadok (from the line of Eleazar, made the head priest when the Ark came to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 8:17, 15:24-29, 35; 19:11).

When Solomon came to power he removed Abiathar from being High Priest in part to fulfill the prophecy against Eli's descendants (1Kings 2:26-27) and in part because Abiathar sided against Solomon as being David's successor (1Kings 1:7, 19, 42). Zadok became the sole person to fill the position. After Zadok' death came Shallum, Hilkiah, Azariah, Seraiah (who was put to death by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon - 2Kings 25:18) and Jehozadak (who went into Babylonian captivity, see 1Chronicles 6:14 - 15).

After Jehozadak' service was Joshua (who served in Jerusalem after returning from captivity - Haggai 1:1, 12, 14), Joiakim (Nehemiah 12:10, 12, 26), Eliashib (Nehemiah 3:1), Joiada (Nehemiah 12:10), Jonathan (verse 11) and Jaddua (verses 11, 22). After Jaddua, the Bible is silent regarding the High Priest until the time of the New Testament. We must therefore rely on extra-Biblical references to fill in the missing individuals who served in this capacity.

Extra-Biblical References

The Jewish historian Josephus, in his work Antiquities of the Jews, gives us the names of several High Priests who come after Jaddua. Onias I, the son of Jaddua, took the office upon his father's death (Antiquities of the Jews, Book 11, Chapter 8, Section 7). He was followed by Simon the Just, then Eleazar (both referenced in Book 12, Chapter 2, Section 5), Manasseh (Book 12, Chapter 4, Section 1), Onias II (Book 12, Chapter 4, Section 10), Simon (Simeon) II (same as previous reference), Onias III (same as previous reference) and Jason (who changed his name from Jesus, Book 12, Chapter 5, Section 1). References to these priests can also be found in the Apocrypha books of 1, 2 and 4 Maccabees.

Menelaus (Book 12, Chapter 9, Section 7) gave a large sum of money to Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes in order to replace Jason as High Priest. He was the first non-descendant of Aaron to take the office. Upon the death of Menelaus, Alcimus (Jacimus), who was a descendant of Aaron, assumed the office (Book 12, Chapter 9, Section 7). After Alcimus dies, a period of several years ensues with the priestly office left vacant.

The Maccabees

Mattathias, a priest who descended from Aaron's grandson Phinehas (1Maccabees), begins a revolt against the Seleucid Empire over their aggressive campaign to force the Greek culture upon the Jews. Although he soon dies, his sons take up his cause and ultimately remove the Seleucids from Judea. The cleansing and rededication of Jerusalem's temple in 164 B.C. after the Seleucids polluted it is still commemorated to this day in the Jewish celebration known as Hanukkah.

Jonathan Maccabee (Apphus), the youngest son of Mattathias, assumes the office of High Priest during the Feast of Tabernacles around 153 B.C. Simon Maccabee, the second son of Mattathias, assumes the office when Jonathan is captured and killed by the Seleucid King Diodotus Tryphon. Upon Simon's murder by a son-in-law, his son John Hyrcanus I takes his place in the priestly office. The oldest son of Hyrcanus, Aristobulus I, succeeds his father in the priestly office. He is followed by Alexander Jannaeus, Hyrcanus II, Aristobulus II and Hyrcanus II again (who was put back into the office by the Romans).

Antigonus, the second son of Aristobulus II, is the last of the Maccabee line to serve as the temple's chief priest. He is executed in 37 B.C. Herod the Great, made King of the Jews by Rome, assumes control of Judea in the same year. From this time forward, the office of the High Priest is by appointment.

High Priests from Herod the Great
to the temple's destruction

Appointed by Herod the Great
King of Judea

Period Served

Ananel (Hananeel)

37 to 36 B.C.

Aristobulus III36 B.C.

Ananel (Hananeel) (reappointed)

36 to 30 B.C.

Jesus, son of Phabes30 to 23 B.C.

Simon, son of Boethos

23 to 5 B.C.

Matthias, son of Theophilos5 to 4 B.C.

Joazar, son of Boethos

4 B.C.

Appointed by Archelaus
Ethnarch of Judea, Samaria, Edom

Eleazar, son of Boethos

4 to 3 B.C.

Jesus, son of Sie3 B.C.

Joazar, son of Boethos (reappointed)

? to 6 A.D.

Appointed by Quirinius
Roman Legate of Syria and Judea

Ananus (Annas), son of Seth

6 to 15 A.D.

Appointed by Valerius Gratus
Roman Prefect of Judea

Ishmael, son of Phabi

15 to 16 A.D.

Eleazar, son of Ananus16 to 17 A.D.

Simon, son of Camithos

17 to 18 A.D.

Joseph (Caiaphas)
son-in-law of Ananus
(condemned Christ to die)
18 to 36 A.D.

Appointed by Vitellius

Jonathan, son of Ananus

36 to 37 A.D.

Theophilos, son of Ananus37 to 41 A.D.

Appointed by Agrippa I
Roman Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea

Simon Cantheras, son of Boethos

41 to 43 A.D.

Matthias, son of Ananos43 A.D.

Elionaios, son of Cantheras

43 to 44 A.D.

Appointed by Herod of Chalcis
Tetrarch of kingdom north of Judea

Jonathan, son of Ananus (reappointed)

44 A.D.

Joseph, son of Cainus44 to 46 A.D.

Ananias, son of Nedebaios

46 to 52 A.D.

Jonathan52 to 56 A.D.

Appointed by Agrippa II
King of Chalcis

Ishmael, son of Phabi (reappointed?)

56 to 62 A.D.

Joseph Cabi, son of Simon62 to 63 A.D.

Ananus, son of Ananus

63 A.D.

Jesus, son of Damnaios63 A.D.

Jesus, son of Gamaliel

63 to 64 A.D.

Matthias, son of Theophilos65 to 66 A.D.

Appointed by
the people during the last war

Phannias, son of Samuel67 to 70 A.D.

Additional Study Materials
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