Ancient Israel: Its Life and Institutions

By Roland De Vaux ; John McHugh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SEVEN
THE PRIESTHOOD IN JERUSALEM UNDER THE MONARCHY

THOUGH there were many sanctuaries in Palestine from the early days of the monarchy down to the reform of Josias, we have no detailed information about the priests who served in these sanctuaries. Jerusalem is the only exception, and this is not surprising. The Temple at Jerusalem was the richest and the most frequented centre of worship; it was the official sanctuary of the kingdom of Judah, and its priests were the only priests who played any part at all in the political life of the nation. Furthermore, the only sources we can use are the Books of Samuel and Kings, all four of which were written in Judah under the influence of Deuteronomy, and edited, therefore, by men who refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of any sanctuary other than the Temple. Yet even the information which these books provide is scanty, and often difficult to interpret. We should be able to present a more complete picture if we could feel safe in using everything which the Books of Chronicles relate about the organization of the clergy by David ( I Ch 23-26); unfortunately, the clergy (whose divisions and tasks are described in minute detail) are there spoken of as serving in the Temple, and the Temple, in David's time, had not yet been built. The only possible conclusion is that this picture reflects the ideal of the Chronicler, and that it was inspired by the situation in his own day; we shall use these chapters, therefore, for the history of the priesthood after the Exile.


1. Ebyathar and Sadoq

1 S 22: 20-23 says that the sole survivor after Saul's massacre of the priests in Nob was called Ebyathar, the son of Ahimelek and grandson of Ahitub, through whom he could trace his ancestry to Eli, the priest of Shiloh ( 1 S 14: 3, cf. 1 K 2: 27). It is impossible to trace his ancestry any further in pre-exilic texts, but the names of Eli's two sons, Ophni and Phinehas, show that the family was of Levitical origin (cf. also 1 S 2: 27, which is the work of a later editor). Ebyathar took refuge with David and followed him in his wanderings, acting as his priest ( 1 S 23: 6, 9; 30: 7).

The next time Ebyathar is mentioned is after the conquest of Jerusalem, and he is then in the service of the Ark, along with another priest, Sadoq

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