The High Priest as Worship Leader in the Old Testament
Featuring Worshipedia Posted on May 28, 2010
A special aura surrounded the high priest. He might marry only a virgin from a priestly family (Leviticus 21:10–14). A person accused of manslaughter was safe from the avenger in a designated city of refuge, provided he did not leave the city until the death of the high priest in office at the time (Numbers 35:25–28). It was the role of the high priest to enter the Most Holy Place, or inner sanctuary, on the Day of Atonement with fire from the altar, incense, and blood from the sacrifices (Leviticus 16). The high priest also had the sacred lot, by means of which he executed a decision in difficult cases of judgment (Exodus 28:30; Nehemiah 7:65).
The high priests periodically worked with Judean kings in programs for the reform and restoration of worship. For example, during the interregnum of Athaliah, the priests concealed the young Joash, heir to the Davidic throne, in the temple; Jehoiada the high priest played a key role in the coup d’état that restored the Davidic monarchy and in the religious restoration that followed (2 Kings 11). When the temple was being repaired early in the reign of Josiah, Hilkiah the high priest found the neglected Book of the Law in the temple and brought it to the attention of the king. The discovery led to a renewal of the covenant and the restoration of temple worship (2 Kings 22:1–23:25). In the postexilic period, the prophet Zechariah saw a vision of Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor, who was in the Davidic line, as ―the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth‖ (Zechariah 4:14). Encouraged also by the prophet Haggai (Haggai 2:4), Joshua and Zerubbabel worked together to rebuild the house of God (Haggai1:14). Ezra, priest and scribe of the Law, led the people in an extended act of confession, the renewal of the covenant, and a pledge to support the service of the house of God (Nehemiah 8–10).
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