THE HIGH PRIESTHOOD
IN any description of the polity of Israel the highest importance would naturally be assigned to the chief minister of the religion, who was known as the High Priest. Great as the Lawgiver was, his brother Aaron was recognised as head of the family, if not of the whole tribe of Levi; for God, when He entrusted Moses with the commission to deliver Israel, gave as an earnest of success that Aaron, his brother, would come forth to greet him, and would be his spokesman to the people (Ex. iv. 14-16). The Tabernacle was entrusted to the care of Aaron, and the conduct of the worship was to become hereditary in his family, and despite the leadership of Moses in the wilderness, and the fact that God spoke face to face with him, Aaron and his sons represented the religion of Israel as a nation, and the descendants of Moses soon sank into obscurity. In theory, at least, there was always a High Priest, who was the head of the house of Aaron and the official head of the national worship, presiding at the one and only sanctuary allowed by the law of Moses. He was supposed to be set apart from the rest of the people. The garments in which he officiated were regal. His sanctity was protected by rigorous laws. At his death even murderers were set free from the cities of refuge, where alone they could have resided. He was the authorised medium by whom God could be approached, and he alone could enter into the Most Holy Place. In fact, the proper worship of the God of Israel was inseparably bound up with his person.
It may, however, be safely assumed that the sort of worship contemplated in the above sketch of the religion of the chosen people was unheard of even in Jerusalem before the return from the Captivity, and that, therefore, a High-Priestly office such. as Aaron's probably never existed. It was only during