The Levitical Priesthood

Exodus 28:1 to 29:46 and 39:1-31; Leviticus 8:1 to 9:24

    Worship is the appropriate human response to divine redemption. Therefore, after concentrating on the Tabernacle (the place where God met His chosen people), we now focus on the Levitical priesthood (the people especially chosen to minister in it). Only those men from the tribe of Levi could become priests and minister in the Tabernacle. We continue to teach this section topically in order to comment on all the Exodus material concerning the priesthood. It is hoped that this will enable you to have a clearer picture of the priestly office and its functions than would be possible otherwise.614

    The idea of a professional priesthood naturally implies an awareness of sin and the need for a mediator. The building of the Tabernacle was only the first step to restore complete fellowship with God. While Moses was the mediator of the Torah and the Covenant, Aaron and his sons were the mediators of the blood sacrifice. The concept of the priest, of course, was not new with Moses. Before him, the office of priest was occupied by the father of a family (Job 1:5), or the head of a tribe. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob built altars, offered sacrifices, purified and consecrated themselves and their households (Genesis 12:7, 13:18, 26:25, 33:20 and 35:1-2). Among the peoples that surrounded Israel, however, a professional priesthood had already been established and was functioning. Melchizedek combined kingship and priesthood in one person (Genesis 14:18). Jethro was referred to as the priest of Midian (2:16, 3:1). The Egyptians had a well-defined and well-organized "priesthood" long before the time of Moses as indicated by the story of Joseph (Genesis 47:22 and 26). For Israel, however, the creation of an official priesthood was something new and unique.615

    There were five key responsibilities of the priesthood. First, was to administer the burnt offering twice daily (Exodus 29:39). Secondly, they were to burn incense at the altar in the Holy Place (Exodus 30:7-8). Thirdly, they were to inspect the animals that were brought to the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, and to make sure they were without defect (Leviticus 27:11-12). Fourthly, they were to keep the golden lampstand burning in the Holy Place (Leviticus 24:1-4). And lastly, they were to teach Israel the Word of God. In those days, not everyone had his or her own copy of the Scriptures as have available to us today. So the Levites, who did have the Scriptures, had the responsibility to teach its contents to the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 17:8-13, 19:15-20, 21:5).

    The priests of the Levitical system had to offer sacrifices for their own sins. That is why their ministry on behalf of Israel, was always imperfect. They were sinful dying men. The superiority of the priesthood of Christ is that His ministry on behalf of Israel, was sinless, and because of the resurrection, He lives forever (Hebrews 9:25-26).


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