Zadok's Heirs: The Role and Development of the High Priesthood in Ancient Israel

By Deborah W. Rooke | Go to book overview

Conclusion

The picture that has emerged from this systematic examination of material on the high priesthood is one of remarkable consistency, which can be summarized quite readily: high priesthood does not appear in the sources as an office which bestowed ex officio civil leadership prerogatives; rather, the basic function of the high priest was as a cultic figure, with cultic responsibilities. The preexilic chief priests were servants of the crown, whose duties lay in the cultic realm and who are only ever shown operating in the cultic realm; and despite the turmoil of exile which resulted in the loss of the monarchy there is no indication that this basic pattern ever changed, or indeed, that the priests themselves wanted it to be changed. A good example of this attitude is the book of Ezekiel, which was a product of priestly circles during the Exile, at a time when the monarchic basis of pre-exilic society had been severely challenged by the Babylonian conquest in both physical and ideological terms. A period of such chaos and uncertainty as the Exile would have been an ideal opportunity for the priests to renounce the monarchy as a failure and advocate a hierocratic society if they considered it appropriate to do so. And yet, there is no attempt by these priests to put a high priest at the head of the proposed new community postulated in Ezekiel; instead, what is envisaged is a restoration of the monarchy in a modified form. Similarly, throughout the post-exilic period, the high priests are never shown in sole charge of the province, but they always appear in a cultic context of some kind alongside other authority figures in the community, usually a governor appointed by the imperial overlords. This is true even in works such as the books of Chronicles, where despite a heightened sense of cultic awareness and the importance of correct ritual procedures for the health of the community, the chief priests are never shown stepping over the boundary of the ritual sphere into the ruling sphere; their responsibilities remain confined to cultic matters as was the case before the Exile.

-328-

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Zadok's Heirs: The Role and Development of the High Priesthood in Ancient Israel
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Oxford Theological Monographs ii
  • Zadok's Heirs iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I Towards an Understanding of High Priesthood 9
  • 1: High Priesthood According to the Priestly Writer 11
  • Part II High Priesthood to the End of the Exile 41
  • 2: High Priesthood in the Deuteronomistic History 43
  • 3: Mysterious Melchizedek 80
  • 4: Ezekiel: A Vision of Hierocracy? 104
  • Part III High Priesthood in the Persian Period 123
  • 5: High-Priestly Power in Haggai and Zechariah 1-8 125
  • 6: Ezra and Nehemiah 152
  • 7: The Elephantine Papyri 175
  • 8: High Priesthood in the Books of Chronicles 184
  • 9: After the Canon 219
  • Part IV High Priesthood from Alexander to Pompey 241
  • 10: The Hidden Years 243
  • 11: The Maccabean Conquest 266
  • 12: The Hasmonean Dynasty 303
  • Conclusion 328
  • Bibliography 331
  • Index of Textual References 354
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