Christian Churches of God
Priesthood of Eloah
during the Tabernacle
in the Wilderness
(Edition 1.0 20071120-20071120)
In this paper we will focus on the organization of the priesthood during the times of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. We will cover the selection, ordination/consecration, and garments of a priest and High Priest. We will also look at what a typical week in the life of a priest might be like.
Priesthood of Eloah during the Tabernacle in the Wilderness
As we have learned in Part I of this series (CB 115), Eloah has called us to be priests and kings.
From the Old and New Testaments we see our calling.
Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel." (RSV)
1Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were no people but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. (RSV)
Revelation 1:5-6 … and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. (RSV)
We have learned that we are called to be priests and kings. In this paper we review the selection, ordination/consecration of the priesthood, dress or garments of the priesthood and look at one week in the life of a priest.
Let us now briefly review the priesthood and roles of the priesthood.
The Priesthood then and now
God and His Law are holy, righteous, goodness, perfect and truth and have always existed.
God gave us Laws and a priesthood to protect the understanding of God’s Laws and to teach us how to daily obey and worship God and how to love our fellow man.
We will briefly review the key points of the role of the priest.
The Function or job of a Priest:
In summary priests are to:
· Teach the Law of Eloah
· Explain the Law of Eloah
· Keep or preserve the Law of Eloah
· Judge by the Law of Eloah
· Live by the word of Eloah
This is how we, as future priests, become the “Trees of Righteousness and Justice” that Isaiah 61 describes. See the paper Introduction to the Priesthood (No. CB 115) for more details.
The priesthood during the Tabernacle in the Wilderness
In the first lesson in the series, we covered the time period from creation to Jethro providing advice to Moses. Let us now look at the priesthood of Eloah from the setting up the Tabernacle in the Wilderness with its priestly system.
In Part I we learned that the priesthood passed through the descendants or children of Abraham. In this lesson we will see how Eloah instructs Moses to initiate or start the order of the Levitical and Aaronic Priesthood.
Israelite departure from Egypt
Israel went into Egypt at the time of the famine. While in Egypt they “lost the Laws of God” and had to be re-taught the Laws their forefathers knew. This is what God did through Moses and the Angel of Yahovah or the Angel of the Presence, which is the Being that later became Jesus Christ.
When Moses was on the mount for the first 40 days (Ex. 24:15-18), Yahovah of Israel spoke many details, giving exact orders on how to construct the Tabernacle, who and how to anoint, how to make the priestly garments, how to build the Ark and covering, the conduct of the sacrifices, the Sabbaths and many other details. For more information see the paper The Ascents of Moses (No. 70). With time, God explained how the sons of Levi would be the priestly line of Israel.
The selection of the priesthood
Only males are allowed to serve in the physical priesthood.
Levi was one of the sons of Jacob/Israel. God chose Levi for the service of the sanctuary.
1Chronicles 15:2 Then David said, "No one but the Levites may carry the ark of God, for the LORD chose them to carry the ark of the LORD and to minister to him for ever." (RSV)
Each of these 3 sons and their sons had special duties or assignments within the Tabernacle in the Wilderness. The family of Gershon was responsible for: “the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the screen for the door of the tent of meeting, the hangings of the court, the screen for the door of the court which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords; all the service pertaining to these” (Num 3:25-26).
The family of Kohath was responsible for “the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service pertaining to these” (Num 3:31). And finally, the family of Merari had responsibility for “the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service pertaining to these; also the pillars of the court round about, with their bases and pegs and cords” (Num 3:36-37).
The families of Gershon were to encamp behind the Tabernacle on the west, the families of Kohath encamped on the south, the families of Merari encamped on the north, and Moses and Aaron and his sons encamped on the east.
For more information on this subject see The Tabernacle in the Wilderness (No. CB42).
Moses was of the tribe of Levi. His only and older brother, Aaron, was chosen by God to be High Priest.
The sons of Aaron were appointed to the office of High Priest by perpetual statute.
Exodus 29:9 And thou shalt gird them with girdles, Aaron and his sons, and put the bonnets on them: and the priest's office shall be theirs for a perpetual statute: and thou shalt consecrate Aaron and his sons. (KJV)
Exodus 40:13-15 And thou shalt put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him; that he may minister unto me in the priest's office. And thou shalt bring his sons, and clothe them with coats: And thou shalt anoint them, as thou didst anoint their father, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office: for their anointing shall surely be an everlasting priesthood throughout their generations. (KJV)
The Levites were chosen to serve in the Tabernacle, but only the sons of Aaron were to be High Priests.
Numbers 16:40 To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses. (KJV)
Numbers 18:7 Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for everything of the altar, and within the vail; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death. (KJV)
Before the priests could start officiating or carrying out their priestly duties they needed to be set apart and ordained.
The ordination/consecration of the priesthood
The priests had to be consecrated to God. Consecration is the solemn dedication to a special purpose or service, usually religious. The word consecration literally means setting apart.
After Moses had set up the Tabernacle in the wilderness, the Lord said to Moses, "Bring Aaron and his sons, their garments, anointing oil, the bull for the sin offering, the two rams and the basket containing bread made without yeast, and gather the entire assembly to the Tent of Meeting” (Lev. 8:1-3, NIV).
Moses did as he was asked. He brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water. He put the tunic on Aaron, tied the sash around him, clothed him with the robe and put the ephod on him. He then placed the breastpiece on him and put the Urim and Thummim in the breastpiece. Then he placed the turban on Aaron’s head and set the gold plate, the sacred diadem, on the front of it as the Lord commanded Moses (vv. 4-9, NIV).
Then Moses took the anointing oil and anointed the Tabernacle and everything in it, and so consecrated them. He sprinkled some oil on the altar seven times, anointing the altar and all its utensils to consecrate them. He poured some of the oil on Aaron’s head to consecrate him. Then he brought Aaron’s sons forward, put tunics on them, tied sashes around them and put headbands on them, as the Lord commanded Moses (vv. 10-13, NIV).
The consecration service included a sin offering for atonement, a burnt offering for worship (v.18) and a "ram for ordination" (v. 22) whose blood was applied to the high priest (Aaron) on his right ear, thumb and toe (v. 23). After this was done Aaron offered sacrifices for the people (Lev. 9:15-21). Then he blessed the people in his capacity as priest, and the Lord accepted his ministry with the sign of miraculous fire (vv. 23-24). See the notes on Leviticus 8:14, NIV Study Bible.
It is interesting to think of putting blood on the High Priest’s ear, thumb, and toe. We can think of this as God wanting us to hear the word of God (ear), show the word of God in our actions (thumb), and walk in the way of God (toe).
"God will allow you to enter completely into His tabernacle service only after you have spent seven days and nights in your duties at the door," Moses told Aaron and his sons. "Do exactly as you have been told, or you may have to pay with your lives" (Lev. 8:31-36).
On the eighth day (after the seven days of ordination) Moses told Aaron, his sons and the Elders of Israel to bring offerings for the first services in use of the altar. All the people were also told to be present. After the first carcasses were placed on the altar, Moses, Aaron and his sons went out to stand before the people while Moses informed the crowd that God was pleased with the offerings.
For the procedures of ordination and consecration see Exodus 29:1-37 and the following papers: The Ordination of Aaron and His Sons (No. CB43); Lesson: The Ordination of Aaron and His Sons (No. CB43_2).
Let us now look at what God instructed the priests to wear when they were officiating in the Tabernacle or Temple.
The garments of the priests
God gave clear directions for how the priest and the High Priest should dress. Each part of their dress was chosen for a special reason and conveyed an aspect of symbolism and holiness.
In general, the priests would wear all white linen garments with a white tunic. The High Priest was distinct. In addition to the white linen garments, his dress included a blue robe, ephod, curious girdle, breastpiece, and golden plate or mitre on his tunic.
From Exodus 28 we see how the High Priest was holy and dedicated to God and took away the sin of the people.
Exodus 28:36-38 On a narrow strip of pure gold engrave the words: " Dedicated to the LORD." Fasten it to the front of Aaron's turban with a blue cord, so he can wear it on his forehead. This will show that he will take on himself the guilt for any sins the people of Israel commit in offering their gifts to me, and I will forgive them. (CEV)
Exodus 28:36-38 And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. (KJV)
For a more detailed look at these concepts see Exodus 28:40-43 and The Garments of the High Priest (No. CB61); Lesson: Mitre or Turban with the Golden Plate (No. CB66).
There is a lot of detail provided on each piece of priestly clothing and the symbolism associated with each one. See the following papers for much more detail on the subject: The Garments of the High Priest (No. CB61); White Linen Garments of the Priest (No. CB63); Lesson: Priest's Blue Robe (No. CB64); Lesson: Ephod, Curious Girdle and Breastpiece of Judgment (No. CB65); Lesson: Mitre or Turban with the Golden Plate (No. CB66); Lesson: Ministering with Bare Feet (No. CB67).
Anciently, one would see the difference in how the nation of Israel, the priesthood, and especially the High Priest dressed and acted. The same should be said of us. People should see a difference from the world when they see us, and how we conduct our lives.
Once a priest was selected and had been ordained and consecrated, he would have a certain schedule when he needed to “work” in the Temple.
In the times of David, there were clearly 24 courses (1Chr. 24:1-9; 28:13, 21; 2Chr. 8:14; 31:2; 35:4-5; Ez. 2:36-39; Neh. 13:30. Their duties were chosen by lot (Lk. 1:8, 9, 23).
Each course/group of priests and Levites came on duty for a week, from one Sabbath to another (The Temple Its Ministry and Services, undated Edition, Alfred Edersheim, 1996, p.62). Each week, different families had responsibilities for certain days of the week. On Sabbaths, the whole course was on duty; and at the Feast of Tabernacles, all the twenty-four courses were bound to be present and officiate.
The priests began their day with their assignments of the various jobs or chores that needed to be done, such as:
These are just the basic tasks that needed to be done each day. The priests were also responsible if a person wanted to make a peace offering etc. Therefore, the priests were busy the entire day servicing the basic requirements of the Lord plus preparing the added offerings people wanted to or needed to make.
From the lesson on The Tables of Shewbread (No. CB111), we learned that the incoming course or group of priests was responsible for making fresh shewbread for the Sabbath. The course or group of priests that had finished or completed their week of service consumed or ate the shewbread they had prepared the week before.
The High Priest needed to be able to function and do all the jobs of an ordinary priest. Yet, once he was selected as a High Priest, there were certain things he had to do that no other priest could do. One of the most important was to enter the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and atone for the sins of the nation.
Other duties of the priests included:
· To act as scribes or recorders (Ex. 7:1-6; Neh. 8:9).
· Be present to supervise the tithing (Neh. 10:38).
· Sound the trumpet in calling assemblies and in battle (Num. 10:2-10; 31:6; Jos. 6:2; 2Chr. 13:12).
· Examine lepers.
· Purify the unclean (Lev. 15:31).
· Encourage the army on the night before a battle (Deut. 20:2-4).
· Carry the Ark through the Jordan (Jos. 3:15-18).
God’s perfect plan involved a priesthood. In this lesson we learned how the Levitical and Aaronic priesthood functioned. Messiah qualified to be our High Priest and is currently functioning in that capacity.
As Christ was appointed a priest so too are we appointed to follow him in that priesthood. Let us work diligently so we can all be considered “holy unto the Lord” as Exodus 28:36 explains.
Exodus 28:36-38 And thou shalt make a plate of pure gold, and grave upon it, like the engravings of a signet, HOLINESS TO THE LORD. And thou shalt put it on a blue lace, that it may be upon the mitre; upon the forefront of the mitre it shall be. And it shall be upon Aaron's forehead, that Aaron may bear the iniquity of the holy things, which the children of Israel shall hallow in all their holy gifts; and it shall be always upon his forehead, that they may be accepted before the LORD. KJV
May we all continue to move forward in doing the work of the living God so we can rule with Christ as kings and priests in and from Jerusalem.