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English Bible Dictionary

Priest

 

The English word is derived from the Greek presbyter, signifying an "elder" (Heb. cohen). Origin: The idea of a priesthood connects itself in all its forms, pure or corrupted, with the consciousness, more or less distinct of sin. Men feel that they have broken a law. The power above them is holier than they are, and they dare not approach it. They crave for the intervention of some one of whom they can think as likely to be more acceptable than themselves. He must offer up their prayers, thanksgivings, sacrifices. He becomes their representative in "things pertaining unto God." He may become also (though this does not always follow) the representative of God to man. The functions of the priest and prophet may exist in the same person. No trace of a hereditary or caste priesthood meets us in the worship of the patriarchal age. Once and once only does the word cohen meet us as belonging to a ritual earlier than the time of Abraham. Melchizedek is "the priest of the most high God." (Genesis 14:18) In the worship of the patriarchs themselves, the chief of the family, as such, acted as the priest. The office descended with the birthright, and might apparently he transferred with it. When established: The priesthood was first established in the family of Aaron, and all the sons of Aaron were priests. They stood between the high priest on the one hand and the Levites on the other. [HIGH PRIEST; LEVITES] The ceremony of their consecration is described in HIGH PRIEST - 1986 (Exodus 29:1; Leviticus 8:1)... Dress: The dress which the priests wore during their ministrations consisted of linen drawers, with a close-fitting cassock, also of linen, white, but with a diamond or chess-board pattern on it, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. This came nearly to the feet, and was to be worn in its garment shape. Comp. (John 19:23) The white cassock was gathered round the body with a girdle of needle work, in which, as in the more gorgeous belt of the high priest, blue, purple and scarlet were intermingled with white, and worked in the form of flowers. (Exodus 28:39,40; 39:2; Ezekiel 44:17-19) Upon their heads the were to wear caps or bonnets in the form of a cup-shaped flower, also of fine linen. In all their acts of ministration they were to be bare footed. Duties: The chief duties of the priests were to watch over the fire on the altar of burnt offering, and to keep it burning evermore both by day and night, (Leviticus 6:12; 2 Chronicles 13:11) to feed the golden lamp outside the vail with oil (Exodus 27:20,21; Leviticus 24:2) to offer the morning and evening sacrifices, each accompanied with a meet offering and a drink offering, at the door of the tabernacle. (Exodus 29:38-44) They were also to teach the children of Israel the statutes of the Lord. (Leviticus 10:11; 33:10; 2 Chronicles 15:3; Ezekiel 44:23,24) During the journeys in the wilderness it belonged to them to cover the ark and all the vessels of the sanctuary with a purple or scarlet cloth before the Levites might approach them. (Numbers 4:5-15) As the people started on each days march they were to blow "an alarm" with long silver trumpets. (Numbers 10:1-8) Other instruments of music might be used by the more highly-trained Levites and the schools of the prophets, but the trumpets belonged only to the priests, The presence of the priests on the held of battle, (1 Chronicles 12:23,27; 2 Chronicles 20:21,22) led, in the later periods of Jewish history, to the special appointment at such times of a war priest, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. Other functions were hinted at in Deuteronomy which might have given them greater influence as the educators and civilizers of the people. They were to act (whether individually or collectively does not distinctly appear) as a court of appeal in the more difficult controversies in criminal or civil cases. (17:8-13) It must remain doubtful however how far this order kept its ground during the storms and changes that followed, Functions such as these were clearly incompatible with the common activities of men. Provision for support: This consisted--

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