THE TEMPLE - ITS MINISTRY AND SERVICE #4
at the time of Christ
From the book by Alfred Edersheim
THE OFFICIATING PRIESTHOOD
'And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering
oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.'
AMONG the most interesting glimpses of early life in the
church is that afforded by a small piece of rapidly-drawn scenery
which presents to our view 'a great company of the priests,'
'obedient to the faith.' 1 We seem to be carried back in
imagination to the time when Levi remained faithful amidst the
general spiritual defection, 2 and then through the long vista
of devout ministering priests to reach the fulfilment of this
saying of Malachi - part admonition, and part prophecy: 'For the
priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law
at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.' 3
We can picture to ourselves how they who ministered in holy
things would at eventide, when the Temple was deserted of its
worshippers, gather to speak of the spiritual meaning of the
services, and to consider the wonderful things which had taken
place in Jerusalem, as some alleged, in fulfilment of those very
types that formed the essence of their office and ministry. 'For
this thing was not done in a corner.' The trial of Jesus, His
1 Acts vi.7.
2 Ex. xxxii. 26.
condemnation by the Sanhedrim, and His being delivered up to the
Gentiles, must have formed the theme of frequent and anxious
discussion in the Temple. Were not their own chief priests
implicated in the matter? Did not Judas on that fatal day rush
into the Temple, and wildly cast the 'price of blood ' into the
'treasury'? On the other hand, was not one of the principal
priests and a member of the priestly council, Joseph of
Arimathea, an adherent of Christ? Did not the Sanhedrist
Nicodemus adopt the same views, and even Gamaliel advise caution?
Besides, in the 'porches' of the Temple, especially in that of
Solomon, 'a notable miracle' had been done in 'that Name,' and
there also its all-prevailing power was daily proclaimed. It
specially behoved the priesthood to inquire well into the matter,
and the Temple seemed the most appropriate place for its
PRIESTS IN JERUSALEM
The number of priests to be found at all times in Jerusalem
mast have been very great, and Ophel a densely inhabited quarter.
According to Jewish tradition; half of each of the twenty four
'courses,' into which the priesthood were divided, were
permanently resident in Jerusalem the rest scattered over the
land. It is added, that about one half of the latter had settled
in Jericho, and were in the habit of supplying the needful
support to their brethren while officiating in Jerusalem. Of
course such statements must not be taken literally, though no
doubt they are substantially correct. When a 'course' was on
duty; all its members were bound to appear in the Temple. Those
who stayed away, with such 'representatives of the people' (or
'stationary men') as, like them, had been prevented from 'going
up' to Jerusalem in their turn, had to meet in the synagogues of
their district to pray and to fast each day of their week of
service, except on the sixth, the seventh, and the first--that
is, neither on the Sabbath, nor on the days preceding and
succeeding it, as the 'joy' attaching to the Sabbath rendered a
fast immediately before or after it inappropriate.
SYMBOLISM OF THE PRIESTHOOD
It need scarcely be said, that everything connected with the
priesthood was intended to be symbolical and typical--the office
itself, its functions, even its dress and outward support. The
fundamental design of Israel itself was to be unto Jehovah 'a
kingdom of priests and an holy nation.' 1 This, however, could
only be realised in 'the fulness of time.' At the very outset
there was the barrier of sin; and in order to gain admittance to
the ranks of Israel, when 'the sum of the children of Israel was
taken after their number,' every man had to give the half-shekel,
which in after times became the regular Temple contribution, as
'a ransom (covering) for his soul unto Jehovah.' 2 But even so
Israel was sinful, and could only approach Jehovah in the way
which Himself opened, and in the manner which He appointed.
Direct choice and appointment by God were the conditions alike of
the priesthood, of sacrifices, feasts, and of every detail of
service. The fundamental ideas which underlay all and connected
it into a harmonious whole, were 'reconciliation' and
'mediation:' the one expressed by typically atoning sacrifices,
the other by a typically intervening priesthood. Even the Hebrew
term for priest (Cohen) denotes in its
root-meaning 'one who stands up for another, and mediates in his
cause.' 1 For this purpose God chose the tribe of Levi, and out
of it again the family of Aaron, on whom He bestowed the
'priest's office as a gift' 2 But the whole characteristics and
the functions of the priesthood centred in the person of the high
priest. In accordance with their Divine 'calling' 3 was the
special and exceptional provision made for the support of the
priesthood. Its principle was thus expressed: 'I am thy part and
thine inheritance among the children of Israel;' and its
joyousness, when realised in its full meaning and application,
found vent in such words as Psa.xvi. 5,6: 'Jehovah is the portion
of mine inheritance and of my cup Thou maintainest my lot. The
lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly
heritage.' But there was yet another idea to be expressed by the
The object of reconciliation was holiness. Israel was to be
'a holy nation'--reconciled through the 'sprinkling of blood,'
Holiness. brought near to, and kept in fellowship with God by
that means. The priesthood, as the representative offerers of
that blood and mediators of the people, were also to show forth
the 'holiness' of Israel, Every one knows how this was symbolised
by the gold-plate which the high-priest wore on, his forehead,
and which bore the words: 'Holiness unto Jehovah.' But though the
high-priest in this, as in every other respect, was the fullest
1 This root-meaning (through the Arabic) of the Hebrew word for
priest, as one intervening, explains its occasional though very
rare application to others than priests, as, for example, to the
sons of David (2 Sam. viii.I8), a mode of expression which is
thus correctly paraphrased in I Chron. xviii.17: 'And the sons of
David were at the hand of the king.'
2 Numb. xviii.7.
3 Heb. v.4.
the functions and the object of the priesthood, the same truth
was also otherwise shown forth. The bodily qualifications
required in the priesthood, the kind of defilements which would
temporarily or wholly interrupt their functions, their mode of
ordination, and even every, portion, material, and colour of
their distinctive dress were all intended to express in a
symbolical manner this characteristic of holiness. In all these
respects there was a difference between Israel and the tribe of
Levi; between the tribe of Levi and the family of Aaron and,
finally, between an ordinary priest and the high-priest, who must
fully typified our Great High-priest, in whom all these symbols
have found their reality.
This much it seemed necessary to state for the general
understanding of the matter. Full details belong to the
exposition of the meaning and object of the Levitical priesthood,
as instituted by God, while our present task rather is to trace
its further development to what it was at the time when Jesus was
in the Temple.
THE TWENTY-FOUR COURSES
The first peculiarity of post-Mosaic times which we here
meet, is the arrangement of the priesthood into twenty-four
courses; which undoubtedly dates from the times of David. But
Jewish tradition would make it even much older. For, according to
the Talmud, it should be traced up to Moses, who is variously
supposed to have arranged the sons of Aaron into eight or else
sixteen courses (four, or else eight, of Eleazar; and the other
four, or else eight of Ithamar), to which, on the one
supposition, Samuel and David each added other eight 'courses,'
or, on the other, Samuel and David, in conjunction, the eight
needed to make up the twenty-four mentioned in 1 Chron. xxiv.
It need scarcely be told that, like many similar statements, this
also is simply an attempt to trace up every arrangement to the
fountain-head of Jewish history, in order to establish its
absolute authority. 1
The institution of David and of Solomon continued till' the
Babylonish captivity. Thence, however, only four out of the
twenty-four 'courses' returned: those of Jedaiah, Immer, Pashur,
and Harim, 2 the course of 'Jedaiah' being placed after the
first because it was of the high-priest's family, 'of the house
of Jeshua,' 'the son of Jozadak.' 3 To restore the original
number, each of these four families was directed to draw five
lots for those which had not returned, so as to form once more
twenty-four courses, which were to bear the ancient names. -
Thus, for example, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist,
did not really belong to the family of Abijah, 4 which had not
returned from Babylon, but to the 'course of Abia,' which had
been formed out of some other family, and only bore the ancient
name. 5 Like the priests, the Levites had at the time of King
David been arranged, into twenty-four 'coures,' which were to act
as 'priests' assistants,' 6 as 'singers and nusicians,' 7 as
'gate-keepers and guards, 8 and as 'officers and judges.' Of
these various classes that of the 'priests' assistants' was by
far the most numerous, 9 and to
1 Curiously enough, here also the analogy between Rabbinism and
Roman Catholicism holds good. Each claims for its teaching and
practices the so-called principle of catholicity - 'semper,
ubique, ab omnibus' ('always, everywhere, by all'), and each
invents the most curious historical fables in support of it!
2 Ezra ii.36,37,38,39.
3 Ezra iii. 2; Hag. i.i; 1 Chron. vi.15.
4 1 Chron. xxiv.10.
5 Luke i.5.
6 1 Chron. xxiii.4,28.
7 1 Chron. xxv.6.
8 1 Chron. xxvi.6 and following.
9 Apparently it numbered 24,000, out of a total of 38,000
them the charge of the Temple had been committed subordination to
the priests. It had been their duty to look after the sacred
vestments and vessels; the store-houses and their contents; and
the preparation of the shewbread, of the meat-offerings, of the
spices, etc. They were also generally to assist the priests in
their work, to see to the cleaning of the sanctuary, and to take
charge of the treasuries. 1
IN THE TEMPLE OF HEROD
Of course these services, as also those of the singers and
musicians, and of the porters and guards, were retained in the
Temple of Herod. But for the employment of Levites as 'officers
and judges' there was no further room, not only because such
judicial functions as still remained to the Jews were in the
hands of the Sanhedrim and its subordinate authorities, but also
because in general the ranks of the Levites were so thinned. In
point of fact, while no less than 4,289 priests had returned from
Babylon, the number of Levites was under 400, 2 of whom only 74
were 'priests' assistants.' To this the next immigration, under
Ezra, added only 38, and that though the Levites had been
specially searched for. 3 According to tradition, Ezra punished
them by depriving them of their tithes. The gap in their number
was filled up by 220 Nethinim, 4 literally, 'given ones,'
probably originally strangers and captives, 5 as in all
likelihood the Gibeonites had been the first 'Nethinim.' 6
Though the Nethinim, like the Levites and priests,
1 I Chron. xxiii.28-32.
2 Ezra ii. 40-42; Neh. vii.43-45.
3 Ezra viii.15,18,19.
4 Ezra viii.20.
5 This is also confirmed by their foreign names (Ezra ii. 43-58).
The total number of Nethinim who returned from Babylon was 612-
392 with Zerubbabel (Ezra ii.58; Neh. vii.60), and 220 with Ezra
6 Josh. ix. 21,23,27.
were freed from all taxation, 1 and perhaps also from military
service, 2 the Rabbinists held them in the lowest repute--
-beneath a bastard, though above a proselyte - forbade their
intermarrying with Israelites, and declared them incapable of
proper membership in the congregation. 3
DUTIES OF PRIESTS AND LEVITES
The duties of priests and Levites in the Temple may be
gathered from Scripture, and will be further explained in the
course of our inquiries. Generally, it may here be stated that on
the Levites devolved the Temple-police, the guard of the gates,
and the duty of keeping everything about the sanctuary clean and
bright. But at night the priests kept watch about the innermost
places of the Temple, so they also opened and closed all the
inner gates, while the Levites discharged this duty in reference
to the outer gates, which led upon the Temple Mount (or Court of
the Gentiles), and to the 'Beautiful Gate,' which formed the
principal entrance into the Court of the Women. The laws of
Levitical cleanness, as explained by the Rabbis, were most
rigidly enforced upon worshippers and priests. If a leper, or any
other who was 'defiled,' had ventured into the sanctuary itself,
or any priest officiated in a state of 'uncleanness,' he would,
if discovered, be dragged out and killed, without form of
process, by 'the rebels' beating.' Minor punishments were
awarded to those guilty of smaller offences of the same kind. The
Sabbath-rest was strictly enforced, so far as consistent with the
necessary duties of the Temple service. But the latter superseded
the Sabbath law 4 and defilement on account of death. 5
1 Ezra vii.24.
2 Jos. Ant. iii.12; iv. 4,3.
3 So in many passages of the Talmud.
4 Matt. xii.5.
5 See Maimonides, "Yad ha Chas. Biath. Mikd." iv.9, etc.
If the time for offering a sacrifice was not fixed, so that
it might be brought on one day as well as another, then the
service did not supersede either the Sabbath or defilement on
account of death. But where the time was unalterably fixed, there
the higher duty of obedience to a direct command came in to
supersede alike the Sabbath and this one (but only this one)
ground of defilement. The same principle applied to worshippers
as well as priests.
THE WEEK'S SERVICE
Each 'course' of priests and of Levites (as has already been
stated) came on duty for a week, from one Sabbath to another. The
service of the week was subdivided among the various families
which constituted a 'course;' so that if it consisted of five
'houses of fathers,' three served each one day, and two each two
days; if of six families, five served each one day, and one two
days; if of eight families, six served each one day, and the
other two in conjunction on one day; or, lastly, if of nine
families, five served each one day, and the other four took it
two in conjunction for two days. 1 These divisions and
arrangements were made by 'the chiefs' or 'heads of the houses of
their fathers.' On Sabbaths the whole 'course' was on duty; on
feast-days any priest might come up and join in the
ministrations of the sanctuary; and at the Feast of Tabernacles
all twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate.
While actually engaged on service in the Temple, the priests were
not allowed to drink wine, either by day or by night. The other
'families' or 'houses' also of the 'course' who were in
attendance at Jerusalem,
1 Some have imagined that every 'course' was arranged into six,
or else into seven 'families,' but the view in the text expresses
most likely the correct tradition.
though not on actual duty, were, during their week of ministry,
prohibited the use of wine, except at night, because they might
have to be called in to assist their brethren of the officiating
'family,' which they could not do if they had partaken of strong
drink. The law even made (a somewhat curious) provision to secure
that the priests should come up to Jerusalem properly trimmed,
washed, and attired, so as to secure the decorum of the service.1
THESE FUNCTIONS NOT SACERDOTAL
It would be difficult to conceive arrangements more
thoroughly or consistently opposed to what are commonly called
'priestly pretensions,' than those of the Old Testament. The
fundamental principle, laid down at the outset, that all Israel
were 'a kingdom of priests,' 2 made the priesthood only
representatives of the people. Their income, which even under the
most favourable circumstances must have been moderate, was, as we
have seen, dependent on the varying religious state of the
nation, since no law existed by which either the payment of
tithes or any other offerings could be enforced. How little
power or influence, comparatively speaking, the priesthood
wielded, is sufficiently known from Jewish history. Out of actual
service neither the priests nor even the high-priest wore a
distinctive dress, 3 and though a number of civil restrictions
were laid on priests, there were few corresponding advantages.
It is indeed true that alliances with distinguished priestly
families were eagerly sought, and that during the troubled period
of Syrian domination the high-priest for a time held civil as
well as religious rule. But the latter advantage was
1 Comp. Relandus, "Antiq." p.16q.
2 Ex. xix.5,6.
3 Comp. Acts xxiii.5; see also chap. vii.
dearly bought, both as regarded the priests and the nation.
Nor must we forget powerful controlling influence which Rabbinism
exercised. Its tendency, which must never be lost sight of in the
study of the state of Palestine at the time of our Lord, was
steadily against all privileges other than those gained by
traditionary learning and theological ingenuity. The Pharisee,
or, rather, the man learned in the traditional law, was
everything both before God and before man; 'but this people, who
knoweth, not the law,' were 'cursed,' plebeians, country people,
unworthy of any regard or attention. Rabbinism applied these
principles even in reference to the priesthood. It divided all
priests into 'learned' and 'unlettered,' and excluded the latter
from some of the privileges of their own order. Thus there were
certain priestly dues which the people might at will give to any
priest they chose. But from some of them the 'unlettered' priests
were debarred, on the ostensible ground that in their ignorance
they might have partaken of them in a state of Levitical
uncleanness, and so committed mortal sin.
TRAINING OF PRIESTS
In general, the priests had to undergo, a course of
instruction, and were examined before being allowed to officiate.
Similarly, they were subject to the ordinary tribunals, composed
of men learned in the law, without regard to their descent from
one or another tribe. The ordained 'rulers' of the synagogues,
the teachers of the people, leaders of their devotions, and all
other officials were not necessarily 'priests,' but simply chosen
for their learning and fitness. Any one whom the 'elders' or
'rulers' deemed qualified for it might, at their request, address
to the people on the Sabbath a 'word of exhortation.' Even the
high-priest himself was answerable to the Sanhedrim.
It is distinctly stated, that 'if he committed an offence
which by the law deserved whipplng, the Great Sanhedrim whipt
him, and then had him restored again to his office.' Every year a
kind of ecclesiastical council was appointed to instruct him in
his duties for the Day of Atonement, 'in case he were not
learned,' or, at any rate, to see to it that he knew and
remembered them. Nay, the principle was broadly laid down - that
'a scholar, though he were a bastard, was of far higher value
than an unlearned high-priest' If, besides all this, it is
remembered how the political influence of the highpriest had
decayed in the days of Herod, and how frequently the occupants of
that office changed, through the caprice of the rulers or through
bribery, the state of public feeling will be readily understood.
At the same time, it must be admitted, that generally
speaking the high-priest would, of necessity, wield very
considerable influence, and that, ordinarily, those who held the
sacred office were not only 'lettered,' but members of the
Sanhedrim. According to Jewish tradition, the high-priest ought;
in every respect, to excel all other priests, and if, he were
poor, the rest were to contribute, so as to secure him an
independent fortune. Certain marks of outward respect were also
shown him. When he entered the Temple he was accompanied by three
persons - one walking at each side, the third behind him. He
might, without being appointed to it, officiate in any part of
the Temple services; he had certain exctional rights; and he
possessed a house in the Temple, where he lived by day, retiring
only at night to his own home, which must be within Jerusalem,
and to which he was escorted by the people after the solemnities
of the Day of Atonement, which devolved almost exclusively upon
Originally the office of high-priest was regarded as being
held for life and hereditary; 1 but the troubles of later times
made it a matter of cabal, crime, or bribery. Without here
entering into the complicated question of the succession to the
high-priesthood, the following may be quoted from the Talmud, 2
without, of course, guaranteeing its absolute accuracy: 'In the
first Temple,' the high-priests served, the son succeeding the
father, and they were eighteen in number. But in the second
Temple they got the high-priesthood for money; and there are who
say they destroyed each other by witchcraft, so that some reckon
80 high-priests during that period, others 81, others 82,83,84,
and even 85.' The Rabbis enumerate 18 high-priests during the
first Temple; Lightfoot counts 53 from the return from Babylon to
Matthias, when the last war of the Jews began; while Relandius
reckons 57. But there is both difficulty and confusion amid the
constant changes at the last. There was not any fixed age for
entering on he office of high priest, any more than on that of an
ordinary priest. The Talmudists put it down at twenty years. But
the unhappy descendant of the Maccabees, Aristobulus, was only
sixteen years of age when his beauty, as he officiated as
1 According to the Rabbis, he was appointed by the Sanhedrim.
2 Talmud Jer. "Ioma," I.
3 This, of course, does not include the period before the first
Temple was built.
in the Temple, roused the jealousy of Herod, and procured his
death. The entrance of the Levites is fixed, in the sacred text,
at thirty during the wilderness period, and after that, when
the work would require less bodily strength, but a larger number
of ministers, at twenty-five years of age. 1
DISQUALIFICATION FROM THE PRIESTHOOD
No special disqualifications for the Levitical office
existed, though the Rabbis insist that a good voice was
absolutely necessary. It was otherwise with the priest's office.
The first inquiry instituted by the Sanhedrim, who for the
purpose sat daily in 'the Hall of Polished Stones,' was into the
genealogy of a candidate. Certain genealogies were deemed
authoritative. Thus, 'if his father's name were inscribed in the
archives of Jeshana at Zipporim, no further inquiry was made.' If
he failed to satisfy the court about his perfect legitimacy, the
candidate was dressed and veiled in black, and permanently
removed. If he passed that ordeal, inquiry was next made as to
any physical defects, of which Maimonides enumerates a hundred
and forty that permanently, and twenty-two which temporarily
disqualified for the exercise of the priestly office. Persons so
disqualified were, however, admitted to menial offices, such as
in the wood-chamber, and entitled to Temple support. Those who
had stood the twofold test were dressed in white raiment, and
their names properly inscribed. To this pointed allusion is made
in Rev.iii.5,' He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in
white raiment, and I will not blot out his name out of the book
1 It is thus we reconcile Numb.iv.3 with viii.24,25. In point of
fact, these two reasons are expressly mentioned in 1 Chron.
xxiii.24-27, as influencing David still further to lower the age
of entrance to twenty.
Thus, received, and afterwards instructed in his duties, the
formal admission alike the priest and of high-priest was not, as
of old, by anointing, but simply by investuture.
For even the composition of the sacred oil was no longer
known in the second Temple. They were called 'high-priests by
investiture,' and regarded as of inferior rank to those 'by
anointing.' As for the common priests, the Rabbis held that they
were not anointed even in the first Temple, the rite which was
applied to the sons of Aaron being valid also for their
descendants. It was otherwise in the case of the high-priest.
His investiture was continued during seven days. In olden days,
when he was anointed, the sacred oil was not only 'poured over
him,' but also applied to his forehead, over the eyes, as
tradition has it, after the form of the Greek letter X. The
coincidence is certainly curious. This sacred oil was besides
only used for anointing such kings as were of the family of
David, not other Jewish monarchs, and if their succession had
been called in question. Otherwise the royal dignity went, as a
matter of course, by inheritance from father to son.
THE DRESS OF THE HIGH-PRIEST
The high-priests 'by investiture' had not any more the real
Urim and Thummim (their meaning even being unknown), though a
breastplate, with twelve stones, was made and worn, in order to
complete the eight sacred vestments. This was just double the
number of those worn by an ordinary priest, viz. the linen
breeches, the coat, the girdle, and the bonnet. To these the
high-priest added other four distinctive articles of dress,
called 'golden vestments,' because, unlike the robes of the
ordinary priests, gold, the symbol of splendour, appeared in
them. They were the "Meil," or robe of the ephod, wholly of
'woven work,' of dark blue colour, descending to the knees, and
adorned at the hem by alternate blossoms of the pomegranate in
blue, purple, and scarlet, and golden bells, the latter,
according to tradition, seventy-two in number; the "Ephod" with
the breast-plate, the former of the four colours of the sanctuary
(white, blue, purple, and scarlet), and inwrought with threads of
gold; the "Mitre;" and, lastly, the "Ziz," or golden frontlet. If
either a priest or the high-priest officiated without wearing the
full number of his vestments, his service would be invalid, as
also if anything, however trifling (such, for instance, as a
plaster), had intervened between the body and the dress of the
priest. The material of which the four vestments of the ordinary
priest were made was 'linen,' or, more accurately, byssus,' the
white shining cotton-stuff of Egypt. These two qualities of the
byssus are specially marked as characteristic, 1 and on them
part of the symbolic meaning depended. Hence we read in Rev.
xix.8, 'And to her' - the wife of the Lamb made ready - 'was
granted that she should be arrayed in byssus vestments, shining
and pure; for the byssus vestment is the righteousness of the
ALLUSIONS TO THE DRESS IN THE NT
We add some further particulars, chiefly in illustration of
allusions in the New Testament. The priest's 'coat' was woven of
one piece, like the seamless rode of the Savior. 3 As it was
close-fitting, the girdle could not, strictly speaking, have been
necessary. Besides, although the account of the Rabbis, that the
was three fingers broad and sixteen
1 Rev. xv.6, 'clothed in pure and shining linen.'
2 So literally.
3 John xix.23.
yards long (!), is exaggerated, no doubt it really reached beyond
the feet, and required to be thrown over the shoulder during
ministration. Hence its object must chiefly have been symbolical.
In point of fact, it may be regarded as the most distinctive
priestly vestment, since it was only put on during actual
ministration, and put off immediately afterwards. Accordingly,
when in Rev i.13, - the Saviour is seen 'in the midst of the
candlesticks,' 'girt about the paps with a golden girdle,' we are
to understand by it that our, heavenly High-Priest is there
engaged in actual ministry for us. Similarly, the girdle is
described as 'about the paps,' or (as in Rev.xv.6) about the
'breasts,' as both the girdle of the ordinary priest and that on
the ephod which the high-priest wore were girded there, and not
round the loins. 1 Lastly, the expression 'golden girdle' may
bear reference to the circumstance that the dress peculiar of the
high-priest was called his 'golden vestments,' in contradist-
inction to the 'linen vestments,' which he wore on the Day of
Of the four distinctive articles in the high-priest's dress,
the breast-plate, alike from its square form and the twelve
jewels on it, bearing the names of the tribes, suggests 'the city
four-square,' whose 'foundations' are twelve precious stones. 2
The 'mitre' of the high-priest differed from the head-gear of the
ordinary priest, which was shaped like the inverted calyx of a
flower, in size and probably also somewhat in shape. According to
the Rabbis, it was eight yards high (!!). Fastened to it by two
(according to the Rabbis, by three) ribbons of 'blue lace' was
1 Compare Ezek. xliv.18.
2 Rev. xxi.16,19,20.
symbol of royalty - the 'golden plate' (or Ziz), on which,
'Holiness unto Jehovah' was graven. This plate was only two
fingers wide, and reached from temple to temple. Between this
plate and the mitre the high-priest is by some supposed to have
worn his phylacteries. But this cannot be regarded as by any
means a settled point.
According to the distinct ceremony of the Talmud, 1 neither
priests, Levites, nor the 'stationary men' wore phylacteries
during their actual service in the Temple. This is a strong point
urged by the modern Karaite Jews against the traditions of the
Rabbis. Can it be, that the wearing of phylacteries at the time
of Christ was not a universally acknowledged obligation, but
rather the badge of a party? This would give additional force to
the words in which Christ inveighed against those who made broad
According to Josephus, the original Ziz of Aaron still
existed in his time, and was carried with other spoils to Rome.
There R. Eliezer saw it in the reign of Hadrian. Thence we can
trace it, with considerable probability, through many
vicissitudes, to the time of Belisarius, and to Byzantium. From
there it was taken by order of the emperor to Jerusalem. What
became of it afterwards is unknown; possibly it may still be in
existence. 2 It only requires to be added that the priests'
garments, when soild, were not washed, but used as wicks for the
lamps in the Temple; those of the high-priest were 'hid away.'
1 Zebach, xix. a. 6. See Jost, "Gesch. d. Judenth." vol. ii. p.
2 When Josephus speaks of a triple crown worn by the high-priest,
this may have been introduced by the Asmoneans when they united
the temporal monarchy with the priesthood. Compare Smith's
Dictionary of the Bible, i. 807a.
wore 'a fresh suit of linen vestments' each time on the Day of
THE FOURTEEN OFFICERS
The priesthood ministering in the Temple were arranged into
'ordinary' priests and various officials. Of the latter 'there
were, besides, the high-priest,' the 'Sagan,' or suffragan
priest; two 'Katholikin,' or chief treasurers and overseers;
seveN 'Ammarcalin,' who were subordinate to the Katholikin, and
had chief charge of all the gates; and three 'Gizbarin,' or
under-treasurers. These fourteen officers, ranking in the order
mentioned, formed the standing 'council of the' Temple, which
regulated everything connected with the affairs and services of
the sanctuary. Its members were also called 'the elders of the
priests,' or the 'counsellors.' This judicatory, which ordinarily
did not busy itself with criminal questions, apparently took a
leading part in the condemnation of Jesus. But, on the other
hand, it is well to remember that they were not all of one mind,
since Joseph of Arimathea belonged to their number - the title by
which he is designated in Mark xv.43 being exactly the same word
as that applied in the Talmud to the members of this priestly
It is difficult to specify the exact duties of each of these
classes of officials. The 'Sagan' (or 'Segen,' or 'Segan') would
officiate for the high-priest, when from any cause he was
incapacitated; he would act generally as his assistant, and take
the oversight of all the priests, whence he is called in
Scripture 'second priest,' 2 and in Tal-
1 The Rabbis speak of a high-priest ordained 'for war,' who
accompanied the people to battle, but no historical trace of a
distinct office of this kind can be discovered.
2 2 Kings xxv.18; Jer.Iii.24.
mudical writings 'the Sagan of the priests.' 1 A 'Chananjah' is
mentioned in the Talmud as a Sagan, but whether or not he was the
'Annas' of the New Testament must be left undecided. The two
Katholikin were to the Sagan what he was to the high-priest,
though their chief duty seems to have been about the treasures of
the Temples. 2 Similarly, the seven Ammarcalin were assistants
of the Katholikin, though they had special charge of the gates,
the holy vessels, and the holy vestments; and again the three (or
else seven), 'Gizbarin' assistants of the Ammarcalin. The title
'Gizbar' occurs so early as Ezra i.8; but its exact meaning seems
to have been already unknown when the LXX translated that book.
They appear to have had charge of all dedicated and consecrated
things, of the Temple tribute, of the redemption money, etc., and
to have decided all questions connected with such matters.
Next in rank to these officials were the 'heads of each
course' on duty for a week, and then the 'heads of families' of
every course. After them followed fifteen overseers, viz. 'the
overseer concerning the times,' who summoned priests and people
to their respective duties; the overseer for shutting the doors
(under the direction, of course, of the Ammarcalin); the overseer
of the guards, or captain of the Temple; the overseer of the
singers and of those who blew the trumpets; the overseer of the
cymbals; the overseer of the lots, which were drawn every
1 We may here at once dismiss the theory that the Sagan was the
elected successor of the high-priest.,
2 Thus in "Bamidbar Rabba" (sect. 14, fol. 271a), Korah is
described as Katholicus to the King of Egypt, who 'had the keys
of his treasures.' Compare "Buxtorff in vocem."
overseer of the birds, who had to provide the turtledoves and
pigeons for those who brought such offerings; the overseer of the
seals, who dispensed the four counterfoils for the various
meat-offerings suited for different sacrifices; the overseer of
the drink-offerings, for a similar purpose to the above; the
overseer of the sick, or the Temple physician; the overseer of
the water, who had charge of the water-supply and the drainage;
the overseer for making the shewbread; for preparing the incense;
for making the veils, and for providing the priestly garments.
All these officers had, of course, subordinates, whom they chose
and employed, either for the day or permanently; and it was their
duty to see to all the arrangements connected with their
respective departments. Thus, not to speak, of instructors,
examiners of sacrifices, and a great variety of artificers, there
must have been sufficient employment in the Temple for a very
large number of persons.
SOURCES OF SUPPORT FOR THE PRIESTS
We must not close without enumerating the twentyfour-
sources whence, according to the Talmud, the priests derived
their support. 1 Of these ten were only available while in the
Temple itself, four in Jerusalem, and the remaining ten
throughout the Holy Land. Those which might only be used in the
Temple itself were the priest's part of the sin-offering; that of
the trespass-offering for a known, and for a doubtful trespass;
public peace-offerings; the leper's log of oil; the two
Pentecostal loaves; the shewbread; what was left of
1 The Rabbis also enumerate fifteen functions which were peculiar
to the priest's service. But as each of them will find its place
in subsequent chapters we do not recount them here. The curious
reader is referred to Relandus, "Antiq." (ed. Buddeus), pp.176,
meat-offerings, and the omer at the Passover. The four which
might be used only in Jerusalem were the firstlings of beasts,
the Biccurim, 1 the portion from the thank-offering, 2 and from
the Nazarite's goat, and the skins of the holy sacrifices. Of
the ten which might be used throughout the land, five could be
given at will to any priest, viz. the tithe of the tithe, the
heave-offering of the dough, 3 a the first of the fleece and the
priest's due of meat. 4 The other five, it was thought, should
be given to the priests of the special course on duty for the
week, viz. the redemption-money for a first-born son, that for an
ass, the 'sanctified field of possession,' 5 what had been
'devoted,' and such possession of 'a stranger' or proselyte as,
having been stolen, was restored to the priests after the death
of the person robbed, with a fifth part additional.
Finally, to an unlettered priest it was only lawful to give
the following from among the various dues: things 'devoted,' the
first-born of cattle, the redemption of a son, that of an ass,
the priest's due, 6 the first of the wool, the 'oil of burning,'
7 the ten things which were to be used in the Temple itself, and
the Biccurim. On the other hand, the high-priest had the right to
take what portion of the offerings he chose, and one half of the
shewbread every Sabbath also belonged to him.
Thus elaborate in every particular was the system which
regulated the admission, the services, and the privileges of the
officiating priesthood. Yet it has all
1 To prevent mistakes, we may state that the term 'Therumoth' is,
in a general way, used to designate the prepared produce, such as
oil, flour, wine; and 'Biccruim,' the natural product of the
soil, such as corn, fruits, etc.
2 Lev.vii.12; xxii.29,30.
3 Numb. xv.20; Rom. xi.16.
4 Deut. xviii.3.
5 Lev. xxvii.16.
6 Deut. xviii.3.
7 A term meaning 'defiled Therumoth.'
VANISHED, NOT LEAVING BEHIND IT IN THE SYNAGOGUE EVEN A SINGLE
TRACE OF ITS COMPLICATED AND FERFECT ARRANGEMENT.
These 'old things are passed away' because they were only 'a
shadow of good things to come.' But 'the substance is of Christ,'
and 'He abideth an High-Priest for ever.'
To be continued