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Monk of St. Meinrad Archabbey
Professor in the Collegio di Sant'Anselmo, Rome



(C) Iura e d itionis et versionis reservantur




The present work sets out on the paths of Ancient Israel and its
world, trying to follow and to understand Israelite priesthood's devel¬
opment, from its shadowy origins until the early second century B.C.
The manner of the search is specified in the Introduction. I had origi¬
nally intended for the work to cover the Maccabaean period as well,
but it became evident that any new synthetic assessment of priesthood
in the intertestamental period would profit by waiting a few years; there
is too much new material which has not been adequately sifted, and
some which has not even been published.
The earlier chapters began to take shape in two memoires presented
to the French Biblical and Archaeological School in Jerusalem, and were
presented in final form to the Pontifical Biblical Commission in Rome
as a thesis for the doctorate in Holy Scripture. To the Rev. Roland
de Vaux, O.P. I am especially indebted, for his personal example, his
encouragement, and his painstaking attention to detail in reading the
manuscripts and commenting on them. The other professors in Jerusalem,
too, Frs. P. Benoit, R. Tournay, B. Couroyer, F.-L. Lemoine, J. Prignaud,
J.-P. Audet, M.-fi. Boismard, J.-M. Rousee, have all my appreciation for
their kindly interest and their help. I am very grateful to the Very
Rev. Benjamin Wambacq, O.Praem., secretary of the Biblical Commission,
and to the two principal readers appointed by the Commission, the
Very Rev. R. A. F. MacKenzie, S.J., rector of the Pontifical Biblical In¬
stitute, and the Rev. Petrus Duncker, O.P., of the University of St. Thomas,
for their kindness and their generous suggestions. Fr. Stanislas Lyonnet
is responsible for the entire work's acceptance for publication in the
Analecta Biblica; to all these, as well as to the Rev. James Swetnam, S.J.,
of the Biblical Institute, I should like to express my gratitude not only
for the work's publication but also for their very competent and intelligent
help in ridding the manuscript of some of its roughness.
Others too have a place in the litany of thanksgiving, sed nomina
non sunt multiplicanda. For all, I have in mind a kind of thanks which
goes beyond mere words.
fr. Aelred Cody, O.S.B.
Rome, May 11, 1968
Feast of the Apostles Philip and James
Table of Contents


Table of Contents..



Note on the System of Transliteration.xxvm




HOOD . 7
I. The Quest in Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations 7
II.The Nature of Primitive Israelite Priesthood . 11
III.Analogous Cultic Functionaries among Israel’s Neighb ors 14
A. North Arabian kahana and sadana . 14
B. Ugaritic and Phoenician khnm .... 18
C. Mesopotamian Cultic Personnel; the . 23
IV. The Etymology of kohen. 26
V. The Secular Trible of Levi. 29
A. The Word "Levi”.. 29
B. The Historical Traditions of a Secular Tribe 33


I. Moses and Priesthood.39
A. Moses a Priest?.41
1. The "Priestly” Complex (P).41
2. Exodus 24:3-8.42
3. Exodus 18.44
4. Traditional Traits in Moses’ Portrait.48
B. Moses and the Levites.50
II. Levites and Priesthood in the Days of the Judges
A. Judges 17 -18; 19.
B. Levites: gerim with Priestly Specialization
C. Canaanite Influence?.



I. Shiloh.65
A. The Composition of 1 Sam. 1:1-4: la.66
B. The Priestly Family of Eli.69
C. Was Samuel a Priest?.72
II. Between Shiloh and Jerusalem.80
A. Kiriath-jearim.80
B. The Later Elides.81
C. Nob.83


I. The Erection of Official Priesthood in Jerusalem 87

A. The Transfer of the Ark to Jerusalem. 87
B. Zadok and Abiathar. 88
II. The Models for Israel’s State Priesthood. 93
A. Models for the General Organization of the Davidic King¬
dom . 93
B. Consequences for the Priesthood of Jerusalem 96
III. Were Israelite Kings Priests?. 98
A. Kings and Priesthood in the Ancient Near East . 98
B. Kings and Priesthood in Israel. 100
1. sangu and kohen. 100
2. Corollaries: High Priesthood; the King’s Priestly
Sons. 103
3. Hebrew Kings and Cultic Functions. 105


I. "Shiloh" versus “Jerusalem".108

II. Religious Decline of Priesthood in the Royal Centers . . . 110
III. Priests of the Establishment versus Levitical Claimants . . 113
IV. Priestly Activity in the Monarchical Period.114
A. Deuteronomy 33:8-11 and its Significance.114
1. The Older Part: Consultation of God .... 115
2. The Newer Part: tor a and Sacrifice.116
a. Tora.116
b. A “Teaching” Function of Israelite Priests? . 118
c. Sacrifice.119
B. Judiciary Activities of Priests.120
V. Levites and the Prophetic Spirit; Hosea.123


I. Deuteronomy and the Levites.125

A. The Effects of Cultic Centralization.127
B. “Priest" and "Levite” in the Deuteronomic Code ... 129
C. The Relation of the Levites to Deuteronomy .... 132

II. The Josian Reform and its Aftereffects.134

A. The Reform of Josiah.134
B. New Levitical Claims in Deuteronomistic Material . . 137
III. The Kingdom’s End, and the Exile.141
A. The Zadokites of Jerusalem through Jeremiah’s Eyes . 141
B. The Exile’s Effects on the Clergy.142


I. Exodus 32: Levites against Aaronides? Aaron in Early Tradition 146
A. Aaron’s Role in the Episode.147
1. Aaron in Exodus 32 Itself.147
2. Aaron Elsewhere in Early Tradition.150
B. Exodus 32:25-29 and the Levites.151
1. Significance of the Fragment Itself.152
2. The Fragment in its Present Context .... 155
II. The Zadokite-Levite Compromise.156
A. Some Previous Reconstructions.156
B. The Original Aaronides: a Levitical Group in Judah . 158
1. Aaron in Local Tradition; the Lists of Levitical Cities 159
2. The Chronological Question.161
3. Conclusion: the Original Aaronides.165
C. Ezekiel 40-48: the New Division is Shaped .... 166
D. Conditions in the Return from Exile.168
E. The New Division is Sealed; Aaron and the Genealogies 170


I. A Community Headed by Priests.175
II. Characteristics of Priests in the Fifth Century.180
A. In Jerusalem.180
B. The Jewish Priests at Elephantine.182
III. Organization and Duties of Post-Exilic Priests and Levites . 182
A. Organization.182
B. Duties and Activities.183
1. Priests.184
2. Levites.185
3. Cultic Prophets among the Levites?.186
4. Levitical Teachers or Preachers?.187
IV. Summary; Theological Implications.190


Index of Texts Cited:

A. Biblical. 197
B. Extra-Biblical. 205

Index of Subjects:

A. In English Form. 208

B. In Non-English Form. 211
Index of Modern Authors


AfO Archiv fur Orientforschung.

AJSL American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures.
ANET J. B. Pritchard (ed.). Ancient Near Eastern Texts relat¬
ing to the Old Testament (2nd ed.; Princeton, 1955).
AOT H. Gressmann (ed.), Altorientalische Texte zum Alten
Testament (2nd ed.; Berlin-Leipzig, 1926).
ARM A. Parrot and G. Dossin (eds.), Archives royales de
Mari; Transcriptions et traductions (Paris, 1950ff.).
ATANT Abhandlungen zur Theologie des Alten und Neuen Testa¬
ATD Das Alte Testament Deutsch (Gottingen).
BASOR Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research.
Baudissin, Geschichte W. W. G. Baudissin, Die Geschichte des alttestament-
lichen Priesterthums (Leipzig, 1889).
BBLAK Beitrage zur biblischen Landes- und Altertumskunde.
Gesammelte Studien S. Begrich, Gesammelte Studien zum Alten Testament
(Theologische Biicherei, XXI; Munich, 1964).
BJ La Sainte Bible, traduite en franpais sous la direction
de l'Ecole Biblique de Jerusalem (Paris).
BJPES Bulletin of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society.
BJRL Bulletin of the John Rylands Library.
BK Biblischer Kommentar (Neukirchen).
Bonnet, Reallexikon H. Bonnet, Reallexikon der dgyptischen Religionsge-
schichte (Berlin, 1952).
BWA(N)T Beitrage zur Wissenchaft vom Alten (und Neuen) Testa¬
ment (Leipzig; Stuttgart).
BZAW Beihefte zur Zeitschrift fiir die Alttestamentliche Wis-
senschaft (Giessen; Berlin).
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DB Sup pi L. Pirot (ed.), Dictionnaire de la Bible: Supplement
(Paris, 1928ff.).
Les institutions R. de Vaux, Les institutions de VAncien Testament (Pa¬
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EA J. A. Knudtzon, Die El-amarna Tafeln (Vorderasiatische
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Alte Testament) by P. R. Ackroyd (Oxford, 1965).

Eissfeldt, Kl. Schr. O. Eissfeldt, Kleine Schriften (Tubingen, 1962ff.).

ETL Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses.
FRLANT Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und
Neuen Testamentes (Gottingen).
COWLEY Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, as edited and enlarged by
E. Kautzsch; 2nd English ed., revised in accordance
with the 28th German ed. by A. E. Cowley (Oxford, 1910).
HAT Handbuch zum Alten Testament (Tubingen).
HK Handkommentar zum Alten Testament (Gottingen).
HS Die Heilige Schrift des Alten Testaments (Bonn).
HSAT Die Heilige Schrift des Alten Testaments (ed. Kautzsch,
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HTR Harvard Theological Review.
HUCA Hebrew Union College Annual.
ICC The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh).
JAOS Journal of
the American Oriental Society.
JBL Journal of
Biblical Literature.
JEA Journal of
Egyptian Archaeology.
JNES Journal of
Near Eastern Studies.
JPOS Journal of
the Palestine Oriental Society.
JSS Journal of
Semitic Studies.
JTS Journal of
Theological Studies.
KAI H. Donner and W. Rollig (eds.), Kanaanaische und ara-
mdische Inschriften (Wiesbaden, 1962-64).
KAT Kommentar zum Alten Testament (Leipzig).
KHC Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alten Testament (Frei¬
burg i. Br.-Leipzig; Tubingen).
KS A. Alt, Kleine Schriften zur Geschichte des Volkes Israel
(Munich, 1959).
KUB Keilschrifturkunden aus Boghazkoi (Berlin, 1921ff.).
LXX Septuagint.
MT Massoretic Text.
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Noth, UP M. Noth, Uberlieferungsgeschichte des Pentateuch (Stutt¬
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RB Revue Biblique.
Recueil de travaux Recueil de travaux relatifs a la philologie et a Varcheo-
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REJ Revue des etudes juives.
RES Repertoire d’epigraphie semitique (Paris, 1900ff.).
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RHR Revue de Vhistoire des religions.
RScR Recherches de science religieuse.

sz Strack-Zockler (eds.), Kurzgefasster Kommentar zu den

heiligen Schriften (Nordlingen; Munich).
ThLZ Theologische Literaturzeitung.
ThZ Theologische Zeitschrift.
TWNT G. Kittel (ed.), Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen
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VT Vetus Testamentum.
VT Suppl Supplements to Vetus Testamentum (Leiden).
WZKM Wiener Zeitschrift fiir die Kunde des Morgenlandes.
ZA Zeitschrift fiir Assyriologie.
ZAW Zeitschrift fiir die Alttestamentliche Wissenschaft.
ZDMG Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenlandischen Gesell-
ZDPV Zeitschrift des Deutschen Palastina-Vereins.
ZTK Zeitschrift fiir Theologie und Kirche.

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Virolleaud, C., “Un etat de solde provenant d’Ugarit (Ras-Shamra),” in Memorial

Lagrange, pp. 3949. Paris: Gabalda, 1940.
War?5auv’ ?• "L'unit5 litteraire de Baruch 1-111,8,” in Sacra Pagina, I
(Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, XII), 455-60. Paris-
Gembloux: Lecoffre, 1959.
Waterman, L., “Jacob the Forgotten Supplanter,” AJSL 55 (1938) 25-43.
-, “Moses the Pseudo-Levite,” JBL 59 (1940) 397404.
57—(19^°)n375I8^)termin^nS Factors in the Northward Progress of Levi,” JAOS
Weber, M., Gesammelte Aufsdtze zur Religionssoziologie, III: Das antike Ju-
dentum. 2nd ed. Tubingen: J. C. B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck), 1923.
Weidner, E. F., “Jojachin, Konig von Juda, in babylonischen Keilschrifttexten,"
in Melanges syriens offerts a M. Rene Dussaud, II, 923-35. Paris: Paul
Geuthner, 1939.
-, "Der Staatsvertrag Assurniraris VI. von Assyrien mit MatPilu von
Bit-Agusi,” 4/0 8 (1932/33) 17-34.
Weinfeld, M., “Deuteronomy — the Present State of Inquiry,” JBL 86 (1967)
-, “Traces of Assyrian Treaty Formulae in Deuteronomy," Biblica 46
(1965) 417-27.
Weiser, A., Samuel: seine geschichtliche Aufgabe und religiose Bedeutung
(FRLANT, LXXXI). Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1962.
Welch, A. C., The Code of Deuteronomy. London: James Clarke, 1924.
-, Post-Exilic Judaism. Edinburgh: William Blackwood & Sons, 1935.
-, Prophet and Priest in Old Israel. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1953.
-, The Work of the Chronicler (The Schweich Lectures, 1938). London:
The British Academy, 1939.
Wellhausen, J., Die Composition des Hexateuchs und der historischen Bucher
des Alten Testaments. 4th (— 3rd) ed. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1963.
-, Reste arabischen Heidentums. 2nd ed. Berlin: Georg Reimer, 1897.
-, Der Text der Bucher Samuelis. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht,
Wenschkewitz, H., “Die Spiritualisierung der Kultusbegriffe: Tempel, Priester
und Opfer im Neuen Testament,” ArrEAOS : Archiv fur neutestament-
liche Zeitgeschichte und Kulturkunde 4 (1932) 70-230.
Westphal, G., “Aaron und die Aaroniden,” ZAW 26 (1906) 201-30.
Wildberger, H., "Samuel und die Entstehung des israelitischen Konigtums,"
ThZ 13 (1957) 442-69.
Wiseman, D. J., The Alalakh Tablets (Occasional Publications of the British
Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, II). London: The British Institute of
Archaeology at Ankara, 1953.
Wolff, H. W., "Hoseas geistige Heimat,” ThLZ 81 (1956) 83-94.
Wright, G. E., "The Levites in Deuteronomy,” VT 4 (1954) 325-30.
-, Shechem: the Biography of a Biblical City. London: G. Duckworth,
Wiirthwein, E., “Kultpolemik oder Kultbescheid?” in Tradition und Situation:
Studien zur alttestamentlichen Prophetie, Artur Weiser zum 70. Geburtstag
dargebracht, pp. 115-31. Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963.
Wutz, F., Systematische Wege von der Septuaginta zum hebraischen Urtext.
Stuttgart: W. Kohlhammer, 1937.
Yeivin, S., “The Administration in Ancient Israel (Under David),” in A. Malamat
(ed.), The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, pp. 47-65 (in Modern Hebrew
with English summary). Jerusalem: Israel Exploration Society, 1961.
Note on the System of Transliteration

The transliteration of Semitic and Greek consonants is that which has

come to be generally used today, and it needs no particular comment. The
Egyptian transliterations follow the conventions of the English School, as set
forth in the third edition of Sir Alan Gardiner's Egyptian Grammar (Oxford,
1957), p. 27. Sumerian forms are in small capitals, but Sumerian ideograms
given as a part of transliterated Akkadian forms are in full capitals.
In Hebrew, the Massoretic vocalization is reproduced according to the
following scale of gradation: e (sewa mobile), a (sewa coloratum), a (short
vowel), a (long vowel), a (long vowel written with mater lectionis). Final h
is written only if it is pointed with mappiq; in other cases it is a mater lec¬
tionis and indicated as such (i. e. by a circumflex accent over the preceding
vowel), except after a final e, which is then reproduced simply as e or e,
according as it is short or long. An e represents the diphthong formed by e
and a following non-vocalized y. In Semitic languages other than Hebrew,
all vowel length is indicated by a circumflex accent, without any distinction
between vowels long by nature and those long by contraction.
Arabic ta marbuta is not transliterated, and old Arabic nunation and case
endings are omitted. Akkadian nominal forms are written without mimation.
Hebrew and Syriac spirantization is not noted.
Initial aleph is not indicated when it is followed by a vowel.

There is no real danger of the informed reader's gravely under¬

estimating the importance of the subject at hand, a subject whose im¬
portance lies not only in itself but in its bearing on many others be¬
sides — on questions of royalty, prophecy, liturgy, piety, and on the
entire religious, cultural, and political development of Israel.
The task, though, has been undertaken before. Need it be under¬
taken again? Wolf Graf von Baudissin, toward the end of the last century,
already gave the learned world a history of Old Testament priesthood,1
and this was followed a decade later by another extensive work from
the pen of the Belgian scholar van Hoonacker.2 Baudissin’s primary
interest, however, as he set out upon his work was actually the sifting
and relative dating of Pentateuchal documents, which he felt could best
be accomplished by applying to those documents a reconstruction of
development in Israelite priesthood as a measuring-stick.3 Van Hoo-
nacker’s work was not a continuous history but an attempt to establish
relations between the priestly ordinances in the Law and the history of
priesthood in Israel; it makes no real attempt to distinguish different
documents or traditions in the process — an unfortunate flaw in the
work which, along with its confusing manner of presentation, has caused
it to sink toward oblivion.4 One of the best, objective, historical treat¬
ments of the subject so far, although brief in its compass, is that done
by Wellhausen’s disciples, Smith and Bertholet, just after the turn of
the century.5 Smith and Bertholet pioneered in the effort to situate
Hebrew priesthood in the broader context of Ancient Near Eastern civili¬
zation as a whole. Another excellent treatment of various aspects of
Hebrew priesthood came a quarter of a century later from the learned

1 W. W. G. Baudissin,Die Geschichte des alttestamentlichen Priesterthums (Leipzig,

1889). Baudissin also wrote the article "Priests and Levites” for Hasting’s Dictionary
of the Bible, IV (Edinburgh, 1902), pp. 67-97.
2 A. van Hoonacker, Le sacerdoce levitique dans la loi et dans I’histoire des Hebreux
(Louvain, 1899).
2 Cf. E. Kautzsch’s lengthy review in Theologiscke Studien und Kritiken 63 (1890)
4 Baudissin himself has reviewed van Hoonacker’s work fairly and generously in
ThLZ 24 (1899) 359-63. T 0
s W. R. Smith and A. Bertholet, "Levites" and "Priest,” in T. K. Cheyne and J. S.
Black (eds.), Encyclopaedia Biblica, III, 2770-76 and 3837-47 (London, 1902).


English Congregationalist, George Buchanan Gray,6 always in relation to

Old Testament sacrifice, which was Gray’s real concern. In the years
that have since come and gone, the old documentary criticism has been
further refined — refined in the hands of some to an exhausting extreme
beyond which it seemed useless to try to go any farther — and in the
search for ways out of the impasse new methods have been developed,
including that which allows for the refraction and recasting of traditions
on their way to documentary consignment and which has come to be
known in English-speaking lands as the traditio-historical method.7 *. It is
this latter approach which has been brought to various aspects of our
subject by A. H. J. Gunneweg,s whose very interesting study appeared
after the present work was already well under way, but in time, never¬
theless, for it to be consulted attentively and to have its impact. Gun¬
neweg does not hesitate to complement his traditio-historical approach
with form-criticism or literary criticism when a particular problem re¬
quires it, but he carefully limits his work to the evaluation of traditions
and their growth — a work which fills a real need — without attempting
to come directly to grips with historical problems in the ordinary sense
or to write a straight history.
Unlike the works of van Hoonacker and Gray — and even in a
certain respect that of Baudissin — the present work has the history
of priesthood in Israel as its primary and direct concern. Unlike that
of Gunneweg, it does not concentrate methodologically on the history
and growth of traditions but tries also to work with the techniques
and insights of archaeology, philology, and the comparative religion of
the Ancient Near East, tackling the strictly historical questions which
do not fall within the scope of Gunneweg’s study. 9 It is perhaps closest
in spirit and approach to the essays of Smith and Bertholet, but, thanks
to the labors of countless men of learning, we know immeasurably more
now about both the Bible and the Ancient Near East than we did at the
turn of the century, and historical method has taken new turns in our
generation. In the academic world of today the historiographer is ex¬
pected not only to provide a narrative exposition of his subject but also
to occupy himself with analytic questions involving the availability and

6 G. B. Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament (Oxford, 1925).

7 For surveys of work in these fields, with the beginning of new trends, one might
consult the essays by C. R. North, N. H. Snaith, and O. Eissfeldt in H. H. Rowley
(ed.), The Old Testament and Modern Study (Oxford, 1951), pp. 48-161; R. de Vaux,
"A propos du second centenaire d'Astruc — reflexions sur l’etat actuel de la critique
du Pentateuque," VT Suppl 1 (1953) 182-98; H. H. Rowley, The Changing Pattern of
Old Testament Studies (London, 1959), in addition to the treatment in the various
general introductions to the Old Testament.
s A. H. J. Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester (FRLANT, LXXXIX; Gottingen, 1965).
9 Cf. the remark of G. E. Wright, Shechem: The Biography of a Biblical City
(London, 1965), p. 254, n. 8, that studies in tradition-history “themselves alone produce
little history without the external referents which archaeology in its fullest sense
alone can provide.”

reliability of data and the weighing of evidence. In a study like this

one, these matters can not be neglected; where their handling threatens
to burden the text, an effort will be made to put them in the notes.
Certain insights of his colleagues in modern physics have made today’s
historiographer more keenly aware of problems concerning the change
of empirical data due to the presence of an observer; in the realm of
history analogous problems have to be faced when there is a question
of evaluating information found in existing sources. The Old Testament
material for a study of priesthood is often loaded with a tendentious cast
which must somehow or other be given its proper value as a factor
— neither more nor less than that — as we analyse the literary product.
Our study can not and will not ignore the development of those
ideas which constitute the theological corpus of the Old Testament, yet
for all that it is not meant to be a study in theology as such. One has
the impression that a great deal of what is said about Old Testament
theology of priesthood — about its relation to sacrifice or to teaching,
for example — is marred by aprioristic concerns set in categories foreign
to the thought-world of Israel, too far removed from concrete contexts
in the history of Israel, and too little concerned with historical develop¬
ment. Of late we have had the good fortune to see the development
of theological concern with the history of salvation, a development full
of promise for theological renewal and deepening: but a theological study
which is concerned with the history of salvation goes easily astray when
it does not really take history itself seriously. Priests in Israel were
religious men, but like all men of religion they were also very human
men, and much that is said by them or about them in the Bible, both
negatively and positively, is partisan. If we try to put these things in
their objective contexts in the story of God’s dealings with his Chosen
People, noting, as we do so, the evolution and change in Israel’s priesthood
as the centuries passed, we will have a more reliable basis for theological
reflection on what the Old Testament tells us about priests.
Gray has remarked that "the difficulty attaching to most questions
of Jewish history is perhaps at its greatest in relation to the priest¬
hood.”10 Many problems will never find a really adequate solution, many
solutions must remain hypothetical. I hope, though, that an up-to-date
exposition of the whole subject will be found useful, and that the new
facts and new proposals found here, with their evidence and their reasons,
will refresh the old problems, awaken new ones, and in general be an
interesting and constructive contribution to the discussion which will

10 Gray, op. cit., p. 211.



Chapter One

Prolegomena to a History of Israelite Priesthood

There are certain preliminary problems which ought to be dealt with

even before the actual history of Israelite priesthood itself begins. Like
all of Israel's institutions, Israel's priesthood had some kind of ante¬
cedents, and we must try to see what those antecedents or models might
have been and where they might be found. This search can not be made
without an attempt to achieve some initial but accurate understanding
of the nature of early Hebrew priesthood itself, for if we do not have
this, we run the risk of drawing false parallels in our quest for the
antecedents. If we do have such an initial but accurate understanding,
then our examination of the cultic personnel in the Ancient Near East
can proceed with direct reference to what we know of primitive Hebrew
priesthood. Finally, there will be an advantage in discussing what to
be a Levite really meant originally, since there are many who have taken
the word “Levite” to be a name of function and the Levites to be from
the very outset a specifically religious or even specifically cultic group,
with “Levite” practically synonymous with “priest.” In this I think
they are mistaken.

I. The Quest in Ancient Near Eastern Civilizations

When we turn to sources outside the Bible in the hope of finding

material to sketch the antecedents of early Israelite priesthood and to
illuminate the social, economic, and political movements which were at
work in its development, we do not find a great deal that is of immediate
relevance. The culture of the Hebrews before the monarchy was not
an urban culture. The religious institutions of Sumer, Babylonia, As¬
syria, and Egypt are known to us through documents which already
reflect highly organized urban civilizations whose complex priesthoods
and cultic groups, with distinct classes of cultic personnel assigned to
distinct types of differentiated cultic functions, are far removed from
the society of the semi-nomadic, then semi-sedentary, Israelites before
the days of the monarchy. This does not exclude the possibility that
among the organizational aspects of certain of those civilizations we

may find elements which served later as ultimate models in the organiza¬
tion of the clergy in the new state formed under David and Solomon.
Egyptian religion with its priesthood seems to have left no clearly dis¬
cernible impression on the Hebrews who sojourned in the Land of
Goshen, and if we are inclined to look to Mesopotamia for parallels
rooted in common Semitic origins, caution is indicated,1 all the more
so because the organized religion of Mesopotamia had a substratum which
was a cultural legacy of the non-Semitic Sumerians, as even the Sumerian
origin of many of the Akkadian names for cultic persons and temple
servants shows.2 Farther afield, we know that in the Hittite Empire
priests were already organized into classes, but we do not know what
their ordinary functions were, and the Hittite sources published so far
are official documents dealing with a state cult in which the king is
the principal priest.3 These urban civilizations can not help us much here.
The documents from the first quarter of the second millenium B.C.
found by Andre Parrot in the archives of the royal Palace at Mari, on
the Middle Euphrates,4 have furnished a wealth of information on the
social behaviour of the “Proto-Aramaean,” or Amorite, migrants rising in
successive waves from the Syro-Arabian Desert during the early second
millenium,5 among whom we can now situate the distant ancestors of
the Old Testament Hebrews,6 but precisely in those areas which interest

1 "Les religions semitiques ont evolue chez des peuplades deja differenciees par
leur culture, leur habitat, leur histoire. Les traces de l’unite premiere ont ete bien
vite effacees par le genie propre a chaque groupe ethnique et par les influences etran-
geres. C'est pourquoi nous ne pouvons nous resoudre a ramener a un seul type les
conceptions dont temoignent les documents et les monuments qui, du Golfe Persique a
la Mediterranee et a la Mer Rouge, ont sauvegarde le patrimoine religieux des tribus,
des cites, des nations qu’on rattache a une origine commune" (£. Dhorme, "La religion
primitive des Semites,” RHR 128 (1944), p. 16 [= Recueil Edouard Dhorme (Paris,
1951), p. 7211).
2 E. g., sangu. from sanga, enu from en, kalu from gala, naru from nar.
3 A. Goetze, Kleinasien (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, III/l/iii/3/i; 2nd
ed.; Munich, 1957), p. 161.
4 Now in course of publication under the direction of A. Parrot and G. Dossin
as ARM (Paris, 1950ff.).
5 The term "Proto-Aramaean” is the one favored by R. de Vaux (cf. RB 55 [1948],
p. 346). M. Noth, after suggesting the name “Proto-Aramaean” in Die israelitischen
Personennamen im Rahmen der gemeinsemitischen Namengebung (BWANT, III/10;
Stuttgart, 1928), p. 45, then rejecting it (in ZDPV 65 [1942], p. 34, n. 2), has recently
returned to his former preference in his monograph Die Urspriinge des alten Israel
im Lichte neuer Quellen (Arbeitsgemeinschaft fiir Forschung des Landes Nordrhein-
Westfalen, XCIV; Cologne, 1961), p. 29. J.-R. Kupper, Les nomades en Mesopotamie
au temps des rois de Mari (Bibliotheque de la Faculte de Philosophic et Lettres de
l’Universite de Liege, CXLII; Paris, 1957), pp. 241-44, explains why it is difficult to
find a totally satisfactory name; cf. also W. L. Moran in G. E. Wright (ed.), The
Bible and the Ancient Near East (London, 1961), p. 57. The majority of scholars
continue to use the conventional name "Amorite” (from Akkadian amurru, "West”),
which has the advantage of not taking sides in the question of particular linguistic
and ethnic relations to other West Semitic peoples.
6 For surveys of the Mari discoveries in their bearing on the Old Testament,
cf. G. Mendenhall, "Mari,” The Biblical Archaeologist 11 (1948) 2-19; M. Noth. Die

us in our quest for the origins of priesthood in Israel — the tribal

organization, religious beliefs, and cultic persons of these nomadic peo¬
ples the documents from Mari tell us little. We may even wonder
whether the sedentarized people of Mari themselves knew much about
these things, despite their own nomadic past. The vertical structure of
tribal organization had long ceased to be a living reality for the internal
administration of the kings of Mari, and the religious practice of Mari
had been thoroughly Mesopotamianized. Besides, the inhabitants of Mari
from whom our texts have come shared without doubt the general attitude
of hostility and scorn felt by sedentary peoples, even by those with a
nomadic past, toward the society of the nomads who roam the fringes
of the cultivated land, seizing their advantage at the expense of the
sedentary population whenever occasion presents itself. The people of
Mari had little to do with the cultic structure of their nomadic neighbors.
If we wish to learn something about nomadic society, it is rather
to the information extracted from pre-Islamic and pre-Christian Arabia
that we must turn.* i * * * * * 7 The use of Arabian material to illustrate the Old
Testament is, unfortunately, a delicate task. The Arabian literary sources
are much later than the Old Testament texts with which we are con¬
cerned, and they are often not critically informed themselves about no¬
madic religion.8 Furthermore, the necessary distinction between what

Urspriinge des alten Israel im Lichte neuer Quellen, passim; J. C. L. Gibson, "Light
from Mari on the Patriarchs," JSS 7 (1962) 44-62.
i Our help, however, will not come from the developed kingdoms of South Arabia,
where society was largely sedentary and where international commerce had brought
in much from outside. Foreign influence on South Arabian priesthood can be seen
in the ’fkl priest of the South Arabian inscriptions (cf. RES, V [Paris, 1928], No. 2689),
which is cognate to the Akkadian apkallu, and whose presence in both Akkadian and
epigraphic South Arabic is not to be explained by a common Semitic origin, because
apkallu itself is probably of Sumerian origin: cf. W. von Soden, Akkadisches Hand-
worterbuch (Wiesbaden, 1959ff.), s.v. apkallu. The mention of an 3fkl (of Lat, of
Wadd) in the Lihyanite inscriptions at El-eUla in North Arabia published by A.
Jaussen and R. Savignac, Mission archeologique en Arabie, II (Paris, 1914), Nos. 49
and 277, is to be explained by the influence of the South Arabian Minaeans, whose
important trading colony in the area was at El-'Ula. The ’fkl is, in fact, peculiar
to the Minaeans. The "priest” in the other South Arabian dialects is a rsw (Sabaean,
Qatabanian, Hadrami) or a suf (Sabaean, Qatabanian), and the Lihyanites must have
been influenced by these Minaeans in the title ’fkl just as they were in the cult of
the South Arabian divinity Wadd, who, though known elsewhere in North Arabia,
was particularly venerated at El-'Ula, according to A. Grohmann, Arabien (Handbuch
der Altertumswissenschaft, III/l/iii/3/iv; Munich, 1963), p. 87.
8 The principal source is HiSam ibn al-Kalbi's Book of Idols, relied upon heavily
by J. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums (2nd ed.; Berlin, 1897), W. R. Smith,
Lectures on the Religion of the Semites (new ed.; London, 1894), and M.-J. Lagrange,
Etudes sur les religions semitiques (2nd ed.; Paris, 1905), but known to them only
partially, through citations in the work of the Arabic geographer Yaqut. Since then
a manuscript of the complete work of Ibn al-Kalbi has been found and published
by Ahmad Zaki Pacha, Kitab al-asnam (Cairo, 1913; 2nd ed. 1924), with translations by
R Klinke-Rosenberger, Das Gotzenbuch (Kitab al-asnam) des Ibn al-Kalbi (Leipzig,
1941) and by N. A. Faris, The Book of Idols (Princeton Oriental Studies, XIV; Prince¬
ton, N.J., 1952). The references in our following notes will always be to Fans trans¬

is typical of bedouin society, semi-nomadic non-bedouin society, and sed¬

entary or sedentarizing society is often difficult to make.9 Nevertheless,
the civilization of pre-Islamic Arabian nomads and the nomadic or semi-
nomadic picture painted by the old traditions in the Pentateuch resemble
one another closely. We have only to think of the vertical social structure
of family, clan, tribe, and eponymous ancestor within a multi-tribal con¬
federation, 10 the sacrifices made by heads of families rather than by
priests,* 11 the portable sanctuary like that of the Hebrews' Tabernacle
with its Ark,12 or, at a stage of evolution where there is already an
interplay of nomadic and sedentarized customs, whether among the Arabs
or the Israelites: the private sanctuaries,13 or the assemblies at a sacred
place, with dancing, recitation of tribal history, ritual immolation and
banquet, and renewal of covenants.14 If pre-Islamic Arabian sources do
not allow us to establish relations of direct origin and borrowing between
the religious institutions of Israel and those of North and Central Arabia
in antiquity, they often go a long way, nevertheless, in shedding light
upon the background and meaning of many sacral traditions handed down
from Israel's semi-nomadic and partially sedentarized times.
There remains the civilization of Phoenicia, and more particularly
of the people living in Canaan when the Hebrews began to penetrate
the land. We know quite a bit about the pantheon and the religious
myths of the Phoenician coast,15 but little about clergy and concrete

9 The failure to make these distinctions is a flaw in the stimulating study of

S. Nystrom, Beduinentum und Jahwismus (Lund, 1946).
19 Cf. W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia (new ed.; London, 1903),
pp. 1-72; T. Ashkenazi, "La tribu arabe: ses elements," Anthropos 41-44 (1946-49) 657-72.
11 Cf. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, pp. 115, 119; Ibn al-Kalbi, The
Book of Idols, pp. 10f., 29, 35; also Gen. 22:13; 31:54; 46:1, with the Arabianizing
scenes in Job 1:5; 42:8.
12 Cf. H. Lammens, "Le culte des betyles et les processions religieuses chez les
Arabes preislamites,” Bulletin de Vlnstitut Frangais d'Archeologie Orientate 17 (1919)
39-101 (= H. Lammens, L’Arabie occidentale avant I’Hegire [Beyrouth, 1928], pp. 101-79;
henceforth we shall always refer to the latter); J. Morgenstern, The Ark, the Ephod
and the “Tent of Meeting’’ (Cincinnati, 1945 = HUCA 17 [1942/43] 153-266; 18 [194344]
13 Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., p. 28. The custom was well established among the
sedentarized Arabs of South Arabia, too: cf. A. Jamme, "La religion sud-arabe pre-
islamique,” in M. Brillant and R. Aigrain (eds.), Histoire des religions, IV (Paris,
1956), pp. 292, 294. For the sedentarized Israelites, there is Judg. 17.
14 Cf. H. Lammens, “Les sanctuaires preislamites dans l’Arabie occidentale," Me¬
langes de VUniversite de St-Joseph 11 (1926), pp. 55, 83, 99, 149f. J. Henninger, “La
religion bedouine preislamique," in F. Gabrieli (ed.), L’antica societa beduina (Univer-
sita di Roma, Studi Semitici, II; Rome, 1959), pp. 136f., has pointed out the sedentary
influence on nomadic custom in these pilgrimage festivals. In the Old Testament,
cf. Shiloh in Josh. 18:1; 21:2; 22:9,12; Judg. 21:19ff„ etc.
15 Cf. M. Dahood, "Ancient Semitic Deities in Syria and Palestine," in S. Moscati
(ed.), Le antiche divinita semitiche (Universita di Roma, Studi Semitici, I; Rome, 1958),
pp. 65-94; R. de Langhe, "Myth, Ritual, and Kingship in the Ras Shamra Tablets," in
S. H. Hooke (ed.), Myth, Ritual, and Kingship (2nd ed.; Oxford, 1958), pp. 122-48;
T. H. Gaster, Thespis (2nd ed.; Garden City, N.Y., 1961).

religious practice. For direct knowledge of the religious situation in

pre-Israelite Palestine itself we must still rely almost exclusively on
archaeology, for want of literary and epigraphic material; and field ar¬
chaeology alone, without illumination from literary sources, can not tell
us much about priesthoods and the functions reserved to them. The
influence of these peoples on the religious ideas, concepts, and practices
of the Hebrews, who had moved past them and among them in the
days of the Patriarchs and who settled among them in the Early Iron
Age, must certainly have been considerable, and much of the ultimately
Egyptian and Mesopotamian influence on the higher culture of the mon¬
archies of Judah and Israel came through the Phoenicians and Canaanites
— a point we shall have occasion to discuss later. Rene Dussaud be¬
lieved that Israelite worship came from a period centuries before Moses,
when Israelites and Phoenicians lived together in Canaan,16 but it is
more reasonable in the long run to suppose that, although there may
well have been Canaanite, Phoenician practices borrowed and transmitted
from the time of the patriarchal migrations, the real period of Canaanite
religious influence began with the Israelite penetration in the Early Iron
Age.17 This is especially true in the realm of cultic personnel and the
things which went with developed sanctuaries and sedentary culture.
The priesthood — or its lack — in the patriarchal period as the Pen¬
tateuch presents it is that of Semitic nomads, not of Phoenicia and Canaan,
while the influence of Phoenicia or Canaan on the development of priest¬
hood among the Yahwistic Hebrews in the time of the Judges is difficult
to isolate. We shall use what we can find.

II. The Nature of Primitive Israelite Priesthood

What was an Israelite priest? Baudissin has defined an Old Testa¬

ment priest simply as "one who served the divinity at the altar,” 18 and
Smith and Bertholet as "a minister whose stated business was to perform,
on behalf of the community, certain public ritual acts, particularly sacri¬
fices, directed godwards.”19 Both definitions can be applied fairly well
to the Hebrew priesthood in its more advanced stages of development,
or to the Christian hierarchic priesthood, and the definition of Smith
and Bertholet can meet a certain concept of priesthood which appears
more clearly in the Assyro-Babylonian sangu, particularly when the king-

is R Dussaud, Les origines cananeennes du sacrifice israelite (2nd ed.; Paris, 1941).
i7 Cf. the remarks of J. Gray, "Cultic Affinities between Israel and Ras Shamra,
ZAW 62 (1950) 207-20.
is Baudissin, Geschichte, p. 269.
is W. R. Smith and A. Bertholet, "Priest, ’ Encyclopaedia Biblica, III (London,
1902), col. 3838.

sangu, as representative of the entire people in relation to the god, would

perform ritual and sacrifice,20 but neither of them is adequate for the
early period.
The sacrificial work of Hebrew priests, which grew more charac¬
teristic of them in monarchical times, was by no means reserved to
them or even characteristic of them before the organization of worship
at the beginning of the monarchy. Cain and Abel (Gen. 4:3ff.), Noah
(Gen. 8:20), Abraham (Gen. 22:13), and Jacob (Gen. 31:54; 46:1) offered
sacrifices without being priests, and in the period of the Judges Gideon
(Judg. 6:25f.), Manoah (Judg. 13:16-23), and Elkanah, Samuel's father
(1 Sam. 1:3,4,21; 2:19),21 did the same thing. In Exod. 24:5 Moses is
pictured entrusting the work of immolation to young men who show no
priestly traits, and the later texts of Leviticus show the man who makes
the offering (a chieftain in Lev. 4:24; simple men of the people in Lev. 1:5;
3:2,8,13; 4:28,33) immolating the victim, although the priests have reserved
to them those parts of the sacrificial ritual which require approaching
the altar. The head of a household immolated the Paschal lamb long
after the Exodus (Exod. 12:21-27), and Philo, writing at a time when
sacrifice had become the hallmark of the Jerusalem priesthood, regarded
all heads of Jewish households as priests for that very reason. 22 If Ezek.
44:6-10 condemns the practice of having uncircumcised foreigners serving
in the Temple, it is because the practice existed, and had existed for
a long time, as the example of the Gibeonites attached to the service of
the altar "unto this day” in Josh. 9:27 shows. On the other hand, priests
in the more developed periods of Israel's religion had the work of giving
practical tora, an extension and refinement of their earlier function as
consultors of oracles.23 A descriptive definition of Israelite priesthood
made on the basis of sacrifice is insufficient, and in fact misleading for
the early period.

20 Cf. R. Labat, Le caractere religieux de la royaute assyro-babylonienne (Etudes

d’Assyriologie, II; Paris, 1939), pp. 131-218; A. Falkenstein, "La cite-temple sume-
rienne,” Cahiers d’histoire mondiale 1 (1954) 784-814. Cf. also below, pp. 98-101.
21 Elkanah is incorporated with Samuel in the artificial Levitical genealogies of
1 Chr. 6:7-13 and 6:18-23, but historical documents make him neither priest nor Levite.
22 Philo De vita Mosis ii(iii).224. The right of the man offering the sacrifice to
carry out the actual immolation himself was contested during the Exile by Ezek. 44:11,
which would reserve the immolation to the levites, and even after the Exile by
2 Chr. 29:22ff., which would reserve it to the priests, but the old practice prevailed,
with the man offering the sacrifice making the immolation, and the priests having
reserved to them those parts of the ritual involving contact with the altar, until
the destruction of the Second Temple put an end to sacrifice in Israel: cf. R. de Vaux,
Les sacrifices de VAncien Testament (Cahiers de la Revue Biblique, I; Paris, 1964),
pp. 29f. Thus Baudissin’s definition, defining the priest in relation to the altar, has
a certain partial justification.
23 Cf. J. Begrich, "Die priesterliche Tora,” in Werden und Wesen des Alten Testa¬
ments (BZAW, LXVI; Berlin, 1936), pp. 63-88 (= Begrich, Gesammelte Studien, pp.

Baudissin’s broader definition leaves room for non-sacrificial work

of priests at the altar like the burning of incense (Num. 17:5; 1 Chr. 23:13),
and indeed 1 Sam. 2:28 tells us that priests have been chosen to go up
to the altar, to cause qetdret (here: incense? burning sacrifice?) to smoke,
and to carry the ephod. But the use of the ephod which was the
receptacle containing the sacred lots (urim and thummim) used by priests
in oracular consultation,24 was not limited to the environs of altar or
sanctuary. It was with Saul's soldiers in the field that the priest Ahijah
consulted God with the ephod (1 Sam. 14:18f.,36-42), and similar con¬
ditions surround the consultations in 1 Sam. 28:6; 30:7. Baudissin him¬
self acknowledges his definition’s inadequacy for the early period. Still,
his definition, despite its author’s own view of sacrifice as the essential
mark of priesthood,25 leaves us closer than many others to the essence
of Hebrew priesthood, at least for later periods.
The pre-monarchical priests in the Old Testament are primarily as¬
sociated with a sanctuary, and they appear as consultors of oracles. The
cultic personnel in the desert guards the Tabernacle and the Ark (Num.
1:53; 3:23,28f.,32,35,38),26 and when sanctuary or Ark has to be carried,
the task is incumbent on the priests (Num. 4:58 and Josh. 3:3,14; 4:10f.,
8:33 — all P). When the Ark, recovered from the Philistines, is estab¬
lished in Kiriath-jearim, the house of Abinadab becomes its sanctuary,
with Abinadab's son consecrated as its guardian (1 Sam. 7:1). Micah's
domestic sanctuary must have its priest, whether Micah’s own son or
the wandering Levite (Judg. 17), but so must the sanctuary of the Danites,
who entice Micah’s Levite to go along with them as guardian of their
new tribal sanctuary (Judg. 18:14-26,30f.). The Elides at Shiloh in 1 Sam.
1 - 4 are essentially guardians of the Ark and its sanctuary, and the history
of the priesthoods in the monarchical period will be largely a history
of rival sanctuaries and of growing centralization around the Temple of
Jerusalem. What did the sanctuary attendants in early times do? None
of them appears in sacrificial activity. The scene in 1 Sam. 2:12-17 does
not show the sons of Eli sacrificing. The allusion there is to the share
of the priest in the meat from the sacrifices offered in his sanctuary
by the ordinary people. The only recorded activity of these early Hebrew
priests is oracular consultation, whether at a sanctuary (Judg. 18:5ff.;
1 Sam. 22:10,13,15) or away from a sanctuary (1 Sam. 14:18f.,36-42;
23:9-12; 30:7f.) It is worth noting that the verb used for this priestly

24 On the different forms of ephod, cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 201-04.
25 Baudissin, Geschichte, p. 270. Baudissin is himself aware that the work of
early Israelite priests consisted mainly in oracular work: cf. pp. 58, 186f., 205ff.
26 These texts are late, but they are evidence of the conservation of the ancient

tradition which is guaranteed by the older texts. P represents the mentality and
the customs of the Temple priesthood, but it also has a keen interest in conserving
genuine traditions of antiquity — when they serve its purpose.

consultation is scPal (the priest “asks" God), and that the consultation,
though oracular, is limited fundamentally to the “yes”-"no” of the urim
and thummim.27

III. Analogous Cultic Functionaries among Israel's Neighbors

A. North Arabian kahana and sadana

There is an Arabic cognate, kahin, for the Hebrew kohen which the
Old Testament regularly uses of both Hebrew priests and pagan priests,28
but in our extant Arabian sources the North and Central Arabian — that
is, the nomadic Arabian — cultic person who corresponds to the Israelite
sanctuary servant and oracle consultor is not so much the kahin: it is
rather the sadin. The Arabian kahin is comparable to certain kinds of
early Israelite prophets rather than to Israelite priests, 529 and the Arabic
cognate kahin turns out to be a somewhat false friend when we try to

On urim and thummim and their use, cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 204f.,
and on the alternative questioning leading to a "yes-no” answer, S. Mowinckel, Psal-
menstudien, III (Oslo, 1923), pp. 13f.
28 The word kemdrim is used three times in the Bible (2 Kgs. 23:5; Hos. 10:5;
Zeph. 1:4) — always in the plural, and always of idolatrous priests. W. F. Albright,
From the Stone Age to Christianity (2nd ed.; Garden City, 1957), p. 234, n. 46, proposes
the special meaning "eunuch priest" for the West Semitic komer, Akkadian kumru,
but I find this hard to accept. Albright gives these reasons for his interpretation:
1) kumru occurs in a text where it is a synonym of pasisu; pasisu is a regular appella¬
tion of Tammuz, and Tammuz is called pasisu in one text in which he appears par¬
ticularly akin to Attis and Adonis; 2) eunuch priests are associated with the cult
of the goddess Kubaba, and the word kumru is found once of a priest of Kubaba;
3) kamiru in the Amama letters means “eunuch”; 4) two grave-stelae of priests at
Neirab in Syria (c. 600 B.C.) show the priests (in each case kumra) without beards.
Of these, I should observe that 1) and 2) prove little if anything other than that
the persons in question could be called priests, and pasisu, not an altogether rare
word, nowhere seems to mean “eunuch priest” (for which there are Akkadian words:
kurgaru., assinnu, kulu^u); 4) is, of itself, inconclusive; as for 3), the context of kamiru
in the Amarna collection (a single letter, EA 1:15,33) sheds no light at all on the
meaning of the word. In Aramaic, kumra is the ordinary generic word for "priest.”
Furthermore, in the Jewish colony at Elephantine in Upper Egypt in the 5th cen¬
tury B.C., khn was the title reserved for the fundamentally Yahwistic Jewish priests,
kmr for the Egyptian priests of Khnub (Khnum): cf. A. Vincent, La religion des
Judeo-arameens d’Elephantine (Paris, 1937), pp. 456ff., and I can find no evidence at
all for eunuch priests of Khnum, or, for that matter, of any deity in Egypt. There
can be very little doubt that the usage of the Jews at Elephantine reflects that of
the Palestinian Jews, which we find in the three texts of the Old Testament: a khn
is a Yahwistic priest, and a kmr is a pagan priest. The priests called kemarim in
the Old Testament, then, are not eunuchs: they are priests tainted by paganism.
For a possible example of parallel usage in Phoenician, cf. n. 63 below, and for philo¬
logical information on kmr outside the Bible (apart from questions of meaning), cf.
F. Rosenthal, Die aramaistische Forschung seit Th. Noldeke’s Veroffentlichungen (Lei¬
den, 1939), pp. 21ff.
29 A point made by J. Pedersen, “The Role Played by Inspired Persons among
the Israelites and the Arabs,” in Studies in Old Testament Prophecy Presented to
T. H. Robinson (Edinburgh, 1950), pp. 127-42.

seek from it a deeper understanding of the nature and origins of the

Hebrew kohen. The form names a different kind of cultic person in
each of the two languages, Hebrew and Arabic.
The Arabian kahin was essentially a soothsayer,30 and a man who
seems generally to have enjoyed high prestige among his fellow tribesmen,
for he was often not only a soothsayer but a chieftain (sayyid)31 or a
wise man (hakam)32 as well. The sadin was the sanctuary attendant.33
Both kahana and sadana accompanied the portable sanctuary,34 and both
accompanied nomadic military expeditions and razzias.35 The kahin was
not a sacrificer; nor was the sadin necessary for ordinary sacrifice, which,
as among the patriarchal Hebrews, was ordinarily performed on a simple
stone, presumably by heads of families or clans.38 We do know, however,
that in pre-Islamic North Arabia, on occasions of large bedouin assemblies,
there was a more solemn form of sacrifice in which the immolation of the
victim was performed by the sadin, while the rest of the people looked
on in the attitude of wuquf (“standing," “halting") before entering upon
a tumultuous communion of the victim.37
The Arabian equivalent of the Hebrew priest’s oracular consultation
with urim and thummim resulting in a simple answer "yes” or "no"
was done with the manipulation of arrows — the practice known as
istiqsdm 38 — and in the extant records this never appears as the action
of a kahin,39 although a kahin might passively receive an oracular pro-

ao Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, pp. 134-38; Lammens, L'Arabie occi-

dentale avant VHegire, p. 106; A. Fischer, “Kahin,” Encyclopedic de Vlslam, II (Leiden-
Paris, 1927), pp. 665f.
31 Lammens, L’Arabie occidentale, pp. 103f., 106-09, 151, 158f.; Fischer, op. cit., p. 665.
32 Lammens, op. cit., pp. 109, 135, 158.
33 Smith, Lectures on the Religion of the Semites, pp. 112, 145; Wellhausen,
op. cit., p. 130; Lammens, op. cit., pp. 106, 108. Wellhausen’s stress on the aspect of
the sadin as a guard or watchman led him to suppose that where there was nothing
valuable to guard — an image or a treasure — there was no sadin, and W. R. Smith
and A. Bertholet, "Priest,” Encyclopaedia Biblica, III (London, 1902), col. 3841, see
the same thing in the Old Testament; the images in Micah s sanctuary (Judg. 17.5),
the Ark at Shiloh (1 Sam. 3:3), Goliath’s sword at Nob (1 Sam. 21:10), and even
money in (sic) the temple of Baal-Berith at Shechem (Judg. 9:4) would be thmgs
to be guarded by sadin-type priests. A sadin, however, was essentially not a watch¬
man but an attendant; TH. Noldeke, "Arabs (Ancient),” Hasting’s Encyclopaedia of
Religion and Ethics, I (Edinburgh, 1908), p. 667, says that sadin originally meant one
who holds the curtain.”
34 Lammens, op. cit., p. 141.
as Ibid., pp. 106-08. ,
36 Wellhausen, op. cit., p. 130; Lagrange, Etudes sur les religions semitiques, p. 217,
Fischer op. cit., p. 665; Lammens, op. cit., pp. 107f.; J. Henninger "La religion be-
douine preislamique," p. 137. Ibn al-Kalbi, The Book of Idols, p. 34, reports a sadin
of the idol Nuhm who was accustomed to sacrifice to it, but the words of the sadin
himself show that he did so out of personal devotion rather than in mediation for

SOm37 Lammens, "Les sanctuaires preislamites dans l’Arabie occidentale,” Melanges

de I'Universite de St. Joseph 11 (1926), p. 83.
38 The procedure is described in Wellhausen, op. cit., pp. 130-38.
39 Fischer, op. cit., p. 666.

nouncement expressed in words.40 Even though Theodor Noldeke surmised

that the divinitory arrows were sacred objects which would never have
been used by ordinary people, 41 we now have some examples of ordinary
people who did shuffle the arrows in istiqsdm without the intervention
of any specifically cultic person.42. The essential distinction between the
sadin — the sanctuary attendant — and the kahin — the seer or sooth¬
sayer — is quite clear in pre-Islamic North and Central Arabia, and the
counterpart of the Hebrew priest is the sadin, who, in addition to being
the sanctuary attendant, seems to have been the normal practitioner of
istiqsdm.43 We even have a text speaking explicitly of such an act of
oracular consultation taking place in a sanctuary.44
The existence of the Arabic word kahin as cognate to the Hebrew
kohen, however, has led to theories which sought to find the origin of
the very institution and nature of the Hebrew priesthood in the type of
soothsaying known to have been that of the Arabian kahin. The Dutchman
Kuenen, following his fellow-countryman, Land, suggested that the essential
task of the Hebrew priest was oracular consultation, justifying his sug¬
gestion only by reference to the word kohen,45 without mentioning the

4<> Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., p. 46. In all of this matter one has to distinguish terms,
and to be on his guard for possible differences in the use of those terms by other
people. Strictly speaking, "divination” means the attempt to foresee the future or
the unknown either by means of one's own mantic powers or by the interpretation
of omens, while "oracular consultation” means the attempt to obtain advice or judge¬
ment from an infallible quide or indicator. We find some authors referring to the
arrows used in istiqsdm as divinitory, and others referring to them as oracular.
If they are considered as divinitory rather than oracular, it is doubtlessly out of
an intention to reserve the term "oracular” to messages rather than to signs or
indications. Since many follow Wellhausen (op. cit., pp. 132f.) in calling the practice
of istiqsdm "giving oracles,” and since it has become general in Old Testament
studies to call the analogous manipulation of urim and thummim "oracular con¬
sultation,” we shall follow that usage. At any rate, the Arabian kahin was primarily
a soothsayer, in a mantic fashion in which personal gift or inspiration, not the
manipulation or interpretation of objects or the procuring of oracular messages, was
the important factor: cf. Wellhausen, op. cit., p. 130; Pedersen, "The Role Played by
Inspired Persons,” p. 135. Having thus defined our terms, we can accurately say that
the kahin’s function was divinatory, the sadin's rather oracular, and, with G. Ryck-
mans, Les religions arabes preislamiques (Bibliotheque du Museon, XXVI; Louvain,
1951), that the priest with his oracular work was meant to be the spokesman of
the divinity (p. 9), while divination, practiced by the kahin, did not necessarily enter
the attributes of the priest (p. 11).
41 "Arabs (Ancient),” p. 671.
42 Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., pp. 30, 41.
43 The sadin’s oracular work appears to have extended beyond the practice of
istiqsdm to other forms as well: cf. Pedersen, op. cit., pp. 132f., who also points out
that there were people whose entire lives were guided by the decisions resulting from
the istiqsdm of a sanctuary's sadin. In the examples Pedersen has gathered of the
kahin’s activity, moreover, “nothing show's that there was a necessary connexion be¬
tween the kahin and the sanctuary” (p. 135).
44 Ibn al-Kalbi, op. cit., p. 16.
43 A. Kuenen, De godsdienst van Israel (Haarlem, 1869-70), I, 101 (= The Religion
of Israel, tr. by A. H. May [London, 1874], I, 99), where he gives the reference to
Land in Theologisch Tijdschrift 2 (1868) 171, which I have not been able to examine.

Arabian kahin which must lie behind such a reference even though we
know today that the kahin was properly a soothsayer rather than an
oracular consultant. Bernhard Stade, on the basis of the Arabian kahin,
went further and proposed that the Hebrew priests were originally ecstatic
soothsayers, who by gradually settling at oracular sanctuaries became
givers of oracles.46 Wellhausen’s position, often invoked in more recent
times in support of a view like Stade’s, was actually more sober. It is
important to note that Wellhausen’s readers can be misled by failing
to observe that when he writes “Priester” he sometimes means sddin
and sometimes kahin. His view included an element of development: at
an earlier period an Arabian “priest” would have been a kahin (soothsayer)
who was at the same time a sddin (sanctuary guardian) and hdjib (door¬
keeper), then, as soothsaying grew in importance, the kahin would have
retained that activity (it is difficult to say whether Wellhausen has
istiqsam reserved at this stage to the kahin or not), while the offices
of sddin and hdjib came to be separate.47 In view of this, it is not quite
exact to say that Wellhausen simply identified early Hebrew priests with
soothsayers.48 It is clear, on the contrary, that he was aware that in
the extant Arabic texts the counterpart of the Hebrew priest was the
sddin, and that his postulation of a union of sddin and soothsayer in a
single person at an earlier time must be an attempt to solve the philo¬
logical problem of how the Hebrew word kohen could be a cognate of
the Arabic kahin when a kohen was in fact the counterpart of the later
Arabian sddin rather than of the later Arabian kahin. The great German
orientalist seems to have hit upon the hypothetical solution that only
if a kahin was once also a sddin and a hdjib (and for that there is no
evidence) could the Canaanite tongues offer a cognate of kahin which
was used in referring to cultic persons who, unlike the kahana, were not
Actually, the philological problem of the Arabic kahin is probably a
false one, as far as the nature of Hebrew priesthood is concerned. The
Arabic word itself may well be derived from a North-West Semitic
language — if not directly from Hebrew or another ‘ Canaanite language,

46B. Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel (Berlin, 1887-88), I, 471.

47This interpretation can be checked by studying Wellhausen, Reste arabischen
Heidentums, pp. 134f., with pp. 130f. Cf. also the sketch by Wellhausen’s close disci¬
ples Smith and Bertholet in Encyclopaedia Biblica, III, 3840.
48 cf. the example of such an identification attributed to Wellhausen by T. J.
Meek, cited with disapproval by Albright, From the Stone Age to Christianity, p. 47,
n. 3l! Wellhausen's real position is most clearly evident in his statement, op. cit.,
p. 134 that the ordinary soothsayers have no hereditary office at a sanctuary and
do not bring a divine pronouncement by traditional means but by extraordinary
personal gift; he is not using the Arabic words here, but, judging from his dis¬
cussion as a whole, by “ordinary soothsayers” (die gewohnhchen Wahrsager) he cer¬
tainly means the kahana, and by "priests” the sadana.


then perhaps through Aramaic49 — with a modification of its meaning,

and the historical problem of how kahin came to mean “soothsayer” in
North Arabia is one we may leave ultimately to students of North Arabian
civilization.50 When North Arabians, at some time or other, became
acquainted with North-West Semitic khnm — priests practicing some kind
of oracular consultation, no matter of what specific type it was — it is
not unlikely that those Arabians took note of the active aspect of the
khn’s work rather than the static aspect of his sanctuary guardianship.
Simple people are much more impressionable by things like oracular
consultation, with an aura of the mysterious about them, than they are
by so abstract and colorless a fact as that of a man's specific relation
to a sanctuary. Nor are simple people particularly concerned with
distinguishing specific differences when they transfer terminology. When
North Arabians had had occasion to observe the oracular work of a
Canaanite khn (or even of an early Hebrew kohen, once the Hebrews had
assimilated the word into their own language), it would have been quite
simple for them to apply the cognate Arabic form kahin to a cultic or
sacral person of their own who practiced another type of attempt to
penetrate the unknown, a type that depended more on personal gift or
inspiration than on the interpretation of objects or the procuring of
oracular messages. At any rate, a comparison of the Hebrew priest with
the Arabian kahin, while revealing very important differences, does help
manifest the importance of the early Hebrew priest’s oracular work.

B. Ugaritic and Phoenician Khnm

The scholarly view that the Hebrew word kohen is of North-West

Semitic origin is not contradicted by what little knowledge we can glean
from Ugaritic and Phoenician texts where khn occurs.

49 T. Noldeke, "Arabs (Ancient),” Hasting’s Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics,

I, 667, was the first to suggest the entrance of the word into Arabic from Aramaic;
cf. also Noldeke’s Neue Beitrage zur semitischen Sprachwissenschaft (Strassburg, 1910),
p. 36, n. 6. The influence of Reichsaramdisch on Arabic in the Persian period was
considerable, and we even have an analogous case of a name for cultic persons,
found in Hebrew, which passed probably through Aramaic into the language of the
South Arabian trading colonies established in North Arabia (in this case, too, with
considerable alteration of meaning): cf. R. de Vaux, " ‘Levites’ mineens et levites israe-
lites,” in Lex tua Veritas (Festschrift Hubert Junker; Trier, 1961), pp. 265-73.
50 The title kahin was not used in South Arabia — a fact which lends support
to the theory that the word was a North-West Semitic loan in North Arabia. On
the appellatives and titles of the clergy in epigraphic South Arabic, cf. G. Ryckmans,
Les religions arabes preislamiques, pp. 29f; neither the kahin nor the sadin or the
hajib is among them. Nevertheless, even in these urbanized civilizations of the
southern part of the peninsula the function of the priest was to take care of the
sanctuary and administer its resources. He may have had an oracular function,
but this is not clearly attested. A sacrificial function does not seem to have been
reserved to him, for each votary seems to have been his own sacrificer (ibid., pp.
30, 33).

In the Ugaritic texts unearthed at Ras Shamra there is a rb khnm,

some sort of chief priest,51 and this indicates that there was some kind
of structural organization of the clergy. Also, there are lists of artisans
and functionaries, evidently forming some sort of guilds, in which khnm
are found along with the rest, frequently in connexion with qdsm, who
are evidently some kind of sacral persons, but whose functions we can
not yet clearly determine. 52
Did these Ugaritic colleges of priests live a common life? In one of
the new texts published in the latest edition of Gordon’s compendium
we find a text with a line transliterated sd . bd . dr . khnm, "field belonging
to (or "entrusted to”) the dr of the priests.”53 Gordon has suggested
that dr is a cognate of Arabic dair, "monastery”; perhaps rather than the
specifically Christian dair, with its overtones of common life, Arabic dar,
"residence, home, seat (of an activity),” might be closer to the mark as a
basis of comparison.54 The dr of this Ugaritic text may have been not
a place of actual residence but rather the social center, offices, place of
learned work, of the company of priests, something like the scholae of
various guilds or companies in ancient Rome, especially in the form they
took during the later empire.55
Unfortunately the texts published so far do not really provide us with
any direct information on what the duties of these Ugaritic khnm were.
There is a text which may indicate priestly solicitude for the conservation

ei Texts in C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (Analecta Orientalia, XXXVIII; Rome,

1965), texts a and b; 18:1; 62:54f.
52 Ibid., texts 63:1; 81:1; 82:1; 113:72; 115:9; 169:6; 400:vi:21; 1026;6 (= 169:6, q.v.);
2019:6 and 2020:4.
es Ibid., text 2090:17. Text 2090 is a list of fields, consisting of a series of entries
in the form sd . bd . (x), in which the (x) is ordinarily an individual person.
ei Gordon makes his suggestion in Ugaritic Textbook, p, 387, No. 697. Actually,
Arabic dair, like many Christian terms in Arabic, is probably a loan-word from Syriac,
since all other Arabic words which one can associate with Arabic verbal dar a show
a medial w rather than a medial y, except for some alternative broken plurals of
the noun dar. Syriac daira, “monastery," though, is a normal derivative of the Pa'el
dayyar, “to dwell.” .
55 We can compare the dar in such Arabic expressions as dar at-tijara, home ot
trade” (i. e. business establishment) or dar al-qada5, "home of judging" (i.e. tribunal),
just to take two of many possible examples. It might be objected that such ex¬
pressions consist of dar + an abstract noun, while khnm is not an abstract but a
concrete That is quite true, and it leads us to another point: is not perhaps khnt,
“priesthood," to be read in text 2090:17 rather than khnm? Gordon indicates the
m as uncertain, and in the Ugaritic cuneiform alphabet m and t are distinguished
only by the fact that t is written with a single horizontal wedge while m is written
with the same single horizontal wedge followed by a single. vertical wedge. The
presence of a vertical wedge at the damaged end of the line is doubtful, and it is
highly possible that we have a text reading "field belonging to the schola of the
priestly corporation (khnt). On possible abstracts in -t in Ugaritic, cf. Gordon, op. cit.,
r 8 57 and for the use of a noun that is properly abstract but is used in a concrete
sense’such an example as Hebrew malkut, “kingship," used to mean ‘realm might
be brought forward for comparison.

of Ugarit’s literary heritage.56 If it is true that some khnm were attached

to the army, precisely in their capacity as priests, we might have an
interesting parallel to the ephod-bearing priests who accompanied the field
expeditions of David and Saul,57 or perhaps even of the palladium¬
bearing sons of Eli in 1 Sam. 4:3f., which can also be related to the
remark in 2 Sam. 11:11 that the Ark was with the tents of the army.
C. F.-A. Schaeffer and his associates, in the 1961 season of excavation at
Ras Shamra, as yet described only in a preliminary report, have discovered
in a level belonging to the thirteenth century B.C. the dwelling and library
of a priest who apparently practiced some kind of divination in which he
used models of liver and lung, inscribed in the alphabetic cuneiform of
Ugarit with texts whose purpose seems to have been to provide responses

s6 The text is 62:53ff. (a colophon) in Ugaritic Textbook:

spr ilmlk sbny
Imd . atn . prln . rb
khnm rb . nqdm
The first line of this colophon tells us that the scribe who wrote the tablet was
Ilmlk of Sbn. If, with Gordon in the glossary of Ugaritic Textbook, s.v. Imd (refer¬
ring to this text), we take Imd to mean “apprentice,” then Ilmlk was the "apprentice
of Atn-Prln, chief of the priests,” and the text is evidence for a Ugaritic priest's
work in training scribes. If, on the other hand, with Gordon in his Ugaritic Literature
(Scripta Pontificii Instituti Biblici, XCVIII; Rome, 1949), p. 49, we interpret Imd .
atn . prln . rb khnm as "the narrator is Atn-Prln, chief of the priests,” the role of
the priest is not that of training scribes, but it remains a role in which he ensures
the conservation of his people’s literary heritage. On the importance of the temple
library in Mesopotamia, which was the only type of library known there before the
time of Asshurbanapal in the 7th century B.C., cf. C. Frank, Studien zur babylonischen
Religion (Strassburg, 1911), pp. 224-28.
57 This interepretation of text 400: vi: 21-25 has been suggested by Gordon, Ugaritic
Literature, p. 125. Text 400 seems to be a pay-roll, listing beneficiaries with their
respective wages, all grouped according to classes: cf. C. Virolleaud, "Un etat de
solde provenant d'Ugarit (Ras-Shamra),” in Memorial Lagrange (Paris, 1940), pp. 3949.
But even though the mrynm of 400: i:l are chariot-warriors (R. T. O’Callaghan, "New
Light on the maryannu as 'Chariot-Warrior',” Jahrbuch fur Kleinasiatische Forschung
1 [1951] 309-24), the mrum (400:ii:11), mru skn (400:iv:6), mrLu ifern] (400:iv:17) some
kind of commanders (cf. A. F. Rainey, “The Military Personnel of Ugarit,” JNES 24
[1965], p. 18), and the mdrglm (400:vi:6,17) some kind of soldiers, nevertheless, the
presence of khnm in the list does not necessarily indicate that they had military
field duties. All of these classes (except the mdrglm), and the khnm with them, are
found also in the list of classes in text 169, along with groups of potters (ysrm),
fowlers (yqsm), doormen or gatekeepers (tgrm), and merchants (mkrm), who, if
they had military field duties, surely did not have them in their capacities as potters,
fowlers, gatekeepers, and merchants but simply as men fit for waging war who, in
civilian life, happened to ply those crafts. That this is so can be illustrated by going
somewhat further afield (but not so very far afield, when we consider the important
Hurrian element at Ugarit and the striking parallels to be drawn between life at
Nuzi and life in the patriarchal narratives of Genesis) to a passage in a text from
Nuzi published and annotated by E. Cassin, "Tablettes inedites de Nuzi,” RA 56 (1962),
pp. 65-71. The text has to do with the needs of military troops in material and
provisions, and in the section listing seven foot-soldiers (lines 22-31) we find, along
with a laundryman and two blacksmiths, a man named Aqai who is entered as priest
(lu.sanga); he is entered as priest, but the reason for his entry in the list is not
that he was a priest but that he was a foot-soldier in the army. So even if the
Ugaritic text 400 is a list of men in the army, we are not necessarily justified in

to the questions made by the people through the priest.58 An important

question here, though: is there literary evidence that the "priest” in
question is a khn, or is this identification made by archaeological induction?
If the latter alternative is actually the case, then we have to reckon with
the possibility that the man in question is not a Ugaritic khn at all but a
cultic person with some other appellative title.
The Phoenician and Punic epigraphic material gives us plenty of texts
mentioning khnm of divinities, families of khnm, khnm who were kings,
but little direct information of their nature and duties. Here, as in
Ugarit, we sometimes find a rb khnm at the top of a structured clergy.59
There are texts which show a certain responsibility of the priest for the
care and upkeep of the sanctuary: one has established an altar and two
altar-hearths; 69 another has rebuilt and restored a sanctuary himself, at
his own expense.91 In a Neo-Punic inscription from the Roman Period,
though, it is not a priest but the citizens of Thinissut (modern Bir Bou-
Rekba in Tunisia) who had two sanctuaries built and then inaugurated
by the introduction of the images of the sanctuary divinities; finally a
basin and a bowl were presented to each of the two priests who were to
be in charge of the new sanctuaries.62 The two vessels presented were
certainly symbolic of what the citizens considered to be the principal
functions of the priests — a sort of traditio instrument or um — and we
may assume that they had something to do with sacrificial preparations
or with libations, but their precise purpose is not evident.
One very interesting detail provided by the Phoenician and Punic
inscriptions is the existence of a cultic functionary known as the "immo-
lator” (zbh), who is distinct from the khn.63 It is true that the fourth

concluding that the presence of priests in the list is proof that they had specifically
priestly field duties.
58 c. F.-A. Schaeffer, “La XXIVe campagne de fouilles a Ras-Shamra-Ugarit 1961:
rapport preliminaire," Annates de Syrie 13 (1963), p. 130. He goes
on to say (pp. 130f.) that texts have been found on a lung-model which refer to
offerings or sacrifices, some of which were to be renewed each month, but it is
not clear from this report whether or not this lung-model is one of those mentioned
in connexion with divination; nor is it clear who was to perform the sacrifices.
59 In this and the following notes references are given to the text number and
line in KA1, which is the most recent collection, is in print, and can be easily consulted.
Since M. Lidzbarski, Ephemeris fiir semitische Epigraphik (Giessen, 1902-15) has re¬
cently been photomechanically reprinted and will also be convenient for consultation,
a reference to it will also be given when the text can be found therein. For the rb
khnm, cf. KAI 59:2 (Phoenician, from Piraeus in Attica, 3rd century B.C.); 65:10 =
Ephemeris, III. 283f. (Punic, from Cagliari in Sardinia, 3rd century B.C.?); and the
following Punic texts from Carthage, 4th-2nd centuries B.C.: 81:8f.; 93:3f. = Ephe¬
meris, II, 172B; 95:1 = Ephemeris, III, 57D (where the rb — sic — khnm is a
woman); 96:8 = Ephemeris, II, 56-60.
so KAI 32:2f. (Phoenician, from Kition in Cyprus, 341 B.C.).
61 KAI 72 :B (Punic, from the isle of Ibiza, c. 180 B.C.).
62 KAI 137 = Ephemeris, III, 58. .
63 KAI 159:5,7 (Neo-Punic, of uncertain date, from the ancient Althiburus m Tu¬
nisia). Lines 6f.’ of the same text mention a sp5 scl kmr ny'tmn. If the sp° is to
be related to the Hebrew sph "see, look out over" and to the emended translitera-

or third century B.C. list of temple wages from Kition (modern Lamaka)
on Cyprus mentions such zbhm and does not mention khnm, but that
in no way allows us to suspect, with Lagrange, that to be a zbh was
to be a priest.64 The real reason for the omission of any reference to
khnm in this list is one which adds a detail of some importance to our
picture of Phoenician priests. It is the administration of the temple of
Kition which is to pay the wages to the various temple servants and hired
laborers, and this administrative group itself was doubtless made up of
the temple’s khnm; the priests are not in the Kition lists because they
are not standing for pay but rather paying. The “Marseilles Tariff” is
another type of temple administration list, determining the portion of
various kinds of sacrificial offerings that is to accrue to the priests, and
here the khnm are found throughout the text; 65 in this type of list it is
they who are receiving.
This parallel material from the Canaanite world is disappointingly
sparse — all the more disappointingly so because what little we have
is so close to what we know of developed Hebrew priesthood that we can
see what value a better knowledge of priesthood in Ugarit, Phoenicia,
and the Phoenician colonies across the sea would have for understanding
priesthood in Israel. At any rate, we see that these khnm, like the Hebrew
kohanim, were men in charge of sanctuaries, and that in the larger
sanctuaries they had a fairly numerous and diversified body of cultic
personnel under them.66 Like the priests of the Hebrew sanctuaries
(Dt. 18:1-5; 1 Sam. 2:12-17; 2 Kgs. 12:5-17; 22:3-7; Ezek. 44:29f.; Amos 4:4)
they lived on revenue coming from the cult, and they were responsible
for the upkeep of the sanctuary, as the priests of Jerusalem were supposed
to be (2 Kgs. 12:5-17; 22:3-7). They were distinct from the “immolators,”

tion Zophesamin = ouranou katoptai in Philo of Byblos’ Greek edition of Sanchunia-

thon’s Phoenician history (suggested by Rollig in KAI, II, p. 149), then we have
evidence of some kind of seer or observer of portents who is also distinct from the
priest (khn), but is set over the kmrm (the kmr here is plural, but construct, hence
without the final ra of the masculine plural absolute). The kmr, then, is also
distinct from the khn, and if ny^tmn is the name of a foreign divinity, we even have
a certain parallel to the Old Testament’s use of kemarim as an epithet for priests
foreign to the true cult of Yahweh; cf. n. 28 above.
64 KAI 37:A:9. It is on the basis of an erroneous interpretation of this text
that Lagrange, Etudes sur les religions semitiques, p. 216, states that at Kition priests
were not called khnm, and that it was the priests themselves who figured as sac-
rificers i.e. as immolators or slaughterers.
es KAI 69 (Engl. tr. by F. Rosenthal in ANET, pp. 502f.). The stone material
on which the two pieces of the text are written is similar to that in the region of
Carthage, whence the text may have come to Marseilles as ballast in a ship (KAI,
II, p. 83). Similar texts in KAI 74 (Engl. tr. ANET, p. 503) and the very fragmentary
KAI 75.
66 To be noted, however, is the existence of men who are “over the sanctuary"
(KAI 80:1, from Carthage), or "over the sanctuaries” (KAI 159:5, a text which, in
line 7, also mentions a khn, who is distinct from those who are “over the sanc¬
tuaries"). Are these men who are said to be “over the sanctuaries" civil func¬
tionaries, some kind of municipal superintendents of buildings used for worship?

and, apart from the new findings in thirteenth century Ugarit, there is
no evidence of their practicing divination or divine consultation, but the
evidence is actually too sparse for us to say with any certainty that they
regularly did or did not do so. We do not have a clear idea of what part
they played in the cult itself. Finally, it should be noted that these
khnm of Ugarit and of the Phoenician settlements were priests of an
urban civilization, and that the resemblance between them and the
kohanim of Israel was certainly greater after Hebrew settlement in Pa¬
lestine had become an accomplished fact, and especially after the Israelite
monarchy had been set up, with the cultural influence of Phoenicia on
Israel becoming more intense.

C. Mesopotamian Cultic Personnel; the baru

The Mesopotamian baru, a diviner, has been called the “baru-priest,” 67

and this appellation, when drawn as a parallel to the Hebrew kohen, is
likely to suggest again that the kohen might, at least originally, have
been a diviner in the proper sense of the word. But should the baru
be called a “priest”?
The baru can rightfully be numbered among the cultic persons in
Mesopotamian religion,68 but “cultic person” is not the equivalent of
“priest.” We must define our technical terms. Within the cultic personnel,
or clergy, of Mesopotamia we must distinguish between those occupied
with the actual liturgical and magical ceremonies of a temple or with
the temple’s administration on the one hand,69 and those occupied with
various types of divination on the other.70 In our Western culture a
priest belongs to the first group, and the expression “baru-priest” is
already somewhat misleading on that account. Among the Canaanites,
too — and with them the Hebrews — a khn's functions certainly belong
to those of the first group. His oracular consultation does lie on the other
side of the line; yet, as we have observed,71 it is not divination in
the proper sense, and it is not the kind of work done by the baru.
We do not yet have any positive evidence of a direct relation of a
khn to divination in the proper sense, except for the recent find of
Schaeffer’s at Ugarit, where, as we have noted in the preceding section,

67 E. g. A. Guillaume, Prophetie et divination chez les Semites (Paris, 1950), p. 43;

J. Lindblom, Prophecy in Ancient Israel (Oxford, 1962), p. 85. A. Haldar, Associations
of Cult Prophets among the Ancient Semites (Uppsala, 1945), which unfortunately
was not available to me until this study was practically completed, also takes activity
characteristic of the baru, like the inspection of omens, as a "priestly activity”: cf.,
for example, pp. 102f.
es For a summary description of these various cultic persons, cf. fi. Diiorme, Les
religions de Babylonie et d’Assyrie ("Mana”, 1/2; Paris, 1945), pp. 198-214.
69 The sangu with the supreme enu, the urigallu, the erib biti^ and those minor
specialists the masmase, kale, nare, mare ummdni, ramke, and pasise.
to The baru, dagil issuri, zaqiqu, and sa’ilu.
71 Cf. above, n. 40 (p. 16).

a certain reserve must still be made until we know whether or not the
proprietor of the divinitory materials was a khn or a cultic person with
some other title. Among the Israelites of the monarchical period and
later, when a well-organized temple liturgy had been developed, the kohen
was similar partly to the Mesopotamian sangu, who made his living from
the altar and was the administrator of the temple's affairs,72 and partly
to the Mesopotamian urigallu, the guardian or custodian of the sanctuary
who was responsible for the greater part of the liturgy of prayer.73
At an earlier stage of development, a stage when the more elaborate
Canaanite type of temple organization had not yet made itself felt among
the Hebrews, the Hebrew kohen — who at this stage was more like the
urigallu than any other kind of Mesopotamian cultic person — had his
oracular consultation, but the only kind of consultation we know him to
have practiced was that involving manipulation of the urim and thummim,
which is akin to the Arabian istiqsdm with manipulation of arrows rather
than to the practices of Mesopotamian diviners, for whom a method of
manipulating objects is not attested and whose divination was based
rather on the observation of phenomena.74 Of the Mesopotamian diviners,
the most important, the baru, accomplished his work by observing the
states, behavior, acts, of living creatures, or of organs like the liver, or of
the stars.75 The dagil issuri was a specialist in augury, who observed the
flights of birds.7<5 The stfilu was primarily an interpreter of dreams.77
A man who was a baru could be, at the same time, a sangu,78 but he
could also be distinct from the sangu,79 and even the texts which give
both titles to the same man show by their distinction of titles that there
was a distinction of the corresponding offices and functions.
All this being so, a direct relationship between the Hebrew kohen
and the Mesopotamian baru is improbable, and to draw a parallel between
the two is as misleading as it is to speak of a “baru-priest.” The Hebrew
priest came from the semi-nomadic culture of the Syro-Arabian desert, not
from the urban culture of Mesopotamia, with that Sumerian substruct

72 Cf. Frank, Studien zur babylonischen Religion, pp. 5f.; Dhorme, op.cit., pp. 201f.
73 Cf. Frank, op. cit., pp. 21ff.; Dhorme, op. cit., pp. 203ff.
74 Cf. Dhorme, op. cit., pp. 275-82, 285-89.
75 Frank, op. cit., pp. 16, 29-33.
76 Ibid., p. 74.
77 Ibid., pp. 16f.; cf. also n. 80 below.
73 Cf. the inscription mentioning a “priest (sanga) of Sippar, baru (hI.hal)" in
L. W. King, Babylonian Boundary Stones and Memorial Tablets in the British Museum
(London, 1912), No. 36. ii. 9f., iii. 27,29; or the Akkadian tablet found in Ugarit men¬
tioning “Sammuaddu, baru, priest (sangu) of Adad" in J. Nougayrol, Le Palais royal
d’Ugarit, IV: Textes accadiens des Archives Sud (Mission de Ras Shamra, VI; Paris,
1956), p. 201 (RS 18:02,16). On LU.rtAL or (cf. the following note) = baru, cf.
CAD, s. v. bard.
79 Cf. the ritual prescribing that “the baru (written and the priest
(ltJ.sanga) of Adad take (plural) the liver" in F. Thureau-Dangin, Rituels accadiens
(Paris, 1921), p. 92, reverse, line 3 (translation p. 98).

which is evident especially in the domain of Mesopotamian religion. The

tora given by the primitive Hebrew priest was the oracular answer
resulting from the mechanical manipulation of the urim and thummim,
before it developed in sedentary Israel to a more general instruction on
what was or was not in conformity with the will of God, although this
Hebrew tora seems to be philologically cognate to the Akkadian tertu,
the pronouncement resulting from the baru’s clairvoyant divination. The
word may have entered Hebrew from Canaan, with its concrete sense
altered to meet the different type of practice among the Hebrews.80 The
Hebrew priest, unlike the baru, was not meant to be clairvoyant. The
Hebrew priest’s oracular work consisted in objective distinctions. With
urim and thummim the distinction was between "yes” and “no” on the
basis of the way the “lots” fell. In early tora the distinction was between
the ritually pure and the ritually impure, between the sacred and the
profane, with the priest acting merely as speaker or intermediary for
God.81 In the ordeal (cf. Num. 5:11-31) the distinction was between
“guilty” and “not guilty” on the basis of what God produced in the
suspect as an effect of the magical ritual; the interpretation of the result
could be made by any one, not just the priest, and the norms for its
interpretation were objectively found in an already established tora
(Num. 5:27ff.). It is possible that in Canaan, or in some parts of Canaan,
the khnm practiced the kind of divination practiced by the Eastern baru;
the primitive Hebrew priest did not. The Hebrew priest and the Meso¬
potamian baru did have this in common: both had work that was more
stable and more institutionalized than that of the early Hebrew prophet.
Nevertheless, the early Hebrew equivalent of a baru. was not a kohen
but a rede or the early kind of nabV.82

so Another indirect verbal contact may perhaps be seen in the unique use of the
title safilu by a Canaanite scribe in EA 35:26 for an augur, who in authentic Akkadian
usage is not a saPilu but a dagil issuri. The verb scdal we know to be that used in
early Biblical texts for the oracular consultation of a priest with his urim and
thummim (cf. pp. 47-48). Was this verb used more broadly in the Canaanite area
for any kind of divinization or oracular consultation, so that the scribe responsible
for EA 35, not familiar with fine distinctions in the technical terminology of Meso¬
potamia, was using the participle of a Canaanite verb with which he was familiar
to express the agent of an act of divination which happened in that particular case
to be augury? Even if this is so, the verb was used by the Hebrews in conformity
with the oracular practice of their own society. The verb used in Hebrew can be
Canaanite in background, the actual Hebrew practice and its method non-Canaanite
(and non-Mesopotamian).
81 Cf. Begrich, "Die priesterliche Tora,” especially pp. 64f., 69-72 ( = Begrich, Gesam-
melte Studien, pp. 234ff., 238-42).
82 Cf Lindblom, Prophecv in Ancient Israel, p. 89, who also observes that if the
priest Zadok in 2 Sam. 15:27 (a disturbed text) is said to be a ro°e, "corresponding
to the Akkadian baru” it would be because he "divined by means of the priestly
oracle” Whether this is properly called “divination” is, of course, open to question
(cf. above, n. 40, p. 16), and we ought not to forget that this text, even before
disturbed in transmission, dates from a time when oracular consultation by a priest
was beginning to be obsolete, with recourse moving increasingly to the prophet for

IV. The Etymology of kohen

One final attempt to increase our understanding of the primitive

sense of priesthood in Israel — or at least in Canaan — might be made
by seeking the root from which the word kohen is derived. Two ety¬
mologies have been proposed: 1) from kwn, "to be firm, established,
lasting” (not used in the Qal in Hebrew), so that a priest would be one
who stands before God at the altar; 83 2) from a cognate of the Akkadian
kanu (itself, according to this theory, from a hypothetical *kahdnu),
which in the Safcel or s-stem has a meaning "to incline before,” so that
a priest would be one who gives homage to God.84
Both are hard to justify philologically. Inspection of the use of
kwn and its derivatives in various Semitic tongues reveals that it is not
at all evident that that root has somewhere in its circle of connotations
a sense of "standing” or "serving” which Baudissin and Stade suspect
it has. Nor can we with real assurance speak of West Semitic medial
h as a secondary insertion in a hollow root. On the contrary. Professor
Albright claims to have collected evidence, specimens of which he has
published,85 of nominal forms often thought of as derived from a hollow
root which are, however, actually derived from roots that are of medial
h in which the h has coalesced with the preceding vowel. 86 Thus, rather

fresh consultations of God’s will and decrees, as we shall have occasion to see later
in this study. There was a certain improper analogy between a priest’s consultation
and the divination of a Mesopotamian baru, but analogy is not equivalence, and a
parallel is not indicated between a baru and a Hebrew kohen. For a detailed examina¬
tion of the difference between the kohen on the one hand and the ro*e and the nabV
on the other, cf. A. R. Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel (2nd ed.; Cardiff,
1962), pp. 9-29.
83 Baudissin, Geschichte, p. 269; also Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, I, 471.
P. Haupt, “Hebrew kohen and qahal,” IAOS 42 (1922) 372-75, too, stating that "a medial
h is often secondary,” would have kohen a “modification” of kun, which root would
express something having to do with what is true or right. E. Konig, Hebrdisches
und aramaisches Worterbuch zum Alien Testament (5th ed.; Leipzig, 1931), s.v. khn,
gives as probable basic meaning of kohen "bringing forward, preparing, serving,”
and also refers to kwn, but without saying why.
84 Lagrange, Etudes sur les religions semitiques, p. 215, n. 5; EL Dhorme, “ Pre-
tres, devins et mages dans l’ancienne religion des Hebreux,” RHR 108 (1933), pp. 117f.
VT Suppl 4 (1957) 256; BASOR, No. 163 (Oct. 1961), pp. 50f.
86 Albright reasons that qdl can not be derived from *qawlu because in the
Siloam Inscription it is written ql, not qwl, and since in the dialect of Judah (re¬
flected in the Siloam Inscription) diphthongs were not contracted (whereas in Israel
they were), qdl from *qawlu would still have appeared in the Siloam Inscription
as qwl, not ql. To Albright’s theory someone might object that in Arabic the nominal
form cognate to Hebrew qdl is qawl, but this objection can be countered with the
further objection that Arabic nur, "light,” with medial consonantal w manifest in
its broken plural anwdr, is cognate to the Syriac nuhra with medial h; and for the
presence of that h in Proto-Semitic, cf. C. Brockelmann, Grundriss der vergleichenden
Grammatik der semitischen Sprachen (Berlin, 1908-13), I, § 45r.e, using the Akkadian
nuru as an example in treating of the fate of medial h in Akkadian.

than w > h it would rather be, e.g. ah > a > (if in a stressed syllable)
o, and Haupt s statement that a medial h is often secondary may well
be inaccurate, for it seems to be rather the converse phenomenon — the
disappearance of the medial h as a phoneme — that is secondary.87 This
being the case, if there were a relation between khn and kwn (kun) it
would be kwn which was derived from khn rather than vice versa.
As for the other proposed etymology, it is also very difficult to see
how Akkadian kanu can have been derived from *kahanu so that the
West Semitic khn could have any relation to kanu. Original h, it is true,
became 5 in Akkadian (Von Soden’s 32) as the original laryngals and
pharyngals were reduced in that area of Semitic speech, and it is also
true that Brockelmann's rule that 5 from intervocalic h is regularly kept88
does not always hold in medial s2 verbs 89 — in other words, that certain
of these verbs are treated as weak verbs rather than as strong medial 5
verbs. Nevertheless, this is not the case with kanu, which is obviously
not a strong medial 3 verb, were one of those medial 32 verbs which are
treated as weak verbs (*kahanu ]> *ka?anu > kanu), it would appear as
a medial a verb and its imperative would be kan;90 but kanu is definitely
a medial u verb and its imperative is kun, a cognate of the West Semitic
kwn, 91 and the difficulties in deriving kohen from any form of that root
remain the same. In fact the Akkadian evidence makes it difficult not
only to derive kohen from hollow kwn but even to derive forms of kwn
from a primitive khn, for it informs us that kwn can not be the residue
of a root with primitive medial h but was always a genuinely hollow
root — or, if one is a triliteralist, a genuinely biconsonantal root.99

87 The phenomenon seems to have been most common in the North-West Semitic
languages, other than Aramaic (which tends to preserve a medial h more than other
languages do), when the h was postvocalic, especially in nominal forms of the type
qatl/qitl/qutl: cf., for Hebrew, in addition to Albright’s published examples, ner,
"lamp" (cp. Syriac nuhrd, "light"), and bos, “be ashamed” (cp. boset, “shame," with
its cognate Syriac behtta — in the absolute state behtat; for the adjectival origin of
bos, cf. H. Bauer and P. Leander, Historische Grammatik der hebrdischen Sprache
[Halle, 19221, p. 388); for Ugaritic: Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, § 5.39. The question
of the extent of syncope of intervocalic h in North-West Semitic is not entirely clear:
cf. Z. Harris, Development of the Canaanite Dialects (American Oriental Series, XVI;
New Haven, 1939), pp. 55f. Much more could be said in favor of the medial h as
primary rather than secondary when there is a question of both forms where it is
present and forms where it is absent, and many more examples can be found to
work with, but this is not the place to assemble them.
88 Brockelmann, Grundriss der vergleichenden Grammatik, I, 127, § 45r.(3.
89 W. von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik (Rome, 1952), § 98a-b.
90 Ibid., § 104b.
97 Ibid., § 104c,f; G. Ryckmans, Grammaire accadienne (4th ed.; Louvain, 1960),
§ 319.
92 Cf. also I. J. Gelb’s remark on kun in his extensive review of von Soden’s
Grundriss in Bibliotheca Orientalis 12 (1955), p. 105. One last remote hope for
establishing some relation between kohen and kwn might be sought in the observa¬
tion made by M. Dahood, Ugaritic-Hebrew Philology (Biblica et Orientalia, XVIII;
Rome, 1965), p. 63, that in text 1161:5f. of Gordon’s Ugaritic Textbook the word salm,
"the investigators," is associated in parallel with tknn, "they shall ascertain" — a

There is yet another possible etymological explanation of kohen.

Syriac has a Pacel verb kahhen which has two senses. The first is
"to be (or "function as") a priest,” and is a normal Pacel denominative
formation from kahna, "priest." The second is "to make prosperous,
flourishing; to make to abound (e.g. with wealth)," with kahhinuta,
"abundance, well-being,” and kahhina, "opulent, prosperous,” as derivatives.
Since the native word for priest in Syriac and other Aramaic dialects is
kumra, the first (denominative) sense of kahhen is obviously a relatively
late borrowing from Hebrew, made under the influence of the Old
Testament with its kohen and denominative kihen. The ancient sense,
then, would be the second one. Is kohen, together with its Ugaritic and
Phoenician cognates, a word originally meaning something like "one who
brings abundance, well-being, prosperity,” from an ancient North-West
Semitic root preserved independently in the second sense of Syriac
kahhen?93 The hypothesis is tempting, and philologically possible,
although we do not have the materials (in Old Aramaic, for example)
we should like to have for verifying it.94 For the moment we have to be
content with the word’s meaning as it appears in usage already fixed,
hoping for more clarification from future discoveries of epigraphic material.

Polel of the root kwn, and that in Job 8:8 ser>al stands in parallel to konen, also a
Polel form of kwn (but a form which on the basis of the Syriac version has often
been emended to bonen). Now the verb sa°al is that used in the Old Testament for
the Hebrew priest's consultation of Yahweh (cf. below, pp. 4748). Is it possible that
on the basis of the Ugaritic text and the one in Job we can suspect kohen to have
had an original meaning akin to that of sa?al and to have been derived from kwn
after all? The prospect is enticing, but the difficulties are great. The tknn of the
Ugaritic text is not, strictly speaking, syntactically parallel to salm but a verb with
the substantive participle salm as the antecedent of its unexpressed subject, and the
sense "to find out, to ascertain” is not really demonstrable for konen either in the
Bible or in Ugaritic, although it could certainly be conjectured for Job 8:8. The
knn of tknn in the Ugaritic text seems rather to mean “vindicate, testify in favor of”
as in Ps. 7:10, a sense which fits very well: "Whoever the investigators (are) who are
to testify in favor of the (human) pledges, behold, they shall testify (in their favor)”
(mnm . salm dt . tknn el . crbnm hnhmt tknn). So the association of s°l with a
Polel of kwn seems after all to be fortuitous in the Ugaritic text, and the meaning
of konen in Job 8:8 is still somewhat uncertain. The philological difficulty of relating
khn to kwn remains.
93 R. Dozy, Supplement aux dictionnaires arabes, II (Leiden, 1881), p. 496, lists
Arabic takahhun with a first meaning “priesthood” and a second one "abundance.”
Is this second meaning an ancient one in Arabic, or is it borrowed from some
dialect of Aramaic? And what of the likelihood of a loan from Aramaic being turned
into a Form V verbal noun like takahhun?
There is an interesting point which may lend some vague confirmation to this
hypothesis, however. There is a tablet found in Alalakh which provides for temple
offerings, to be made by a man who is evidently a priest of some sort, although he
is mentioned by name only, without any title. This tablet includes instructions for
an azazhu-offering which is expected to bring welfare to a man’s house. The tablet
is from Level VII in the excavations, hence to be dated in the 18th century B.C.
For the text, cf. D. J. Wiseman, The Alalakh Tablets (Occasional Publications of the
British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara, II; London, 1953), p. 63, and, on the
presence of West Semites in 18th century Alalakh, ibid., p. 9, with the additional
remarks of E. A. Speiser in JAOS 74 (1954), p. 19.

From all this we conclude that the earliest priests among the Israelites
were essentially sanctuary attendants — not soothsayers, not diviners, not
sacrificers, although oracular consultation was their principal activity and
there was nothing to prohibit their offering a sacrifice like other men.
We can be reasonably sure of the West Semitic origin of the word kohen,
but the West Semitic texts outside the Bible give us little insight into
the nature of a priest in that cultural area. The concept of a Hebrew
priest is illustrated somewhat by Arabian sources, where, however, the
close equivalent is the sadin rather than the philologically cognate kahin.
The conditions of Hebrew life in pre-Mosaic times precluded a proper
priesthood in the later sense, and even if Hebrew priesthood began with
some North Arabian, Midianite influence in the formative years of Yah-
wism it remains problematic whether or not its members were at first
called kohanim. If the Hebrews' Yahwistic sanctuary ministers, such
as they were, were not called kohanim when they arrived in Canaan with
their brethren — and it is quite possible that they were not — they
adopted the Canaanite name which fitted their office as they came to
know something of their Canaanite predecessors in the land.

V. The Secular Tribe of Levi

It is common to find the term “Levite” considered a pure appellative,

closely related to, when not synonymous with, “priest,'' and to find it
denied that the Levites ever constituted a secular tribe. Behind this
position lie theories on etymologies and cognates, and a sceptical attitude
toward the possibility of historical reminiscences in the Biblical texts
which indicate that the Levites had been a secular tribe.

A. The Word “Levi”

Whether the Hebrew lewi is an appellative or a proper name, it

must be derived from something; it must have a linguistic history. If it
is the proper name of the eponymous ancestor of a tribe, its etymology
will be of interest onomastically; if it is an appellative, its etymology
must give a key to the original nature of the Levites.
The etymologies proposed for the Hebrew lewi can be summarized
under the three roots which provide the possibilities for derivation:
1) Iwy, “to be joined”; in the Niphcal: "to join, attach oneself.”
Here lie the popular etymologies in the Bible itself. After Levi’s
birth Leah says, “Now my husband will cleave to me, for I have given
him three sons” (Gen. 29:34), and Num. 18:2,4 (P), concerned with the
superiority of the Aaronides, has God attaching the Levites to the Aaron-
ides as a gift (18:6). These, like all the popular etymologies of the

Bible, are pleasant examples of Biblical folklore, but they have no solid
philological support as real etymologies. Under this root, also, come the
proposals of modern authors that Levi means "escort” of the Ark,95 or
one “associated” with worship.96 Budde thought the word arose either
from the Levites' joining themselves to Moses (Exod. 32:25-29) or from
their attachment to a sanctuary.97
2) Iwy which is the Arabic lawa (with alif maqsurah), “to turn, twist,
wind,” a root which does not appear independently in Hebrew but is
the supposed root of liwya, “wreath," and of “Leviathan.”
Here the etymologies proposed take a somewhat imaginative turn.
Mowinckel sees a sense of swinging around in a dance in the root and
finds the Levites to have been originally ecstatic cult dancers at a sanc¬
tuary, 98 but the etymology is a little far-fetched, and Levites simply do
not appear as cultic dancers of any sort. Mowinckel mentions a proposal
by Paul Haupt to connect Levi with the Arabic lawa IV, “to give oracles,”
certainly an enticing proposal, but close examination reveals not only
that there is no evidence that lawa in any of its forms means “to give
oracles,” but also that Haupt did not say that it did.99 Eduard Meyer,
using material of Bernhard Luther, sees a connexion with lawa used of
coiling serpents (this really is attested, for Form VI) and relates the
origins of the Levites to a snake cult (Moses’ rod changed to a serpent,
Exod. 4:3; the brazen serpent, Num. 21; the Nehushtan of 2 Kgs. 18:4),10,0
but the explanation, although ingenious, is quite gratuitous.
3) Iwy “to borrow”; in the Hiphcil: “to lend.”
Here, where at first sight there would seem to be no chance of any
origin for the word lewi, is precisely where the etymology which has
received the greatest number of qualified adherents is situated.
In the Minaean trading colony which once flourished at El-cUla (the
Biblical Dedan) in northern Arabia the expeditions of Euting in 1884
and of the Dominicans Jaussen and Savignac in 1907-10 found a number

ss Baudissin, Geschichte, p. 74.

96 fi. Dhorme, L'evolution religieuse d’Israel, I: La religion des Hebreux nomades
(Brussels, 1937), pp. 226f.
97 K. Budde, Die altisraelitische Religion (3rd ed.: Giessen, 1912), pp. 45f., 137, n. 6.
as S. Mowinckel, "Kadesj, Sinai, og Jahve,” Norsk Geografisk Tidsskrift, 9 (1942),
pp. 21fL, which I know only through its citation in H. H. Rowley, From Joseph to
Joshua (The Schweich Lectures, 1948; London, 1950), p. 8, n. 1.
99 s. Mowinckel in the 2nd ed. of RGG, III, 1602, referring to P. Haupt in OLZ
12 (1909), p. 163. Mowinckel is right in saying that Haupt equates Hebrew hora
semantically with Arabic lawa, although specifically Haupt equates it with lawa’s
Form IV, alwa. But Haupt definitely does not say that ahva means “to give oracles,”
either in the reference given by Mowinckel or in Haupt’s related remarks in ZDMG
63 (1909), p. 522. The idea that Arabic alwa or lawa means “to give oracles” is
apparently Mowinckel’s own figment, and he himself seems later (in the article cited
in the preceding note) to have abandoned it for another interpretation of lawa.
E. Nielsen, Shechem: a Traditio-historical Investigation (Copenhagen, 1955), p. 266,
though, still cites Mowinckel (and Haupt) as holding lawa to mean "to give oracles.”
i°o E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstdmme (Halle, 1906), p. 426.

of inscriptions in which the word Zw3 and its feminine Zw3Z occur.101
The two words were at first thought to mean “priest" and “priestess,”
but H. Grimme demonstrated their real sense to be “person pledged for
a debt or a vow.”1012 Hblscher, writing without knowledge of Grimme's
correctives, accepted the substantial identity of the Minaean Zw3 and the
Hebrew lewi, with both meaning “priest,” using this as one of his prin¬
cipal arguments against the existence of a secular tribe of Levites.108
For Albright, following Grimme, the Zw3 of Dedan and the lewi of the
Bible were originally persons pledged or dedicated to a deity or a sanc¬
tuary, 104 but unlike Grimme, who emphasized the fact that at Dedan
the Zw3 and Zw3Z were ordinary people presented as votaries to the
Minaeans’ god Wadd, and not ministers of any kind, both Albright and
von Rad speak of these people as "temple personnel” like the Levites.10’5
The Danes Pedersen and Nielsen, too, have in mind the inscriptions of
Dedan when they see lewi meaning originally “consecrated to the tem¬
ple.” 106
Without doubt the interpretation of the material from Dedan has
done more than anything else to confuse the issue in the question of
Levitic origins. There are good reasons for stating not only that the Zw3
of the Dedan inscriptions is not at the origin of the Hebrew Levite but
that he does not even share a common origin with the Levite. The date
1000-900 B.C. given by Glaser in the last century for the Minaean colony
at Dedan is much too high; a date in the last half of the first millenium
B.C. is certain,107 and that fact in itself already reduces the possibility
of an Arabian origin for a Levitical institution as far as arguments based
on cognates go, since apart from the Dedan inscriptions there is no
question of a cognate for the Hebrew lewi in any North or South Arabic
dialect. Since the recently discovered inscriptions of the sixth century

101 D. H. Muller, Epigraphische Denkmdler aus Arabien (Denkschriften der phi-

los.-hist. Cl. der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, XXXVII; Vienna, 1889),
p. 42 (No. xvii), p. 45 (Nos. xxiii, xxiv) = RES, VI (Paris, 1935), Nos. 3351, 3356, 3357;
A. Jaussen and R. Savignac, Mission archeologique en Arabie (Paris, 1909-14), II, 261
(No. 12), 293 (No. 27) = RES, VI, No. 3697. The two inscriptions in Jaussen-Savignac
belong to a single text: cf. H. Grimme in Le Museon 37 (1924), pp. 187f. Cf. also
Jaussen-Savignac, op. cit., I, 253 (No. 2); II, 264f. (No. 14) = RES, VI, Nos. 3603, 3689.
102 H. Grimme, "Der siidarabische Levitismus und sein Verhaltnis zum Levitismus
in Israel,” Le Museon 37 (1924) 169-99. The same conclusion was reached independently
by. N. Rhodokanakis in H. Gressmann (ed.), AOT (2nd. ed.; Berlin-Leipzig, 1926),
p. 464, n. 1. . ,
103 G. Holscher, "Levi,” Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie der classischen Alter-
tumswissenschaft, XII/2 (Stuttgart, 1924), col. 2160.
104 Grimme, op. cit., pp. 171-91; W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion
of Israel (4th ed.; Baltimore, 1956 = 1st ed., 1942), p. 109.
i°5 Albright, op. cit., p. 204, n. 42; G. von Rad, Theologie des Alten Testaments
(Munich, 1958-61), I, 22, n. 20; cp. Grimme, op. cit pp. 180ff.
i°® J. Pedersen, Israel: Its Life and Culture (London-Copenhagen, 1926-40), II1-1V,
680, n. for p. 170; E. Nielsen, Shechem, p. 266.
ioi R. de Vaux, "'Levites' mineens et levites israehtes, in Lex tua Veritas (Fest¬
schrift Hubert Junker; Trier, 1961), pp. 265-73, with his bibliography.

Babylonian king Nabonidus have come to light to inform us of a pro¬

tracted sojourn he made at Teima near the location of the Dedan inscrip¬
tions, 108 and material has been found in the caves of Qumran which
preserves traditions both of Jewish presence at Teima with Nabonidus
and of elements of the Jewish diaspora in North Arabia not so very
long after the expedition of Nabonidus,109 there are grounds for believing
that the Jews who were certainly in the region of El-cUla long before
the advent of Islam were already there at the time of the Minaean
occupation which produced the inscriptions with the lw°. The hypothesis
that there were some Levites among these Jews is not excluded, and if
that should be so it would indicate that if there is any relation at all
between Zw3 and lewi it was the Minaean lw° which was derived from
the Hebrew lewi rather than lewi from Zw3.110 This is of no little moment
in clearing the air of the misapprehensions which have obscured the
quest for Levitic origins. The whole question of cultic and non-cultic
Levites has long been pulled out of perspective by the almost universally
supposed dependence of Hebrew usage on that reflected in the Minaean
inscriptions of Dedan.
The Bible itself uses the same form lewi for "Levite” and for Levi,
the name of the eponymous ancestor of the Levites. If "Levite” were
essentially an appellative, Levi's name would be derived from the name
describing the Levites’ class-function. But the name Levi is most prob¬
ably an authentic personal name, perhaps a hypocoristic form of Levi-El,
which occurs in the Mari texts as the Amorite name La-wi-El (written
La-wi-AN),111 and in Egyptian texts — which, having no Z, represent the Z

1018 Cf. C. J. Gadd, "The Harran Inscriptions of Nabonidus," Anatolian Studies 8

(1958) 35-92, especially pp. 81-88.
109 The documents in question are the fragment known as The Prayer of Nabo¬
nidus and that part of the Genesis Apocryphon which, inspired by Gen. 13:14-17,
recounts a dream of Abraham in which he goes to visit his descendants, with his
itinerary given. R. Meyer, Das Gebet des Nabonid (Sitzungsberichte der Sachsischen
Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig, Philos.-hist. Kl., CVII/3; Berlin, 1962),
weighing the historical questions involved, points out (pp. 105-12) that Abraham’s
journey amounts to a tour of the Jewish diaspora and that the configuration of
this tour fits the Achaemenid period (roughly 500-350 B.C.) better than the Seleucid
or Roman periods.
110 Cf. de Vaux, “Levites mineens," pp. 268ff, 272f.
in J.-R. Kupper, ARM, VI: Correspondance de Bahdi-Lim (Paris, 1954), 78:18.
A. Goetze, "Remarks on Some Names Occurring in the Execration Texts,” BASOR,
No. 151 (Oct. 1958), pp. 31f., explains the Lawi as an instance of the laqtul form
(jussive yaqtul preceded by the asseverative or optative l, probably vocalized la [la
yaqtul > l&qtull) which is apparent in a number of Amorite names each of which
occurs both with La- and with Ya-; among these pairs are the La-wi-AN of ARM,
VI, 78:18 and Ta-wi-AN of ARM, II, 66:15; VII, 227:8’; VIII, 5:21; 11:35; IX, 291 :ii :29;
cf. also G. Dossin, "Les archives economiques du Palais de Mari," Syria 20 (1939),
p. 109; C.-F. Jean, "Excerpta de la correspondance de Mari," Revue des etudes semi-
tiques (1939), p. 67. W. L. Moran, "Mari Notes on the Execration Texts,” Orientalia
26 (1957), pp. 342f., finds this same particle la before the final, theophoric, element
in other names compounded with Lawu-/Lawi- in the Mari texts and elsewhere in
the early 2nd millenium, e.g. La-wi-la-*IM (ARM, XV, p. 151 [II, 135:12]; C. J. Gadd,

in foreign names by r or 3 — as the foreign name rw5r (syllabic Ra-

wi- i-ra) for Lawi-^ila.112 The Patriarch Levi, then, would have a personal
name drawn from the stock of ancient personal names like those of the
other Patriarchs, and its etymology would do little if anything to cast
light upon the nature of, or history of, the tribe whose name was that
of the man whom their traditions held to be their ancestor. It may very
well be, in fact, that Levi is not an appellative but a personal name
which has come to be the gentilitial name of a secular tribe.113

B. The Historical Traditions of a Secular Tribe

In post-exilic Judaism, as we shall see, the term "Levite” had come

to be, in practice, the name of a class of men with certain religious

"Tablets from Chagar Bazar and Tall Brak, 1937-38,” Iraq 7 [1940], p. 40; to which
can be added now ARM, VI, 51:4; 52:4,19,20; IX, 6:10,13), [La)-wi-la-dDa-[gan] (ARM,
VII, 280:viii':17), La-wi-la-AN (ARM, VII, 112:8; 219:52; VIII, 82:5), La-u-la-a-da and
La-u-dIM (Wiseman, The Alalakh Tablets, p. 141), and the Egyptian transcription
3w3hddi in the execration texts studied by G. Posener, Princes et pays d’Asie et de
Nubie (Brussels, 1940), E21 (p. 76). H. B. Huffmon, Amorite Personal Names in
the Mari Texts (Baltimore, 1965), p. 225, objects, that Goetze’s explanation could apply
easily to Lawi-AN but not to these names with Lawu-/Lawi- followed by a second la.
It is true that no name in La-wi-la- is paralleled so far by one in Ya-wi-la-, but that
may be a matter of chance. It is also true that it is not easy to conceive of both
of the la's in La-wi-la- as filling exactly the same function, but might it not be pos¬
sible that the first la has a specifically optative function, the second la an intensive
or emphatic function ("indeed”)? Cf. F. Notscher, “Zum emphatischen Lamed,” VT
3 (1953) 372-80, and the analysis of Ugaritic usage in Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, § 9.16.
If so, a name like La-wi-la-dDa-gan would mean something like "May (the first la)
Dagan indeed (the second la)..."] the verbal root, with its meaning, can not be de¬
termined with certitude: for possibilities, cf. Huffmon, op. cit., p. 72. At any rate,
Goetze’s explanation of lawi as la-yawi > lawi would also help to explain the vocaliza¬
tion of Hebrew lewi with e: * la-yawi > *laywi (apocopation of the vowel following
the original word stress; cf. Bauer-Leander, Historische Grammatik der hebraischen
Sprache, § 12b) > lewi in Hebrew (on diphthongal ay > e in Canaanite generally,
and early, cf. Harris, Development of the Canaanite Dialects, pp. 29-32), but > lawi
in Amorite (on diphthongal ay > a in Amorite regularly, except when final, cf.
I. Gelb, “La lingua degli Amoriti,” Atti della Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei: Rendi-
conti della Classe di scienze morali, storiche e filologiche, Ser. 8, Vol. XIII (1958),
§ 2.4.3,4 [p. 149], or, without reckoning with any apocopation after word stress,
ibid., § 2.3.3. [p. 147]: -aya-f>a).
112 M. Burchardt, Die altkanaanaischen Fremdworte und Eigennamen im Agypti-
schen (Leipzig, 1909-10), II, 32 (No. 604), from a text of the reign of Rameses III
(early 12th century, B.C.); cf. W. F. Albright, The Vocalization of the Egyptian Syllabic
Orthography (American Oriental Series, V; New Haven, 1934), p. 8, n. 16; p. 35, No.
U3 The patriarchal ancestors of the twelve tribes are treated in the popular
legends as individual persons with personal names, but in these legends the ancestor
of a tribe, bearing a personal name which is at the same time the tribe’s gentilitial
name, is a witness not necessarily to the real existence of the tribal ancestor but
to the existence of the tribe with its own life, history, characteristics, distinct from
other tribes. "Der ‘Patriarch’ ist ein heros eponymus des Stammes oder Volkes,
der freilich in den Erziihlungen als individuelle Persbnlichkeit gedacht und geschildert
wird, aber doch gerade wie die arabischen Ahnherren, die Ideale, Eigentumlichkeiten
und Schicksale des von ihm vertretenen Kollektivs widerspiegelt” (J. Lindblom,
"Einige Grundfragen der alttestamentlichen Wissenschaft,” in Festschrift Alfred Ber-
tholet [Tubingen, 1950], p. 331).


functions, but the early traditions of Israel consider the Levites as con¬
stituting a tribe, although a tribe in reduced status. Levi finds his place
among the twelve sons of Jacob in Gen. 29:31 -30:24; 35:16fT.,23-26;
46:8-25; Exod. l:2ff.; Dt. 27:12f.; Ezek. 48:31-35; 1 Chr. 2: If., and Levi is
included among the twelve tribes of Gen. 49 and Dt. 33. To the witness
of this twelve-tribe schema with Levi apparent in it we can add the
twelve-tribe census list of Num. 26:5-51 + 58aba, if we accept Kurt M6h-
lenbrink’s theory that v. 58aba, with the Levites, is the continuation of
w. 5-51, with w. 52-56 a later insertion and w. 57 and 58b(3 a secondary
textual graft around 5 8aboc-114 This material bears forthright witness
to the tradition of an existence of the tribe of Levi, a tradition which
is all the more impressive when we remember that the tribe’s existence
with full tribal status must have been a fact at a relatively early stage
of Israel's history and that when the tradition took its present form Levi
as a full tribe must already have reached a state of relative dissolution.115
This tradition, found in a series of texts which includes very early texts,
is faced with another enumeration of the twelve tribes which omits Levi
and replaces Joseph with Ephraim and Manasseh (Num. 1:5-15,2043;
2:3-31; 7:12-83; 13:4-15; Josh. 13-19; 21:4-7,9-39). None of these latter
texts is old, and the entire series reflects not the tradition of twelve
tribes before settlement in Canaan but the actual situation obtaining
after settlement. The first series of texts, with Levi, is built on the tradi¬
tional list of the twelve eponymous sons of Jacob, the second series,
without Levi, on those tribes which actually held territory in Israel,
with the traditional number of twelve maintained.116 The old texts carry

114 K. Mohlenbrink, “Die levitischen Oberlieferungen des Alten Testaments," ZAW

52 (1934), p. 196.
ns Noth, Das System, pp. 33ff.
116A point very well made by Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, p. 62. Num. 26:5-51
must also be reckoned with the second series if one does not follow Mohlenbrink
in complementing it with Num. 26:58. On the original enumeration of tribes in
the geographical material of Joshua and its development, cf. M. Noth, Das Bitch
Josua (HAT, 1/7; 2nd ed., Tubingen, 1953), pp. 13ff. In the texts of Numbers (all P)
the presence of Simeon and Ruben is brought about by the need felt of having
the fixed traditional number of twelve. The tribes actually having territory were
ten, with Ephraim and Manasseh replacing the single eponymous Joseph. There were
three names which could be drawn from tradition to arrive at the number twelve:
of these, Simeon and Ruben were used in Numbers; Levi was not (in Dt. 33 Ruben
and Levi are used, Simeon is not), and the reason is surely to be found in tjiel
special place reserved for the Levites in all this P material of Numbers (cf. in the
proximate contexts of the texts belonging to the second series: Num. 1:48-54; 2:17;
3:1 - 4:49; 8:5-26). In fact, in P, after the Exile, the term “Levite” had already had
its sense altered from that of a tribal name to that of a name of functional class.
But not even P in Numbers was unaware of the old tribal Levites, nor did P deny
the term’s old tribal sense. In Num. 1:47 the census of the twelve tribes had been
completed, “but a census was not taken of the Levites according to their patriarchal
tribe along with them (the members of the other tribes)’’. Num. 1:49 also speaks
of the tribe of Levi, not to be counted with the others because it was set apart
for the service of the Dwelling, and Num. 2:17 places the camp of the Levites in
the midst of the camps of the other twelve tribes in such a way that, save for the

down the tradition from semi-nomadic times when the Levites were still
reckoned as a full tribe, and the younger group of texts, without Levi,
reflect the actual situation in a sedentarized Israel when full tribal status
could not be had without tribal territory. It is easy to understand the
later texts as products of their times. It is by no means easy to under¬
stand the earlier tradition with the Levites as a full tribe if they really
had no historical tribal identity, for there is no reason to make a tribe
of a group which is not one, and such an artificial procedure would not
catch hold readily in tribally conscious Israel.
But was the tribe of Levi a secular tribe, or was it a "priestly”
tribe from the very outset? 117 At the very stage of history when Levi
could still have been a tribe on more or less equal footing with the others,
it would have been a practical impossibility for an entire tribe to have
been functioning as priests,118 and indeed none of the texts listing Levi
as one of the twelve eponymous tribal ancestors distinguishes him in
any such way from the others. The saying on Levi in the Blessings
of Moses (Dt. 33:8-11) does make it clear that at the time those verses
were composed the Levites were closely identified with priestly functions,
but the text taking that direction is from the middle of the monarchical
period and reflects a more advanced stage of Levitical development.119
In the Blessings of Jacob, however — a complex which perhaps dates,
in its present form, from the late eleventh century12® — Simeon and
Levi are associated as "brothers” in the same judgement: for their deeds
of violence both are objects of divine displeasure which results in their

lack of census-figures for the Levites, the impression is almost given of thirteen
tribes. Gunneweg, op. dt., pp. 55f., shows the weaknesses in the attempts of Mo-
winckel and Hoftijzer to establish a greater antiquity for these tribal lists which omit
Levi than for those lists which include him.
ii7 Xo cite only some literature dealing directly with the subject: that the Levites
were ever a secular tribe has been denied by Holscher, “Levi," in Pauly-Wissowa,
Real-Encyclopadie, XII/2, 2160f., and Nielsen, Shechem, pp. 280-83; that Levi was
originally a secular tribe is held by Stade, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, I, 152-55,
Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstamme, pp. 426ff.; T. J. Meek, "Moses and
the Levites,” AJSL 56 (1939) 113-20; Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua, pp. 122ff.; also
Noth, Das System, p. 34, with his UP, p. 497, n. 503.
us Cf. Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, p. 58.
119 Cf. R. Tournay, “Le psaume et les benedictions de Moise," RB 65 (1958) 191-
210- also F. M Cross and D. N. Freedman, “The Blessing of Moses," JBL 67 (1948),.
p 203, n. 29, even though they hold a much greater antiquity for the Blessings of
Moses’ as a whole and for v. 11, too. They suggest that v. 11 may have been the
original blessing of Levi, with the rest added later. V. 11 has nothing specifically
priestly to say about the Levites. „„ ^
120 For this date, cf. W. F. Albright in CBQ 25 (1963), pp. 9f., who accepts the
conclusions of R. G. Boling partially published in JSS 5 (1960) 221-25. However
there are certainly many who will still prefer to leave the question of the date of
these Blessings open. Even working with the hypothesis of a later date, though,
forSfhe Blessing of Jacob in its present form, the text of vv. 5ff. would be very in¬
teresting for our present concerns, for it would manifest a perdunng tradition of
Levi as a secular tribe at a time when the Levites were pressing their claims to
nriestly work. On the other hand, the tradition behind the text of vv. 5ff. can be
older than the present form of vv. 5ff., or of the Blessing of Jacob as a whole.

being “divided in Jacob” and “dispersed in Israel” (Gen. 49:5fL). Levi

here appears as no less secular a tribe than Simeon.121 The Levites
were not a priestly tribe when the twelve-tribe schema took shape. They
were a secular tribe like the rest. Until after the Exile the Biblical
texts speaking of Levites still do so in the sense of a secular grouping,
no matter how much Levitical claim to priestly rights or Levitical exercise
of priestly functions the texts reflect or desire, although the justification
of that statement must depend on what we shall see as we continue
our historical examination. The existence of two groups, a secular tribe
and a later cultic group, with no real historical connexion between them,
would be quite inexplicable unless the name lewi as applied to at least
one of them were a descriptive appellative — which we have seen to be
unlikely — with the identity of name in the case of two such hetero¬
geneous groups thus being a purely fortuitous coincidence,122 which is
itself unlikely. The positive testimony of the Old Testament documents,
the corrected evaluation of the Dedan inscriptions which once were un¬
derstood as indicating that lewi might have been an appellative, and the
definite evidence that Levi existed in the Ancient Near East not as an
appellative but as the initial element of certain personal names, of which,
therefore, it could in all normality serve as a hypocoristicon, should be
enough to persuade us of the solid probability that there was a secular
tribe of Levi which bore that hypocoristic personal name as its gen-
tilitial name.
Nevertheless, we might do well to examine the arguments brought
forward by two outstanding proponents of the theory that there never
was a secular tribe of Levi and that the Levites were always a class of
cultic functionaries — Gustav Holscher and Eduard Nielsen.
Holscher's arguments are basically three in number: 123

121 Gen. 34:25f.,30f. also mention Simeon and Levi together, in a purely secular
context (the violence at Shechem), but these verses may be a later addition, inspired
by the association of Simeon and Levi in Gen. 49: so, with considerable differences
of detail, E. Konig, Geschichte der alt test ament lichen Religion (4th ed.; Giitersloh,
1924), p. 270; Mohlenbrink, "Die levitischen Oberlieferungen,” p. 228; Nielsen, She¬
chem, pp. 282f.; S. Lehming, “Zur Uberlieferungsgeschichte von Gen. 34,’’ ZAW 70
(1958) 228-50. In that case we could not safely use them as an independent witness.
On the other hand, the association of these two tribes, both in Gen. 34 and in
Gen. 49, may correspond to historical reality, the two of them being associated in
tradition because both are former full tribes, now of reduced status. We have no
real reason for questioning the presence of both Simeon and Levi together in the
nucleus of the tradition behind Gen. 49:5ff., and indeed just as the list of Levitical
clans in Num. 26:58 leads us to Judah (Hebron, Libnah), as does the information
on an individual Levite’s origin in Judg. 17:7 (Bethlehem), so, too, Simeon is associated
with Judah in Judg. 1:3,17 and Josh. 19:1-9 (“Simeonite’’ cities which are, in fact,
in Judaean territory).
122 Thus Noth, t)S, p. 197, n. 503, who speaks of an accidental identity of the
proper name LSwi and an appellative lewi applied to priests, an accidental identity
which might explain the change from a secular tribe to a "priestly” tribe. But Noth
is still under the influence of the old interpretation of the Dedan inscriptions and
their significance.
123 Holscher, “Levi,” cols. 2160f.

1) If around the time of Moses there were secular Levites in southern

Palestine who moved northward to become ''priests” in Israel and south¬
ward to become the “Levites” of Dedan, we would have a case in which
a gentilic name would have become an appellative name independently
in two distinct and independent regions, which would not be likely.
This argument falls because of what we now know of the Dedan
inscriptions, whose chronology alone makes it untenable.
2) Gen. 34 and Gen. 49:5ff. represent a purely aetiological saga, which
“does not exclude the priestly character of Levi.”
Whether we have to do here with an aetiological saga or not, the
fact in question, the fact which an aetiological saga would be trying to
explain, is that a tribe of Levi once existed, yet was in a state of dissolu¬
tion and dispersion as a tribe. It is true that this does not exclude
a priestly character for the Levites, but it is conversely true that the
priestly character of the Levites — or their claims to priestly privilege —
at a later stage does not exclude their original existence as a secular tribe.
3) The entire twelve-tribe system is artificial. The texts in the Bible
are from a time when the Hebrews had become sedentary in Canaan, and
the sedentarization must have brought about the dissolution of the divi¬
sions into tribes and families which belonged to the nomadic stage. Also,
the names of the twelve tribes are of different origin; some are gentilicia
from place names, others from personal names.
Although we may concede that the twelve-tribe system as such is
artificial, it need not follow that the tribes who entered into the system
were fictitious. Later texts can record traditions which hand on old
memories, and a sedentarized populace can retain old tribal loyalties.
In modern Palestine the Qaysi-Yamani division, which goes far back into
pre-Islamic times, is still reflected in family and village loyalties, marriage
customs, and simple economic allignments, which are even capable of
cutting across the great Moslem-Christian barrier when both Moslems
and Christians are Qaysi, or both Yamani. The differences in origin of
tribal names, too, have their analogies in the verifiable histories of modem
Transjordanian Arabs. The Sirhan Tribe bears a name derived from
the Wadi Sirhan in Upper Arabia, while the members of the Huwaytat
Tribe, who move back and forth along the Jordanian side of the frontier
between Jordan and Saudi Arabia, claim descent from an Egyptian named
Huwayt, although it is known that historically they are really the de-
scendents of some members of the Beni Atiyah Tribe who left their old
tribe to form an independent tribe some three hundred years ago.*24
We can not reach the origins of the tribe of Levi, but we need not deny
the fact of its existence any more than we can deny the fact of the
existence of today’s Huwaytat or Sirhan Tribes.

124 cf. G. L. Harris (ed.), Jordan (Survey of World Cultures, II; New Haven, 1958),
p. 56.

Nielsen’s arguments are not as easy to classify as Holscher's. Nielsen

says that “not a single Old Testament text outside Gen. 34 indicates the
existence of a Levite tribe acting as a secular group of clans” (the italics
are mine), while "not a few texts speak of ‘Levites’ as priests.”125 But
if we have the tradition of a tribe’s existing as one of a group of cer¬
tainly secular tribes (Levi as one of the twelve), must we have narrative
traditions of its acting as a secular tribe to be assured that it was one?
And for that matter what does it mean to act as a secular tribe? Would
not even a "priestly” tribe in many fields of action be acting in the same
way as any other tribe? Professor Nielsen propounds two alternative
explanations of the presence of Levi in Gen. 34 and Gen. 49 — explanations
whose hypothetical character he freely admits.126 According to his first
explanation, Simeon alone was in the narrative of Gen. 34 and the sentence
of Gen. 49:5fL; at a later date sanctuary priesthoods of the Northern
Kingdom, jealous of cultic Levites penetrating their domain, made Levitic
dispersion a curse and added Levi to Gen. 49:5fL, whence a similar addi¬
tion in Gen. 34 would have followed by harmonization. Without touching
the historical questions involved, we must observe only that the explana¬
tion avoids the issue of the history behind the dispersion of the Levites
and fails to explain how Levites could so easily have been made a secular
tribe like the Simeonites in the insertions, if there was no such tradition
existing in actual fact. But if Nielsen's first explanation omits the Levites
entirely from the original texts of Gen. 34 and 49 because, a priori, they
never existed as a secular tribe, his alternative explanation admits them
perfectly well, but only as priests inspiring or perhaps even accompanying
the Simeonites, again because, a priori, the Levites never existed as a
secular tribe. The evidence, on the contrary, is very much in favor of
their having once existed as a secular tribe, and there is no positive
evidence against their having so existed. Nor, as we shall see in the
course of our study, is there any real evidence that the later priestly
Levites were not members of this same tribe, until the name "Levite”
had come to have its meaning altered after the Exile.

las Nielsen, Shechem, pp. 280f.

126 Ibid., pp. 282f.
Chapter Two

Priests in Nascent Israel

In writing the history of peoples, social groups, customs, institutions,

the problem of chronological division must be faced, if the historian
wishes to put some sort of intelligible order into his presentation. In
writing the history of the priesthood in Israel the chronological divisions
will roughly be those of the history of Israel in general, because through
the great periods of patriarchal migrations. Mosaic foundations, Palestinian
settlement, monarchy, exile, post-exilic Judaism, the vicissitudes of Is¬
raelite social structure entailed a continual modification of the organiza¬
tion and functions of the cultic persons who found their place within it.
In handling the origins of the priesthood in Israel there is little to say
about the patriarchal period, for the simple reason that in the time of
the Patriarchs there was no clearly defined priesthood mentioned in
Biblical sources. We have already situated early Hebrew priesthood in
the general context of Ancient Near Eastern civilization. The initial his¬
torical problems involving that priesthood have to do with its relations
to Moses and with its development in amphictyonic Israel.1

I. Moses and Priesthood

Apart from Gen. 34, we have no historical information about Levites

in the Bible — other than on their existence as a tribe — until some of them
at least, including Moses’ family (Exod. 2:1), went down into Egypt. That
there were Levites in Egypt has been denied,2 and so has Moses’ mem¬
bership in the tribe,3 but the number of Egyptian names — Mera-

1 The amphictyonic interpretation of early Israel's political organization has now

become standard as a result of the studies of Albrecht Alt, Martin Noth, and W. F.
Albright, and we shall follow it here, although it has been questioned by H. M. Or-
linsky, “The Tribal System of Israel and Related Groups in the Period of the Judges,"
in Studies and Essays in Honor of Abraham A. Neuman (Leiden, 1962), pp. 375-87.
2 e g. by L. Waterman, “Some Determining Factors in the Northward Progress
of Levi,” JAOS 57 (1937) 375-80 and “Jacob the Forgotten Supplanter," AJSL 55 (1938)
2543. Cf. the reply of T. J. Meek, “Moses and the Levites,” AJSL 56 (1939) 113-20.
a Imnlicitlv by those who hold that there never was a secular tribe of Levi;
explicitly by L. Waterman, “Moses the Pseudo-Levite,” JBL 59 (1940) 397404; C. Steuer-
nagel, Die Einwanderung der israelitischen Stamme in Kanaan (Berlin, 1901), pp. 99-101

ri,* * * 4 Moses,5 Hophni and Phinehas 6 — found among Old Testament Levites
bears witness to some kind of strong cultural influence on the Levites
at some stage of their history. Now it is true that such influence need
not absolutely require any appreciable number of Levites to have been
actually in Egypt, and Moses’ Egyptian name does not prove that Moses
himself was actually in Egypt, but it does at least indicate that the
original Moses — and the Levites at some stage of their history — were,
if not in Egypt, at least in the desert area between Egypt and the arable
part of Palestine.7 Palestine in the Late Bronze Age was subject to
Egyptian hegemony, but the cultural influence of Egypt in Palestine at
that time did not go much beyond providing models for administrative
organization, to judge from the Amarna Letters, whose very language
was not Egyptian but rather bad Akkadian, although they were written
to the Egyptian court. In none of the land-holding tribes — in no Hebrew
group other than that of the Levites, in fact — do we find a tradition
of Egyptian personal names. There is no reason why the Egyptian names
given to Levites in the Old Testament should be artificially borrowed
ad hoc from Egypt by authors or compilers; none of them, except that
of Moses, occurs in any context which has an Egyptian past in mind.
Nor does any good reason come to mind for Hebrews in the desert
between Egypt and Palestine to have adopted Egyptian style in naming
their children, had they or their ancestors not actually been in Egypt
and the traditional names been adopted there. At any rate, there are
good indications that there were Levites in Egypt to take part in the
Exodus, and there is the Biblical tradition that Moses himself was one
of them. The problem now facing us is that of the beginnings of priestly
claims among the secular Levites after the Exodus, in Palestine. Did this
have something to do with the bond between Moses and the Levites,

(because of Steuemagel’s theory that only Rachel tribes came out of Egypt, Moses
would have belonged to the tribe of Jacob, and subsequently to that of Joseph);
H. Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit (FRLANT, XVIII; Gottingen, 1913), p. 214 (be¬
cause Moses failed to react to the loyalty of the Levites in Exod. 32:25-29 as would
befit a fellow tribesman!).
4 M. Noth, Die israelitischen Personennamen im Rahmen der gemeinsemitischen
Namengebung (BWANT, III/10; Stuttgart, 1928), p. 225, n. 9, attaches Merari to Arabic
mirra, “bodily strength; gall” (from marra, “to be bitter"; in Form VI “to fight"),
but the Egyptian proper name mrry, or mrrl is well attested for the Egyptian Old
and Middle Kingdoms: cf. H. Ranke, Die dgyptischen Personennamen (Gliickstadt,
1935), I, 162, No. 22. Ranke does not analyse the name, but I should thing it probably
a hypocoristicon formed by the common hypocoristic ending -1 (often -y, especially
in the Middle Kingdom) added to a short-name mrr (imperfective, geminating sdm.f
of mrl “to love”) from some full-name like the mrr.wl k3.l (“My Ka loves me”)
listed in Ranke, loc. cit., No. 27.
s Cf. J. G. Griffiths, “The Egyptian Derivation of the Name Moses,” JNES 12
(1953) 225-31.
e Hophni and Phinehas as Egyptian names will be discussed in the section on
the Elides below, pp. 70-71.
7 Noth, VS, p. 178f.

and was perhaps Moses a priest, or portrayed as a priest in Israelite

tradition, so that Levitical claims to preference in priestly work could
be based on such a tradition?

A. Moses a Priest?

For Holscher, who takes "Levite” as invariably synonymous with

“priest,” Moses, "the only Levite the old saga knows,” is necessarily
a priest,8 but we have already had occasion to note that the two terms
are not of themselves synonymous, and the rest of our study will abun¬
dantly confirm that, we trust.

1. The "Priestly” Complex (P)

Those texts of P which justify the claims of the group calling them¬
selves "Aaronides” to the rights of exclusiveness in priestly functions at
the expense of all other groups, including "the levites” (in its late sense
as a name of subordinate function), insist that only Aaron and his
descendants can be legitimate priests (Exod. 28:1,43-; Num. 3:10). P, ac¬
cordingly, in the later stages of Pentateuchal growth, never calls Moses,
Aaron’s brother, a priest. In the two passages of P, however, which
depict the priestly inauguration of the Aaronides, Aaron and his sons lay
their hands on the victims in the series of sacrifices which form a part of
this "ritual of ordination” (Exod. 29:10,15,19; Lev. 8:14,18,22), whereas
Moses immolates the victims and performs the ritual acts which involve
the manipulation of blood (Exod. 29: llf.,16,20f.; Lev. 8:15,19,23f.). The
significance of this is found by comparing the general prescriptions for
sacrifice which belong to the same stratum in P as Exod. 29: 9 it is the
man who makes the offering who both lays his hand on the victim and
immolates the victim, and it is the priests (always "the sons of Aaron”)
who manipulate the blood (Lev. 1:4f.; 3:2,8,13; cf. 4:5ff., 5:9, etc.). So
Moses, in "ordaining” the Aaronides, is portrayed as accomplishing those
parts of the sacrificial ritual which are reserved strictly to the priests, and
since this inauguration of the Aaronides lasted seven days (Exod. 29:35)
G. B. Gray has written of Moses' "priesthood of a week.” 10
Many details of these accounts are drawn from the liturgy of the
monarchical period and applied anachronistically to the desert period.

s Holscher, ‘‘Levi,’’ col. 2160. For E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbar-
stdmrne, p. 78, Moses is a priest as well as a secular Levite.
9 K. Koch, Die Priesterschrift von Exodus 25 bis Leviticus 16 (FRLANT, LXXI;
Gottingen, 1959), p. 48; Lev. 8 would, according to Koch (contrary to Ewald and Well-
hausen), be later than Lev. 1-7 (cf. pp. 67fL). The primitive form of the ritual
used by P in Lev. 1 and Exod. 29:15-18, however, would be more closely followed in
Lev. 1 than in Exod. 29: cf. p. 26.
10 G. B. Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament (Oxford, 1925), p. 196.

Koch would see the possibility, though, that the substance of these details
had been handed down from the ancient days in some place of worship
other than Jerusalem, with Aaron’s figure rooted in the tradition but
Moses’ figure added and intermingled quite late.11 That Aaron was
present in the tradition for a long time without Moses, however, is
open to objection, for if we remove the figure of Moses from the present
accounts we are left with Aaron and his sons being inaugurated as priests
by no one, while it is clear that P wishes to show the necessity of their
being ritually purified by someone before they can approach the altar,12
and in Lev. 8 the problems of the sacrificial ritual are insoluble unless
it is recognized that Moses is acting as a priest with Aaron and his sons
acting not as priests at all but as sacrificing worshippers.13 In both
of these passages, if Moses is removed while Aaron is retained, a member
of the dramatis personae essential for the action is lost: Aaron without
Moses is insufficient, for the chief priest can not be installed by another
priest when, as the present narratives require, no priests have yet been
made. Did not the texts perhaps receive their present shape with P's
introducing both Moses and Aaron with his sons in a description based
on traditional ritual, with the direct purpose of showing a Mosaic origin
for the Aaronide priesthood? The motive for doing so would be simply
the desire to express in this particular matter, as in so many others,
the theological idea that Moses is at the origin of Israel’s religious
institutions in general; it might, in addition, have been inspired by an
older Levitical tradition basing Levitical priestly claims on an origin with
a priestly Moses. What historical fact there might be behind the narrative
escapes the control of both the historian's and the traditio-historian’s

2. Exodus 24:3-8

In an older text, Exod. 24:3-8, Moses, having announced to the people

the terms of the covenant which Yahweh had just proposed to him in
the theophany of Sinai, and having received their acceptance by acclama¬
tion, builds an altar, orders young men to send up holocausts and immolate
young bulls for sacrifices of communion or peace-offerings, then casts half
the blood of the victims against the altar and half upon the people. The
text itself is not a recent one,14 and it contains a number of archaic

11 Koch, op. cit., p. 32.

12 ibid., p. 70.
13 W. B. Stevenson, "Hebrew c01ah and Zebach Sacrifices," in Festschrift Alfred
Bertholet (Tubingen, 1950), p. 496.
14 From the standpoint of literary criticism the passage is uncertain. Eissfeldt,
Introduction, p. 201, assigns it to E. Noth, VP, p. 33, n. 115, suspects that it is a
secondary appendix to the Book of the Covenant, while M. Haelvoet, "La theophanie
du Sinai: analyse litteraire des recits d’Ex. xix-xxiv," ETL 29 (1953), pp. 374f., 394,
believes it belongs to the original basis of Exod. 19-24. J. L’Hour, "L’alliance de

details which show a great age for its original tradition: the blood-rite
is unique in the Old Testament for its similarity to ancient Arabian
blood-rites.15 If the tradition were a recent one, Moses might be said
to appear as a priest, for he builds an altar and he engages in blood-
manipulation, which in later Israelite ritual was reserved to priests. But
the traditions here are early, and the blood-manipulation is not that
provided for in the prescriptions of P, which pertain to the ritual of
sacrifices made by individual worshipers through the mediation of a priest.
Nor was the building of an altar reserved to priests in early times:
the Patriarchs did so regularly when they wished to offer their non-priestly
sacrifices (Gen. 12:7f.; 13:18; 22:9; 26:25; 33:20; 35:7).
This text is clearly a text having to do with covenant-making rather
than sacrifice, and although the sacrifices described are real sacrifices
— and covenant-sacrifices at that16 — the blood-rite seems rather to be
inspired by the non-sacrificial blood-rites of ancient Semitic religion,
amalgamated here with the covenant-sacrifices,17 and such blood-rites
were performed not by priests but by kings and chieftains.18 Moses
appears in Exod. 24:3-8 less as a priest than as a leader, as the represen¬
tative of his people in relation to God, like the kings of more developed
Semitic civilizations, and especially like the mukarribun of the early
theocracies which preceded the kingdoms of South Arabia — rnen who
were first and foremost chieftains, so much so that any priestly character
has been denied them with the possible exception of the mukarribun of
Hadramaut.19 Maria Hdfner has recently shown that these chieftains
had a very special function: that of covenant-making between their god
and their people, an activity which was political in that the whole
social and economic order of their primitive theocratic state was founded
on such covenants, but which was essentially a cultic function.20 This is
very much the way Moses is shown in Exod. 24:3-8. Whether we call his
activity priestly or not depends on what we understand by "priestly.”

Sichem," RB 69 (1962), pp. 355-61, holds Exod. 24:3-8 to be a text whose purpose
is to attach the Code of the Covenant artificially to Sinai, and an implicit corollary
to this would be that Moses’ presence in the text is artificial and late (for L’Hour
the attachment of the Code to Sinai is post-Deuteronomistic). Noth, VP, p. 6, holds
this text to be one of those which ultimately defies sure literary analysis,
is G. Quell in TWNT, II (Stuttgart, 1935), p. 117.
i« D. J. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant (Analecta Biblica, XXI; Rome, 1963),
pp. 162f.
17 Ibid., p. 173.
is A good illustrative example is to be found in the treaty published by E. F.
Weidner, “Der Staatsvertrag Assumiraris VI. von Assyrien mit MatPilu von Bit-Agusi,"
AfO 8 (1932/33), p. 19, 1:10-14: the covenant is made by kings for their whole peoples,
and the blood-rite is no part of a sacrifice but a rite of guarantee. The text may
also be consulted in McCarthy, op.cit., p. 195.
10 J. Ryckmans, L’institution monarchique en Arabie meridionale avant l Islam
(Bibliotheque du Museon, XXVIII; Louvain, 1951), p. 99.
20 m. Hofner, "War der sabaische Mukarrib ein 'Priesterfiirst'?," WZKM 54 (1957)


His activity does not fit our understanding of the terms, nor even that
which the term had in Israel, but in primitive Semitic society matters
were far less clear-cut than in our civilization, with its line of demarca¬
tion between the sacral and the profane so neatly marked.

3. Exodus 18

Another text which might show us a Moses with certain priestly

traits is Exod. 18, which tells of the meeting of Moses and his father-in-law
Jethro, the “priest of Midian.” The episode in the present text is divided
into two scenes. In the first, when Moses has given Jethro an account
of the good things Yahweh did for his people in bringing them out of
Egypt, Jethro utters a confessio, then “takes a holocaust and sacrifices
(made) to God,” and Aaron and the elders of Israel partake of a meal
with Jethro, “in the presence of God” (v. 12). In the second scene
(vv. 13-26) Jethro, seeing great numbers of the people pressing around
Moses from morning until evening to bring their problems before him,
asks Moses solicitously how he goes about handling the concerns of the
people by himself. Moses replies that the people come to him “to
consult God” (lidros eldhim), and that he gives them statutes and torot
from God (vv. 15f.). Jethro warns Moses that he will exhaust himself
if he continues to burden himself with so much work, and advises him
to continue bringing affairs of the people before God, but to depute
other men as officials of the people to make decisions in matters of
justice (w. 17-23). This Moses does, and Jethro sets off on his journey
There is much that speaks for this narrative’s antiquity.21 The
warm relations between Moses and his father-in-law, a Midianite who even
gives advice to the hero of Israel, would not likely have been the narrative
embellishment of a story-teller who lived very long after the settlement
in Canaan, for the subsequent history of Israelite-Midianite relations
became one of hostility and war. (Num. 31; Judg. 6-8). The entire
episode is evocative of semi-nomadic and semi-sedentary culture rather
than of the later culture of sedentary Israel.22 For our present purposes
there are two elements of the episode to consider: the sacrifice and

21 From a traditio-historical viewpoint, Noth, VP, pp. 184ff., considers w. 1-12

— minus 8b|3-ll (cf. p. 39, n. 138) — to hand down one of the most ancient tradi¬
tions on Moses; cf. also pp. 150-54 and, for vv. 13-26, p. 155. He reasons that the
relations between Moses and a Midianite father-in-law constitute a tradition so dif¬
ficult to separate from the figure of Moses that it must be placed at the earliest
stage of the formation of Mosaic traditions. He considers the second scene, how¬
ever, to be only loosely connected to the first, and Jethro’s presence therein to be,
consequently, secondary.
22 Compare the scenes in Exod. 18 with the description of the Arabian manasik
given in H. Lammens, “Les sanctuaires preislamites dans l'Arabie occidentale," pp. 149f.

meal in v. 12 and the consultation of Yahweh in v. 15 with its context

of vv. 13-26.
Gressmann, by reconstructing the episode so that instead of Jethro’s
coming to Moses, Moses would have come to Jethro in Kadesh for the
express purpose of learning the priestly art, sees the sacrifice in v. 12
as Jethro’s demonstration to his pupil,23 but if this text is meant to show
Moses’ priestly initiation, why is he not mentioned, while Aaron and the
elders are? It might be surmised that he is not there because v. 12
is a fragment showing the priestly initiation not of Moses but of Aaron,24
but then why are the elders there? To this one might answer that
the elders alone were originally in such a fragment, but that Aaron, a
priestly figure, was introduced because the elders did not suffice as the
representatives of Israel at a sacrifice and cultic meal; 25 but as we
shall see later, when we discuss the figure of Aaron in relation to the
Aaronides, Noth's view that Aaron is not a priest in the early traditions
and that in Exod. 18:12 he is not meant to appear as a priest seems
to be correct.26 Are not the sacrifice and meal elements of a covenant¬
making ceremony between Moses, in behalf of the Israelites, and Jethro,
in behalf of the Midianites? 27 The sacrifice and covenant meal appear
to be a normal part of the ceremony for covenant-making between equals,28
and we have a close parallel in Gen. 31:44-54, where we see the sacrifice
and the meal in the covenant made between Jacob and Laban, with
one of the parties — Laban — not mentioned in direct connexion with the
sacrifice, and neither Jacob nor Laban mentioned in direct connexion
with the meal, in which only the brethren, like the elders and Aaron in
Exod. 18:12, are mentioned (Gen. 31:54). If this is so, the figure of Moses
implicitly present in Exod. 18:12 is not priestly, and the text is not
meant to justify Levitical claims.
The second element for us to consider in the episode of Jethro’s
visit to Moses is that of the consultation of Yahweh and the appointment
of the officials. We have already had occasion to observe that oracular

23 Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit, pp. 162-68; cf. also Gray, Sacrifice in the Old
Testament, p. 208. .
24 So, R. Knierim, "Exodus 18 und die Neuordnung der mosaischen Gerichts-
barkeit,” ZAW 73 (1961), p. 153, for whom the verse would be a fragment of a
Levitical cult-aetiology. This depends on Aaron’s figuring here as a Levitical figure,
which, agreeing with Noth, VP, pp. 197f., I do not believe to be the case in any
text that is this old.
25 Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, p. 86.
26 Noth, VP, pp. 197f. Noth, though, would admit the possibility of the (non-
priestly) Aaron's presence in Exod. 18:12 as secondary (p. 196).
27 This suggestion has been made by C. H. W. Brekelmans, "Exodus xvm and
the Origins of Yahwism in Israel,” Oudtestamentische Studien 10 (1954) 215-24, who
also refers (p. 218, n. 5) to the commentaries on Exodus by Strack (1894), von Hum-
melauer (1897), and Heinisch (1934).
as On sacrifice and covenant meal, cf. McCarthy, Treaty and Covenant, pp. 172t.
As for the meal’s significance: "The covenant meal means admission into the family
circle of another” (ibid., p. 173).

consulation was the characteristic activity of early Hebrew priesthood

and, in fact, its only cultic activity actually known to us. Do we at last
here find a specifically priestly trait in an old tradition portraying Moses?
Eduard Meyer considers the episode a reflection of an early situation
in which Levitical priests were enjoying a position of theocratic superiority
over the secular officials, as sole legitimate mediators between Yahweh
and the people.29 This is unconvincing. The Levites as a group do not
enter into the scene at all; in the Pentateuchal narratives the function
of Moses is never that of an individual representing all Levites the way
Aaron later represents all Aaronides, and there is no attempt to underplay
the officials appointed to act in judgement. These men are, on the
contrary, said to be men chosen for their ability (w. 21a, 25a), and the
distinction between the cases they handle and those reserved to Moses
is not based on the importance of the cases but on their difficulty, and,
hence, on the way the judgement is to be made — by prudence on the
part of the officials, by consultation of Yahweh in the cases handled by
Moses. For Gressmann, the Midianites were the instructors of the
Hebrews, and Jethro came for the particular purpose of bringing Midianite
institutions to the Israelites;30 Exod. 18:13-26 would be an aetiological
narrative setting out to explain the beginnings of both the priestly oracle
with tora and the Israelite political organization.31 Gressmann is doubt¬
lessly right in saying that the story as it stands is aetiological; nevertheless,
what the story sets out to explain is really not oracular consultation by
Hebrew priests but certain aspects of Hebrew legal jurisdiction.32 Moses’
consultation is not being explained, because he was already practicing
it when Jethro offered his advice leading to the establishment of inferior

29 E. Meyer, Die Israeliten und ihre Nachbarstdmme, p. 98.

30 Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit, p. 174; for the subject as a whole: pp. 168-80.
Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament, pp. 204-08 follows Gressmann’s treatment very
si Gressmann, op. cit., pp. 173f.
32 This is well borne out by Knierim, op. cit., passim.
33 Gray, op. cit., p. 207, objects that in the present narrative “what Jethro rec¬
ommends Moses to do himself Jethro is said already to have watched Moses doing
— viz. referring (difficult) cases to God for decision,’’ and that “this is obviously
unnatural, nor can it be legitimately avoided by explaining the first part of Jethro’s
advice to mean ‘go on referring cases to God as you have been doing,’ for the
crucial words are simply not in the text." But the crucial words do not need to be
in the text; the sense is clear enough without them. Popular speech is not that
attentive to logical niceties, and plenty of examples of the same construction (“Do x\
but do y besides" — when x is already being done and only y is a new departure)
can be heard in the popular elliptic speech of many tongues. The initiative in
consulting God is not presented as coming from Jethro. Gray’s interpretation rests
on his principle that "priestly revelation that comes in response to seeking rests
on a craft; and a craft is either discovered or learnt” (loc. cit.)-, cf. the same idea
with Th. Noldeke in Hasting’s Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, I, 667, and
M. Weber, Gesammelte Aufsatze zur Religionssoziologie, III: Das antike Judentum
(2nd ed.; Tubingen, 1923), who speaks of “ein gelernter Berufsstand" (p. 182) and

But what of this consultation itself, even if it is not the point of

the aetiology? Is it, after all, a priestly trait? This is not easy to answer.
The text actually speaks only of the people coming to consult God, and
the verb used is daras. It is evident that they did so through Moses,
but only implicitly evident, for nothing is said about the way Moses
directly consulted God. We have seen that the direct consultation charac¬
teristic of the early Hebrew priests was that particular kind of "oracular”
consultation which was done with urim and thummim, resulting in an
answer which was basically "yes” or "no”, and that the verb used for
this action was scPal, not daras. When the verb daras is used of consulting
God in contexts which allow us to see clearly who the agents are, it is
always used of the action of those who consult God through the medium
of a prophet (1 Sam. 9:9; 1 Kgs. 14:5, 22:5,8; 2 Kgs. 3:11; 8:11; 22:11-20);
such is also the case when the divinity consulted is a false god (2 Kgs.
1:2-16). But these texts are all from the period of the divided monarchy
(1 Sam. 9:9 is a patent gloss), and most of them belong to the cycles
of Elijah and Elisha. By this time priests were giving up their primitive
oracular consultation,34 and in the latest of these texts (2 Kgs. 22:11-20)
one of the men sent by the king to have God consulted through the
prophetess was himself a priest. We have no texts in the Bible which
use this verb daras of consultation through a priest. The other verb,
saPal, is used of divine consultation in Joshua, Judges, and in the traditions
on Saul, the Rise of David, and the Succession to David in the Books of
Samuel, but not in the texts dating from the divided monarchy. It is
difficult to see whether scPal can be used of asking another, as mediator,
to consult Yahweh. It appears that the agent of the verb consults God
directly, although in 1 Sam. 28:6 the verb seems genetically to cover
consultation through dreams, oracular urim, and the agency of prophets.
There is no point in delving into still later texts, but we must return to the
early texts to note that in the early Pentateuchal narratives (J and E)
daras is used of consulting Yahweh only here in our present text and
in Gen. 25:22, which really sheds no light on our problem.35 The verb
sa?al is not used at all of consultation in J or E.
The mention of Moses’ giving torn, which almost certainly has a
priestly connotation, is made in two places (w. 16b and 20) which seem to
be added to the original text, whether the addition was made by the

of "xiberlegene rituelle Schulung” (p. 181) in dealing with sacrificing and oracle-con¬
sulting priests, even in the primitive period. But the Patriarchs and the Arabian
patresfamilias certainly sacrificed without extensive ritual schooling, and much the
same can be said of the generalized oracular consultation which appeared in cer¬
tain parts of ancient North Arabia (cf. Ibn al-Kalbi, The Book of Idols, pp. 30, 41).
34 De Vaux, Les institutions, II, 205. _
35 Baudissin, Geschichte, p. 262, would see a priest mvolved in Rebekah s con¬
sultation (Gen. 25:22f.), but he does so gratuitously, and the text tells us nothing
whatever about how Rebekah’s consultation was made.

Pentateuchal editor or by a later hand.36 At that stage an element of

priesthood is present, reflecting the element of priesthood in the judicial
system of the later monarchy, but if the addition of vv. 16b and 20 made
the element of priesthood explicit, it may well have done so on the
basis of what was already understood as being implicit in the existing text.
At an earlier period, the period of the old narrative’s formation, people
may quite conceivably have gone to priests at a sanctuary, most probably
the amphictyonic sanctuary, to seek judgement through a priest.37 The
verb used for such an action may have been the daras used later for
recourse to prophets, and priests — at least at the central sanctuary —
may not have limited their consultation of Yahweh to that done by lot¬
casting. If this is so — but it can be no more than a hypothesis —
then we do have a trace of a priestly trait in Moses' figure as it is drawn
in this particular tradition. That may or may not mean that the historical
Moses appeared in this way, but it is a fairly good indication that some
priesthood, and probably that of the amphictyonic shrine where Mosaic
institutions were supposed to be continued, exercised judgement in difficult
cases by consulting Yahweh.

4. Traditional Traits in Moses’ Portrait

It is difficult to find an authentically priestly trait, a trait borrowed

from those of early Israelite priests, that is present with certainty in the
early traditions on Moses. Ps. 99:6, whether one reads it to mean that
both Moses and Aaron were priests or not, can not with confidence be
adduced as an early text. The picture of Moses in the early Pentateuchal
traditions shows many primitive features redolent of a society that is
still semi-nomadic, and these features must surely have been painted by
narrators not too far removed from such society. To have recourse once
again to the old Arabian sources which provide our main basis for
comparison with the early Israelites, Moses is portrayed as an important
figure who is at the same time a leader of his people (sayyid), a wise
man or arbitrator (hakam), and a cultic personage who, in some way or
other, is able to receive supernatural communications (kahin).3S In the
tradition of Exod. 18:13-26 he is receiving the problems of his people for
arbitration, like the hakam in the pre-Islamic mandsik, and solving some

36 Cf. Knierim, "Exodus 18 und die Neuordnung der mosaischen Gerichtsbarkeit,"

pp. 154f., 167.
si This hypothesis has been advanced by M. Noth, The History of Israel (2nd ed.;
London, I960), p. 102.
as Another old tradition showing the people coming to "seek God" through Moses,
in a sanctuary (the desert tent), is found in Exod. 33:7fT., but the verb in the ex¬
pression "to seek God” in this text is neither daras nor safal but biqqes, which
in classical Hebrew suggests the kind of seeking one does in applying for an audi¬
ence with an important personage in the place where he holds court (1 Kgs. 10:24;
2 Chr. 9:23; Prov. 29:26), hence, with God — implicitly, at least, in a sanctuary

of them by having recourse to God, like the pre-Islamic kdhin.39 The

similarities can be detected in the figure of Moses elsewhere in the
Pentateuch. The Arabian kdhin was often a healer,40 and we have but to
remember Moses and the strange narrative of the brazen serpent (Num.
21:4-9). The Arabian kahin-hakam would preside over contests of might,
which had a sacral aura about them, and which would be followed by
a sacrifice, 41 and we might think of the struggle between the Israelites
and the Amalekites in Exod. 17, with Moses presiding over the struggle
(the signals of a man presiding over a contest of pre-eminence being held
to have a sort of magic power) 42 and building an altar after its conclusion
(Exod. 17:8-15). Again, it was the kahin-hakam who made the grave
decisions regulating the breaking of camp and the movements of the
nomadic tribes,43 and we have the whole history of Moses and the desert
wandering as a parallel.
These comparisons will help to show that the old Pentateuchal figure
of Moses is one drawn not long after the settlement in Canaan at the
latest, at the stage of tradition where alone we might hope to catch some
early tradition of a priestly Moses, but an Arabian kdhin was not the
equivalent of an Israelite kohen, and Moses does not appear in any way
that clearly makes him a priest. Indeed these traditions on the figure of
Moses, full of nomadic color, are probably prior to that stage of seden-
tarization when the Canaanite word kohen had become fixed in Hebrew
vocabulary. The real significance of this conclusion is that the truly
ancient traditions on Moses preserved for us do not offer any evidence
of an aetiological attempt to trace the origins of Hebrew priesthood to
a Moses who was himself a priest, and the more recent ones have no
historical reliability.44 The tradition that Moses was a Levite (Exod. 2: If.)

(Dt. 4:29; 2 Sam. 12:16; 21:1; 1 Chr. 16:10; 2 Chr. 7:14; 11:16; 20:4; Isa. 51:1; Jer.
50:4; Hos. 3:5; 5:6,15; Zeph. 1:6; 2:3; Zech. 8:21f.; Pss. 24:6; 27:8; 83:17; 105:3f.;
Prov. 28:5; and here in Exod. 33:7). Once, in Amos 8:12, it is used of people seeking
the prophetic word of God, and once, in Lev. 19:31, of having shameful recourse
to wizards, but the verb biqqes itself implies no particular relation either to prophetic
or to priestly intervention, and Moses in this text still has the traits of an Arabian
kdhin but not of a Hebrew kohen.
sa Cf. Grohmann, Arabien, p. 88.
40 Lammens, L'Arabie occidentale avant VHegire, p. 160.
41 Ibn HiSam, Sirat ar-rasul, 92, 284, in Lammens, op. cit., p. 135, n. 4.
42 E Meyer, Die Israeliten and ihre Nachbarstamme, p. 72, and Gressmann, Mose
und seine Zeit, p. 156, have seen this aspect of Moses’ figure in Exod. 17. Of course,
Moses with his rod appears elsewhere, too, as a sort of Yahwist magician: cf. Exod.
4■ 2ff • 7-9-12 (the rod transformed into a serpent); 15:25 (the rod which sweetens
the waters of Marah). Cf. also Moses and the brazen serpent of Num 21:6-9
43 H. Lammens, Le berceau de I'Islam (Rome, 1914), p. 267; in old North Arabia,

too, the portable sanctuary led the way.

44 This reserved, if not negative, conclusion is in contrast to the positive con¬

clusions arrived at not only by Gressmann Meyer ^Ve already

cited but also by C. Hauret, “Moise etait-il pretre? Bibhca 40 (1959) 509-21, E. Jacob,
cited'by Hauret, p. 520, n. 2; R. J. Sklba, The Teaching Function of the Pre-Exihc
Israelite Priesthood (Rome, 1965), p. 38.


does not alter this particular conclusion, because to be a Levite was not
the same thing as to be a priest.

B. Moses and the Levites

Even if Moses himself was not himself a priest, or not demonstrably

a priest, did he, nevertheless, have something to do with the rise of
Levitical claims to preference in priestly functions? Adolphe Lods, who
admits the historical existence of the Levites as a secular tribe, sees in
the cultic Levites men who retained a certain sacred prestige which came
from the "attachment of their fathers to Kadesh, the cradle of the
religion of Yahweh.” 45 The question of Kenite influence on Israelite
worship through Levites at Kadesh is open to dispute, 46 but even though
a direct Kenite or Midianite origin of Israelite priesthood itself is by no
means certain,47 Lods' insight may be fundamentally right. Whether
we accept Moses’ Egyptian name as a sign of his having been in Egypt or
not, it at least leads us to the region south of Palestine proper. The
pronounced semi-nomadic character of the ancient traditions centered
around the historical Moses lead us in the same direction. In the search
for information on early Levites the tradition of Egyptian names also
leads us in the same direction, as do two of the Levitical clan names in
the old schema of Num. 26:58 ("Libnite” and "Hebronite” leading us to
southern Palestine), and the name of a third clan, that of the Mushites,
may already indicate an early tradition of kinship between Moses and
the Levites (if must is a nisbeh-form from mose).
Even Professor Noth, who is sceptical about the historicity of Moses’
being in Egypt and in the wanderings in the desert, but who admits that
Moses was an historical person, finds that Moses appears very early in
Pentateuchal traditions, that he grew popular primarily in the South,
but that it was from central Palestine that his popularity really spread out
through all Israel. 48 Now the priests in charge of the central sanctuary
of amphictyonic Israel, with its Ark, eventually established at Shiloh,

45 A. Lods, Israel des origines au milieu du VIIIs siecle (Paris, 1930), p. 512.
46 Cf. Rowley, From Joseph to Joshua, pp. 148-60. Rowley accepts the Kenite
hypothesis, but gives the essential biblography for both sides. There is much to
be said for the possibility of such influence, but the specifically formative in¬
fluence is not to be found there: cf. R. de Vaux, "Israel (Histoire d’),” DB Sup pi,
IV (Paris, 1949), col. 736: “L'etablissement de la nouvelle religion qui devait rester
jusqu’au bout celle d’lsrael ne trouve pas d’explication suffisante dans les influences
etrangeres et le milieu du desert. Le Yahvisme se rattache davantage aux croyances
des Hebreux pre-israelites de 1’epoque patriarcale; il a pu emprunter certaines formes
aux cultes voisins, mais l’esprit qui les anime est radicalement nouveau et cette
eclosion d’une religion monotheiste est un evenement qui echappe aux explications
de l'historien: celui-ci s'arrete devant le mystere de la Revelation.”
47 For a recent negative view, cf. Y. Kaufmann, The Religion of Israel, tr. by
M. Greenberg (Chicago, 1960), p. 244.
48 VP, pp. 178-91.

were most probably Levites, as we hope to show later.49 Were these

Levites at the central sanctuary those who carried the traditions of their
kinsman Moses into central Palestine, where they contributed to the
popularity and the spread of Mosaic traditions? And did these Mosaic
traditions also contain a tradition on the entrusting of Ark and worship
into the hands of Levites? The narrative of Moses' making the Levites
priests which is preserved partially in Exod. 32:25-29 accords with such a
tradition. If this is the case, we can readily understand both why Mosaic
traditions spread out from central Israel (the amphictyonic center) and
why the Levites came to be desirable as priests. 50
The texts which seem to show a priesthood already existing — or soon

49 Noth, Das System, pp. 65ff., expounds the hypothesis that Shechem was the
earliest sanctuary of Yahweh in Palestine after the Exodus, where it was the shrine
of the Israelite Covenant. A. Alt, Die Urspriinge des israelitischen Rechts (Berichte
fiber die Verhandlungen der Sachsischen Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Leipzig,
Phil.-hist. Kl. LXXXVI/1; Leipzig, 1934), p. 62 (= KS, pp. 324f.), agrees with Noth
in this, and insists that Dt. 27, because of its form and content, is ancient, con¬
serving authentic memories of a sacral event. According to Dt. 27:14 — and perhaps
28:9 also, altough the expression hak-kohdnim hatewiyim might make one suspect
a specifically Deuteronomic influence in the text — the Levites have an important
role in this sacral event. G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy (Studies in Biblical
Theology, IX; London, 1953), p. 41, sees the section beginning with Dt. 27:12 as a
text whose Gattung is that of a cultic celebration, celebrating the Covenant Festival
of the amphictyony at Shechem. Dt. 27, then, might retain traditional memories
of Levitical cultic influence at early Shechem, even before Shiloh. (However, it
ought to be noted that Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 103,
rejects the idea that the central sanctuary might once have been at some place other
than Shiloh, and more recently J. Bright, A History of Israel [London, I960], p. 147,
though less negative, is hesitant about Shechem because of its Canaanite background;
it is a fact that our sources mention only Shiloh as location of the amphictyonic
M. Noth, "Das Amt des ‘Richters Israels’,” in Festschrift Alfred Bertholet (Tu¬
bingen, 1950), p. 414, has written that, although the tribes were bound by a common
worship at the central sanctuary, it is not likely that a permanent priesthood sup¬
ported by all the tribes was established at that sanctuary, but that each of the
twelve tribes in turn took care of the sanctuary; the priesthood of the Elides would
have been a later development connected with the erection of a temple building
in Shiloh. His principal reason for this hypothesis is that worship was not of
sufficient importance to the twelve tribes as an amphictyonic group for them to
establish a permanent office of priesthood at the central sanctuary,, although the
importance of sacral law in Israel made the office of "judge” essential. Our sug¬
gestion, though, is not that Levites were established in the central sanctuary through
the initiative of the amphictyony but that they established themselves there on the
basis of a tradition. If this tradition were centered on the Ark, there would be
no need to await the erection of a permanent building before a traditional ark-priest¬
hood (in the nomadic sense, not in a sedentary one) took shape.
so A tradition of Levitical relation to Moses is attested precisely in a context
of Levitical desirability for priestly work (Judg. 17-18) — and in the far North at
that — in the old text of Judg. 18:30 without the Massoretic alteration of Moses
name. On the antiquity and significance of this text, cf. G. F. Moore, A Critical and
Exegetical Commentary on Judges (ICC; Edinburgh, 1895), pp. 400fL; C. F. Burney,
The Book of Judges (London, 1918), pp. 414f„ 436; Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testa¬
ment p. 209; H. W. Hertzberg, Die Bucher Josua, Richter, Ruth (ATD, IX; Gottingen,
1954)/ p. 242 ’ C. Hauret, "Aux origines du sacerdoce danite,” in Melanges bibliques
rediges en Vhonneur de Andre Robert (Paris, 1957), pp. 105-13.

to be existing — among the Hebrews at the time of the theophany of

Sinai (Exod. 19:6,22,24) are secondary in the literary composition of this
part of Exodus and are anachronistic.51 We have not been able to detect
any traits in Moses himself which remind us of the oracle-consulting
sanctuary attendant, or of the Arabian sadin whose status in nomadic
society was equivalent to that of the Hebrew kohen, but in all the Old
Testament texts, late though they are (mostly P, some Deuteronomistic)
which will speak of the Levites ministering around the sanctuary and
caring for the Ark we detect the essence of the sadin, and there is no
particular reason to deny that those texts made use of a traditional
concept in saying what they had to say. Did Moses, portrayed in ancient
traditions as the true mediator between Yahweh and Israel who established
the true, authentic worship of Yahweh,52 choose some of his Levite
kinsmen in the desert with him to serve as sadana — Hebrew kohanim —
of the desert sanctuary? That is what the traditions would suggest, and
they may actually have a historical nucleus in that some Levites really
were attendants or ministers of the portable sanctuary before actual
settlement in agricultural Canaan. More than that we can not say.

II. Levites and Priesthood in the Days of the Judges

Gen. 49:5ff. has uttered a sentence on Levites who are clearly thought
of as a secular tribe, without allusion to the priests among them. We
have material in the final part of the present Book of Judges which
clarifies their sociological status and illustrates their early priestly activity,
with its relation to that status.

A. Judges 17 -18; 19

Judg. 17 -18, a very old narrative, tells the story of the erection of a
household sanctuary by the Ephraimite Micah, who makes one of his own
sons priest of the sanctuary (17:5) but then takes advantage of the
passing of a migrant Levite to hire the Levite as his priest in place of
his son (17:13). A band of Danites, on the way to look for a new
territory fit for their tribe’s settlement, happens along, asks the Levite
for a consultation of God (18:5f.), and later returns to take the Levite,

si On Exod. 19:22,24, cf. O. Eissfeldt, Hexateuch-Synopse (Leipzig, 1922), pp. 47f.,

148*, 273*; W. Rudolph, Der "Elohist” von Exodus bis Josua (BZAW, LXVIII; Berlin,
1938), p. 41; Noth, VP, p. 33; M. Haelvoet, "La theophanie du Sinai," p. 385; with
Exod. 19:6 the problem is more delicate and the opinions far from reaching agree¬
ment: cf. Eissfeldt, op. cit., pp, 46f. 146*; Rudolph, op. cit., pp. 40f.; Noth, toe. cit.;
Haelvoet, op. cit., pp. 375-83; G. Fohrer, "Priesterliches Konigtum, Ex. xix, 6," ThZ
19 (1963) 359-62; W. L. Moran, " 'A Kingdom of Priests’," in J. L. McKenzie (ed.).
The Bible in Current Catholic Thought (New York, 1962), pp. 7-20.
s2 Gunneweo, Leviten und Priester, p. 93.

along with the appurtenances of Micah’s sanctuary, off to lay the founda¬
tion of the tribal sanctuary of Dan in the North.
Almost no one denies the antiquity of the story,53 but the part which
particularly interests us (17:7-13) has often been divided into two, or
even three, sources, or else considered a single source with redactional
interpolations, because of the fluctuation of epithets used to refer to
the Levite, but especially because in 17:10 Micah asks the Levite to
be “a father and a priest,” while 17:11 says that "the young man (i. e. the
Levite) was like one of his sons” to Micah.64 Nowadays a variation in
the use of epithets is no longer looked upon as a sure sign of a plurality
of sources, and the supposed contradiction involved in Micah's asking
a young man to be "a father and a priest” to him is no contradiction
at all: "father” here is clearly an epithet not of age but of functional
office, and perhaps even a title given regularly to priests.65 There are

53 Vv. 17:6 and 18:1 are pro-monarchist, and they take a negative attitude to the
story of Micah and his Levite. They have the hallmarks of redactional glossing of
the story being recounted, which they interrupt. M. Noth, “The Background of
Judges 17-18" in B. W. Anderson and W. Harrelson (eds.), Israel’s Prophetic Heritage:
Essays in Honor of J. Muilenburg (New York, 1962), pp. 68-85, interprets these two
chapters of Judges as a polemic by partisans of Jeroboam’s cultic innovations in
Bethel and Dan (1 Kgs. 12:25-33) against the previous cult in Dan. But then why
the account of the migration of the Danites (against which the negative comment
of 18:1 seems to be directed)? The episode is not anti-Levitical, and 1 Kgs. 12:29-33,
which comes to us through a source that is pro-Levitical but anti-Jeroboamite, does
not complain that Jeroboam introduced at Dan the non-Levitical priesthood he in¬
troduced at Bethel (cf. below, pp. lllf.); consequently, Judg. 17-18 explains the
origins of the Danite priesthood which continued under Jeroboam and his successors,
as the later text of Judg. 18:30 says it did. Vv. 17:6 and 18:1, as redactional glosses,
could certainly be the product of partisans of Jeroboam (as could 18:31), but they
could just as well be later (as is 18:30); the narrative as a whole can very well
be earlier. It seems to me that the story in Judg. 17 -18 as a whole is not ade¬
quately explained as a product of the events described in 1 Kgs. 12:25-33, that it
is rather an old Danite tradition, preserved for us practically intact, with a few
pieces of supplementary information (18:30f.) and occasional pointed remarks (17:6;
18:1) by a later and more sophisticated editor who disapproved of the goings-on
he found in the episode.
54 Burney, The Book of Judges, pp. 408fL, with reference to his predecessors;
then again, more recently, but only on the basis of the discrepancy between "father"
and "young man," A. Murtonen, "Some Thoughts on Judges xvii sq.," VT 1 (1951)
223f. (postulating a third source to account for the Levite and Micah’s son as distinct
persons); also G. R. Driver, "Glosses in the Hebrew Text of the Old Testament,”
in L’Ancien Testament et VOrient (Orientalia et Biblica Lovaniensia, I; Louvain, 1957),
p. 143. C. A. Simpson, Composition of the Book of Judges (Oxford, 1957), pp. 63-70,
divides the narrative into J and E plus considerable redactional material.
ss M. Noth, Amt und Berufung im Alten Testament (Bonner akademische Reden,
XIX; Bonn, 1958), pp. 9, 29, n. 12 (=-- Noth, Gesammelte Studien, 2nd ed„ p. 314);
Dhorme, L’evolution religieuse d’lsrael, I, 222f. R. de Vaux, in an individual com¬
munication, suggests that the title is inspired by a role as counselor, which in the
case of the early priest would be dependent upon his oracular consultation, then,
as priesthood developed, upon his teaching of torn; he suggests as enlightening
parallels Gen. 45:8 (Joseph with respect to Pharaoh); 2 Kgs. 2:12 (Elijah with respect
to Elisha); 2 Kgs. 5:13; 6:21; 13:14 (Elisha with respect to secular rulers; cf. also
2 Kgs. 8:9); Est. 3:13f., 8:21f. (the vizier); and the frequent use of "son" in ad¬
dressing the receiver of wise counsel in the Book of Proverbs.

no real reasons for denying the basic unity of the narrative or its antiquity;
the marginal and redactional remarks which are most probably in the
text (e. g. 17:6; 18:1; perhaps elements of 18:30f.) have no bearing on
our present concern.
This episode reveals some very interesting things. Micah’s son, an
Ephraimite, can be priest-attendant of the sanctuary, but a Levite is so
much to be preferred that Micah is eager to hire a Levite in place of
his own son. The significance of this is that it was already accepted
that Levites were the right people to have as sanctuary attendants,
while at the same time it was not absolutely necessary to have them,
for a non-Levite could also be a priest. Furthermore, in 17:7 the wander¬
ing Levite is said to have come from Bethlehem in Judah, where he was
living as a ger56 — i. e. not belonging to the tribe of Judah (for he is a
Levite, as the same verse states), but belonging to a Levitical clan accepted
by the tribe of Judah and living in Judaean territory with the enjoyment
of certain rights accorded by the Judaeans.57 He has left Bethlehem to
wander elsewhere, and in the territory of other tribes, too, he lives as a
ger (17:8). It would seem that before coming into Ephraim he has
already been among the Danites, because the Danite expedition in 18:3
is said to recognize his voice. 58

bs The text says he was “living as a ger there.” Where is "there"? For many
who see two different versions of the story, v. 7 is a parallel to another source’s
v. 8, and since v. 8 refers to the Levite's prospective residence as a ger in places
outside of Judah, the “there” of v. 7 would refer to the place where Micah lived
in Ephraim. But the sam, “there,” of v. 7 makes good sense as a resumptive par¬
ticle with Bethlehem of Judah as its antecedent, and with v. 8 continuing the same
narrative. The text reads:
(7) There was a young man of Bethlehem of Judah... a Levite, and he lived
as a ger there (in Bethlehem). (8) But (waw of contrast) the man left the
city, Bethlehem of Judah, to go and live as a ger (also, just as in Judah)
in any place he might find; and (thus) he came to the hill-country of Ephraim
to the house of Micah, as he was going along his way.

Burney, The Book of Judges, ad loc., wishes to read the consonantal gr sm not as
"ger there” but as the proper name grsm, the Gershom of 18:30; as Gunneweg,
Leviten und Priester, p. 20, n. 3, points out, however, if the Levite’s name was to be
introduced here in 17:7 Hebrew style would require not wehti gersom but some¬
thing like usemo gersom (or perhaps more elegantly wegersom semo).
si On the Biblical ger, cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, I, 116ff.
58 Simpson, Composition of the Book of Judges, p. 63, says: "that a young man
of the family of Judah (mispahat yehuda) was a Levite is historically impossible.”
But the phrase mispahat + proper name is not of itself a tribal designation. The
proper name which serves as the determining nomen rectum in the formula designates
a certain area with which a particular clan within a tribe was connected: cf. the
text of Num. 26:58, where there is a mispaha of Hebronites and one of Libnites
(primarily local designations), but both are clans (Canon Simpson’s “family") of the
tribe of Levi. The young man of Judg. 17:7 is a member of the tribe of Levi who
belongs to a Levite clan attached to Judah and known, for that reason, as a “clan
of Judah” (the phrase is better translated "a clan” rather than "the clan,” for we
know of a plurality, or at least a pair, of Levite clans of Judah — the Hebronites
and the Libnites — and there is no grammatical difficulty, for a nomen regens can
be indefinite notwithstanding a following determinate nomen rectum, especially when

In Judg. 19.1 we meet another Levite. This one lives as a ger in

Ephraim, but his relations with Bethlehem of Judah are strong enough
for him to have taken his concubine from that city. This Levite is
nowhere said to be a priest, and he does not appear in the narrative
as a priest. We do not know what he did for a living.

B. Levites: gerim with Priestly Specialization

Do these Levites belong to the secular tribe of Levi? Eduard Nielsen

thinks that the concordance between the (cultic) Levites and the scattered
members of a secular tribe of Levi would be no less than a miracle,” 59
but we know that Dr. Nielsen denies any existence of the secular tribe.
Martin Noth wonders if the secular Levites and the cultic Levites have
any connexion at all with one another, if they were not rather two
totally distinct groups who by chance had the same name.60 But it is
not necessary to postulate two distinct groups at all. The historical
continuity between the full secular tribe and the Levites living as gerim
in Israel, with a number of them making their living as sanctuary
attendants — as priests — can be explained as a natural sociological
phenomenon in the Israelite tribal system.
We have seen two individual Levites living as gerim among the
other tribes of Israel. Whole groups as well as individuals could live
as gerim in the territories of other tribes. 61 In ancient nomadic society,
or society retaining social structures of a nomadic past, the ger (Arabic
jar, plural jiran) had a special place in that society’s vertical structure.
At the top of society was the tribal blue blood, made up the genuine
members of the tribe who had belonged to the tribe from time im¬
memorial. Next came the jiran, people of the same race as that of
the full members of the tribe, but not actually belonging to the tribe.
The jiran had for various reasons asked for and received protection,
from the full members of the tribe. At the bottom of the social scale
were the slaves, people who had been taken captive by the tribe and
who could be of the same racial stock as the tribesmen themselves but
were more often complete foreigners.62 We see the same structure in
pre-monarchical Israel, with remnants of the structure remaining long

the nomen rectum is determinate only in sense, by its being a proper name: cf. Ge-
senius-Kautzsch-Cowley, § 127e). Canon Simpson (p. 67) would eliminate ‘from
Bethlehem of Judah” and “he was a Levite” from the text of v. 7 as redactional
additions, and then make the young man a Danite, because his voice was recognized
by the Danite band (18:3). This emendation of the text is somewhat violent, and
the wandering Levite’s recognition by the Danites is perfectly understandable if he
had passed through Dan before coming on through Ephraim,
ss Nielsen, Shechem, p. 281.
w Noth, Das System, p. 25, n. 3.
61 Cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, I, 116.
62 Cf. Henninger, "La societe bedouine ancienne,” p. 79.

after the organization of the monarchy: at the top are the Israelites in
the society and territory of their own tribe, then the gerim, like the
individual Levites in Judg. 17 and 19 (or, with a modification, the col¬
lective ger of Dt. 14:29; 16:11,14; 26: Ilf.),63 and at the bottom are people
like the non-Israelite, Gibeonite captives in Josh. 9:19-27, "hewers of
wood and carriers of water.”
For some reason which escapes us, the actual existence of Levi as
a tribe with full tribal status had ceased to be a fact, although national
memory of the tribe and national awareness of its continued existence
as a distinct sociological group persisted, along with the Levites' own
consciousness of their membership therein. This change in status was
certainly fixed by the time land division on a tribal basis had become
a fait accompli in Israel, because the fundamental cause of the Levites'
reduction must lie in the fact that for some reason or other — perhaps
because in the Hebrew migration into Palestine they were slow in be¬
coming sedentary, not settling down early enough, or not in sufficient
numerical strength, to get a solid foothold in land-tenure64 — they found
themselves in the end without a definite tribal territory of their own:
they were left without “a portion or an inheritance.” At any rate, they
found themselves no longer in the status of a full tribe but in that of
gerim, and this result is that attested in Gen. 49:7, whose curse will have
Levi (and Simeon) "divided in Jacob” and "dispersed in Israel.”
The fact that the Levites were not acquiring tribal roots in Palestine
may not be unrelated to the migration of at least a number of them
into Egypt, whence to go out into the desert with Moses, just as it is
certainly not unrelated to the migrations of the individual Levites in
Judg. 17-18 and Judg. 19. If we look at the old list of Num. 26:58,
we see that it enumerates four clans of Levites: the Libnites, the Hebron-
ites, the Mahlites, and the Mushites. The first two are formed with
the names of two cities in the territory of Judah: Libnah and Hebron,

63 G. von Rad, Das Gottesvolk im Deuteronomium (BWANT, III/ll; Stuttgart,

1929), p. 45, has pointed out that by the time of Deuteronomy the term ger had
come to be reserved for a non-Israelite enjoying the status of a ger in Israel. This
is supported by the fact that a Levite is never called a gSr in Deuteronomy; the
Levite is rather found mentioned in conjunction with the ger, the orphan, and the
widow in Dt. 14:29; 16:11,14; 26:12, or with the ger alone in 26:11. Yet, the idea
of the ger’s status is not far from the surface when Deuteronomy speaks of the
Levite, for in 12:12; 14:27,29 Israel is reminded that the Levite "has no portion
or inheritance with you," and in all these texts (and in 12:18f.) the Israelites are
being urged to special consideration of the Levites — and of the non-Israelite gerim.
Finally, in Deuteronomy itself we do find the participle gar used even in speaking of
the Levite (18:6).
64 This is the point of view supported by A. Alt, "Erwagungen fiber die Land-
nahme der Israeliten in Palastina," PJB 35 (1939), pp. 27f (= KS, I, 142f.). Simeon
and Levi, longer than other tribes, would have remained seminomads, centered in
southern Palestine, but engaged in seasonal transhumance to areas where they could
engage in cultivating grain — transhumance which at an early stage of Hebrew
migration in Palestine carried them even as far north as Shechem (Gen. 34).

which are later found in the lists of Levitical cities (Josh. 21:13; 1 Chr.
6:57; and Josh. 20:7; 21:11; 1 Chr. 6:55), while the latter two are ap¬
parently formed from personal names. 65 Rowley thinks that while some
secular Levites were in Egypt and the desert with Moses, others were
already in southern Palestine.66 If this is so, the Libnites and the Hebron-
ites may be Levites who were living in southern Palestine before the
arrival of the others, and the Mahlites and Mushites those who took
part in the wanderings in the desert; the original Mosaic priests, accord¬
ingly, would have been found among those Levites who came to be known
as Mahlites and Mushites. A group of gerim must have a tribe in which
to find its place, for gerim are gerim with respect to some full tribe,
and the Libnite and Hebronite clans of Num. 26:58, kinsmen of the desert
Levites but inhabitants of the territory belonging to sedentarized Judah
when tribal limits became fixed, can explain the bonds of the individual
Levites of Judg. 17 and 19 with the tribe of Judah. The remnants of
the old secular tribe of Levi had, as a social group or groups, become
gerim within the tribe of Judah, while individual Levites could become
gerim — and probably did increasingly become gerim — in other tribes
(cf. Judg. 17:8; 19:1).67
In the light of what has been said in the preceding paragraphs, it
is difficult to agree with certain positions taken in Gunneweg’s traditio-
historical interpretation. For Gunneweg a Levite living as a ger in the
tribe of Judah would belong by blood to the tribe of Judah, not to any
real tribe of Levi.68 Levi would be one of the twelve sons of Jacob,
but not all of the groups represented by the twelve sons as eponymous
ancestors would be real tribes — or would have been real tribes.69 A
Judaean, or Ephraimite, Levite would be a man who for some reason
or other had broken his ties of Judaean or Ephraimite tribal membership
to live in the status of a ger, 70 the Levites, in other words, would be

65 in the late Levitical genealogies the nisbeh-forms libni and hebrorti (the latter

minus the -i, now) become personal names and enter the schema of personal genea¬
logies, "Libni” as son of Gershom, son of Levi (Exod. 6:17; Num. 3:18; 1 Chr. 6:2,
5 14) and "Hebron" as son of Kohath, son of Levi (Exod. 6:18; Num. 3:19; 1 Chr.
cj.oq. a *3* 23*1219) As the genealogies are harmonized, "Mahli” and "Mushi become
the sons of Merak, son of"Levi (Exod. 6:19; Num. 3:20; 1 Chr 6:4,14; 23:21; 24:
26,28), or else “Mahli” is made a son of "Mushi (1 Chr. 6.32, 23.23, 24.30).^
se H. H. Rowley, "Early Levite History and the Question of the Exodus,

3 (^Simeon, associated with Levi in contexts bespeaking misfortune (Gen. 34:25f.,

30f * 49*5ff> is associated with Judah in the exploits of occupation recounted at
the’beginning of the Book of Judges (cf. Judg. 1:3,17), and the cities ascnbed later
in Josh. 19:1-9 to Simeon are actually in Judaean territory: cf. Noth Das Buck Josua,
p. 113, who situates these cities in what he calls the “First District of King Josiah s
division of Judah in the seventh century. The inference is close at hand that th
Simeonites too, like the Levites, had become gerim m the tribal structure of Judah.
68 Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, pp. 16f., 29, 33f.
69 Cf. ibid.., p. 80.
to Ibid., pp. 33f.

gerim not because their tribe failed to find a place among the land-
holding tribes in the process of sedentarization but because certain mem¬
bers of various tribes broke their normal tribal relationships to become
a group of gerim knows as Levites. At this one begins to wonder why
they would deliberately abandon the security of full tribal status to be¬
come gerim. A partial, but not entirely satisfying, answer would be
provided by Gunneweg in his theory that gerim stood in a special relation
to Yahweh and to the Yahwist amphictyony,71 but the Old Testament
material on gerim — the material in Judg. 17 and 19 but especially the
gerim of Deuteronomy, who are probably not even Israelites — would
urge that gerim as such stand in no special religious relation to anyone
but rather in a special sociological relation to full tribes, and this is
confirmed by what we know of the cognate Arabian jiran. And what of
Simeon? Simeon too is one of the twelve eponymous ancestors. The
Simeonite group, like that of the Levites, failed to gain, or to hold, a
territory of its own in the process of sedentarization, and Simeon is
mentioned on equal footing with Levi in Gen. 49:5ff. We do not find
mention of Simeonite gerim in the Bible, but that does not mean that
when the events of Judg. 17 and 19 were first recounted the residual
Simeonites were not also in the status of gerim. But would the Simeon-
ites, too, stand in a special relation to Yahweh and his amphictyony,
and would that explain the presence of Simeon, too, among the twelve
eponymous sons of Jacob?
The bonds of kinship between the Levites and Moses, their having
been made priests of the Ark by Moses himself (the hypothesis which
recommends itself), and their continuing as priests of the Ark in the
central shrine of Israel in Canaan (cf. Judg. 20:27f.; 1 Sam. 1-4) gave
the Levites a special prestige which was such that other Israelites pre¬
ferred to have them as ministers of sanctuaries throughout the land.
At this point there must have been a good many Levites who were not
priests (the Levite of Judg. 19:1 does not seem to have been one), and
whether an individual Levite was a priest or not depended on whether
he had a job as priest or not. In the narrative of Judg. 17-18 the Levite
is called simply a Levite. He "becomes a priest” (17:12) when Micah
asks him to "be his priest” (17:10). In the following scene, when the
Danites arrive, they do not take it for granted that the Levite they know
is working as a priest. It is the voice of "the young Levite” that they
recognize, and when they ask him what he is doing he explains that
he has found a job as a priest (18:3f.) — information which was not
self-evident even to men who knew he was a Levite. It is only as a
result of this discovery that the Danites ask him to consult God for them
(18:5). In the rest of the narrative the Levite figures specifically as a

71 Ibid., pp. 23-26.


priest in the dramatic composition, and he is called "the priest,” except

in the phrase "they came to the house of the young Levite” (18:15). This
is the perfectly natural explanation of that use of the two words "priest”
and Levite ’ in the narrative which caused scholars in the last century
to suspect two sources in the text. At the same time it is plain evidence
that "Levite” and “priest” were not synonymous in the early days and
that it was "priest,” not "Levite,” which was the name of an office. Nor
should we overlook the fact that priesthood at this time was not a state
but a function or craft, and that a man was a priest not in virtue of any
sort of ordination” but because he was actually exercising priestly func¬
tions. This was not a situation to give rise to any theology of priesthood.
The theology was to come as priesthood rose in religious and social
As sedentarization in the time of the Judges led to the multiplica¬
tion of sanctuaries,72 at the same time bringing about an increased sense
of the clan in place of the old consciousness of the security of the group
under the protection of a powerful leader, the Levites began to capitalize
on their cultic prestige, we may presume, by vindicating for themselves
more or less exclusive rights to exercise priestly functions, hoping thereby
to assure the economic security of their clans.73 As we shall see, we
know that they were doing so in later years, and that they were already
doing so with some success explains the desire of Micah and of the
Danites to have a Levite as priest. The idea of priests who were jiran
seems to have been an accepted thing in the structure of Arabian society,
which is parallel to the social structure of the early Hebrews.74 In a
non-urban society the individual has little chance of succeeding on his
own. His economic livelihood depends on group effort, and protection
against competition is a matter of the solidarity of tribe or clan. Just
as in a more urban society the individual acquires a certain economic
security against competition by achieving proficiency in a specialized kind
of work, so in non-urban society a group will tend to acquire a certain
specialized pre-eminence in a field of activity in which the combined
effort of the group assures the skills necessary for that activity and fends
off competition from rivals. The Levites had no land on which they could
depend economically in a predominantly agrarian society. The natural
thing for people in such circumstances to do is to develop as their
speciality some craft or activity which does not depend upon land-tenure
and for which a demand exists. Some sort of basis for their superiority
in the craft has to be established, and this superiority must be vindicated

72 Cf. Noth, Das System, p. 113; de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 176f.
73 "Le clan, qui n’a pas pour base l’autorite d’un chef, mais la conscience de la
consanguinite, possede une cohesion tres forte qui fonctionne chaque fois qu’il y a
des interets a defendre” (Henninger, "La societe bedouine ancienne," p. 90).
74 Cf. Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, p. 130.

as a property of the group. The basis for the Levites’ preferred status
in priestly functions was provided by the traditions of their role in the
origins of Israel's religion.

C. Canaanite Influence?

As this historical process was taking place there were still Canaanite
sanctuaries in the land, with Canaanite priests and priesthoods, no doubt.
Did they play a part in modifying the nature of Israelite priesthood?
Perhaps in some ways they did. Eli’s priestly office at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1 - 4),
like that of many Phoenician priesthoods,75 would normally have devolved
upon his posterity, had not his sons’ behavior drawn God's curse down
upon them (1 Sam. 2:27-36), but the development of hereditary priesthood
is probably normal anywhere when sedentary life makes fixed sanctuaries
possible and a family establishes itself at a sanctuary. The numerous
priesthood at Nob (1 Sam. 21:2-10; 22:9-23) presents the aspect of a
collegiate priesthood, with Ahimelech a sort of chief priest or master
of the guild, like the Ugaritic and Phoenician rb khnm, but collegiate
priesthoods were not unknown among ancient nomads, either 76 and the
sanctuary attendants of the Ark in the desert may already have had a
collegiate aspect. It is even possible, but by no means certain, that
certain Canaanite priesthoods remained at their sanctuaries and became
more or less Yahwistic as the Israelites took over the land.77 Yahwists
who were not Levites could still certainly become priests, as the examples
of the sons of Abinadab (1 Sam. 7:1) and Micah (Judg. 17:5) show, and
perhaps whole families or whole priesthoods of sanctuaries could by
marriage or genealogical fiction become tribal Levites, since it is doubtful
that a tribe was ever exclusively endogamous;78 but it is much to be
doubted that they did so, because, despite a certain preference in Israel
for priests who were Levites, it was not really necessary for a priest to

75 On families of hereditary priests in Phoenician civilization, cf. Lagrange, Etudes

sur les religions semitiques, p. 480. Priesthood in Egypt, too, went by families, and
the sociological pattern, not only in Egypt, but in other regions too, is doubtlessly
that given by P. Montet, La vie quotidienne en Egypte au temps des Ramses (Paris,
1946), p. 272: just as civil servants were recruited especially among families of civil
servants, so priests were almost always sons of priests; a vocation was largely a
matter of growing up to do what one’s father had done.
76 Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, p. 130, had found no evidence of
collegiate priesthoods, but Lammens, L’Arabie occidentale avant I’Hegire, p. 107, gives
examples of such groups of sadana.
77 Such is the theory of Smith and Bertholet, Encyclopaedia Biblica, III, 2775.
78 W. R. Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, pp. 74f.; cf. also Albright,
Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 109, although it is difficult to agree with
Prof. Albright that the question of whether Moses and Aaron (and, by implication,
other priestly persons) "were members of the tribe of Levi loses all significance;
they were Levites by virtue of their priestly function.” When he wrote this he was
still impressed by a certain interpretation of the Minaean inscriptions (loc. cit. and
p. 204, n. 42) which we have seen to be dubious.

be a Levite, and it would be much more advantageous to belong to a

full land-owning tribe than to a group of gerim.
One of the strongest indications of Canaanite influence — at least
cultural influence — on Israelite priesthood is the Hebrew word for
priest, kohen, whose Canaanite origin, as we have noted, is quite likely.
It is dangerous, though, to speculate on how far broader cultural in¬
fluence went, merely on the grounds of a lexical borrowing. That there
was such influence on Israelite priesthood, as settlement in the Promised
Land progressed, is a legitimate inference, but we know too little about
the priests of Canaanite lesser sanctuaries in Palestine to assess its mode
or its extent.


Chapter Three

The Later Years of the Amphictyony

From this point on the only priests who appear as individuals playing
a part in Biblical narratives are those whose lives had some relation to
the national destiny of Israel. The first of these are the Elides, at the
national sanctuary of Shiloh, who stand on the line of demarcation be¬
tween the Israel of the judges and the new Israel of the kings. The
fate of the descendants of Eli is traced on down to the priesthood under
David, and even beyond. Samuel's career begins with service in the
sanctuary of Shiloh under Eli and continues in the political and religious
situation of pre-monarchical Israel, but his importance lies precisely in
the fact that it is he who is destined to introduce the monarchy in Israel.1
For the ancient Biblical historians the Shilonite roots of both Samuel
and the descendants of Eli are of importance for the subsequent history
of the monarchy and of the monarchy's court priesthood. In dealing
with the Elides and with Samuel at the beginning of this new section
we are following the division made in the present arrangement of the
Old Testament itself: the history of the monarchy is introduced by the
history of Samuel, and the history of Samuel begins at Shiloh under
the priesthood of Eli.

I. Shiloh

The material which tells the stories of the family of Eli and of Samuel
at Shiloh is a literary complex which shows signs of compiling and editing.
It will be worth our while to try to isolate the units used in forming

i Samuel played a leading part in the sudden movement toward kingship in

Israel, but with the variant details furnished by the two or three independent tradi¬
tions dealing with this it is not easy to say just what his role was; of., in addition
to the commentaries, K. Mohlenbrink, "Sauls Ammoniterfeldzug und Samuels Beitrag
zum Konigtum des Saul," ZAW 58 (1940/41) 57-70; W. A. Irwin, "Samuel and the Rise
of the Monarchy," AJSL 58 (1941) 113-34; M. Buber, "Die Erzahlung von Sauls Komgs-
wahl ” VT 6 (1956) 113-73; H. Wildberger, "Samuel und die Entstehung des israeliti-
schen Kdnigtums,” ThZ 13 (1957) 442-69; A. Weiser, Samuel: seine geschichtliche Auf-
gabe und religiose Bedeutung (FRLANT, LXXXI; Gottingen, 1962).


this complex and to understand the preoccupations of the compilers and

editors who had a hand in its growth.2

A. The Composition of 1 Sam. 1:1 - 4:1a

The story of Samuel at Shiloh is contained in 1 Sam. 1:1 - 4: la, a block

which can be called the Childhood Narrative of Samuel. The story of
Eli and his immediate family is contained in the same block, but is
carried further in 4: lb-22, which belongs to another source, the first
part of the History of the Ark (4: lb-7:1), which is picked up again in
2 Sam. 6-7.3 Within the Childhood Narrative are two insertions: the
Song of Hannah (2:1-10) and a polemically minded oracle announcing
the punishment of the house of Eli (2:27-36).4
Of these two insertions, we can leave aside the Song of Hannah for
our present purposes. The oracle of 2:27-36 will be valuable for us, but
there are reasons for reserving its use until somewhat later, for the
"faithful priest” of v. 35, as the commentaries almost invariably agree,
is most probably meant to be Zadok, the ancestor of the priesthood of

2 For work directly concerned with this kind of analysis of the first chapters

of 1 Samuel in general, one can consult: I. Hylander, Der literarische Samuel-Saul-

Komplex (1 Sam. 1-15) traditionsgeschichtlich untersucht (Uppsala, 1932); Noth, VS,
especially pp. 54-63, 97; Eissfeldt, Introduction, pp. 323-31. It becomes more and
more evident, especially after Noth’s work, that the effort to ascribe the material
in Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings to extensive documentary sources like J and
E is ultimately fruitless. There are short documentary sources like those suggested
for the History of the Ark and the History of the Davidic Succession, but they, too,
are made up of formerly disparate units. It is the units of tradition which have
to be worked with, with constant allowance for the redactional process.
8 The isolation of the “History of the Ark” with 1 Sam. 4:lb-7:l as a part thereof
is due to L. Rost, Die Vberlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids (BWANT, III/3;
Stuttgart, 1926), pp. 447, followed by Noth, VS, p. 54. P. Dhorme, Les Livres de Sa¬
muel (Paris, 1910), p. 52, sees 1 Sam. 4 as a continuation of 1 Sam. 3, with which it
would form a literary unit in the source E. I. Hylander, op. cit., pp. 102-09, without
denying an original literary independence of 1 Sam. 4 from 1 Sam. 3, thinks that the
material in both was reworked and co-ordinated by a literary redactor (Elohistic).
The fact that the prophecy of 1 Sam. 3 supposes, as vaticinium ex eventu, the events
of 1 Sam. 4, or that the narrative of 1 Sam. 1-3 requires that of 1 Sam. 4 as its
term, does not warrant our concluding that there is literary dependence, because
independent sources can be aware of the same subject matter, and the History of
the Ark may actually have contained material on Eli and Shiloh which was later
dropped by the Deuteronomistic redactor. W. Caspari, Die Samuelbiicher (KAT, VII;
Leipzig, 1926), associates 2:12-17,22-25 with 4 :lbff.; but it is worth noticing that in
4:lbff. there is no trace of the ungodliness and guilt which completely pervades the
portrait of the Elides in 2:12-17,22-25; nor do these latter verses explain the fate of
Eli's family in the light in which that fate is presented in 1 Sam. 4.
4 H. P. Smith, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Books of Samuel
(ICC; Edinburgh, 1899), pp. xix-xx, prefers to see 2:27-36 as the continuation of 2:12-17,
22-25, with chapter 3 added later, but as K. Budde, Die Bucher Samuel (KHC, VIII;
Tiibingen-Leipzig, 1902), p. 22, and Dhorme, op. cit., p. 51, have pointed out, the state¬
ment in 3:1b that “at that time Yahweh spoke rarely; visions were not frequent”
would scarcely occur to a writer adding, either originally or redactionally, to the
immediately preceding oracle.

Jerusalem from Solomon s reign on, and w. 35f. fit the historical situation
of the Zadokite - Levite rivalry under the divided monarchy — perhaps
as late as the time of Josiah (cf. 2 Kgs. 23:9 against the background of
Dt. 12.12,18f.; 14:27,29; 16:11,14; 18: If.; 26:1 Iff., to which we shall return).
That, of itself, does not exclude the possibility, seen by Budde,5, Steuer¬
nagel,6, and Tsevat,7 that the rest of the oracle is older, or even that
the entire oracle is older,8 although it is not necessary to follow Tsevat
in considering w. 27-33, because of their vagueness, as predictions chro¬
nologically prior to the actual event, since a vaticinium ex eventu is not
necessarily characterized by clear references to particular details, and it
is even less so when, as here, older material is re-used and re-shaped
for a new purpose. Tsevat holds that vv. 27-33 date from the reign of
Solomon, or even of David, that is to say: before the deposition of
Abiathar (cf. 1 Kgs. 2:26-27a; Benzinger9 and Noth10 ascribe 1 Kgs. 2:27b,
which presupposes either, or more probably both, of the oracular scenes
in 1 Sam. 2:27-36 and 1 Sam. 3:1 -4:1a, to a relatively late redactor — for
Noth the Deuteronomistic redactor).
It is true that 1 Sam. 2:31-33 contains a nucleus (cf. 31a, 33b) which
seems to allude to the massacre of the priests of Nob (1 Sam. 22:17ff.),
and v. 34 certainly refers to the disaster at Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:10f.).
The primitive form of these verses may, in fact, be' very old,11 but of
themselves they do not tell us anything we do not know more clearly
from other texts, and the oracle itself, as it now stands, is given its
shape and direction by vv. 27-30. These verses, which speak of the
house of Eli’s father as a tribe with an Egyptian history, chosen for
priestly ministry, direct the entire oracle not primarily against the Elides
like the oracle in chapter 3, but against the Levites.12 Since the evidence

s Loc. cit.
6 C. Steuernagel, “Die Weissagung liber die Eliden (1 Sam. 2:27-36),” in Alttesta-
menttiche Studien Rudolf Kittel zum 60. Geburtstag dargebracht (BWAT, 1/13; Leip¬
zig, 1913), pp. 204-21.
t M. Tsevat, "Studies in the Book of Samuel, I,” HUCA 32 (1961), p. 194f.
8 M. Noth, "Samuel und Silo,” VT 13 (1963), p. 394 with n. 5.
9 I. Benzinger, Die Bucher der Konige (KHC, IX; Freiburg i. B., 1899), p. 12.
19 Noth, VS, p. 66.
ii Tsevat, op. cit., pp. 195-209, gives a very interesting interpretation of the threat
in w. 31ff. in the light of Biblical and Talmudic karet, a cutting off or out of the
community as divine punishment for a transgression of sacral law, with death as
the ultimate instrument. The analogies he finds are striking and merit considera¬
tion. From the chronological aspect it is worth noting that the pertinent karet texts
found by Morgenstem and Zimmerli and amplified by Tsevat are all late (P, the Code
of Holiness, Ezekiel, and then the Talmud), but the idea can be an old one.
is Steuernagel, op. cit., pp. 219f., has seen this, but because he treats the oracle
as aetiological rather than polemic he thinks the connexion with the Levites was
added (prior to vv. 35f.) merely to provide a better explanation for the downfall of
the Elides. J. Wellhausen, Der Text der Bucher Samuelis (Gottingen, 1871), p. 49,
n. 1, on the contrary, admits that the entire priestly stock of the Levites is meant,
and'that the text does not necessarily suppose that the Levites as a whole were

we have earlier examined indicates that the members of the secular

tribe of Levi had already begun to specialize in priestly work by the
later period of the judges but that there was not yet any question of
complete identification of priest and Levite, any polemic against the im¬
mediate descendants of Abiathar by the immediate descendants of Zadok
could well afford to be content with an oracle against the Elides without
reference to the Levites. If vv. 27-34 are, as a unit, prior chronologically
to w. 35f. — i.e. pre-Josian — their dating depends on the terminus of
the development toward vindication of exclusive priestly rights by the
Levites — a problem for which there is no assured solution but to
which we shall return eventually, being content for the moment to say
that the oracle as it stands must be dated down into the time of the
divided monarchy.
After the two insertions (1 Sam. 2:1-10 and 2:27-36) have been sub¬
tracted, the Childood Narrative of Samuel appears as a block comprising
three traditions: 1) on the birth of Samuel, his consecration to Yahweh’s
service at Shiloh, and his virtuous success there (1; 2:11,18-21,26); 2) on the
wickedness of the sons of Eli and their father’s failure to take action
against them (2:12-27,22-25); 3) on the divine message to Samuel, fore¬
telling the downfall of the house of Eli and drawing the figure of Samuel
as a prophet (3:1 -4: la).13 This block must have circulated independently
while other traditions on Samuel were taking shape, because the other
traditions do not appear to have built on it, but from the fact that the
other traditions have not built on it the conclusion does not follow that
the traditions incorporated in this block are necessarily more recent
than the other traditions. On the contrary, the concrete details in the
first two traditions (i.e. on Samuel’s origin and arrival at Shiloh, and
on the activities of the sons of Eli) are difficult to explain as purely
fictious contrivances of a period too far removed for us to have reliable
knowledge of them. Those on the behavior of the Elides, hardly worth re¬
cording unless one has a particular reason for doing so, constitute the sort
of thing that makes a sufficiently bad impression on the non-clerical but
religious elements of a population to be talked about for a good while
afterward. The third tradition, that on the word of God to Samuel in
the sanctuary, is perhaps not strictly speaking a tradition, because it
seems to be the work of the man who gathered the other two traditions
and used them to form a whole with his own contribution.14
The compiler-author of the block 1:1-4: la has used the traditions
on Samuel’s birth to situate Samuel at Shiloh. Then he has taken the
final part of the narrative based on those traditions: 2:11,18-21,26 ("A”)

is Cf. Noth, “Samuel und Silo,” pp. 391f. Noth includes 2:27-36, as a condemna¬
tion of the Elides, in the material of the second tradition (cf. also pp. 393f.), while
we see them as independent, for the reasons already given.
44 Ibid., p. 397.

and the anecdotal material on the sons of Eli and their father’s negli¬
gence. 2.12-17,22-25 ( B”), and cutting them and piecing them together
alternating pieces of “A” with pieces of "B”, he has achieved a sort of
literary montage comprising vv. 11 (A) + 12-17 (B) + 18-21 (A) + 22-25
(B) + 26 (A), a device which effectively contrasts the "good” Samuel with
the bad family of Eli. Finally, he has made his own contribution,
3:1-4: la, which drives his point home: the Elides, unworthy bearers
of the sacral traditions of Yahweh, are a shame to Shiloh, while Samuel,
a worthy bearer of those traditions, has been a glory to Shiloh before
all Israel as a prophet of Yahweh. In this, the compiler-author shows
that bent of mind characteristic of Old Testament prophetic circles,15
and he has two prime interests in his presentation: Samuel and Shiloh
indeed Samuel as related to Shiloh and vice versa.. The scandalous
behavior of the Elide cult-functionaries is a disgrace to Shiloh, and it
affords a striking contrast with the figure of Samuel.
Our interest lies in the priestly family of Eli and in the figure of
Samuel, as they appear in this block complemented with details furnished
by other sources.

B. The Priestly Family of Eli

The most important sanctuary in Israel at the time is under the

control of a single family of priests. Only the Elides are mentioned
in the traditions used by the compiler of the Childhood Narrative, and
only the Elides are mentioned as priests of Shiloh in the History of
the Ark (4: lb-7:1). The conduct of Hophni and Phinehas, Eli’s sons,
gives great public scandal, but correction, in the absence of a strong,
separate civil authority, depends entirely on the head of this priestly
family: if he will not take action, the abuse will not be corrected (2:22-25),
and we must conclude that the family was well entrenched in the right
to function at the sanctuary. They can hardly be said to form a priest¬
hood surrounded by pomp and splendor. They seem to have depended
economically to a considerable extent on portions of the sacrificial offer¬
ings (2:12-17), and the scene with Eli sitting idly and unobtrusively at
the door of the sanctuary as Hannah approaches (1:9) gives the impres¬
sion of a rather simple country clergyman attached to a sanctuary which
is really rather modest despite its importance in the national religious
consciousness of a people who are themselves still rather simple people.

is Cf. Noth, VS, p. 60, n. 3. Even the procedure is characteristically prophetic:

the prophet begins by reminding the person he is addressing that that person has
been chosen by God for a mission, only to continue by stating either that God will
cancel that choice if the person does not do God’s will or has already canceled it
because he has not done God’s will; cp. 1 Sam. 25:3; 2 Sam. 3:9f.,18; 5:2; 7:14ff.,
18-29; 1 Kgs. 9:1-9; 11:31-39; 14:7-11; 16:1-4,lOf.; 19:15-21; 21:19-24; 25:27-30.

This entrenchment in the right to serve — and profit from — a sanc¬

tuary is not in the picture we have seen of the itinerant Levite in Judg.
17 -18, although his posterity became entrenched in such a right at the
tribal sanctuary of Dan; but Micah's sanctuary is not a tribal sanctuary
or the central sanctuary of Israel, either. The sanctuary at Shiloh con¬
tained the Ark of the Covenant, and we have already had occasion above
in our section on Moses and the Levites to mention the tradition — and
its quite possibly historical nucleus — that Moses chose Levites in the
desert as attendants of the portable sanctuary with its Ark. The existence
of this tradition, and the presence of the Ark in Shiloh, may well have
contributed to a situation in which Eli and his family could and did
attach themselves firmly to the sanctuary of Shiloh, for the family of Eli
was a family of Levites.
We should be less sure of this if we were to depend entirely on
the allusion to a Levitical ancestry for Eli in 2:27, because we have
already seen that there are reasons for assigning 2:27 to a later date,16
but the tradition of the Levitical ancestry of the Elides is bolstered by
the Egyptian origin of the names of the two sons of Eli: Hophni and
Phinehas (1:3; 4:4,11,17). We have already discussed the significance of
the Egyptian names for the history of the Levites, and again the objection
might be raised that this significance was also realized by Israelites in
Palestine and that Egyptian names were found, either among native
Egyptians or among tradition-minded Levites, and given artificially to
the Elides at a later date.17 The general answer to the objection remains
the same as before, and an examination of the use of these two particular
names in Egypt makes the objection even less valid in their case. Phinehas
is equivalent to the Egyptian p3-nhsy, which is frequent in the New
Kingdom, attested in later times,18 and is a Levitical name elsewhere
in the Old Testament (Exod. 6:25; Num. 25:7; 1 Chr. 5:30 etc.); its
frequency and chronological endurance among the Egyptians and its
occurrence in Israel allow the possibility of its artificiality in the case
of Eli’s son; but Hophni is equivalent to the Egyptian name hfnr, which
is attested only twice in Egyptian records, neither of the two attested
occurrences being more recent than the Middle Kingdom.19 The name,

16 Cf., most recently, weighing the value of 2:27, H. Ringgren, Israelitische Re¬
ligion (Die Religionen der Menschheit, XXVI; Stuttgart, 1963), p. 47.
17 Budde, Die Bucher Samuel, p. 34, thinks that the names Hophni and Phinehas
were not originally in the texts of 1 Samuel, but that they "surely belong to a very
old tradition" and that the name Phinehas elsewhere in the Old Testament depends
on the Phinehas, son of Eli; R. H. Pfeiffer, "Midrash in the Books of Samuel," in
Quantulacumque: Studies Presented to Kirsopp Lake (London, 1937), pp. 305f., suspects
that they belong to "material that came into the text from the margins of manuscripts
or was composed ad hoc."
18 Source references and chronological data in Ranke, Die agyptischen Personen-
namen, I, 113, No. 13.
10 Ibid., I, 239, No. 13. The dropping of final r in the pronunciation of Egyptian
personal names shows up already in cuneiform transcriptions well before the Israelite

in other words, is uncommon, and apparently still more uncommon after

the middle of the second millenium B.C. Someone looking for an Egyptian
name to give artificially to a son of Eli would look for a name that
could be considered typically Egyptian, and Hophni was too uncommon
to meet that psychological requirement. The name is attested nowhere
else in the Old Testament, so that the evidence is against its being drawn
from a stock of names considered at a later date as a typically Levitical
name. If the name Hophni is authentic in the Childhood Narrative of
Samuel, the concomitant Phinehas is presumably authentic too, and the
probability stands that the Elides had a genuinely Egyptian chapter in
the history of their family. This, coupled with the tenacity of their
position as priests in the sanctuary of the Ark, makes it easy to accept
the tradition evident in 2:27 — and perhaps in LXX B’s reading “Levi”
for “Eli” in 14:3 if that reading was influenced by the phrase “priest
of God in Shiloh” — that the priesthood of Shiloh was Levitical.
The lives of Eli and his sons came to an end at the time of the
Philistine victory at Ebenezer.2€ Hophni and Phinehas, who had gone
to Ebenezer as priests with the Ark, perished in the battle (1 Sam. 4:11),
and Eli died when the news was brought to him (4:18). The life of Eli
is closed with a terse notice that Eli had been a judge (4:18b), a remark
that is generally attributed to the Deuteronomistic redactor and not ac¬
cepted as historical,21 but it is not impossible to see, with H. W. Hertz-
berg, 22 a minor judge in Eli. There is a passage in Deuteronomy (Dt.
17:8-13; cf. also Dt. 21:5) which associates judgeship with priesthood.
If that were the only parallel we could adduce to illuminate the judgeship
of Eli we would be adducing proof by extrapolation, which is method¬
ologically unsafe and could simply confirm the thesis that the notice on
Eli is from Deuteronomic times; but we have also the association of
priesthood — probably the priesthood of the central amphictyonic sanc¬
tuary 23 — with the judging of cases of divine law in the ancient narrative
of Exod. 18:13-26 (even before the addition of 18:16b,20), which, aetiol-
ogical though it probably is, does explain something not unfamiliar to
the Israelite consciousness, and if we situate the information of 1 Sam.
4:18b chronologically between the tradition in Exod. 18:13-26 and the

period began in Palestine: cf., for some examples, W. F. Albright, “Cuneiform Ma¬
terial for Egyptian Prosopography 1500-1200 B.C.," JNES 5 (1946) 7-25, Nos. 27, 34, 40,
49, 51, 57, 65. For the final vowel in Hophni, cf., in Coptic, Sahdic noufe, but in the
North, where the Hebrews had been, Bohairic and Fayyumic noufi, from nfr; Sa'idic
noute but Bohairic and Fayyumic nouti, from Egyptian ntr, etc.
20 c. 1050 B.C. according to Albright in Rowley (ed.), The Old Testament and
Modern Study (Oxford, 1951), pp. 12f.; c. 1000 B.C. according to Noth, History of
Israel, p. 165.
21 So the commentaries on Samuel by Smith, Budde, Dhorme, ad loc., and Noth,
VS, pp. 22f., 61.
22 Die Samuelbiicher, p. 34.
23 Cf. above, p. 48.

prescription in Dt. 17:8-13, we are then illustrating by interpolating Eli’s

occupation of both judgeship and priesthood at the amphictyonic sanc¬
tuary as the intermediate historical term, and that is at least worth
considering. The original tradition in Exod. 18:13-26 seems to be an
aetiology for a certain judicial activity, done with divine consultation,
of early priests at the aphictyonic shrine, in cases of particular difficulty
— or perhaps rather of sacral law — which could not be solved by
ordinary judges in ordinary ways. The text would be slightly altered
later (Exod. 18:16b,20) to correspond to a later development under the
monarchy.24 The relations between priesthood and judgeship in divine
law may not be without their bearing on the later work of ford-giving
by priests, for in Dt. 33:10 it is said of the Levites, who in that text
are looked upon in a specifically priestly aspect (on which we shall
have more to say later), that “they teach thy customary laws (mispatim)
to Jacob, thy instructions (torot, perhaps better “decisions”) to Israel.”
Thus the priesthood at Shiloh was a priesthood of sanctuary atten¬
dants, whose oracular consultation was perhaps developed into judicial
tora, or beginning to develop into that kind of tora. They had no mono¬
poly on sacrifice, for we know that Samuel's father Elkanah sacrificed
as a pilgrim to the sanctuary they frequented (1 Sam. 1:3).

C. Was Samuel a Priest?

The Shilonite priesthood was being passed down from father to son.
Hophni and Phinehas were priests, kohanim, (1 Sam. 1:3; 2:13ff.) as was
their father before them (1:9,11 + LXX 1:3).25 This brings us to the
question of Samuel: is Samuel, who is not only unrelated to the priestly
family of Shiloh by blood but an Ephraimite instead of a Levite (1:1),
incorporated into the priesthood of Shiloh? Is he portrayed as a priest
or not? For I. Hylander, Samuel is the representative of the Levitical
ideal and the very type of the early Levitical priest.26 Kittel interprets
the pertinent texts in 1 Sam. 1-3, too, as an indication of Samuel’s
induction into the priesthood by Eli,27 and Dhorme sees in Samuel a
combination of the offices of priest and judge.28

24 Cf. below, p. 121f.

25 A. B. Ehrlich, Randgtossen zur hebrdischen Bibel (Leipzig, 1908-14), III, 171,
and Caspari, Die Samuelbiicher, p. 27, entertain doubts about the kohen in apposition
to Eli in 1:9 (which Ehrlich, actually, has overlooked) and 2:11, because they think
the participial formation of the word must express actual exercise of functions,
whereas Eli does not appear in such actual exercise, probably because of his old age.
Still, neither of them denies that Eli had once, at least, functioned as the priest
of Shiloh. As for the linguistic problem, a Hebrew participial form can be used
as a simple attribute, expressing neither time nor aspect: cf. P. Jouon, Grammaire
de Vhebreu biblique (2nd ed.; Rome, 1947), § 121i.
26 Der literarische Samuel-Saul-Komplex, pp. 245, 302.
27 R. Kittel, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, II (7th ed.; Stuttgart, 1925), p. 73.
28 Les Livres de Samuel, pp. 98f. Dhorme further sees a distinction to be made

The Old Testament evidence on which a priesthood of Samuel is

based is this:
1) The genealogy of 1 Chr. 6:7-13, with elements reused in that of
1 Chr. 6:18-23, includes Samuel among the descendants of Levi.
2) In 1 Sam. 7:9f. Samuel offers a holocaust for Israel and then sets
up a sacred stone (7:12), and in 16:1-5 he invites the elders of Bethlehem
to a sacrifice he is going to make. According to 9:13,22ff. he presides
over a sacred meal, where he is to bless the sacrifice, and in 10:8 he
tell Saul that he will join him at Gilgal to offer holocausts and sacrifices
of communion.
3) In 1 Sam. 2:11,18; 3:1 he is said to be serving (mesdret) in the
sanctuary of Shiloh and wearing the linen ephod (2:18).
The first argument can be laid aside without further ado, for the
genealogies of 1 Chr. 6, which aim at legitimatizing the cultic personnel
of the Second Temple, are not formally historical, and the historical
traditions used in 1 Samuel show that Samuel belonged to the tribe of
Ephraim.29 But then was Samuel an Ephraimite who became priest in
a sanctuary controlled by a family of Levites?
The old texts relating Samuel to holocausts, sacrifices of communion,
and blessing at a sacred meal would not have implied any priestly char¬
acter in the old days. By the time such actions came to have such an
implication, priesthood was closely associated with sanctuary, and these
texts, with the exception of 10:8, which places the proposed sacrifices
and holocausts at Gilgal, do not relate the sacrificial action to sanc¬
tuaries; 30 10:8, according to Noth,31 is a later redactional insertion with
the literary aim of preparing the insertion of the secondary and later
Gilgal tradition incorporated into the text at 13:7b-15a — a tradition
which must have behind it a vague souvenir no longer quite understood,
which we shall try to assess later in another context. These texts showing
Samuel sacrificing probably did give Israelites of later times the impres¬
sion that Samuel was a priest; hence his inclusion in the Levitical ge¬
nealogies of Chronicles, at a time when a priest had to be counted as

between authority “in relations between the various tribes or with the neighboring
peoples" (the authority of the king) and that "in relations between the nation and
its God" (the authority of the priest; Samuel). But the king, more than the priest,
was properly the man who stood forth in the relations between God and the people,
as we shall have occasion to see below, and it was the prophets, not the priests, in
Israel (Dhorme says “priests and prophets”) who communicated the mind of Yahweh
and his reprimands to the king.
.29 On the purpose and method of 1 Chr. 6:7-13,18-23, cf. A. Lefevre, "Note d exe-
gese sur les genealogies des Qehatites," RScR 37 (1950) 287-92.
3« The sacred meal of 9:22ff. took place in some sort of building on the high
place, but the building was not necessarily a sanctuary, and the cult itself may just
as well have taken place in the open air: cf. R. de Vaux, Les Livres de Samuel
(BJ; 2nd ed., Paris, 1961), p. 56, n. a).
si Cf. Noth, VS, p. 63.

a Levite, and when sacrificing required a priestly hand and had to be

performed at a legitimate sanctuary.32 But that Samuel's sacrificing
was looked upon as priestly in the formative days of the Samuel tradi¬
tions, when a priest was still looked upon as a sanctuary minister whose
principal function still was the oracular consultation which was turning
into the giving of tora — and when sacrifice was not yet bound to a
sanctuary — is far from certain.
That leaves us with the elements in 1 Sam. 2:11,18; 3:1. Samuel
is said to have been serving (mesaret) in the sanctuary of Shiloh. The
verb seret is often, but not exclusively, used of cultic service; even when
used of cultic service, however, it is not necessarily used of properly
priestly service. It is used of the services of royal household servants
(Gen. 39:4; 40:4; 2 Sam. 13:17f.; 1 Kgs. 10:5; 2 Chr. 9:4; Est. 2:2; 6:3)
and of royal officers (only in the relatively late texts of Chronicles,
Esther, and Proverbs); it is used of Joshua’s services to Moses (Exod.
24:13; 33:11; Num. 11:28; Josh. 1:1) and of service rendered to Elijah
(1 Kgs. 19:21) and Elisha (2 Kgs. 4:43; 6:15). In the cultic sphere, it is
used for the services performed by Zadokite priests in chapters 40 - 46
of Ezekiel and for those of Aaronide priests in Joel 1:9,13; 2:17, while P
and Chronicles use it upon occasion for the activity of the Aaronide
priests, but more often for that of post-exilic levites who were not priests,
as well as for the cultic activity of the people as a whole. In Num. 3:6
and Num. 18:2 it is plainly used of the work of Levites performing
services in subordination to the sons of Aaron, i.e. to the priests who
by that time were distinguished from "levites,” and of Samuel it seems
to be used of sanctuary services performed in subordination to the family
of Eli, for if Samuel is said in 1 Sam. 2:18 to have been serving before
Yahweh, in 2:11 and 3:1 he is said to have been serving before Eli.
In all three of these verses he is called a ncfar, which the Revised
Standard Version translates “boy”, but in 2:13 the servant who is de¬
scribed carrying out the sacrilegious orders of the sons of Eli is also
called a naear — a naear kohen, which the Revised Standard Version
translates "priest's servant" — and we can ask ourselves seriously if
the nacar Samuel, too, was not a priest's servant rather than a priest.
The title ncfar is known as a terminus technicus for a subordinate temple
servant in the Phoenician world, where it is certainly not the title of a
priest.33 If this is Samuel's position at Shiloh, Hannah’s humble vow

32 Hence, perhaps, also Ps. 99:6: "Moses and Aaron were among his priests, and
Samuel among those calling upon his name. They called upon Yahweh and he
answered them,” for which R. Tournay informs me that a phrase-division after
"Samuel” instead of after "Aaron" and an absence of division after "those calling
upon his name" have been proposed, in which case this text, too, would consider
Samuel a priest together with Moses and Aaron.
33 Among the temple personnel listed to be paid for their services in the Phoeni¬
cian temple accounts from Kition we find ncrm mentioned along with immolators,
barbers, stewards, sacred prostitutes, and scribes: KAI 37:A:8,10(?),12; B:ll. The

( . 1,22,28) is simple and natural. It would be somewhat presumptive

for her to vow her son to a position as priest in a sanctuary where a
Levitical family was already installed in priestly office, but natural enough
for her to vow her son to Yahweh's service as a servant in whatever
tasks the priest in charge of the sanctuary might see fit to give him.
In those days priestly recruitment was less a matter of encouraging voca¬
tions among the faithful than of assuring within a group priestly posts
already held.
And what of the linen ephod which the narrative tells us Samuel
wore in his work (2:18)? The Old Testament mentions a specifically
"linen'' ephod only here, worn by Samuel, then in 1 Sam. 22:18, where
it is worn by the priests of Nob, and in 2 Sam. 6:14 (== 1 Chr. 15:27),
where it is worn by David as he dances before Yahweh’s presence con¬
centrated in the Ark. True enough, 1 Sam. 22:18, in which "carrying
the (linen) ephod” has the ring of a phrase virtually synonymous with
‘ priest,” does seem at first sight to indicate that the linen ephod was
a priestly garment, but actually it is exceedingly doubtful that 22:18
originally spoke of a linen ephod. The MT reads nose3 epod bad, but
the equivalent of bad, "linen," is missing in the text of LXX B, the purest
representative of the old pre-hexaplar LXX,34 and the verb nasa3 is not
really attested in Hebrew with the sense of "to wear (clothing).” The
original sense of this text was "carrying the (oracular) ephod,” and it is
the oracular ephod which was characteristic of a priest in the popular
mentality of that time.35 The addition of "linen” here may quite well
come from a later editing hand sharing the negative attitude toward the
oracular ephod which was already evident in Hos. 3:4. We can not
conclude that the linen ephod was an exclusively priestly garment.
In the Ancient Near East as a whole the custom existed of having
anybody who entered a sacral area change his clothes. The origin of
the practice was related to the desire to avoid incurring any wrath of
the gods that might come from a pollution of the realm of the sacral
with things brought over from the realm of the profane, and its practical
expression is based on the relations obtaining between an earthly lord
and his servants, extended to the realm of sacral taboos. This basic
concept of religious psychology is illustrated by an interesting Hittite
text dealing with the duties, obligations, and taboos which should be
known by priests and temple servants,36 and it shows up also in Egyptian

document sheds no light on what their duties might have been, but they were
not priests (khnm): cf. above, p. 22 with n. 64.
34 This has been confirmed by the detailed study of B. Johnson, Die hexaplarische

Rezension des 1. Samuelbuches der Septuaginta (Studia Theologica Lundensia, XXII;

Lund, 1963).
35 On the problem of the different objects to which the word ephod is applied
in the Old Testament, cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 201-04.
36 Cuneiform text in KUB, XIII, 4 :i :14ff.,21ff.; iii :61ff.; transliteration and trans¬
lation by E. H. Sturtevant, "A Hittite Text on the Duties of Priests and Temple

ritual practice.37 In Egypt the prescriptions for the bodily preparation

necessary for appearance in the divine presence held especially for the
professional regulars in cultic functions, but the Pharaoh himself, when
making ready to enter a sacred place, went through a process of ritual
bathing which concluded with his donning special clothing,38 and it is
important to note that the obligation to be in a state of ritual purity
was incumbent even upon the laymen when they would enter those sacred
areas which were open to them, as the frequent inscriptions at the en¬
trances to the outer precincts of Egyptian temples show. The instruc¬
tions given in the stele of Piankhi to the soldiers arriving before the
Temple of Karnak reveal that the required state of purity for laymen
was acquired in much the same fashion as it was in the cases of the
priests and the Pharaoh: by washing and by changing to special clothes.39
We know too that in old Arabia it was required of a man coming into
the presence of the god Al-Jalsad that he lay aside his ordinary clothing
and put on the garment worn by priests.40
And is the use of linen a sign of priestly raiment? The parallel with
Herodotus' well-known observation that Late Egyptian priests were known
by their linen garment and papyrus sandals has often been drawn in
favor of such a theory,41 but in the same passage of Herodotus is an
overlooked statement that the Egyptians in general wore linen as a mani¬
festation of a purity which the Greek historian saw as religiously mo¬
tivated purity. In fact, linen was the ordinary material used for clothing
in ancient Egypt,42 and one may hesitate to use Herodotus' text in the
effort to throw light on the Israelite linen ephod, because Herodotus has
not explicitly recorded any difference between everyday clothing and
sacral clothing observed during his voyage in Egypt.43 In older periods

Servants,” JAOS 54 (1934), pp. 364-67, 386f.; translation alone by A. Goetze in ANET,
pp. 207b, 209b.
37 Cf. Bonnet, Reallexikon, pp. 631f.
38 Ibid., p. 633. The vesting of the Pharaoh for his entry into the sanctuary
came to be a sumptuous and solemn sort of thing which makes one think of
pontifical vesting in the post-Carolingian West: cf. the description given by A. M.
Blackman, " ‘The House of the Morning’,” JEA 5 (1918), p. 161, n. 10, and "Sacramental
Ideas in Ancient Egypt,” Recueil de travaux 39 (1921), p. 46. Blackman’s two articles
also reveal the complex religious significance that came to overlay these Egyptian
rites as the centuries passed.
39 Translation in J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt (Chicago, 1906), IV,
422 (§ 823).
40 G. Ryckmans, Les religions arabes, pp. 18, 38f.
44 Herodotus Histories ii.37.
42 Cf. Montet, La vie quotidienne en Egypte au temps des Ramses, p. 77. The
details on the use of individual fabrics in A. Lucas, Ancient Egyptian Materials and
Industries (3rd ed.; London, 1948), pp. 166-72, reveal that the use of anything besides
linen for clothing between the Badarian and the Roman periods was exceptional, and
most of the other materials were not used at all.
43 The accuracy of Herodotus’ observations leaves quite a bit to be desired,
however, and his not having noticed a distinction does not necessarily mean there
was none. In Late Egypt the practice of shaving the entire body was a hallmark

of Egyptian cultural history the characteristic garment of a priest on

ritual occasions was, if anything, the leopard-skin worn over various
forms of ordinary linen garments.44 Nevertheless, even though linen
was the regular material used for clothing in Egypt, it may have had
particular importance as a material for cultic clothing, serving as the
only licit material for such clothing even after woolen clothing began
to be introduced; Erman has remarked that for the Egyptians wool was
deemed an abomination to the gods.45
The practice of garment-changing itself was certainly known in Israel.
We learn that the votaries of Baal clad themselves in special raiment
when they went to the temple in Samaria (2 Kgs. 10:22), and the presence
of a custodian of the garments in the Temple of Jerusalem suggests that
the same practice existed there (cf. 2 Kgs. 22:14). The antiquity of the
custom and its similarity to the pattern in the Ancient Near East as a
whole can be seen in Gen. 35:2, which has Jacob telling his family and
all those who were with him to wash themselves and to change their
clothing before setting out for the holy place of Bethel.
Against this background it becomes quite doubtful that the linen
ephod worn by Samuel and David was an exclusively priestly garment.
Without going as far as M. Haran, who distinguishes between the precious
ephod which characterized the Israelite high priests and the linen ephod
which would be a popular, non-priestly garment worn in worship,4S, we
would suggest that the linen ephod was an archaic garment of probably

of the priests in the cult of Isis and Osiris, while laymen were not necessarily
characterized in those times by the absence of hair, but did shave themselves when
actually taking part in a cultic observance: cf. G. Glotz, “Les fetes d’Adonis sous
Ptolemee II,” Revue des etudes grecques 33 (1920), p. 183. Herodotus' memory is
certainly confused even in the detail of whether laymen ordinarily were shaven or
not: compare Bistories ii.65,66 with iii.12 and ii.36.
44 Cf. M. G. Houston, Ancient Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Persian Costume (A

Technical History of Costume, I; 2nd ed., London, 1954), p. 53. Actually not even
the leopard-skin was characteristic of all priests but rather of the Sem-priests on
solemn occasions and of the high priests of Heliopolis; Egyptian priests for the
most part did not have a peculiarly hieratic form of clothing for ritual occasions
(Bonnet, Reallexikon, p. 606).
45 A. Erman, Die Religion der Agypter (Berlin-Leipzig, 1934), p. 337. Whether the
Egyptians really felt that strongly about the matter or not might be difficult to
prove, but the fact that woolen material is very rare from the Dynastic times
although wool-producing sheep were introduced in Egypt already in the Middle
Kingdom (cf. A General Introductory Guide to the Egyptian Collections in the British
Museum [London, 1964], p. 218), and especially the fact that in the Ptolemaic Period
Egyptian priests were expressly forbidden to wear woolen clothing and the temples
had what almost amounted to a monopoly on the manufacture of fine linen, which
was produced chiefly for the use of the priests (H. I. Bell, Egypt from Alexander
the Great to the Arab Conquest [Oxford, 1948], p. 49), do certainly indicate that
linen was the proper thing for priests to wear and that there was some kind of
religious taboo attaching to the use of wool.
46 M. Haran, "The Ephod according to Biblical Sources,” Tarbiz 24 (1954/55)
380-91 (in Modem Hebrew, with English Summary).

Canaanite origin,47 still preserved in early Israel for wear by men when
they were considered to be ritually in the presence of God. It would
thus be worn especially by priests, but not exclusively by priests. David
wore it when he danced before the Ark because ancient peoples looked
upon such a dance as a sacred, ritual activity, and David’s piety led him
to lay aside his profane clothes and don a sacred garment because before
the Ark he was in the immediate presence of God. The custom must
have survived long after in Israel, for Ezek. 44:17ff. insists that officiating
priests change to linen clothing before entering the sacred area. The
word ephod is no longer used for any such article of clothing, and perhaps
the form of the garment had changed, but linen was still prescribed for
ritual wear in the divine presence. By Ezekiel’s time, of course, no one
but a specially cultic person was allowed in the area of divine presence,
but the use of linen clothing was determined by the divine presence in
the sacred area rather than by any cultic or priestly quality of the wearer.
Accordingly, Samuel would naturally be clad in an ephod when he per¬
formed his duties in the sanctuary of Shiloh, without that fact’s being
any indication that he was a priest.
We conclude, then, that Samuel, who is never called a priest in the
Bible (with a possible exception in Ps. 99:6), was not, in fact, a priest in
any genuine sense. The priests of Shiloh who had the rights and duties
of administration and direction of that sanctuary — for it is important
to note that the image of a priest as the solitary attendant of an unim¬
portant sanctuary is yielding, at an important sanctuary, to that of the
administrator and director of a more extensive personel — were members
of one Levitical family, that of Eh; Samuel was a naear or temple servant

47 Haran, op. cit., p. 391, has a good point when he explains the Israelite ephod
as antique remnant preserved by the conservatism of cult. The word "ephod" itself
suggests the course the history of the garment took. In Biblical Hebrew it is used
only of cultic objects — the ritual clothing, and the ephod kept in the sanctuary
and used for oracular consultation (the origin of the latter is probably to be sought
in some sort of garment: cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 202f.). But in the older
and more northern Canaanite of Ugarit it was used for "garment" in a less limited
sense: cf., in context, the ipdk (ipd + k), "thy garment," of text 67:i:5 in Gordon,
Ugaritic Textbook — "Baal” I*.i.5 in G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends
(Edinburgh, 1956), p. 103. Gordon, in his glossary, enters the form ipdk as “pdk(?)"
(op. cit., p. 466, No. 2015), and J. Pedersen, Israel: its Life and Culture, III-IV, p. 685,
sees a verb pdy, but cf. rather W. F. Albright in BASOR, No. 83 (Oct. 1941), p. 40,
n. 10. Now, however, a text not available for the earlier editions of Gordon’s com¬
pendium but published in Ugaritic Textbook (text 1152:3) shows ipd without pos¬
sessive suffix, and Gordon, while keeping the old entry pdk, has made a new one
for ipd (p. 364, No. 300).
Still earlier in history, and farther to the north, there is a Cappadocian cognate
in the Old Akkadian (plural) epaddtu of the texts from Alishar and Kiiltepe: cf.
I. J. Gelb, Inscriptions from Alishar and Vicinity (The University of Chicago Oriental
Institute Publications, XXVII = Researches in Anatolia, VI; Chicago, 1935), p. 69, with
J. Lewy's review in JAOS 57 (1937), p. 436. A garment not uncommon in long-for¬
gotten days had been gradually restricted to use as a properly cultic garment in
Canaan, and its usage, along with its name, passed into early Israel.

at their disposal (1 Sam. 2:11; 3:1), and thus at the disposal of God
(2:18). The fact that the Arabian sadin, who corresponds to the Hebrew
kohen, slept in his sanctuary can not be adduced as evidence that Samuel,
by sleeping in the sanctuary at Shiloh (3:3,9) appears as a priest.48
The nomadic sadin naturally slept in the sanctuary of which he was the
solitary guardian. Eli, the priest responsible for a sanctuary with the
beginnings of developed organization in sedentarized Israel, delegated the
nocturnal guard and the matutinal opening of the sanctuary doors (3:15)
to a subordinate, Samuel the nacar, while Eli, "whose eyes were growing
dim and who could no longer see,” slept in his own room (3:2).
In his adult life Samuel was a judge (7:6,15ff.),49 and his sons became
judges after him (8: Iff.), just as Eli's sons followed in their father's
footsteps as priests. There is much traditional material on Samuel as
a prophet, too. He is called a nabP in 3:20 (cf. also the redactional
gloss in 9:9) and a "seer” (ro°e) in 9:11,18, and all the material on Samuel
and the word of God to be gleaned in 3:1-4: la; 9:6-21; 15:10-31 can be
added, for the "word” belongs to the prophet, torn to the priest (Jer.
18:18).50 The same qualities of judge and prophet — or prophetess —
are united in Deborah (Judg. 5 - 6), who was commissioned by God to
summon Barak to deliver the people, as Samuel was commissioned to
summon Saul and David (Judg. 4:4), but that goes beyond our concern
except for the reminder that for the compiler-redactor of 1 Sam. 1:1 -4:1a
Samuel was especially a prophet, and that he preserved the material on
Samuel’s service in the sanctuary not to show Samuel as a priest but to

48 For the sadin’s sleeping in his sanctuary, cf. Ibn al-AtIr, Usd al-gaba, IV, 153,
in Lammens, L’Arabie occidentale avant VHegire, p. 139, n. 2.
49 Caspari, Die Samuelbiicher, pp. 82-86, believed that in 1 Sam. 7 Samuel had
- been extraneously introduced into an old Kampf-Erzahlung. Noth, US, p. 55, and The
History of Israel, p. 172, n. 2, keeps Samuel in the text but makes all of 7:2-17
Deuteronomistic, allowing, however, for old tradition behind Deuteronomistic fiction
in vv. 16f. A. Weiser, “Samuels ‘Philister-Sieg’,” ZTK 56 (1959), pp. 257-60 (= Weiser,
Samuel: seine geschichtliche Aufgabe und religiose Bedeutung, pp. 9-12), while ad¬
mitting that the account of Samuel’s victory over the Philistines in this chapter is
not historical, defends the historicity of Samuel's activity as a judge. Weiser follows
H W Hertzberg, “Die Kleinen Richter,” ThLZ 79 (1954) 285-90, G. von Rad, Theologie
des Alten Testaments (Munich, 1958-61), I, 42, 68, and H. Wildberger, “Samuel und
die Entstehung des israelitischen Konigtums,” ThZ 13 (1957), pp. 463f., in pointing
out that Samuel was not one of the major judges raised up charismatically to deliver
Israel from an enemy, but rather a minor judge, whose business it was to know
and interpret divine law and to adapt it to new situations when occasion arose; for
bibliography on the minor judges, cf. Wildberger, op. cit., p. 464, n. 50.
so He even appears at the head of a band of ecstatic prophets in 1 Sam. 19:18-24.
For R. Press, "Der Prophet Samuel,” ZAW 56 (1938) 177-225, Samuel is an individual
prophet standing midway between the bands of ecstatic prophets, with whom he
shares a certain professional quality in prophetic function, and the later literary
prophets, with whom he shares the manner of his prophetic proclamation. K. Moh-
lenbrink, “Sauls Ammoniterfeldzug und Samuels Beitrag zum Kdnigtum des Saul,
ZAW 58 (1940/41), p. 65, finds a resemblance between the figure of ^Samuel in 1 Sam.
15 and that of the prophets Amos and Isaiah. On Samuel as ro^e/nabP, cf. A. R.
Johnson, The Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel, pp. 14, 16f.

root Samuel in the place which was the center of the pre-monarchical
Yahwistic spirit, leading up to his climax of showing Samuel as a prophet
in that spirit’s tradition. Samuel as an independent cultic figure (i. e. as
more than a cultic na'ar) appears in tradition as a prophet rather than
a priest.51

II. Between Shiloh and Jerusalem

Shiloh with its sanctuary was destroyed not long after the battle
of Ebenezer,52 but the continuity of the Shilonite priesthood was not
to be broken. The thread will reappear, and with it the posterity of
Eli will enter on stage. In the meantime the narratives preserved for
us turn to the fate of the Ark.

A. Kiriath-jearim

When the Ark was at last returned by the Philistines, who had seized
it at Ebenezer, it was received by the ordinary people of Beth-shemesh
and then of Kiriath-jearim (1 Sam. 6:13-21). The statement in 6:15 that
Levites took the Ark down from the cart is the fruit of a later redactor’s
scruple on profane hands touching the sacred, and it interrupts the flow
of the narrative in which it is inserted. Once the Ark had arrived in
Kiriath-jearim, where it was to remain for a while, the citizenry took
stock of the situation and decided that the Ark had to have someone
serving as attendant and caretaker. The resting-place of the Ark was
“the house of Abinadab on the hill,” and we might expect the normal
reverence and vigilance of Abinadab and his family to suffice, but such
was not the case. Abinadab’s son Eleazar was set apart from the realm

51 This conclusion corresponds with those of A. Gonzalez Nunez, Prof etas, sacer-
dotes y reyes en el antiguo Israel; Problemas de adaptacion del Yahvismo en Canaan
(Instituto Espanol de Estudios Eclesiasticos, Monografias, I; Madrid, 1962), pp. 129-91
(cf. especially pp. 189ff.), for whom Samuel is a judge, a seer, a prophet, a religious
guide (with emphasis on the one or the other aspect by different traditions), but
not a priest. O. Ploger, “Priester und Prophet," ZAW 63 (1951), p. 167, observes that
the account of Samuel's ministry in the sanctuary of the Ark may contain a perti¬
nent reminder that Samuel as "seer” belongs in a "priestly-cultic" milieu, but that
to be a “seer" in Israel was not to be a priest. M. M. Cohen, “The Role of the
Shilonite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of Ancient Israel," HUCA 36 (1965), p. 66,
following H. M. Orlinsky (cf. Cohen’s references), on the contrary, says that Samuel,
according to Biblical tradition, is primarily a seer-priest or diviner-priest, and a
prophet only in the sense that he is a diviner-priest. On the serious reserves one
may well entertain with regard to the whole concept of a "diviner-priest” in Israel,
cf. what we have written above (pp. 16ff.; 23ff.) in comparing the Hebrew kohen
with the Arabian kahin and the Mesopotamian baru.
52 On the destruction date at Seilun (Shiloh), cf. W. F. Albright, in BASOR, No.
35 (Oct. 1929), p. 4, and his Archaeology of Palestine (Harmondsworth, Middlesex,
1960), p. 228.

of the profane (for such is the essential meaning of qiddes) to watch over
the Ark of Yahweh’s presence (7:1). We are reminded of Micah’s son,
priest of the sanctuary at his father’s house, in Judg. 17:5, before the
itinerant Levite came along.
Eleazar is not called a priest in this passage, but there is no mistaking
the fact that he is a priest. His priesthood is implied in the use of
the verb qiddes for the act of establishing him in his functions (cf. Exod.
28:3,41; 29:1,33,44; 30:30; 40:13; Lev. 8:12,30), and we catch one of the
last clear glimpses in the Old Testament of the primitive rural priest,
the solitary attendant of a local sanctuary. We should like very much
to know by what procedure he was set apart for the sacred, and by whom,
and what his everyday activities were, but our curiosity is left unsatisfied.53
The action of the inhabitants of Kiriath-jearim is not taken because
of some authoritative directive but because it is evidently the thing they
find called for in the circumstances. Although they are Israelites, they
are probably not far removed from the Canaanite world of religious
ideas, for their city is one of the four Canaanite cities mentioned in
Josh. 9:17, and in the description of Benjaminite territory in Josh. 18:11-20
we learn that its name had been changed — presumably within recent
memory — from Kiriath-Baal (Josh. 18:14).54 This proximity to Canaanite
traditions, on the frontier of Israelite territory, may also explain why
there was no question of a Levite's being chosen as the attendant of
the sanctuary, although the Levites by this time were already becoming
cult-specialists, and Micah in Judg. 17 was only too happy to have his
son replaced as priest by a Levite. There were perhaps no Levitical
gerim in the neighborhood to lay claim to an appointment — if the
men of Kiriath-jearim knew of any such Levitical tradition at all.

B. The Later Elides

The Elide lineage reappears in 1 Sam. 14, with Ahijah the priest and
"ephod-bearer” — here the oracular ephod with urim and thummim55 —

53 in fact, it is likely that no procedure or rite at all was involved in his being

set apart for the sacred, but that once a sort of mutual consent was established
he was deemed to be thus set apart: cf. Noth, Amt und Berufung, pp. 7ff. (= Noth,
Gesammelte Studien, pp. 311-14).
54 Noth, Das Buck Josua, p. 110, however, denies that Kiriath-jeanm really under¬

went a change of name; the supposed change would have resulted from a confusion
in the list’s redaction with a distinct but neighboring Baalah.
55 in v. 18 the MT reads "Ark," the LXX "ephod." We know from 1 Sam 7:1,
continued in 2 Sam. 6, that the Ark was not moving around with the people of Israel
but was fixed at Kiriath-jearim. The MT could be altering a text, either m the light
of Judg. 8:27, where the ephod is an object of scandal (de Vaux, Les Livres de
Samuel ad loc.), or in view of a preconceived idea of the convenience of the move¬
ment of the Ark with the Israelites. On the other hand, the LXX could be altering
a more difficult text. Because of all the other information we have on the location
of the Ark in this period, and because of 1 Sam. 14:3,19b,3642, the LXX s ephod
seems to have the weight of probability on its side.


in the company led by Saul against the Philistines. His only function
appearing in the text is that of consulting God for Saul (14:18f.,36ff.).
Before tracing the Elide lineage further, we ought to look at the
question of the authenticity of that lineage, for the connexion of the
subsequent members of this priestly family with Eli and Shiloh is made
through 1 Sam. 14:3. The pertinent texts for the genealogy are these:
1) 1 Sam. 4:19-22 recounts the birth of Ichabod, son of Phinehas,
son of Eli.
2) 1 Sam. 14:3: “Ahijah, the son of Ahitub, Ichabod's brother, son
of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh.”
3) 1 Sam. 22:9: "Ahimelech, the son of Ahitub” (the first mention
of Ahimelech’s origin).
4) 1 Sam. 22:20: after the massacre of the priests of Nob, "one
of the sons of Ahimelech the son of Ahitub, named Abiathar, escaped
and fled after David.” This Abiathar is to become David’s official priest,
along with Zadok, who then supplants Abiathar under Solomon (1 Kgs.
5) 2 Sam. 15:27 tells us that Abiathar had a son named Jonathan.
The authenticity of this genealogy is accepted generally, but not
unanimously.56 Most of the reasons of those impugning the authenticity
of 1 Sam. 14:3a and its information are forced arguments of style or
smoothness, or arguments based on historical convenience or chronological
computation without firm evidence. Tsevat, reducing them basically to
the arguments given by Arnold and Caird, takes them one by one and
does a good job answering them.57 I should like only to add two further
observations to what he has already said. First, if the genealogy were
a fictitious attempt to attach Abiathar and his descendants to Eli, the
place to do so would be 1 Sam. 22:9, or at least 22:20, where the point
would be more clearly made, and there would be no need to pass through
Ahitub (otherwise unknown to us and presumably to the ancients too),
for the connexion could pass directly through Ichabod. The impression
given is rather that the genealogical information is offered by someone
who knew the details of this family tree and who has seized the first
mention of a son of Ahitub — Ahijah in 14:3 — to give the details necessary
for spanning the gap between this generation and the point where the
Elides had last appeared. Also, the establishment of the genealogy is
made for a reason, but the source need not be a Zadokite seeking to

56 Tsevat, "Studies in the Book of Samuel," p. 209, n. 96, lists as attempts at

repudiation: W. R. Arnold, Ephod and Ark (Cambridge, Mass., 1917), pp. 14f.; A. Schulz,
Die Bucher Samuel, I (Munster i. W., 1919), p. 195; Caspari, Die Samuelbiicher, pp.
142f., 159; R. H. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old Testament (New York, 1941), p. 369
(add Pfeiffer’s treatment in Quantulacumque: Studies Presented to Kirsopp Lake, p. 313,
n. 31); G. B. Caird in Interpreter's Bible, II (New York-Nashville, 1953), 863, 950;
M. Razin and S. Bendor, The Origin of Kingship (Jerusalem-Tel-aviv, 1959), pp. 287f.
(in Modem Hebrew).
57 Tsevat, op. cit., pp. 210-14.

discredit the partisans of Abiathar by associating them with the threat

made to the house of Eli according to 1 Sam. 3:10-14 or the later, less
anti-Elide and more anti-Levitical, 2:27-36. The source can just as well,
if not better, be a relative of Abiathar, a relative proud of his lineage and
not aware of the divine threat to the house of Eli as something meant to
be protracted beyond Hophni and Phinehas — if he was aware of the
threat at all. 58 The inclusion of the more distant kinsmen of Eli in such
a threat can as well have been made later, on the knowledge of the
genealogy already established, but, as we shall see explained farther on,
the later, extended, threat was aimed perhaps at a target made of Levites
more generally, not only the direct historical descendants of Eli.

C. Nob

While Ahijah accompanied Saul in his field campaigns, his brother

Ahimelech was the chief personage of a band of priests at Nob on the
southern boundary of Benjamin, close to the still Canaanite city of
Jerusalem (1 Sam. 21:2-10; 22:9-23).69 Ahimelech, apparently unaware
of the real state of affairs existing between David and Saul, received
David at Nob, consulted God for him (22:13,15), gave him consecrated
bread for his men on his assurance that they were in the required state
of religious purity, and presented him with the sword of Goliath, which
was kept in the sanctuary, only to be put to death, along with the other
priests of Nob, by Doeg the Edomite at Saul’s command, for having
given aid and comfort to Saul's enemy by his gestures of kindness.
The number of priests killed by Doeg is given as eighty-five (22:18),
a surprisingly large number, perhaps.60 The image they form is that of a

ss it has been suggested, e. g. by B. Duhm, Das Buck Jeremia (KHC, XI; Tiibin-
gen-Leipzig, 1901), p. 3, and K. Budde, Geschichte der althebrdischen Literatur (2nd
ed.; Leipzig, 1909), pp. 38-43, that Abiathar or a member of his immediate family
had a hand in the sources of the history of the early monarchy. Rost, Die Uber-
lieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids, p. 135, shows how unlikely it is that Abia¬
thar is a source for the details in the History of the Davidic Succession, but that,
on the other hand, it is quite possible that he had a hand in the History of the
Davidic Accession, and that would naturally bring Abiathar nearer as a likely source
of the Eliade genealogical details. The knowledge of the threat, however, may not
at that time have spread far beyond local Shilonite circles. It does not seem to be
known by the History of the Ark (cf. 1 Sam. 4).
59 Many commentators hold, needlessly, that Ahimelech and Ahijah are one and
the same person.
69 Haran, "The Ephod according to Biblical Sources," p. 388, denies that the
priests of Nob were priests at all, because he believes it would have been unlikely
to find so many priests in one sanctuary, and that fits his thesis that the linen
ephod was always distinct from the properly sacerdotal precious ephod, even when
the two existed contemporaneously, as he holds they once did. (Are Y. Kaufmann’s
views on P and its early date in the background here?). But it is difficult to deny
that the people who gave the tone to the group of men at Nob were priests, and
we have already remarked that in 22:18 the original text spoke of the oracular
ephod, not of a linen ephod to be worn.

kind of cultic guild under Ahimelech,61 and there may have been a
distinction of offices among them, some of them being priests, themselves
admitting of division into priests of different rank like the chief priest,

second priest, and so on which we know from monarchical Jerusalem

(2 Kgs. 23:4; 25:18; Jer. 52:24), and others being lesser ministrants, but
the narrator calls them simply "priests” (1 Sam. 22:17f.) without differentia¬
tion of titles. Nor does it follow necessarily from the use of the expression
bet dbika, "your father's house” (22:16 addressing Ahimelech, 22:22 address¬
ing Abiathar), that they were all descendants of Eli. The word bayit,
"house,” is very supple in Hebrew and can include people who are only
distantly and tenuously related.62 If the priests of Nob — or a con¬
siderable number of them — were Levites, the expression would be
quite apt. In any event, there was some bond of kinship among them,
and they were sacred personages, with a religious barrier between them
and the realm of the profane: Saul’s Israelite “runners” would not lift
a hand against them, for fear of sacrilege, and it was Doeg, the non-Yahwist
mercenary from Edom, who finally murdered them (22:17f.).
The Biblical account, once again, sees no need to inform its readers
what sort of life the sanctuary ministers led or what their duties were.
The mention of the "bread of the presence” in 21:7 (cf. also 21:5 and
Exod. 25:30; Lev. 24:5-9) indicates that the priests of Nob had some sort
of duties having to do with sacred offerings in the sanctuary of which
they were the attendants, and some sort of privileges related to their
support (cf. Lev. 24:9), but in the popular mind of the time they, as
priests, were thought of as "ephod-bearers” — men whose important duty
was still held to be the consultation of Yahweh.63
The sanctuary of Nob was not an insignificant sanctuary. The fact
that its guild of attendants was fairly large precludes its being an
ordinary country sanctuary. It has been understood as the tribal sanctuary

61 Cf. the Phoenician and Ugaritic rb khnm of whom we have already spoken in
Chapter One.
62 Cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, I, 39.

63 The phrase nose0 epod in 22:18 is surely an attribute, for in context the priests
murdered by Doeg were not actually carrying the ephod. Exactly the same phrase
is used of Ahijah in 1 Sam. 14:3, and although Ahijah soon does appear in the act
of consultation (14:18f.,36), the construction (participle + noun without article) still
suggests that the phrase itself is a set phrase expressing the outstanding attribute
of a priest in the early period. In 1 Sam. 2:28, which is a slightly later text, the
characteristic activities of a priest are expressed as going up to the altar, making
smoke rise from offerings, and — still — bearing the ephod; neither qetoret nor
epod has the article (nor does mizbehi, which however, is defined by the pronominal
suffix and could not take the article anyway). For a stylistic parallel (participle +
noun with article, to express a characteristic attribute), cf. hoger hagora, literally
"girding armor," as attribute of men subject to military duty, and for a parallel
without participial nomen regens but with the name of a quasi-cultic object as
nomen rectum without article, cf. the eset bcfalat ob, literally "woman, mistress
of ob" = medium or necromancer, in 1 Sam. 28:7. (We still do not know just what
an ob was, but cf. below, the end of n. 34 to Chapter Four.)

of Benjamin,64 but the presence of the sword of Goliath would rather

indicate that Nob had a wider significance in the amphictyonic sphere,
for the sword is a trophy from a victory which involved all Israel, at
least in sentiment of solidarity (1 Sam. 17: Iff.,8,26,52f.), and the actual
defeat of Goliath was done by David, who was not of Benjamin but
of Judah. The genealogical tie of Ahimelech and his house to Eli, too,
is a strong indication that Nob was the heir of the sanctuary of Shiloh.
Saul s center of operations was Gibeah, however, while the sanctuary was
at Nob several miles to the southeast, and this physical distance might
seem to suggest a moral distance between the interests and policies of
Saul and those of the priests of Nob. Besides, the recorded cultic actions
of Saul (13.7b-15a; 15:12-31) took place at Gilgal, not at Nob, and these
cultic actions are attached to a tradition of reprobation of Saul by Samuel.
This has been interpreted by Mbhlenbrink as a sign of historical opposition
between the claims and rights of the priesthood of a Shiloh-confederacy
with Samuel on its side and those of a Gilgal-confederacy with Saul
among its partisans; the motive given in the Old Testament narrative
for the murder of the priests of Nob at Saul’s instigation would then
be only legendary, and the real motive would depend on a deep conflict
in the new state which led ultimately to a break between Samuel and
But is this necessarily so? The choice of Nob rather than Gibeah
by the bearers of the Shilonite sanctuary tradition can have been deter¬
mined by the fact that the limited area on the mound of Gibeah (Tell
el-Ful), which already had other people to accomodate, offered little room
for a colony of refugees from Shiloh if they were very numerous. It is
more likely yet that they settled at Nob, even if they were not particularly
numerous, because they had relatives, perhaps fellow Levites, among
the inhabitants of Nob. The ties of blood oblige to hospitality and
shelter, and the assimilation of other Levites already at Nob into the
circle of the more privileged refuges from Shiloh would explain the
large number of priests killed by Doeg and their qualification as “the
house of (Ahimelech’s and Abiathar’s) father,” even if not all these priests
had taken part in the migration from the north. The very presence of
the Nob incident in the narrative of David’s rise to kingship, along with
the fact that the narrative takes the nature of the Nob sanctuary quite
for granted and quite without need of explanation, suggests that the
sanctuary is the successor of Shiloh as the covenantal sanctuary, and
that the priests attending it are the successors of the priesthood of
Shiloh.66 But the Ark was not there, and the nature of the sanctuary

64 J. Morgenstern, “The Ark, the Ephod, and the ‘Tent Meeting’,’’ HUCA 18
(1943/44), p. 9. ^
65 Mohlenbrink, “Sauls Ammoniterfeldzug und Samuels Beitrag,” pp. 66fr.
es Cf. A. Alt, Die Staatenbildung der Israeliten in Paldstina (Leipzig, 1930), p. 28
(= KS, II, 20).

at Nob would not necessarily prejudice Saul’s choice of Gilgal for the
general assemblies in which his cultic actions took place, for Gilgal had
come to be a shrine venerable not only for Benjamin but for the entire
amphictyony, easily accessible, through the Jordan Valley, and relatively
safe from Philistine incursions. The details in the two stories of Saul's
cultic actions in Gilgal are later and are overlaid with legendary features,
but at the origin of both of them there is probably an old observed
tradition of some sort of transgression of sacral law or custom on Saul’s
part. But even if the location of the scenes at Gilgal has contributed to
the negative portrayal of Saul in these narratives as we have them,
there is no clear justification for attributing an historical assembly of
Israelites under Saul to a conflict with the sanctuary tradition of Shiloh-
Nob and its priests. We are on safer grounds in accepting the motive
for the murder at Nob given in the Biblical narrative: Ahimelech's kindly
and politically disinterested reception of David, and Saul’s insanely jealous
The sole survivor of the Nob massacre was Ahimelech’s son Abiathar,
whom David took under his patronage (1 Sam. 22:20-23). Abiathar con¬
tinued in the tradition of the times, consulting God for David (23:6-12;
30:7f.), and we may presume that when David consulted God in 1 Sam.
23:2ff.; 2 Sam. 2:1; 5:19,23 it was, again, through Abiathar. No other
priest and no other priestly activity are mentioned in the Bible for the
rest of David’s period of vicissitudes before his establishment of the
kingdom in Jerusalem.
Chapter Four

Priesthood and the Royal Establishment

I. The Erection of Official Priesthood in Jerusalem

A. The Transfer of the Ark to Jerusalem

When David took the Jebusite city of Jerusalem and set up his
residence there (2 Sam. 5:6-12; 1 Chr. 11:4-9), the nascent kingdom of
Israel had at last a fixed political center, in a city which could be claimed
by rivalries neither of the North nor of the South. To confirm the new
capital’s pre-eminence by making it the religious center as well as the
political center of Israel, thereby associating Yahweh in the victory and
triumph, David saw to the transfer of the Ark of Yahweh's presence, which
still remained in the care of the family of Abinadab at Kiriath-jearim,
“in the house of Abinadab on the hill,” and the account of this transfer
is given in 2 Sam. 6.1 The priest Eleazar is not mentioned, but the cart
laden with the Ark is driven by his two brothers Uzzah and Ahio (6:3f.); 2
we are reminded of the brothers Hophni and Phinehas who accompanied
the Ark from Shiloh to Ebenezer (1 Sam. 4:4), but there is a difference:
there is no indication that Uzzah has been set apart for attendance
upon the Ark like his brother, Eleazar (1 Sam. 7:1), and when Uzzah
dares to touch the Ark as it is danger of falling from the cart, God
strikes him dead (2 Sam. 6:6f.).
The resulting fear of the Ark as a "dangerous” object leads David to
take it to the house of Obed-edom the Gittite for a period of experimental

1 S. Mowinckel, Psalmenstuaien, if (Oslo, 1921), pp. 107-26, interprets 2 Sam. 6

as a cultic expression of the kingship of Yahweh, with Sitz im Leben in an annual
New Year festival. Rost, Die Uberlieferung von der Thronnachfolge Davids, pp. 38-46,
Aa. Bentzen, “The Cultic Use of the Story of the Ark in Samuel,’’ JBL 67 (1948) 37-
53 and H. J. Kraus, Die Konigherrschajt Gottes im Alten Testament (Beitrage zur
historischen Theologie, XIII; Tubingen, 1951), pp. 27-81, find various proportions of
cultic expression and historical narrative, with Kraus seeing the most historicity
and Bentzen the least. On the importance of the Ark brought to Jerusalem for
the Davidic kingdom’s place in Israelite history and religion, cf. M. Noth, “Jerusalem
und die israelitische Tradition,” Oudtestamentische Studien 8 (1950) 28-46 (= Noth,
Gesammelte Studien, pp. 172-87).
2 Wellhausen, Der Text der Biicher Samuelis, p. 167, has made the suggestion
that the consonantal °hyw, which the MT vocalizes as a proper name ahyd, should
really be vocalized ahiw, "his brother.”

residence (2 Sam. 6:10ff.). There is no record of any of Obed-edom's

sons’ being set apart specially for attendance upon the Ark like Abinadab’s
son Eleazar at Kiriath-jearim. The omission may be made by chance,
but if, in fact, no such appointment was made, it may be because Obed-
edom, presumably a Canaanite, and coming from the Philistine cultural
environment of Gath, although a convert to Yahwism on the ancient
principle that a change of nationality meant a change of national god,3
had a different set of ingrained cultural and religious values from those
of the men of Kiriath-jearim. Encouraged by the blessing brought on
the house of Obed-edom by the presence of God in the Ark, David finally
has the Ark brought on up to Jerusalem. We are not told who accompanied
the Ark on the last lap of its journey to the capital. The subject of the
verbs in 6:10 and 6:12 is David, but the verbs are surely factitive, and
the actual work was done by other men, called ambiguously in 6:13
"those carrying the Ark of Yahweh.” 4 If we follow Wellhausen’s reading
of the "Ahio” in 6:3f. as "his brother,” the brother in question might
be Eleazar, who could, because he was duly consecrated, come into physical
contact with the Ark when necessary without incurring the divine wrath.

B. Zadok and Abiathar

Once the Ark had arrived in Jerusalem, it was placed in a tent-

sanctuary (6:17), and there it remained until the building of the Temple
by Solomon (cf. 7:2). Abiathar, the survivor of the Nob massacre and
David’s oracle-priest in less secure days, became David’s priest in Jerusalem

3 Although Obed-edom is said to be from Gath, and Gath in the Old Testament
is always a Philistine city unless the name is qualified by another element (Gath-
hepher, Gath-rimmon), Obed-edom’s name is certainly not Philistine, but neither is
it Yahwistic, if Edom is the name of a god (cf. the Biblical Obadiah [;
‘obadya] and Abdiel, the names formed with cbd + the name of a deity among the
Phoenicians and Aramaeans listed in M. Lidzbarski, Handbuch der nordsemitischen
Epigraphik [Weimar, 1898], pp. 332-35 and G. A. Cooke, A Text-Book of North-Semitic
Inscriptions [Oxford, 1903], p. 373, the Arabian names of the same formation listed
in Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums, pp. 2ff., and the discussion of Obed-
edom in S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books
of Samuel [2nd ed.; Oxford, 1913], pp. 268f.; to this can now be added a possible
relation of Edom to the deity Admu, found as theophoric element in both Amorite
and Akkadian names in the Mari texts and discussed by Huffmon, Amorite Personal
Names in the Mari Texts, pp. 158f.). Perhaps Obed-edom was a man of the old
Canaanite stock settled on the coastal plain in pre-Philistine days, who, not being
content with his condition there, had thrown in his lot with David in the days
described in 1 Sam. 27 and 29. If his presence in Israelite territory were merely
that of a mercenary like Doeg or the Cherethites and Pelethites, he would not neces¬
sarily be a Yahwist, but in that case we should be given pause by the notice that
the presence of the Ark was a source of blessings on his family, in view of the
disastrous results of the same presence among the infidels described in 1 Sam. 5.
Later, 1 Chr. 16:5,38,42 will make Obed-edom a Levitical porter!
4 1 Chr. 16 turns the event into a vast family-reunion of priests and Levites in
the post-Exilic sense of the two terms, but that is a figment presenting things as
the Chronicler felt they should have been.

as the kingdom took organized shape. His name and office are given
in the lists of royal officials (8:17; 20:25), he is involved in the transporta¬
tion of the Ark (15:24-29), and he is mentioned in 2 Sam. 17:15; 19:12.
In none of these texts is he mentioned alone. In every one of them
he is associated with the priest Zadok, and in every one of them he is
mentioned after Zadok. In 15:24-29 the text has been disturbed, and
the product gives Zadok a role superior to that of Abiathar. Ultimately
Zadok displaces Abiathar entirely from the royal priesthood when, in
the intrigues surrounding the succession to David’s throne, Abiathar has
had the misfortune of supporting the faction of the losing contender,
Adonijah, while Zadok has supported the winner, Solomon (1 Kgs. 1:7,
19,25; 2:22), who consequently banishes Abiathar to Anathoth (1 Kgs.
2:26f.), leaving Zadok and his posterity in possession of the royal priesthood
of Judah (cf. 1 Kgs. 4:2).
The question of Zadok’s origins is a vexing one because of the lack
of reliable information thereon in the Bible. In the narratives he appears,
as it were, from nowhere. He is provided with an Aaronide genealogy by
1 Chr. 5:30-34; 6:35-38, while 1 Chr. 24:3 makes him a Levite of the
family or clan of Eleazar, while making Abiathar, through his father
Ahimelech, a Levite of the family of Ithamar. 2 Sam. 8:17 reads “Zadok
son of Ahitub, and Ahimelech son of Abiathar,” but the text has surely
been disturbed, for it is Abiathar who is the son of Ahimelech and
Ahimelech who is the son of Ahitub, as we know from 1 Sam. 22:9,20 and
the chronological succession of the dramatis personae in 1 Sam. 2Iff.
Besides, 1 Sam. 22:16,20 makes any survivors of the Nob massacre other
than Abiathar — hence, as far as we can judge, any other descendants
of Ahitub — unlikely. The original order of the four names in 2 Sam. 8:17
was most probably just the opposite of the order in the present text,
and Wellhausen's suggestion that a Zadokite partisan took the order
A-B-C + D (Abiathar son of Ahimelech son of Ahitub, and Zadok) with
Zadok at the end and made it D-C -f B-A with Zadok at the head is
plausible.5 That leaves Zadok without a genealogy in the ancient texts,
and the genealogies of Chronicles are, as genealogies, historically unreliable
(and besides, the data in 1 Chr. 5:33f.; 6:37f. are dependent on the already
reversed order of names in 2 Sam. 8:17).
So we are left wondering about Zadok’s provenance. Theories thereon
are by no means lacking. The can roughly be classified this way:
1) Zadok was the priest of Gibeon, while Abiathar was the priest
of Jerusalem.6
The Gibeon hypothesis depends on 1 Chr. 16:39, but even if we were
to accept that verse's dubious information that Zadok was active in a
sanctuary of the tabernacle at Gibeon, the same verse specifies that he

s Wellhausen, Der Text der Bucher Samuelis, p. 177.

e E. Auerbach, “Die Herkunft der Sadokiden,’’ ZAW 49 (1931) 327f.

was left as priest of the tabernacle at Gibeon, at a time when the Ark
had already gone on to Jerusalem from Kiriath-jearim via the house
of Obed-edom; cf. 1 Chr. 15:25,29; 16:1, and compare 1 Chr. 16:39 (Zadok
and his brethren, the tabernacle, Gibeon) with 16:37 (Asaph and his
companions, the Ark, "there,” i. e. in Jerusalem according to 16:4 in
immediate context). Gibeon, where Solomon sacrificed at least once
(1 Kgs. 3:4) is nowhere mentioned in the life of David, and the hypothesis
does not explain the appearance of Zadok as an important priest in
Jerusalem under David’s reign.
2) "Zadok was perhaps established already by Saul in the place
of Ahijah (= Ahimelech).” 7
But then why would he have risen so quickly to prominent position
under Saul's enemy David, concurring with David’s faithful protege Abia-
thar, son of the murdered Ahimelech?
3) The proper name Ahio in 2 Sam. 6:3f. should be read as ahiw,
"his (Uzzah's) brother,”8 and the resultant nameless brother would be
This explanation is not absolutely impossible. Accepting Albright’s
dates of c. 1050 for the battle at Ebenezer,10 c. 1000 for the accession of
David, and c. 960 for the accession of Solomon: * 11 if Eleazar were twenty
years old when he was consecrated for the attendance upon the Ark, i. e.
c. 1050 (the Ark was in the hands of the Philistines for only seven months,
according to 1 Sam. 6:1) and his father Abinadab were only twenty years
older than he, then a half-brother of Eleazar — hypothetically Zadok —
could be born c. 1035 or even 1030, when Abinadab would be fifty-five
or sixty. Since Abiathar was old enough to share in the wanderings of
David for some time before the establishment in Hebron and then
Jerusalem, he would himself hardly have been born much after 1020,
at the latest. Thus, at the beginning of Solomon’s reign, c. 960, Abiathar
would be sixty years old and Zadok seventy or seventy-five. By the time
the list of Solomon’s officials in 1 Kgs. 4:2-6 was drawn up Zadok had
already been succeeded by his son Azariah (1 Kgs. 4:2).
This hypothesis would explain easily enough what Zadok was doing
in Jerusalem and why he held so influential a position, but it has no
positive evidence in its support, and we are left wondering why Zadok
is not called the son of Abinadab in 2 Sam. 8:17 and thus given his
rightful ancestry. We are also left wondering, for that matter, why

i Wellhausen, Der Text der Bucher Samuelis, p. 50.

8 The textual suggestion originally made by Wellhausen (cf. above, n. 2).
9 E. Sellin, Geschichte des israelitisch-jiidischen Volkes (Leipzig, 1924-32), I, 167;
K. Budde, "Die Herkunft Sadoks,” ZAW 52 (1934) 42-50 (cf. also ZAW 52 [19341, p. 160).
Cf. above, Chapter Three, n. 20.
11 On these last two dates, cf. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel,
p. 130.

Uzzah should be named in 2 Sam. 6:3f. while Zadok remains anony¬

mously "his brother.”
4) Zadok was priest of Jebusite Jerusalem before the conquest by
This would explain very well the failure of the Old Testament records
to provide any genealogical information on Zadok even in documents
where such information is otherwise provided (2 Sam. 8:16ff.; 20:23-26).
A reason for his presence in David’s royal organization, too, would be
afforded: the goodwill of the Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem, who
could hardly have been less than a majority in David's time, would be
conciliated by retaining their priest to serve in the new state as official
priest along with the old Israelite priest Abiathar.13 If Zadok were a
Jebusite it would be all the easier to understand why he supported
Solomon as David’s successor on the throne, and why Abiathar supported
Adonijah (1 Kgs. 1:5-48), for Adonijah was born at Hebron in David’s
earlier years (2 Sam. 3:4), but Solomon was born in Jerusalem (2 Sam.
5:14) of one of the "women of Jerusalem” whom David took as wives
and concubines (5:13), and indeed we know that his mother was Bath-
sheba (2 Sam. 12:24; 1 Kgs. 1:11), whose father's name, Eliam (2 Sam.
11:3), was not specifically Yahwistic but more broadly Canaanite, with
El as the theophoric element, and we know too that Bathsheba had at
first been married to Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam. 11:3). If Adonijah was
a full-blooded Israelite while Solomon was half Jebusite, then Abiathar’s
sympathies and loyalties would naturally lie with an Israelite of pure
descent and Zadok’s with a royal son born of a Jebusite mother, all
the more so because the contrast between the Yahwistic element re¬
curring in the theophoric names of the list of sons born in Hebron
(2 Sam. 3:2-5 + 1 Chr. 3:1-4) and the element El in the names of the
sons born in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:14ff.+ 1 Chr. 3:5-9)14 is suggestive

12 The most thorough and best though-out presentation of this theory is that
of H. H. Rowley, "Zadok and Nehushtan," JBL 58 (1939) 11341. It has also been
advanced by S. Mowinckel, Ezra den Skriftlaerde (1916); H. R. Hall in A. S. Peake
(ed.), The People and the Book (Oxford, 1925), p. 11; Aa. Bentzen, Studier over det
zadokidiske Praesteskabs Historie (1931; cf. his own summary in ZAW 51 [1933]
173-76); Mohlenbrink, "Die levitischen Uberlieferungen des Alten Testaments,” p. 204;
G Widengren, Accadian and Hebrew Psalms of Lamentation as Religious Documents
(Uppsala, 1937), p. 322; C. E. Hauer, "Who Was Zadok?,” JBL 82 (1963) 89-94; Ringgren,
Israelitische Religion, p. 192. I have not seen the cited works of Mowinckel and
Bentzen, except for Bentzen’s summary in ZAW.
13 Hauer, op. cit., has proposed a theory that the Jebusite priest Zadok, for
reasons unknown, abandoned the Jebusites to go over to David’s side during the
siege of Jerusalem. This theory would raise the problem of Zadok's standing with
the Jebusites afterwards as priest under David in a still heavily Jebusite Jerusalem.
His maintenance as priest under such conditions would alienate the goodwill of the
Jebusites instead of conciliating it.
14 H S Nyberg, "Studien zum Religionskampf lm Alten Testament, Archly fur
Religionswissenschaft 35 (1938), pp. 373f., has remarked that, while the name-list of
the sons of David born earlier in Hebron include two theophoric names (out of six)

of a certain difference in traditional tone between the two groups of

royal princes, despite the official national Yahwism to which all were
expected to adhere and to which Zadok, too, would adhere even if he
had originally been a Jebusite priest of El.15 This allignment of sym¬
pathies, which would contribute to the political allignment described in
1 Kgs. 1, would, accordingly, leave Solomon in no hesitation, with Zadok
becoming the sole official priest among the royal officials, and Abiathar
being sent off to Anathoth.
Of these four theories on the origin of Zadok, then, the first two
are without evidence and improbable, and the third is without evidence,
although not impossible. The fourth, although without direct evidence, has
a certain number of indirect indications that would support it,16 is possible,
and fits both the sociological conditions of early Israelite Jerusalem and
the subsequent destinies of Zadok and Abiathar under Solomon. Yet,
even this fourth theory is without direct proof, and against it, too, objec¬
tions can be raised.17 The problem is not solved to complete satisfac¬
tion, and of its very nature it is such that it may never be solved to
complete satisfaction. Zadok became the head of the Jerusalem lineage

compounded with Ya for Yahu or Yahweh and one (Absalom, son of a Geshurite,
i.e. Aramaean, princess) compounded with the West Semitic divine name Sim, the
name-list of the sons bom in Jerusalem includes one (Solomon) based directly on
Sim and four (out of eleven, or according to the list in 1 Chr. 3, twelve) com¬
pounded with the general West Semitic El. Nyberg disregards Japhia as a compound
with Ya, and rightly so, for the Ja- (i.e. ya-) of Japhia (Hebrew ypy*) is an imperfect
preformative: for the form, cf. Noth, Die israelitischen Personennamen, p. 28, with
p. 204, n. 5, for the Canaanite cognates in the Amama letters. Still, a certain amount
of caution is in order with accepting Nyberg’s view of the deity Sim as a theophoric
element in the names of Absalom and Solomon, for the god's name seems to have
been Salim (cf. Dahood, "Ancient Semitic Deities in Syria and Palestine,” pp. 88, 91),
and the differences of vocalization cause a problem if one wishes to see his name
in those of Absalom and Solomon.
is On El and the assumption of his titles by Yahweh, cf. de Vaux, Les institu¬
tions, II, 144.
is The indirect evidence is collected and soberly weighed by Rowley, “Zadok and
Nehushtan,” and again, with special reference to the figure of Melchizedek, in his
"Melchizedek and Zadok (Gen. 14 and Ps. 110),” in Festschrift Alfred Bertholet, pp.
461-72. The chronic problem in using both Gen. 14 and Ps. 110 is the lack of agree¬
ment on the date to assign to them, dates given for both fluctuating greatly, al¬
though in recent years the pendulum has begun to swing away from the former
tendency to assign them a late date. A recent exception, for the case of Ps. 110,
is R. Tqurnay, "Le psaume CX,” RB 67 (1960) 541, who holds that the psalm is from
around the time of Onias I in the 3rd century B.C., and that even Gen. 14 — or at
least the part dealing with Melchizedek — would have been composed after the
second half of the 5th century B.C.
17 R. de Vaux, in addition to the reason he gives in Les institutions, I, 145 , 236
(that such an explanation implies the existence of a sanctuary of El-Elyon used for
the worship of Yahweh, while the texts never speak of such a sanctuary, but rather
leave the Ark under a tent until the end of David’s reign and associate Zadok only
with the Ark and tent of Yahweh), has kindly communicated another difficulty:
that the theory that Zadok had been a Jebusite priest might lead one to expect
an introduction of Jebusite usages into the cult of Yahweh, which has never been
convincingly established.

of priests, Abiathar despite his pedigree did not, and that is what we
know with certitude.17a

II. The Models for Israel’s State Priesthood

With the establishment of the dynasty of David in Jerusalem a new

era began in the history of Israel, and this was not devoid of consequences
for the history of priesthood in Israel. The organization of the new mon¬
archy was not and could not be something improvised from day to day.
It had rather to be built on the patterns of state organization already
existing in the world of those times, and questions perforce arise about
the effect which such borrowing from the social, political, and religious
institutions of other lands might have had on the organization and spirit
of priesthood in the burgeoning new state.

A. Models for the General Organization of the Davidic Kingdom

In the royal organizations of which contemporary state or states

did the Davidic kingdom find its models? The Assyrian empire, in rapid
decline since the reign of Tiglathpileser I at the beginning of the eleventh
century, was probably by the time of David's accession completely cut
off from relations with Palestine as a result of the fall of the Assyrian
outposts along the upper Euphrates, along which Mesopotamian contacts
with the West would need to pass, into the hands of the Aramaeans.18
Egypt, too, was not at the time a powerful state, and had not been a
powerful state since the degeneration of the power of the Pharaohs,
in the middle of the twelfth century, and the resulting split of the Nile
Valley into two spheres of influence, one of the Pharaohs at Tanis in
the North and the other of the priests of Amun at Thebes in the South.1S

17a Just before giving the final manuscript to the printers, I have read J. R. Bart¬
lett, "Zadok and His Successors at Jerusalem,” JTS n.s. 19 (1968) 1-18. Bartlett
doubts that the high priests of Jerusalem were directly descended from Zadok,
being rather appointed in each case by the king, on the basis of the appointee s
merits. I am inclined to accept his conclusion, remarking only that the attention
given to Zadok in both early texts and late texts does show that throughout the
monarchical period Zadok was recognized as the first in the succession of chief
priests in Jerusalem, even though that succession may not have passed regularly
from father to son. The king may well have designated the high priest (or at least
have had a determining voice in his designation), and the priesthood may have
included men who were not descendants of Zadok, but when the scraps of material
on the Jerusalem priesthood are put together, the resulting sketch suggests a self-
perpetuating closed circle, with its members’ own likes and dislikes constituting the
criterion for admission, especially after the reigns of David and Solomon had passed
and the Jerusalem priesthood was solidly established.
is Cf. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 130.
is On these developments in Egypt, cf. A. Gardiner, Egypt of the Pharaohs (Ox-

Egypt would not again rise to a position of any international influence

until the Twenty-Second Dynasty was ushered in by Sheshonk I (the
Biblical Shishak) c. 940.
But with the Egyptian court in the North Israel did assuredly have
relations in the reign of Solomon, as his marriage with a Pharaoh s
daughter testifies (1 Kgs. 3:1; 7:8; 9:16,24; 11:1),20 and serious efforts
have been made to demonstrate Egyptian models for the constitution
of officialdom in the reign of David himself,21 an officialdom in which
the royal priests had a place, as is evident from their inclusion in the
lists of officials in 2 Sam. 8:16ff.; 20:23-26; 1 Kgs. 4:2-6. On the other
hand, it has also been claimed that the models were not Egyptian, either
because of the strong non-Israelite but nevertheless Canaanite element
surrounding David in Jerusalem (which would not of itself rule out
derived Egyptian models but would require such models to have been
mediated through Canaanite civilization),22 or for the same reason with
an added denial of even derived Egyptian influence because administrative
arrangements were not imposed on Canaanite vassals during the period
of Egyptian hegemony in Syria-Palestine.23
What, then, are we to think? Alt’s theory that there was little to
speak for a Canaanite background behind the early Israelite kingdom
has found wide acceptance.24 His principal arguments are: 1) that
Canaanite kings were very weak, and their domains more aristocracies
than kingdoms, and 2) that there were differences in the way armies
were levied, leadership established, and so on. With respect to the first,
it is undoubtedly true that the kings in Palestine were kings over small
areas only, and that some of the Palestinian cities in the Biblical accounts

ford, 1961), pp. 316-30; fi. Drioton and J. Vandier, L’Egypte (Clio, I: Les peuples de
1’Orient mediterranean, II; 4th ed., Paris, 1962), pp. 359-66, 511-22.
20 For the implications of this marriage, cf. A. Malamat, "Aspects of the Foreign
Policies of David and Solomon," JNES 22 (1963), pp. 9-17.
21 R. de Vaux, "Titres et fonctionnaires egyptiens a la cour de David et de Sa¬
lomon,” RB 48 (1939) 394-405; J. Begrich, "Sofer und Mazklr: Ein Beitrag zur inneren
Geschichte des davidisch-salomonischen Grossreiches und des Konigreiches Juda,” ZAW
58 (1940/41) 1-29 (— Begrich, Gesammelte Studien, pp. 67-98). Since these two publica¬
tions, S. Morenz, “Agyptische und davidische Konigstitulatur,” Zeitschrift fur dgypti-
sche Sprache und Altertumskunde 79 (1954) 73f„ has seen as a parallel to the promise
to David in 2 Sam. 7:9 “I will give you a great name,” the Egyptian practice of
"giving a name” (irl m) to the Pharaoh (cf. also G. von Rad in ThLZ 72 [1947], col.
215), and A. Cody, "Le titre egyptien et le nom propre du scribe de David," RB 72
(1965) 381-93 has seen the sy3 (2 Sam. 20:25), sys3 (1 Kgs. 4:3), and sws3 (1 Chr. 18:16)
of the cabinet-lists of the early monarchy in Jerusalem as corruptions of an Egyptian
title for the secretary in charge of official royal correspondence.
22 B. Maisler, “The Scribe of King David and the Problem of the High Officials
in the Ancient Kingdom of Israel," BJPES 13 (1946/47) 105-14 (in Modem Hebrew,
with English summary).
22 S. Yeivin, "The Administration in Ancient Israel,” in A. Malamat (ed.). The
Kingdoms of Israel and Judah (Jerusalem, 1961), pp. 47-65 (in Modem Hebrew, with
English summary).
24 A. Alt, "Die Staatenbildung der Israeliten in Palastina," in KS, II, 1-65 (cf.
especially p. 25).

did not seem to have a leadership centered in one man,25 but the extra-
Biblical evidence for a predominance of aristocracies over minor kingships
is not convincing.26 With respect to the second, the light on the Western-
Semitic political situation which has come to light in the texts from
Ugarit and Alalakh, and the consciousness of the details in that sort
of organization shown by the anti-monarchical invective of 1 Sam. 8,
indicate that a certain kind of authentically Canaanite system of mon¬
archy was not so unfamiliar after all to the Israelites at the beginning
of the monarchical period.27
In the present state of the question we know that David was sur¬
rounded by Jebusites and other Canaanite elements in his kingdom, and
there can be no doubt that it was psychologically easier for the Israelites
to assimilate ideas and usages from the ethnically and culturally related
populations of Canaan than from a traditional enemy like Egypt. Never¬
theless, the parallels between the Israelite officialdom and that of the
New Kingdom in Egypt are still too impressive to be discarded lightly.
Perhaps the safest judgement for the nonce is that Egypt had served
as a model for the organizations of the officials of the Canaanite petty
kingdoms during the Egyptian hegemony — for such patterning can be
the result of Canaanite imitation rather than Egyptian imposition — and
that the system was adopted afterwards, at least in part, by Israel from
Canaan. This is not to imply that civil organization in Canaan was all
of a piece; on the contrary, the racial movements and socio-political
changes of Late Bronze Syria-Palestine would suggest that there was
no little diversity. What borrowing Davidic and Solomonic Israel did,
it probably did from particular Canaanite states, most likely Jebusite
Jerusalem and the more highly developed and cosmopolitan Tyre (cf.
2 Sam. 5: Ilf.; 1 Kgs: 5:15; 1 Chr. 14: If.). If we agree with Yeivin that

25 Of the examples given by Alt, this is clearly the case with Shechem (Judg.
9 :lf.), Succoth (Judg. 8:5f.), and Gibeon (Josh. 9:3ff.; 10:2), but not at all clearly
the case with Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6-9) and Gezer (1 Kgs. 9:16). The frequent mention
of kings of the Canaanite cities, including Jerusalem (Josh. 10:3 with Judg. l:5ff.)
is a counterbalance.
as Alt does not give references to extra-Biblical sources for his theory. In the
Amama correspondence, which does duty as our principal source of information on
Late Bronze Palestine, I can find only two letters sent to the Egyptian court by
groups of men (a sign of ‘'aristocracy’’?) rather than by an individual man: one
is from the inhabitants of Tunip (Tell Hana, 16 km. NW of Qatna in Syria? Cf.
M. Noth in ZDPV 64 [1941], p. 71) and the other is from the citizens of Irqata
(Arqa at the northern end of Lebanon, between El-abdeh on the coast and Halba),
or at least in their name. The letters are No. 59 (from Tunip) and No. 100 (from
Irqata) in EA, I, 342ff„ 450ff. But even Irqata did, in fact, have a king, mentioned
in EA, I, 590f. (text 140:10), and the great frequency of kings in the Amama letters
is proof of a predominance of vassal kingship rather than aristocracy in Syria-Palestine
at least in the fourteenth century. .
27 I Mendelsohn, “Samuel's Denunciation of Kingship m the Light of the ak-
kadian Documents from Ugarit,” BASOR, No. 143 (Oct. 1956), 17-22, surveys the com¬
parative material, using that from Alalakh along with that from Ugarit.

there is no positive evidence that Egypt imposed its internal administrative

structure outright on its vassals in Syria-Palestine, we must also note
that there is no positive evidence that the vassals did not imitate that
structure on a smaller scale.

B. Consequences for the Priesthood of Jerusalem

The presence of priests in the ranks of the royal officials, too, may
be a practice derived ultimately from Egyptian use. We know, in fact,
that even though selection for priestly office in Egypt depended — at
least in theory and in ancient custom — on membership in a pure
family, the development of the royalty in the New Kingdom contributed
to the importance of royal appointment of priests to the greater sanc¬
tuaries of the realm as delegates of the Pharaoh himself and dependants
of the royal bureaucracy, often with heredity or membership in a “pure”
family subordinated to reasons of royal expediency or security.28 The
origins and the fates of Zadok and Abiathar come to mind. Mazar has
proposed that even the founding and distribution of Levitical cities in
certain parts of Israel, especially in frontier areas and recently Canaanite
regions, was an arrangement inspired by the cities in Canaan consecrated
to Egyptian gods and provided with a staff of priests occupied both with
cult and with secular administration, for Mazar would also see the
Levites in the Levitical cities as men put there for strategic reasons as
Nevertheless, a Canaanite imitation of the Egyptian practice of in¬
cluding priests in royal civil service would not entail an imitation of
Egyptian religion or of Egyptian priesthood itself. A certain cultural
influence of Egypt in Canaan can be seen reflected in seals, tomb decora¬
tions, small artifacts here and there, and even in the temple design and
iconography of a place like Beth-shan, but the religion of Canaan re¬
mained thoroughly Canaanite. The divine images on heavily Egyptianized
stelae found in the temples of Beth-shan are Canaanite Mekal (probably
to be identified with the Phoenician Melkart), Anath, and Ashtoreth.30
Exceptions — sanctuaries in which the religion itself is known to have

28 On the place of priests in the Egyptian state until the end of the second
millennium, cf. H. Kees, Agypten (Handbuch der Altertumswissenschaft, III/l/iii/1;
Munich, 1933), pp. 242-57, and his later, more thorough treatment (which, however,
begins only with the New Kingdom) in Das Priestertum im dgyptischen Staat vom
Neuen Reich bis zur Spdtzeit (Probleme der Agyptologie, I: Leiden-Cologne, 1953),
I, 1-71. Kees’ very first sentence in the latter work goes straight to the heart of
the matter: "Priestertum ist in Agypten Konigssdienst."
29 B. Mazar, “The Cities of the Priests and the Levites," VT Suppl 7 (1960) 193-205.
30 Cf. A. Rowe, The Topography and History of Beth-shan (Publications of the
Palestine Section of the Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, I; Philadelphia,
1930), pp. 14f., 19fE., 32f., and plates 33, 48:2, 50:2; L. H. Vincent, "Le ba'al cananeeen
de Beisan et sa paredre,” RB 37 (1928) 51243.

been genuinely Egyptian — are the temples of Byblos and Gaza,31 but
Byblos had for over a millenium been closely bound to Egypt commer¬
cially, and Gaza, close to Egypt geographically, was the capital of the
Egyptian province of Canaan in the Late Bronze Age.33 Religion was a
national-territorial affair, and Egyptians in Canaan respected the local
dominion of Canaanite gods and their cult.33 The Egyptian hegemony
in Syria-Palestine passed away leaving the local religion and its practices
Canaanite, as they had been before. If early monarchical Israel in assim¬
ilating elements of Canaanite civilization found itself in possession of
things originally Egyptian in the civil order, such was not to be the
case in the order of worship, where elements borrowed by the Hebrews
after previous borrowing by the Canaanites will have come from other
Semitic civilizations.34

31 Alt, Agyptische Tempel in Paliistina und die Landnahme der Philister ”

ZDPV 67 (1944) 1-20 (= KS, I, 216-30).
32 W. F. Albright, "Egypt and the Early History of the Negeb," JPOS 4 (1924)
pp. 139ff.
33 Ordinary Egyptians in Palestine seem to have venerated Canaanite gods (the
votaries of Mekal, Anath, and Ashtoreth responsible for the Beth-shan stelae were
Egyptians: cf. Rowe, locis citutis above in n. 30). W. Helck, Die B eziohungen Agyp-
tens zu Vorderasien im 3. und 2. Jahrtausend v. Chr. (Agvptologische Abhandlungen,
V; Wiesbaden, 1962), pp. 480f., provides two observations which round out the picture:
if ordinary Egyptians outside Egypt worshiped local gods and not Egyptian gods,
that was not true of the Pharaoh, whose foreign stelae show only Egyptian gods
in both iconography and text; on the other hand, in Egypt itself not even the inhab¬
itants of land belonging to a temple’s domains were forced to accept that temple's
cult. Thus, we see the general tolerance of the Egyptian mind for religious diversity,
while at the same time the Pharaoh, head of the state, and himself divine, was
bound to exclusive worship of the national gods and to avoid concourse with foreign
gods even in his operations in those gods’ own lands.
34 This is reflected in the Hebrew vocabulary of cult, which is consistently Semitic,
and when constituents of that vocabulary are of Sumerian origin they have come
into West Semitic through East Semitic Akkadian. J. Friedrich, "Zum urartaischen
Lexikon," Archiv Orientalni 4 (1932), pp. 68ff., sees a Urartian origin for the Hebrew
kiyor (the copper laver found among the Temple furnishings according to 1 Kgs.
7:30,38,43 ; 2 Kgs. 16:7; 2 Chr. 4:6,14, and on which Solomon stood to pray before
the altar according to 2 Chr. 6:12f.), and he would have the word borrowed directly
from Urartian by Hebrew, perhaps at the time of Urartian expansion southwestward
in the first half of the 8th century B.C. This, though, is questionable. Kiuru,
"basin," exists in the Akkadian of an 8th century Assyrian account of the eighth
campaign of Sargon III against Urartu, and, although the circumstances of time
and place might seem to add to the probability of Friedrich’s hypothesis, Albright
in JAOS 36 (1916), p. 232, and 40 (1920), p. 317, n. 18, has pointed out that the word
ki.tjr exists already in Sumerian with both of the senses which kiyor has in Hebrew
(“laver," "platform") and at times with a cosmic significance which perhaps explains
the use of the kiyor to stand on in prayer. It is far easier to explain the passage
of the semantic complex from Sumerian through Akkadian into West Semitic and
separately into Urartian than it is to explain how a Urartian word in a region with
a non-Semitic religion could have had parallel but independent development directly
from Urartian both into Hebrew and its Semitic religion and into Sumerian with
its non-Semitic religion, keeping its sense and connotations intact in both lines of
The classic example of a Sumerian word of cultic use which passed through East-
Semitic Akkadian and thence into West Semitic is Hebrew hekdl, from Sumerian


III. Were Israelite Kings Priests?

The religious aspect of Hebrew kingship has occupied the attention

of many Old Testament scholars in recent years, but the much mooted
question of divine kingship has taken precedence over that of a priestly
aspect of kingship in Israel.35

A. Kings and Priesthood in the Ancient Near East

In Egypt, the Pharaoh was actually put on a level of divinity, and

he alone had the natural right to enter the presence of the god in his
temple. In practice, worship was carried out by professional priests,
but only on the theory that they were the delegates of the Pharaoh in
an office which was his alone by right.36 Elsewhere in the Ancient Near

Agal, "great house," applicable, just as in Hebrew, to a royal house and to a temple.
Here, again, the intermediacy of Akkadian in the transition from Sumerian into
Canaanite has been doubted, e.g. by Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel,
p. 218, n. 89, referring to a suggestion by A. Poebel in ZA 39 (1929), p. 145 and JAOS
57 (1937), p. 71, n. 95, that the word was borrowed directly from Sumerian. But
Poebel, in the second reference, is claiming a direct passage from Sumerian to West
Semitic for a Sumerian *da(m)mu-zi (dumu.zi) > Hebrew tammuz, Syriac tamuz,
not for In the first reference he does cite the Hebrew hekal beside
as evidence of a dropped initial h in Sumerian, but Poebel elsewhere, Grundziige
der sumerischen Grammatik (Rostocker orientalistische Studien, I; Rostock, 1923),
p. 21, n. 1, has wondered if perhaps the h itself, in the forms he is really concerned
with in ZA 39, is not secondary. In any event, we should expect the shift ft > h:
cf. von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik, §§ 8i; 25a, c, and we wonder
if in the shift £.gal > ekallu > hekal the West Semitic h does not appear by false
retrograde analogy with the Proto-Semitic h, lost in Akkadian but retained in
Hebrew, in such pairs as alaku/halak, aldlu/halal apaku/hdpak, eru/hara. If so,
both kiyor and hekal demonstrate our thesis that Canaanite borrowing in the field
of cult was made within the Semitic family, and that even Sumerian religious in¬
fluence passed first through the Semitic population of Mesopotamia on its way into
Canaan. Recently C. Rabin, in Orientalia 32 (1963), pp. 115f., has suggested a Hittite
origin for the strange word ob, used in the Old Testament in connexion with nec¬
romancy, but with a curious fluctuation in use that indicates that the Hebrews
themselves were uncertain of its exact sense. If Rabin’s tentatively proposed ety¬
mology is right, both its presence in Palestine and the relative unfamiliarity of its
sense among Hebrew speakers could be explained by its being a word used by the
Hittite element in Palestine and not really assimilated by the Semitic element. In
fact, it is scorned and condemned in every Old Testament context where it appears.
ss Cf. the bibliography on the religious character of the king in general in de
Vaux, Les institutions, I, 330, and, for a sober evaluation of the problem of divine
kingship, M. Noth, “Gott, Konig, Volk im Alten Testament," ZTK 47 (1950) 157-91 =
Noth, Gesammelte Studien, pp. 188-229; de Vaux, op. cit., I, 171ff.; H. J. Kraus, Psal-
men (BK, XV; Neukirchen, 1960), II, 879-83.
36 Kees, Das Priestertum im dgyptischen Staat, I, 1-9; H. Bonnet, "Die Sym-
bolik der Reinigungen im agyptischen Kult," AITEAOE: Archiv fiir neutestament-
liche Zeitgeschichte und Kulturkunde 1 (1925), p. 105, n. 2. Kees is good for factual
details, while Bonnet in his rather extensive note provides an excellent insight into
the religious ideas behind the facts. I. Engnell, Studies in Divine Kingship in the
Ancient Near East (Uppsala, 1943), pp. 4-15, has assembled the material on the divinity

East, where ideas of divine kingship show up only sporadically, the

association between kingship and priesthood was less intimate. It is
true that in Sumerian society the sovereign of a city-state was high priest
of the temple and priest par excellence of the local god, offering sacri¬
fices, reciting prayers, and so on, and that he called himself sanga, the
title given to ministers of the temple, or at times sanga.mah, "high priest,”
a title which was borne by the sovereign alone until the time of Entemena
of Lagash; it is true also that in the second and first millenia B.C. the
Assyrian sovereigns, even when they were at the height of their political
power, continued to style themselves sangu, the Akkadian derivative of
sanga, and to represent their power as a genuine priesthood (sangutu)
in the service of their god.37 The ideogram SANGA is found applied to
the Hittite king Mursilis, too: he is "priest of the gods,” 38 and there is
no particular reason to take this as a formality rather than an expression
of reality.39
This union of royal power and priesthood, however, was not universal
in the Ancient Near East. In Babylonia royal power was quite distinct
from the Babylonian priesthood; the king was not a priest and did not
call himself a priest. 40 If we look farther afield to the heirs of Aegean
civilization, we find that in the Delphic amphictyony, whose basis was
explicitly religious like the pre-monarchical union of the Israelite tribes,
the administration (here we can scarcely speak of "sovereignty”) was
in the hands of the hieromnemones and the pulagorai, and there is no
indication that members of either group had priestly character or func¬
tions, although they had certain duties connected with the administration

of the Pharaoh. Recently G. Posener, De la divinite du pharaon (Cahiers de la So-

ciete Asiatique, XV; Paris, 1961), has tried to show that the Egyptian texts do not
provide evidence that the Pharaoh was really held to be divine, but cf. the reactions
to Posener's thesis by F. Daumas in RHR 160 (1961) 129-48 and B. Couroyer in RB 69
(1962) 424-27. , , , , • . ,, 0
37 R. Labat, Le caractere religieux de la royaute assyro-babylomenne (Etudes d as-
syriologie, II; Paris, 1939), pp. 131f. .
as Text (with restorations) in A. Goetze, "Die Pestgebete des Mursilis, Kleinasia-
tische Forschungen 1 (1929), p. 164. Interesting, too, is a comparison of a Hittite
text (KUB XXXVI, 90:15-18) studied by J. Friedrich, "Ein Sonderfall partitiver Ap¬
position b’eim hethitischen Personalpronomen,’’ AfO 18 (1957/58) 127, which speaks
of anointing Tudhaliyas, one of the later Hittite kings, to the priesthood, with
another text, cited, in the translation provided by H. Otten m E. Kutsch, Salbung
als Rechtsakt im Alten Testament und im alten Orient (BZAW, LXXXVII, Berlin, 1963),
p. 36, which speaks of anointing Tudhaliyas (the same, or another of the four king
of that name?) to the kingship. .
ss It has been taken as a mere formality, though, by G. Furlani, La rehgione
degli Hittiti (Storia delle religioni, XIII; Bologna, 1936), p. 277. .. . ,
40 Labat op. cit., pp. 14, 25. Frank, Studien zur babylomschen Religion, p. 5,
thinks that' not even the fact that rulers in Mesopotamia styled themselves sange
means that they really considered themselves priests, but rather that they used th
term to express the relation of the king to his god or gods Still the tact remains
that these rulers actually performed cultic acts in the royal sanctuary which wer
ordinarily performed by professional priests.

and protection of cult as a state responsibility, as was only to be ex¬

pected. 41

B. Kings and Priesthood in Israel

It is not quite in conformity with the genuine state of affairs to

deny entirely that the kings of Israel were priests. 42 In a certain sense
they were priests, but we must carefully define our terms and then

1. sangu and kohen

The monarchs of Israel were priests somewhat in the sense that

Assyrian monarchs were sange, but not in the sense expressed by the
word kohen in Hebrew, with its particular connotations in Hebraic cul¬
ture. Like the Assyrian monarchs, those of Israel were representatives
of the people as a whole, responsible for the welfare of the people as
a whole even in relations between people and God. As such they were
responsible for the organization and administration of the state worship
of Yahweh.43 David saw to the transport of the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam.
6-7) and had the altar of Yahweh built there (2 Sam. 24:25). According
to 2 Sam. 8:10ff. David consecrated the gold and silver and bronze ob¬
tained from the Aramaeans, Ammonites, Philistines, and Amalekites to
Yahweh, presumably by donating them to the treasury of the temporary
royal sanctuary. Solomon proceeded with the building of the state temple
(1 Kgs. 5-8) which David had already planned (2 Sam. 7:2f.), and their
cabinets included the royal priests (2 Sam. 8:17; 20:25; 1 Kgs. 4:2).
Later Jehoash provided for temple income and temple repairs (2 Kgs.
12:4-16), and the notice in 2 Kgs. 12:17f. on Jehoash’s dispatch of the
temple gifts, presented by his royal ancestors, to Hazael of Syria shows

41 Cf. F. Cauer, "Amphiktyonia,” in Pauly - Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie der clas-

sischen Altertumswissenschaft, I, 1903-35.
42 It seems to me that J. de Fraine, “Peut-on parler d'un veritable sacerdoce du
roi en Israel?" in Sacra Pagina (Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovanien-
sium, XII-XIII; Paris - Gembloux, 1959), I, 537-47, is a little too negative in this regard.
43 The details of the Mesopotamian monarch’s responsabilities and functions
in the sphere of cult are set forth by Labat, op. cit., pp. 131-218, and a good inter¬
pretation of the religious ideas involved is provided by A. Falkenstein, "La cite-
temple sumerienne,” Cahiers d’histoire mondiale 1 (1954) 784-814. For an example
of the idea of the king’s standing at the focal point of relations between Yahweh
and the people in Israel, cf. 2 Kgs. 11:17, which, according to the corrected text
proposed by W. Rudolph in Festschrift Alfred Bertholet (Tubingen, 1950), p. 474 (cf.
also p. 478), says that a covenant was established between Yahweh and the king,
that he might be a (just) king for the people of Yahweh. The parallel but more
recently edited 2 Chr. 23:16 has rearranged things to put the priest Jehoiada in the
position of Yahweh's representative before the people in place of the king as the
people's representative before Yahweh. On the reciprocal relations king-people-
Yahweh expressed in these texts, cf. A. Cody, "When is the Chosen People Called a
Goy?" VT 14 (1964), pp. 4-6.

both the continued interest of the kings in the state cult and their control
over that cult’s revenues. Ahaz commissioned a renovation of the Temple
furnishings on Damascene models (2 Kgs. 16:10-18), and Josiah himself
undertook the responsibility for the reform of worship and religion in
his day (2 Kgs. 23). In the Northern Kingdom, too, it was the king-
founder Jeroboam I who established the royal sanctuary at Bethel and
provided for its worship (1 Kgs. 12:26-33; cf. Amos 7:13).
These responsibilities are administrative, and so were the official
responsibilities of an Assyrian sangu. A non-royal sangu — the sangu
properly so called — was primarily a hierarchic official in charge of the
entire complex hierarchy of temple functionaries in the Mesopotamian
system, and his social standing and importance were of the highest.44
This, indeed, is what the priests — and particularly the high priest —
of the Temple in Jerusalem became, and their development as such was
quite natural. They became the regular administrators, under the king’s
aegis, of the sanctuary to which, as kohanim, they were professionally
attached. A kohen was essentially the attendant of a sanctuary with the
objects contained therein: the oracular work characteristic of the early
period was done with the ephod kept in his sanctuary. His raison d’etre
was service at a sanctuary, and his principal work was, until very late
in Israel's history, the giving of oracular responses or, later, the giving
of tora. A king, of course, had nothing to do with oracular work or
the giving of tora, and his raison d’etre was not service at a sanctuary
but sovereign rule of a kingdom. There, precisely, lies the important
distinction to be made: while sangu bespeaks primarily an office of cultic
administration, kohen, in Israel, bespeaks primarily actual service of a
sanctuary, and the sangu had nothing to do, as sangu, with oracular
work or even with divination. Thus in Hebrew a king could not be styled
a kohen, and even though, as an aspect of his kingship, he was a priest
in somewhat the same sense that an Assyrian monarch was a sangu
above the regular sange properly so-called, Hebrew had no real equiva¬
lent of this title.
That the Hebrew mentality shrank from considering and calling the
king a kohen must, however, have been determined to some extent also
by certain connotations attached to the word which were peculiar to
Hebraic culture and were not to be found in the Canaanite milieu, for
the Canaanite figure of Melchizedek in Gen. 14:18ff. is both priest and
king, and the same idea is present in Ps. 110:4, an enthronement psalm
whose antiquity and profoundly Canaanite background are now generally
admitted.45 The sarcophagus inscription of Tabnit, King of Sidon, shows

44 Cf. B. Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien (Kulturgeschichtliche Bibliothek, III-

IV; Heide’berg, 1920-25), II, 61; also the references given above in Chapter One, n. 72.
' 45 Cf. Kraus, Psalmen, II, 755-61. No matter what one holds on the date and
historicity of Gen. 14 — and the tendency here, too, is to see at least an ancient;

that at the end of the sixth century B.C. a Phoenician king could also
be a priest.46 Why was this union of titles — king and priest, melek
and kohen — not equally acceptable in Israel?
We approach the answer, perhaps, when we notice that in early
Hebraic culture the kohen was in the service of someone else. The
priest of Judg. 17f. was dependent, as far as his position went, on Micah;
Ahijah and Ahimelech were in the service of Saul, as Zadok and Abiathar
were in the service of David; even Eli’s priesthood at Shiloh can be
understood as a service subject to the Israelite amphictyony.47 A com¬
parison of the use of the referential particle lamed after "priest" in early
Israel with the same use elsewhere in Canaanite civilization is instructive
in this regard. In Israel before the later monarchy one is priest to (Ze)
Micah (Judg. 17:5,10,12), to the Danites (Judg. 18:4,19) or "to the tribe”
(Judg. 18:19,30), and priest to David (2 Sam. 20:26). Only the priests
of the amphictyonic sanctuary are said — once — to be "priests to
Yahweh” (1 Sam. 1:3).48 But outside of Israel the converse is true: one
is never said to be a priest "to" someone else, but rather priest to a
divinity.49 Thus, Melchizedek is priest to El-Elyon (Gen. 14:18), and a
Phoenician priest of Lapethos on Cyprus is priest to a divinized Ptolemaic
ruler;60 farther off, in the Punic colony of Althiburus in what is now
Tunisia, we find a priest to Baal-Hammon.51 In Canaanite civilization
as a whole a king could call himself priest, even though he was not a
professional priest, not only because in Canaan the aspect of administra¬
tion was emphasized in priesthood 52 but also because a priest was con¬
sidered to be primarily in the service of a divinity, not of another man.
In Israel, however, closer to nomadic traditions in which the sanctuary-
attendant and oracle-consultor was a simple man in the service of other
men, the transfer of the title kohen to the king was not apt. Only a
professional priest was a kohen, and under the monarchy the chief priest
of Jerusalem was kohen precisely to the king (2 Sam. 20:26).

memory in this puzzling passage — the figure of Melchizedek is authentically

Canaanite. For a survey of recent study on Melchizedek, cf. I. Hunt, "Recent Melki-
zedek Study," in J. L. McKenzie (ed.), The Bible in Current Catholic Thought (New
York, 1962), pp. 21-33.
46 KAI 13. There is an English translation by F. Rosenthal in ANET, p. 505a.
47 This has been pointed out by Ploger, "Priester und Prophet," p. 168.
48 According to 1 Kgs. 2:27, Abiathar had been "priest to Yahweh," but this verse
is probably an addition made in the Deuteronomistic process of redaction: cf. Noth,
VS, p. 66, who is concerned, however, only with the last half of the verse.
49 The form "priest of Yahweh, of Dagon, of Astarte, of Reshef," etc. (with
"priest" in the construct state), whether in the Old Testament or in Phoenician
material, does not concern us here, for it serves only to specify the particular divinity
who is the object of a priest’s cult — or to specify the particular religious orienta¬
tion of his cult, if we wish to include such examples as "priests of the high places."
60 KAI 43:5. On the identification of the °dn mlkm to whom cbdestrt was priest
with the divinized Ptolemaios I Soter (305-283 B.C.), cf. A. M. Honeyman in JEA 26
(1940), p. 61.
si KAI 159:7.
62 Cf. above, pp. 21f.

2. Corollaries; High Priesthood; the King’s Priestly Sons

The fact that the Israelite monarch was the highest authority in
matters of cult even though he had no priestly title probably explains
the absence of the title “high priest” (hak-kohen hag-gadol) in authentic
pre-exilic usage.53 At the same time the distinction required by the
meaning of kohen makes it difficult to accept Morgenstem’s understand¬
ing of the pre-exilic king himself as high priest in the post-exilic sense
of the term,04 for the king, not being a professional sanctuary minister
but rather a professional ruler, was not a priest in the Hebrew sense
of the word. The post-exilic high priest was a professional priest. That
he was also the highest authority in the civic order within the Jewish
community itself was an accident of circumstances which we shall survey
in due time. The post-exilic high priest was not a king in the real sense
any more than the pre-exilic king was a priest in the real Hebrew sense.
In the light of what we have just seen, we can also more readily
understand and accept the statement of 2 Sam. 8:18 that the sons of
David were priests. This is perfectly natural, in spite of learned refusal
to read the text in its perfectly obvious sense.65
The idea of David's sons’ being priests was disturbing people already
in ancient times. The LXX reads aularchai instead of hiereis in 2 Sam.
8:18, and the parallel 1 Chr. 18:17 states not that the king’s sons were
priests but that they were rv’sdnim (“chiefs” or "princes”) at the king’s
side. The alteration by the Chronicler is in accord with his regular
sollicitude for exclusiveness in priestly prerogatives. In the case of
2 Sam. 8:18, an emendation of kohamm to sokenim has been proposed.56

53 There are both historical and textual reasons for suspecting that the cases
of what might appear to be pre-exilic uses of the expression are actually not
authentic: cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 241. The textual reasons lie in the
parallels in Chronicles, and in the LXX: hag-gadol is not in the text of the parallels,
and its Greek equivalent is not in the LXX. Since both the editing of Chronicles
and the translating of the LXX were done at a time when the title hak-kohen hag-
gadol was normal, neither an editor nor a translator would have reason to alter
the expression if he actually had found it in the records with which he was working.
s4 J. Morgenstern, "A Chapter in the History of the High Priesthood," AJSL 55
(1938), pp. 5-13, 183.
ss A. Klostermann, Die Bucher Samuelis und der Konige (SZ; Nordlingen, 1887),
p. 233, accepts the MT but would explain kohen as having the sense of something
like "representative” here. Ehrlich, Randglossen, III, 292, would give it a sense
of "confidant” and mediator between king and people, and Baudissin, Geschichte,
p. 191, seeks a way out of what for him, too, is the difficulty by suggesting that the
title of priest was probably attached honoris causa to a king’s sons and to high
officials. These hypotheses have nothing to support them, and they attempt to solve
a problem that lies not in the text but in an assumption a priori that David’s sons,
Nathan’s son Zabud, and Ira the Jairite could not have been priests as the texts
say they were. The notice on Zabud, however, presents a textual problem of its
own, on which cf. de Vaux in RB 48 (1939), p. 403, n. 3.
ss T. K. Cheyne, “Minister," in Encyclopaedia Biblica, III (London, 1902), col. 3100,
proposing the emendation not only for 2 Sam. 8:18 (for which he says the same
emendation was proposed long before by Hitzig) but also for 2 Sam. 20:26 (Ira the

The entrance of soken into the discussion is a good thing, not because it
justifies emendation of kohen but because on the contrary it helps show,
perhaps, that the presence of a word other than kohanim in the Hebrew
Vorlage of the LXX's 2 Sam. 8:18 does not date from the earlier monarchy.
The word soken occurs in Isa. 22:15, where, because it is clearly in
apposition to the title aser cal hab-bayit, "(he)-who-(is)-over-the-house,”
it is generally translated "steward.” Since the Greek autarches does
mean "steward,” the hypothesis arises that a Greek translator found the
word sknym instead of khnym in his Hebrew text of 2 Sam. 8:18 and,
adverting to the Hebrew text of Isa. 22:15, translated sknym as aularchai.
But that does not mean that sknym was in the original text; nor does
it mean that whoever altered khnym to sknym intended it in the sense
of "stewards.” It is not very likely that David would have made his
sons mere stewards. Skn is used as a title of considerable importance
in Phoenician,87 where it means something like "governor, prefect.”58
Cheyne would translate it as "chief minister,” "administrator,” "friend”
in those places where he emends from kohen.59 But Begrich has con¬
cluded — quite independently of the problem of 2 Sam. 8:18 and without
reference to the soken of Isa. 22:15 — that the office of the man "who-is-
over-the-house” was introduced only in Solomon’s time (not in David's),
that at first it was the lowest office in the royal cabinet and probably
in the hands of a foreigner, but that it grew in importance until, toward
the end of the monarchy, it was found occasionally even in the hands
of a king’s son (cf. 2 Kgs. 15:5) and was practically equivalent to the
title "vizier.”®0
If this is so, the aser cal hab-bayit of Isa. 22:15, a text which was
composed under the later monarchy, is at that time (but not at the be¬
ginning of the monarchy) the title of an important personage in the realm,
and the soken with which it is in apposition means by that time some¬
thing more than "steward.” Soken as an epithet or title is a hapax in
Isa. 22:15. The feminine sokenet is used as a predicate participle (not
as an epithet or title) of the attendance of Abishag the Shunammite on
David in 1 Kgs. 1:2, which would also suggest that at that early date
the epithet soken would have had a stronger connotation of subservience

Jairite) and 1 Kgs. 4:5 (Zabud the son of Nathan). F. Wutz, Systematische Wege
von der Septuaginta zum hebraischen Urtext (Stuttgart, 1937), p. 775, n. 2, proposes
sohanim in 2 Sam. 8:18, but since, as far as I know, the root shn does not exist,
this may be a typographical error for sok^nim, although Wutz gives no reasons and
no references.
87 Cf. KAI 1:2; 31 :lf.
58 Cf. Z. S. Harris, A Grammar of the Phoenician Language (American Oriental
Series, VIII; New Haven, 1936), p. 126.
59 Cheyne, toe. cit.
60 Begrich, “Sofer und Mazklr,” pp. 26f. (= Begrich, Gesammelte Studien, pp. 95f.).
R. de Vaux in RB 48 (1939), pp. 402f., arrives at substantially the same conclusions,
even in the matter of the office’s introduction only after David's time.

in the usage of Jerusalem (if it was used at all in Jerusalem then) and
that it would be indicated as suitable for a king's sons only at a later
date either after a development parallel to and dependent on that
of aser cal hab-bayit, or after the impact of Phoenician administrative
nomenclature had been felt. A date later than the early monarchy is
also likely for the theological objections to David's sons’ priesthood,
for only with the passing of time did the defence of the rights of
closed groups to priestly functions become really intense.
So, instead of emending the kohanim of 2 Sam. 8:18 and elsewhere
to sbkenim or to anything else, we may admit that the Greek aularchai
of 2 Sam. 8:18 is the result of a previous alteration to sdkenim of an
original kohanim. In retaining kohanim we follow that fundamental
norm of textual criticism: difficilior lectio probabilior, although the dif¬
ficulty in this case is only relative.
David’s sons, then, were indeed priests. He had a number of sons,
and affairs of state would not occupy all their time. The more or less
regular accomplishment of priestly functions as delegates of their father
would be an honorable occupation, and David may understandably have
found it to his advantage to have members of his immediate family
in important and honorable positions for strategic reasons. Ira the
Jairite in 2 Sam. 20:26 could also have been an appointment of personal
esteem or of strategy, and Zabud in 1 Kgs. 4:5 was, after all, the son
of Nathan, a man of prominence who had given Solomon open and active
support against Adonijah (1 Kgs. 1:8,11-14,22-27, etc.). Priestly positions
for members of the royal clan are known from Ugarit, Phoenicia, and
Mesopotamia,61 and they are abundantly attested for sons of the Egyptian
Pharaoh.62 If David, by the very fact that he was occupied by kingly
duties, could not be attached primarily to sanctuary functions, his sons
— some of them, at least, — could be, and could properly be called,
kohanim beside the official kohanim of the royal cabinet (Zadok and

3. Hebrew Kings and Cultic Functions

We can even carry the analogy between the Israelite king and the
Assyrian monarch with his sangutu a step farther, for the duties of a

si Cf. Gordon, Ugaritic Literature, pp. 66, 122; J. Gray, The Legacy of Canaan =
VT Suppl 5 (1957), p. 154. On priests in the royal house of Phoenicia, cf. S. R. Driver,
Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, p. 285, and
for Mesopotamia, cf. Dhorme, Les religions de Babylonie et d’Assyrie, p. 201, where
we note that the species of priesthood to which, for example, Asshurbanapal raised
his younger brothers was not that of the more administrative sangutu but rather
that of the more properly liturgical urigallutu — a distinction impossible in Hebrew,
where both types of office would be filled by men called simply kohanim.
sz Leaving aside the Twenty-First Dynasty, in which it is too esay to find examples,
but for very special reasons, cf. Kees, Das Priestertum im dgyptischen Stoat, I, 93-96,
181-85, 199-202.

non-royal sangu, on which the king’s sangutu was patterned, did not lie
exclusively in administration. He was often expected to preside at sacri¬
fices and at the more solemn festivities.63 David and Solomon did the
same thing on great occasions — David when the Ark was brought to
Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6:13,17f.)64 and when he inaugurated the altar on the
threshing-floor of Araunah to win God's favor and turn the pestilence
from the people; Solomon on the high place of Gibeon at the beginning
of his reign (1 Kgs. 3:4,15), at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kgs. 8:5,
62ff.), and on the great festivals of the liturgical year (1 Kgs. 9:25).
For the mentality of the early monarchical period this was not difficult
to accept. In semi-nomadic times sacrifice was probably offered by heads
of families, then by important personages who were the heads of clans
and tribes, and the step from those practices to sacrifice by the head of
the Israelite state was easy to make. Parallels for royal sacrifice can
be found in other Semitic civilizations not too far distant from nomadic
or semi-nomadic existence: in South Arabia,65 in Mari,66 and in the an¬
cient civilization represented in the mythological texts of Ugarit.67
These things passed as quite acceptable in the older narratives, but
such was not to remain the case; a change in mentality is noticeable
as the centuries of monarchy go by. The act of blessing, performed by

63 Meissner, Babylonien und Assyrien, II, 61.

64 David wore the linen ephod on this occasion when he performed his ritual
dance in Yahweh’s presence (2 Sam. 6:14, 1 Chr. 15:27). This does not mean that
David was a priest in the precise Hebrew sense (kohen), for religious propriety
required this ritual garment in the presence of God (cf. above, pp. 75-78).
63 G. Ryckmans, Les religions arabes preislamiques, p. 33. The very title mu-
karrib is a Form II participle meaning "one who offers.” J. Ryckmans, L’institution
monarchique en Arabie meridionale avant I’lslam, p. 98, is careful to note that the
South Arabian mukarribun were not temple officials and not high priests of a
sanctuary. S. Smith in VT 2 (1952), p. 285, has remarked in this regard that "it is
improbable that any ruler anywhere in these ancient lands was a high priest in the
sense that there was a high priest in Jerusalem." Rulers were not professional
68 There is an economic text which mentions a large-tailed sheep for the king's
sacrifice: cf. J. Bottero, ARM, VII: Textes economiques et administratifs (Paris, 1957),
67 Cf. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook, Krt :66ff. Text 2004 lists wine for the king’s
sacrifice; cf. also text 2005. In the priest’s library of 13th century B.C. Ugarit
found in the 1961 season of excavations at Ras Shamra, a list of preparations to be
made for a sacrifice to be offered by the king has been found: cf. C. F.-A. Schaeffer
in Annales Archeologiques de Syrie 13 (1963), pp. 131f. J. Gray, The Legacy of Canaan,
pp. 154f., sees in the relatively extensive system of cult functionaries apparent in
the administrative texts of Late Bronze Ugarit a certain devolution of the king’s
priestly authority from the ancient days when the king himself was sole sacrificer.
But we do not really know that the king was the sole sacrificer in the more ancient
days, we are not at all sure that sacrifice was considered peculiarly priestly activity
in the more ancient days, and the multiplication of cultic personnel does not neces¬
sarily imply a devolution of the king's ultimate priestly authority, for the personnel
can function by royal delegation. Of course, the real issue in such matters of priest¬
hood and royal authority becomes that of a balance of power between a strong or
weak king and a strong or weak priestly class.

David and Solomon (2 Sam. 6:18; 1 Kgs. 8:14) is reserved by Num.

6:22-27 (P) to professional priests. In 1 Kgs. 3:3 the late redactor, fa¬
vorable to the Jerusalemite Solomon on the whole, disapproves of his
sacrifices and incense-offering at Gibeon, but the reason is probably the
redactor's view of all sacrifice outside the Temple. Jeroboam’s sacrifice
at the opening of the royal sanctuary of the Northern Kingdom at Bethel
is no doubt natural for that time, but the post-Josian spirit of the nar¬
rative as it has come down to us in 1 Kgs. 12:32f. insists that it was
an act of perverted worship in a schismatic (i.e. non-Jerusalemite) sanc¬
tuary with an illegitimate (i.e. non-Levitical) clergy. 2 Kgs. 16:12f. shows
Ahaz doing much the same thing in a restoration of the Temple of Jeru¬
salem itself some two centuries later, but the narrative is unfavorable
to Ahaz, and the occasion is supposed to be evilly inspired by Ahaz's
emulation of the Syrian cultic arrangements which he had just seen on
his visit to Damascus, although the Tyrian influence in the original con¬
struction of the Temple and its furnishings had not been found repre¬
hensible in its time. We may presume that kings in both Israel and
Judah long continued to sacrifice on great occasions, but the editor of
the Books of Kings chose not to report such sacrifices, except in a
negative light. The later parallel of 2 Kgs. 16:12f. in 2 Chr. 28:23 even
alters its source: Ahaz sacrifices not to Yahweh but to the gods of
Damascus. 2 Chr. 26:16-20 reports that the priests under the leadership
of their chief, Azariah, in the spirit of Num. 17:5; Dt. 33:10; 1 Chr. 23:13,
resisted King Uzziah'S will to burn incense in the Temple, and that when
Uzziah persisted in his intention he was smitten with leprosy for his
So we see that Israelite ideas of both monarchy and priesthood,
and of their relation to one another, went through a process of develop¬
ment from the early days of the monarchy, when kings performed acts
which had about them a character that was indisputably priestly in an
ancient Semitic sense, and the later days of the monarchy, when the
growth of priestly power led more and more to the reservation of properly
sacral functions to professional priests. The same development explains
why the LXX’s Vorlage and the Chronicler altered the information in
2 Sam. 8:18 that David’s sons were priests. The performance of sacral
acts by royalty, an aspect of kingship drawn from royal practice farther
afield in the Ancient Near East, does not seem in the long run to have
been assimilable by Israel’s religious ethos.
Chapter Five

Priesthood in the Divided Monarchy

I. “Shiloh” versus “Jerusalem”

Under the monarchy there was a certain tension between the new
establishment, typified by Jerusalem, and the old ideal of rural, particu¬
laristic Israel typified by the Shiloh of olden days. The Davidic mon¬
archy’s acceptance of certain sacral functions was an innovation in Israel,
as, indeed, was the monarchy itself. The monarchy, moreover, in its
settled form, was achieved with a certain accomodation and adjustment
with sedentary Canaan — concretely with Jebusite Jerusalem. This was
not a particularly bad thing, nor a particularly irreligious thing. Jebusite
Jerusalem and the rest of Canaan absorbed into Israel seem for the
most part to have become quickly and readily Yahwistic, but for the
bearers of the old ideal Canaan was, and remained, a bad word — not
entirely without reason, for the endemic plague of syncretistic Baalism
kept threatening Israel, and it was openness to neighboring lands, the
antithesis of the old Israelite particularism, that kept the plague endemic.
The Ark, once in Shiloh, was now in Jerusalem, and Jerusalem was irre¬
vocably the center of Yahwism as well as of the Davidic state. The
new ways of the establishment can hardly have sat well with the more
conservative elements in Israel, and this uneasiness was made more in¬
tense with the reign of Solomon. Solomon's increased relations with
foreign lands and the consequent increase of influence of the culture
of those lands in Israel naturally offended the particularism of rural
Israel, and the substitution of what was perhaps an originally Jebusite
dynasty of priests in place of that of the Elides set up an antipathy
between the Zadokites and those who favored the Israelite, Levitical,
Elide line of Abiathar.1 This situation was only a part of the complex
of reasons that led ultimately to the division of the kingdom after Solo¬
mon’s death, but we can see bits and pieces of evidence that there was
a certain alignment of opposing interests and forces between, on one
side, the Zadokites and the new order of things in Jerusalem and, on
the other, the Levites and the representatives of the religious traditions

1 Cf. Cohen, "The Role of the Shilonite Priesthood in the United Monarchy of
Ancient Israel,” pp. 89-93.

of old Israel, last centered around a Shiloh which lingered on as the

symbol if not the center of the conservative ideal.2 The division of the
realm was no help. From a religious point of view things were soon
worse in the North than in the South.
The prophet Ahijah of Shiloh was the agent by whom divine approval
was given to Jeroboam’s break with Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 11:29-39), and then
by whom the divine disapproval was announced on the disenchanting
religious failure of the new state to be better than the other (1 Kgs.
14:1-16).3 Although Ahijah, we may suppose, shared the viewpoint of
the prophetic compiler-author of 1 Sam. 1:1-4: la and his disapproval
of the transgressions of Hophni and Phinehas, that disapproval was not
directed against priests but against bad priests. Ahijah of Shiloh’s sym¬
pathies, both as zealous Israelite and as Shilonite, would likely have been
thrown in with the Shilonite and Levitical priestly traditions, against
the Zadokite incumbents in Jerusalem.
Furthermore, the prophetic compiler-author of 1 Sam. 1:1-4: la took
pains to root Samuel’s prophetic calling in Shiloh, and this may have
some bearing on the obscure tradition of a conflict between Samuel and
Saul in 1 Sam. 13:7b-15a, which recurs in the different form of 1 Sam.
15:10-31. In both these narratives Saul commits an act of disobedience
before Yahweh which leads to his condemnation by Samuel and a promise
that his kingship will pass to another. This much is probably historical
tradition, reflected in both accounts, with its concrete details obscured
beyond recovery. In both accounts there is mention of sacrifice in relation
to Samuel's condemnation of Saul, but in 15:22f. this is a matter of
contrast between the value of interior obedience and exterior worship,
in the spirit of the classical prophets (cf. Amos 5:21-25; Hos. 6:6). The
element of sacrifice in the other account is more puzzling. The fact of
sacrifice by a man of importance would be taken ill neither in the early
monarchy nor in pre-monarchical days. If the text is reproving sacrifice
by a monarch, it would be difficult to see the text, in that form, as an

2 Thanks to David’s far-sighted policy, the installation of the Ark in Jerusalem

had made the Davidic capital the focal point of religious Israel and, as such, the
official successor of Shiloh: cf. O. Eissfeldt, "Silo und Jerusalem," VT Suppl 4 (1957)
138-47 (= Eissfeldt, Kl. Schr., Ill, 417-25). But Shiloh's strong association in the
Israelite mind with the center of traditional Israelite Yahwism, unsullied by Ca-
naanite influence, pointed out by A. Alt, Der Gott der V'dter (BWANT, III/12; Stutt¬
gart, 1929), p. 64 (= KS, I, 59f.), would make it the idealistic center of those elements
opposed to the new center at Jerusalem, where strategic adaptation to Canaanite
co-existence (with Canaanite conversion and absorption into Yahwism) had taken
place and where completely foreign influence was by no means excluded.
s A. Caquot, "Ahiyya de Silo et Jeroboam Ier," Semitica 11 (1961) 11-27, has some
very interesting remarks on Ahijah as representative of the old Shilonite ideals and
on his hope, then disillusion, in Jeroboam as possible restorer of those ideals.
Caquot’s identification of the prophet Ahijah in 1 Kgs. 11 and 14, though, with the
priest Ahijah in 1 Sam. 14 is a bit bold. The name may have been popular among
religious Shilonite families.

early one. At any rate, the very existence of the tradition in strikingly
different forms attests the reality of the tradition itself, and we will not
be far from the truth if we accept Noth's view that the tradition is one
reflecting difficulties resulting from lack of distinction between the king’s
sacral and secular functions and from conflict between the secular re¬
quirements of the monarchy and the ancient sacral traditions. 4

II. Religious Decline of Priesthood in the Royal Centers

Shiloh never recovered its ancient position, and even its existence
as an inhabited place may have passed into the realm of memory, but
the spirit of Shiloh lived on.5 If we look for this spirit in the priesthood,

*Noth, History of Israel, pp. 175f.

s Much has been made of the end of Shiloh shortly after the battle at Aphek-
Ebenezer, but do the results of the excavations at Shiloh exclude a certain sparse
settlement of the city in the latter part of Iron I, i.e., down to around 900 B.C., or,
for that matter, even in Iron II? The published material that is pertinent can be
found in H. Kjaer, "The Excavation of Shiloh 1929: Preliminary Report," JPOS 10
(1930), pp. 104ff. and in the same author’s I det Hellige Land-, de danske Udgravninger
i Shilo (Copenhagen, 1931), pp. 4043. The Danish expedition found a house, "House A,"
containing pottery which Albright, BASOR, No. 35 (Oct. 1929), p. 4, dated to the 11th
century; there was an absence of 10th century sherds, and House A suffered destruc¬
tion in which fire was involved. But immediately on the ruins of houses contem¬
porary with House A was another wall. When was this wall built? The upper
courses were Roman "or at least repaired in Roman times” (JPOS, p. 106), but what
about the far more important lower courses? The report does not seem to want
to face the issue with them. "Near the base of (this later) wall, almost beneath it,"
was a large amphora of exactly the same type as the vessels in House A. What
does "almost beneath" the wall mean, strati graphically? The photograph in Fig. 28
of I det Hellige Land (Fig. 10 in JPOS is over-developed and not clear) shows this
amphora in situ, and it seems to be standing in a corner, against the wall, a not
uncommon position for an amphora, and it is worth remembering that the lower
parts of amphorae of the type in question were often buried partly in the floor for
support, which would perhaps explain the depth of sherds at the foot of the wall.
Near this amphora were thirty-three other sherds. Of what date and of what
stratigraphic relation to the wall? 13 m. to the north was found a mixture of
vessels "chiefly Iron I with some later." How much later, and what was their
stratigraphic relation to the wall? The report seems particularly loath to admit the
presence of Iron II pottery, embarrassing for the wish to exclude all settlement
between 1050 and the 6th century; when we read that there was "exceedingly little"
from Iron II, and that "only from Iron III... there were again some sherds," we
should like to know more about the difference in degree between "exceedingly little"
and "some.” The important things which the report leaves unanswered are matters
of genuine stratification and of variation within Iron I. Nowadays it has become
possible to date Iron I pottery to roughly the half century, and after studying the
report of the excavations in the late 1920’s it is all the more encouraging to note
that Professor S. Holm-Nielsen of Copenhagen has made brief exploratory diggings
at Shiloh since 1963 with an eventual full-scale program of excavation in mind; it
would be fitting for the Danish work of the 1920’s to be taken up again and im¬
proved by another Danish expedition. Meanwhile, the present evidence does not
conclusively exclude a reduced occupation of Shiloh later in Iron I, after the Battle
of Aphek-Ebenezer, and the texts of Jer. 7:12ff.; 26:6 are speaking of the ruins of
the sanctuary of Shiloh, not necessarily of the town as such.

we can find traces of it here and there among Levitical and prophetical
circles rather than among those priesthoods actually entrenched in the
service of the royal sanctuaries. The non-Levitical Zadokites were es¬
tablished in Jerusalem, and the priests of the Northern Kingdom’s royal
sanctuary at Bethel were not Levites, either, according to 1 Kgs. 12:31,
information whose historicity is not necessarily to be questioned, for it is
worth noting that the text inveighs explicitly (v. 32) against the non-
Levitical priesthood of Bethel but that it refrains from complaining
explicitly that the other sanctuary at Dan (v. 30) had non-Levitical priests.
We know from the tradition of Judg. 17 -18 that Dan did, in fact, have a
Levitical priesthood. If the author knew this and criticized only the
priesthood of Bethel, there is no reason to doubt that the priests of
Bethel really were not Levitical.6 Bethel was meant to be a rival to
Jerusalem, and if the people were not disturbed by the non-Levitical
nature of the Jerusalemite priesthood they would not be too inclined to
object to non-Levitical priests at Bethel in the late tenth century.
On the other hand, there was the more or less accepted traditional
idea that priests were more fittingly Levites, and Jeroboam perhaps tried
to find Levites who would be willing to assure the priestly functions
of his southern sanctuary just as they did at his northern one in Dan.
If so, and he found none who were disposed to accept, that might be an
indication already of a distaste Levites felt for the forms worship was
taking in the North (cf. Exod. 32:25-29 in its present context).7 The
statement of 2 Chr. 11:13-17; 13:9f. that the (Aaronide) priests and the
Levites fled to Judah from Jeroboam’s Israel presents anachronistic traits
like the late distinction between priests and levites, but it may yet contain
a reminiscence of opposition given by Levites, or certain Levites, or
Levites and still other priests, to Jeroboam’s cultic policies. Whether
this is really the way things were or not, it is clear that the desirability of
Levites as sanctuary priests was subject to fashion, and that fashion, as
always, was determined by the accepted way things were done and atti-

s This has been doubted by S. Talmon, "Divergences in Calendar-Reckoning in

Ephraim and Judah,” VT 8 (1958), p. 53, who thinks the priesthoods of both Bethel
and Dan were Levitical; but there is no evidence for a Levitical priesthood in Bethel,
and 1 Kgs. 12 does say that the priesthood there was non-Levitical. On the other
hand, Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, p. 22, claims that the diversity of traditions
on the nameless Levite who was first priest of Dan (Judg. 17f.) and on Jonathan,
son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his descendants as priests of Dan (Judg. 18:30b)
makes it inadmissible to use both in reconstructing a historical picture which would
show the priesthood of Dan to have been Levitical. But this historical picture does
not depend on the combination of the two traditions; it is given by the story of
Judg 17f without 18:30b, plus the sociological commonplace of office or desirable
position handed down within family or clan in Israel and elsewhere. It is confirmed
independently by the narrative of 1 Kgs. 12. In this latter text it is true that the
highly censorius tone of v. 31 is typically Deuteronomistic, but that does not neces¬
sarily call into question (Gunneweg, op. cit., p. 92) the historicity of a non-Levitical
priesthood in Bethel earlier, in the period of the divided monarchy.
7 R. de Vaux, "Le schisme religieux de Jeroboam Ier, Angehcum 20 (1943) 77 91.

tudes held in a place looked to as a paragon. In the days of the am-

phictyony the priests of Shiloh were Levites, and for men like Micah
in Judg. 17-18 having a Levite for one's private sanctuary was the thing
to do. But by royal fiat the priesthood of Jerusalem was no longer
Levitical, and the people acquiesced as usual in the fashion set by the
royal style. Having a Levite as priest was now not as much the thing to
do as it had been before, but, for all that, there were Levites who kept
on functioning as priests elsewhere (in Dan, for example).
The old Yahwist exclusivism was evidently not very strong in the
atmosphere of the royal centers of the two kingdoms where the non-
Levitical priests held office, for we read of priests of Baal under Jehu
at Samaria (2 Kgs. 10:19) and probably at the other royal residence-city
of the North, Jezreel (2 Kgs. 10:11), as well as in Jerusalem, which even
had a temple of Baal (2 Kgs. 11:18). Ahab had an altar and house of
Baal (1 Kgs. 16:32), not to speak of the 450 prophets of Baal and 400
prophets of Asherah who ate at Queen Jezabel’s table (1 Kgs. 18:19).
Even after the fall of the Northern Kingdom Manasseh built altars for
Baal in Jerusalem (2 Kgs. 21:3). These, of course, are extreme examples,
taken from periods when Yahwism was at a low ebb, but the Yahwist
priests in the official sanctuaries, little though we know of them in this
period, were not particularly zealous for an ideal, nor were they particularly
inclined to be outspoken opponents of royal policies, as the dialogue
between the priest Amaziah at Bethel and the prophet Amos shows
(Amos 7:10-15).8 That these official priests ran the risk run by all
entrenched clerical groups of becoming cultic functionaries somewhat
overly concerned with their own interests is suggested by the account
of 2 Kgs. 12: King Jehoash of Jerusalem, overseeing the proper functioning
of the capital sanctuary in conformity with his royal responsibilities,
ordered the priests to collect the silver from certain forms of income
and to use it as payment for repair work on the Temple, but the priests
collected the money without doing anything to repair the Temple, and
the matter was taken out of their hands (w. 5-9); v. 16 makes the
trenchant observation that the men into whose hands the money now
came were honest and did not need to have their accounts watched —
a pointed contrast with the relative venality and nonchalance of the priests.

8 Noth, Amt und Berufung, p. 10 (= Noth, Gesammelte Studien, p. 315), notes

that there was a special reason for the interference of the priest Jehoiada after the
usurpation of the throne in Jerusalem by Athaliah in the third quarter of the ninth
century (2 Kgs. 11:4-21), since a ruler and cult superintendent who was a woman
and who did not belong to the house of David would be absolutely intolerable to
the ministers of the Jerusalem Temple. We might add that Athaliah’s sanctuary of
Baal and its priest Mattan were competitors of the sanctuary of Yahweh and its
priest Jehoiada (11:18), and that this may have been the real straw that broke the
Zadokite camel's back.

III. Priests of the Establishment versus Levitical Claimants

The priests of the great sanctuaries, bogged down in clerical routine,

were doubtlessly at odds with the Levites, who were not renouncing
their claims to preference in priestly functions but were probably vin¬
dicating them all the more intensely because of the opposition from the
official priests.
We have already seen the reasons for dating 1 Sam. 2:27-36 sometime
in the period of the divided monarchy, and now that we have reached this
stage of our study, we can examine the suggestion that this oracle had
a somewhat complex process of growth, with the kind of additions and
adaptations to new situations to which such speeches especially lend
themselves.9 As we have seen,10 vv. 31b, 32b, 33b, and 34 apply well
enough to the family of Eli and to the events at Ebenezer and Nob;
w. 35f. introduce what is most probably the figure of Zadok as a symbol
of the entire line of Zadokites, and 27b-28 plus the mention of the house
of Eli’s father in 30 and 31a (which give the oracle its direction in its
present form) are anti-Levitical.* 11 The allusions to a “jealous eye” of
those against whom the oracle is directed, an eye turned on “the sacrifice
and offering” which Yahweh had ordered (v. 29a), along with the statement
that they will “look with a jealous eye on all the good” which Yahweh
will do in Israel (v. 32a), fit a situation in which Levites as a whole would
be voicing their claims to priestly prerogatives while actually obliged
to see others enjoying the priestly benefits of the prosperous sanctuaries
in Israel. V. 33a, speaking of the targets of the oracle remaining near
Yahweh's altar but not in the most thriving conditions (the text is
ambiguous) can reflect the continuing activity of Levites in minor sanc¬
tuaries with precarious revenues.12 In other words, the oracle in its
present form shows that existing material on the Elides has been extended
to achieve an oracle directed not primarily (any more) against the Elides
but against the Levites. It also shows that the official priests recognized

9 On such growth of various types of "speeches” as they are handed down in

tradition, cf. O. Ploger, “Reden und Gebete im deuteronomistischen und chronisti-
schen Geschichtswerk,” in Festschrift fitr Gunther Dehn (Neukirchen, 1957), pp. 3549.
10 Cf. above, pp. 66ff.
11 Cf. above, Chapter Three, n. 12. H. G. Judge, "Aaron, Zadok and Abiathar,”
JTS n.s 7 (1956), p. 73, thinks these texts are anti-Aaronide, but they are hardly
anti-Aaronide at this time, for the figure of Aaron did not take on a priestly color
(and was certainly not used polemically) much before the end of the Exile (cf. Noth,
VP, pp. 195-99 and below, pp. 146-52, 164f., 172).
12 Tsevat, "Studies in the Book of Samuel," HUCA 32 (1961), p. 194, thinks ' my
altar” in vv. 28 and 33 must refer to "the central, or at least a major, sanctuary";
but the altar is not necessarily meant to be taken as a concrete singular, and here
we can have an instance of the collective use of substantives which otherwise serve
as nomina unita.tis\ cf. Gesenius-Kautzsch-Cowley, § 123b; Jouon, Grammuire de
t’hebreu biblique, § 135c.


the claims of a divine origin of Levitical right to priestly office, for it is a

right divinely given that the oracle attempts to demonstrate as divinely
taken away.
It is difficult to assign a precise date to the oracle in this form, but
Steuernagel would put it somewhere around the eighth century,13 and
the phrase lasePt 5epod in v. 28 also militates against its being too late,
for the ephod which a priest carried is recorded nowhere after the time
of David, consultation of Yahweh in the time of the monarchy was passing
from priest to prophet,14 and already in the eighth century Hosea,
whose spirit, as we shall notice, has much in common with that of the
Levites, was reproving the use of the ephod as something unorthodox
(Hos. 3:4). The oracle, before the addition of vv. 35f., can hardly be
later than the early eighth century, and North, who thinks that w. 35f.
are of a piece with the rest of the oracle and not from Josian times,
suspects that the whole oracle may be from the earlier part of the
divided monarchy.15 Is the oracle in its present form, abstracting from
the question of vv. 35f., merely the manifestation of a standing quarrel
between the descendants of Zadok and those of Abiathar over priestly
rights in the Temple of Jerusalem, or is it not perhaps a sign of what
has become a broader feud between the priests of the establishment
(in this case those of Jerusalem) and the Levites generally? And in this
light, the reasons for the use of a tradition hostile to the Shilonite Elides
may become clearer, if the Levites in their vindications were making much
of the fact that Eli was one of them and were appealing to the old
sacral traditions epitomized by all that Shiloh stood for.

IV. Priestly Activity in the Monarchical Period

A. Deuteronomy 33:8-11 and its Significance

In the Blessing of Moses at the end of the present Book of Deute¬

ronomy we find a succinct and fairly clear picture of what Levites were
supposed to be (Dt. 33:8-11). Opinions differ on the date to assign to
these blessings. Perhaps we shall be close to the mark if we assign
them as they stand assembled in their present form to the first part
of the eighth century.16 Even those who hold an older origin for the
poem as a whole would not refuse to admit, on grounds of style, meter,

is Steuernagel, "Die Weissagung iiber die Eliden,” p. 200.

14 De Vaux, Les institutions, II, 205.
45 Noth, "Samuel und Silo,” p. 394 with n. 5.
16 Cf. R. Tournay, "Le psaume et les benedictions de Moi'se,” RB 65 (1958) 181-210.
We must still distinguish, though between Dt. 33 as a collection of sayings on various
tribes and the individual sayings themselves, which, for the most part at least, existed
separately before the collection was made; cf. below, n. 18.

and content, that vv. 9b-10, at least, are then a later addition within
the framework of the primitive blessing of Levi.17 A reader can not
help being impressed by the change from the singular (Levi, standing for
the tribe) in vv. 8-9a,ll to the plural (the Levites) in vv. 9b-10, and this
impression is heightened when he notices that for this difference there
is a corresponding difference in the historical levels at which we should
very much be inclined to situate what these two sections claim for Levi,
for the section using the singular makes claims which strike a more
archaic tone than those of the section using the plural.18

1. The Older Part: Consultation of God

The mention of urim and thummim in the presumably older section

using the singular (v. 8) is significant, for the only mention of consultation
of God in the period beginning with the actual establishment in Jerusalem
is to be found in 1 Kgs. 14:5; 22:5-28; 2 Kgs. 3:11; 8:7-13; 22:11-20 — all
texts in which the verb used for “to consult” is daras, not the scPal
used of the old consultation with urim and thummim. In all these texts
the one who consults is a prophet; if in 2 Kgs. 3:15ff. it is actually a
musician sent for by Elisha who pronounces God’s word, even then
it was a prophet who was originally sought out (2 Kgs. 3:11). In none
of the texts does the prophet consult through the medium of an instrument.
The word of God comes to him directly, and in no text that can be dated
down into the time of the divided monarchy do we find a priest — or
anyone, for that matter — actually using urim and thummim. Later
Jewish tradition held that urim and thummim went out of use after
the days of Samuel, David, and Solomon.19 Even though the statement
of Ezra 2:63 = Neh. 7:65 that in the Second Temple there was no one

17 E.g. F. M. Cross and D. N. Freedman, “The Blessing of Moses,” JBL 67 (1948),

p. 203, n. 28.
is Cross and Freedman, op. cit., p. 204, n. 29, say that v. 11 “swarms with archaisms
and may well have been the original blessing of Levi.” I do not know what they
would say about associating w. 8-9a with v. 11 in the same stratum of the text’s1
growth. It is not easy to identify those enemies of Levi to which v. 11 refers. Are
they purely secular enemies, or are they rival priests? Cross and Freedman suggest
some historical relation to Gen. 49:5ff.; if that should be valid (but cf. Tournay,
op. cit., p. 194), then v. 11 has no immediate historical relation to the concerns of
w. 8-10, but in any case the isolation of vv. 9b-10 as later than all of the surrounding
text seems quite justifiable to me.
The question of the relative ages of the primitive saying on Levi in Dt. 33:8-9a,ll
and the saying on Levi (and Simeon) in Gen. 49:5ff. rises again (cf. above, Chapter
One, n. 120). The saying in Genesis is generally accepted as the older one (cf. the
state of the question in Eissfeldt, Introduction, pp. 228f.), but Albright in CBQ 25
(1963) pp. 9f. holds open the possibility that the one in Dt. 33 is the older one.
F L ’moriarty in CBQ 28 (1966), pp. 71f., raises the possibility of interpreting thd
saying on Levi in Dt. 33 as one favorable to the Levites and prior to the fall of
Shiloh, the one in Gen. 49 as one unfavorable to them because of disenchantment
after the fall of Shiloh.
is Cf. de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 205f.

to use the urim and thummim makes us wonder if memory of them as

objects to be manipulated was based on a practice which had really
ceased completely so long before, there seems little room for doubt that
in the monarchical period urim and thummim as objects actually used
in oracular consultation became obsolete.

2. The Newer Part: tor a and Sacrifice

a. T ora

In the section with the plural verb-forms (vv. 9b-10) we find elements
which show kinship with the priestly activity of later times rather than
with that of earlier days. According to this section, the Levites teach
the customary laws (mispatim) and give instructions or decisions (torot)
of God to the people (v. 10a),20 in fidelity to the divine Covenant with
Israel.21 The giving of tora by priests does not appear in any texts earlier
than the eighth century or early ninth century (Hos. 4:6; Mic. 3:11;
cf. also 2 Kgs. 12:3), but from that time on down to the Exile it is
closely associated with priests (Dt. 31:9,26; Jer. 2:8; 18:18; Ezek. 7:26;
Zeph. 3:4).
Whether this priestly tora was a development from the primitive
oracular consultation or not,22 it was originally instruction or decision

20 Reading toroVka here instead of the Massoretic vocalization's toraVka, as has

been proposed by J. Begrich, “Die priesterliche Tora,” p. 64, n. 10 (= Begrich,
Gesammelte Studien, p. 233, n. 10).
21 Num. 25:12f.; Neh. 13:29; Jer. 33:21; Mai. 2:4ff., speak of a special covenant
of God with the Levites. Like the covenant with the Davidic dynasty, this covenant
is limited to a particular group within the Chosen People. In the Davidic cove¬
nant God has promised an enduring reign to the lineage of David, and in this Levitical
covenant God has promised priesthood to the sons of Levi. But these texts are
all late, and this special covenant is hardly the covenant meant by Dt. 33:9b. The
fact that the text of Dt. 33 goes on to speak of customary laws and torot given to
all Israel (v. 10), and which must be based on the law of this covenant, provides
grounds for identifying the covenant in this text with the general covenant between
Yahweh and the Chosen People.
22 The problem of tora's relation to oracular consultation depends on the problem
of the etymology of the root or roots yrh (i.e. yrw or yry) in Hebrew. One school
of thought, following Gesenius, holds that the root means "to throw” and that its
Hiph'il means “to instruct.” Another school, following Wellhausen (who actually
held his opinion with less vigor as the years passed), attaches yrh to lot-casting,
and tora, accordingly, directly to oracular consultation with urim and thummim. The
range of opinions is further complicated by the possibility of distinguishing two roots
yrh, of which one would bear the sense of "to instruct,” the other that of “to throw,"
and by the explanation of tora in relation to Akkadian tertu, "law; pronouncement
after inspecting omens, etc.” which reopens questions of root and of use, besides
problems of chronology in the question of borrowing. On all this, cf. G. Ostborn,
Tora in the Old Testament: a Semantic Study (Lund, 1945), pp. 6-21. No matter
what is to be said on the ultimate origins of Hebrew tora, it seems to me that
such texts as Hos. 4:6 accusing priests of rejecting knowledge and forgetting tora,
Jer. 2:8 complaining that (priests) who wield the Law {top^se hat-tora) have not
known God, and Zeph. 3:4 (with its inverted parallel Ezek. 22:36) lamenting that
priests have profaned what is holy and have done wrong to tora, all indicate a cer-

between what was right and what was wrong, what to be done and
what not to be done, in the narrower field of worship, ritual, the
observance of the Sabbath;23 yet, it did not always remain so. Hos. 4:6
condemns priests for scorning a knowledge (defat) whose content, inspira¬
tion, and manner of presentation are not specified but which may already
be concerned with a wider area of morality than that of cult and ritual.24
According to Hos. 8:12 (which is roughly contemporary with the later
part of the blessing of Levi), at least some tora — priestly torn (cf. the
sacrifices in the following verse) — was already set down in writing.
Some two hundred years later, in the text of Dt. 31:9, it is the written
Law which is entrusted by Moses to the charge of the priests, and this
is the Law, or tdrd, in the Deuteronomic sense of a revelation of the will
of God which consists of a corpus of directives and laws deriving from
\ ahweh s Covenant with Israel. It is quite possible that this is the
sense of tdrd in Jer. 2:8, also, which speaks of wielding "the” tdrd.
This later priestly concern with written tora in the Deuteronomic
sense is hardly without some historical development behind it, a develop¬
ment reflected in that of the term tora itself, but it is not an easy matter
to trace the steps of that development or to sort out, with reference
to various chronological levels, the various relations between the torot
given by priests, by prophets, by lawmakers, by sages.25 At any rate, the
torot of Dt. 33:10 are not limited to responses given ad hoc to requests
for particular decisions. There is something more objective and stable

tain change of this priestly tora — a change discernible as early as Hosea — into
something more objectivized and less transitory than a mere act of lot-casting or
ad hoc oracular consultation.
23 On priestly tora, cf., in addition to Begrich, "Die priesterliche Tora”: Ostborn,
op. cit., pp. 89-111; Ploger, "Priester und Prophet,” pp. 179-88; de Vaux, Les institu¬
tions, II, 206ff.
24 Noth, Amt und Berufung, p. 29, n. 15 (= Noth, Gesammelte Studien, p. 315,
n. 15), writes that such texts as Hos. 4:6; Zeph. 3:4; Mic. 3:11; Jer. 2:8; 18:18, in
considering tora as an essential attribute of a priest, presuppose that tora, no longer
limited to the cultic and ritual realm, extended to instruction on behavior in general.
The difficulty is that none of these texts, with the exception of Hos. 4:6, gives us
any hint about what that tora which they had in mind consisted of or was con¬
cerned with. Begrich, op. cit., p. 86, notes that priestly dacat is parallel to priestly
tora not only in Hos. 4:6 but in the much later text of Mai. 2:7 as well, and on
the basis of these parallels he concludes, not that priests were concerned with in¬
struction involving knowledge of a broader range of human behavior, but that there
was a specific type of priestly tora which constituted a kind of "secret priestly
knowledge.” To what extent, though, does the existence of two words in literary
parallel allow us to identify or to fuse the two things or two concepts which they
express? Defat and tora in parallel may be the same thing in these two texts;
they may also be two entities which are separate and distinct, although related,
and such a relation can be close or distant. The texts, unfortunately, are lacking
in the concrete details which would enable us to judge.
25 Qf the authors cited in n. 23, only Ostborn is concerned with examining all
these types of tora. Begrich, p. 87, says that for him the connexion between tora
and law is one which was completed outside priestly circles. On Levitical influence
in the formation of the Deuteronomic code, cf. G. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy
(Studies in Biblical Theology, IX; London, 1953), pp. 66-69.

about them. They are to be taught along with mispatim, "customary

laws,” just as according to Lev. 10:11 the Aaronides are supposed to
teach huqqim, "statutes,” and the Northern priest sent back to Bethel
from Assyria in the late eighth century is supposed to teach the people
the mispatim of God (2 Kgs. 17:27). In Ezek. 44:24 and Ezra 7:10 both
mispat and tora are clearly thought of as already existing objective
norms, but these, of course, are texts considerably later than Dt. 33:10.
It would be rash to try to specify with assurance the relation of the
torot of Dt. 33:10 to the mixture of commandments, legal material, ancient
traditions and customs, and specifically priestly torot constituting the
tora in the Deuteronomic sense, but Dt. 33:9b suggests that the mispatim
and torot characteristic of priests in the eighth century shared this already
in common with the code of Deuteronomy: they were based upon Yahweh's
Covenant with Israel and upon that Covenant's exactions. It is from
the Covenant, to which the Levites are faithful, that the customary laws
and the instructions flow; the instructions are in conformity with objective
norms held to be divine norms.26

b. A "Teaching” Function of Israelite Priests?

This tora-giving activity is not the deeper and broader doctrinal

instruction of the wise man, and indeed it is only with considerable
reserve that we can speak of a “teaching” function of Israelite priesthood.
The oracular consultation of a primitive Hebrew priest can hardly be
called a teaching function at all. The ford-giving of a later period is
indeed a teaching function, but it consists of little more profound than
handing down statements on the conformity or non-conformity of a given
course of action with a given norm. The texts which we have just
discussed in note 24 above may allow for a broader and deeper kind of
priestly teaching, but they are vague, and they certainly do not tell us
conclusively that such a broader type of teaching was considered essential

26 Gonzalez Nunez, Profetas, sacerdotes y reyes en el antiguo Israel, pp. 126fL,

has some valuable remarks on tora and mispat taken together: the whole nucleus
of tradition formed in the past falls within their scope, and the tradition grows as
new responses are made to newly presented problems of private law, personal prob¬
lems, military undertakings, designation of people as guilty or elect, problems of
ethics, ritual, morality; lots with their ‘'yes-no" answers provide few possibilities,
but the solution of more complex problems is sought in the nucleus of laws and
traditions already formed. Fr. Gonzalez Nunez seems to imply that priestly tora
in the monarchical period was still a matter of casting lots and handing down the
resultant "yes-no” answer in its context. One can readily admit that even the slightly
post-exilic text of Hag. 2:llff. allows such an interpretation. In this text there is
certainly a matter of classical priestly tora with simple responses, but did some
kind of lot-casting actually precede those priests’ responses at that late date? The
fact remains that there is no text of the monarchical period or later which mentions
ad hoc lot-casting involved in giving tora (vv. 8-9a of Dt. 33 being ancient and most
probably pre-monarchical), although this is, to be sure, only an argument from

to a priest’s work. A properly doctrinal teaching function in Israel

belonged not to the priest but to the wise man, the hakam, learned in
tora and in the traditions of the forefathers, who gave teaching and
counsel even to the great.27
Many wise men, of course, may have been priests. Jer. 8:8 puts
tora in the keeping of wise men, but in the light of Jer. 2:8, and especially
of Jer. 18:18, which assigns tora to the priest but counsel to the wise
man, he may have had priests in mind as the wise men of 8:8. In any
case, it was as wise men rather than as priests that they were teachers
in a profound sense.

c. Sacrifice

New, too, in Dt. 33:10 is the mention of sacrifice in a context showing

it to be a property — or claimed to be a property — of priestly circles.
The days when Israel looked upon sacrifice by heads of families, clans,
and tribes, and by kings as heads of entire peoples, as a perfectly normal
thing, without reservation, were drawing to a close. Israelites who were
not priests would continue to have a certain active part to play in
sacrifices they might wish to make, for the individual Israelite in the
requisite state of ritual purity would continue to immolate the victim
he was offering (Lev. 1:5; 3:2,8,13; 4:24,29,33), but everything which made
it necessary to come in contact with the sacrificial altar would be
reserved to a priest. This, in the texts of P and of the Code of Holiness,
is the reason for the reservation to the priest of the blood-rites (Exod.
30:10; Lev. 17:11,14) and for the necessity of the priest’s accomplishing
even the immolation of the victim in the sacrifice of fowl (Lev. l:14f.; 5:8),
for fowl were immolated on the altar itself.28 The same idea lies behind
Dt. 33:10’s statement that the Levites place the holocaust on Yahweh’s
altar, and, in fact, behind the same text’s allusion to the Levites’ burning
of incense (if qetora here does refer to incense-smoke),29 for it was, again,
on an altar that the incense was to be burned, and the burning of incense
is reserved to priests in Exod. 30:7f.; Num. 17:5; 1 Chr. 23:13.
The reason for this reservation to priests of any sacrificial role
involving contact with the altar is certainly to be found in concepts
of sacral or ritual holiness developing in Israel, with the concomitant
notion that priests as a class are more holy, more intensely set apart
from the profane, than the rest of the people. The displacement of the

27 cf. Ostborn, Tora, pp. 112-26, and compare what Ben Sirach (not considered
by Ostborn) has to say at a later date about the scribe (Sir. 39:1-11) with what he
has to say about the high priest (Sir. 50:1-21).
28 De Vaux, Les institutions, II, 209, 292f.
29 It is difficult to say when words from the root qtr in pre-exilic texts refer
to incense-burning and when to the smoking and burning of holocausts. In post-exilic
texts they refer much more clearly, and more regularly, to the burning of sweet¬
smelling, aromatic materials.

king’s own ritual functions, to be assumed by priests, shows a weakening

of the sense of sacral kingship in Israel. The same concepts may well
be involved, too, in the growing importance of priestly tora in its
classical sense of a decision precisely in the realm of ritual, of what
is sacrally fas and nefas, and ultimately in the sense of sacral law. To this
theology of holiness we shall return below.30
Vv. 9b-10 in the blessing of Levi, despite their brevity and compression,
constitute the principal landmark in the Bible for the historical develop¬
ment of the Levites themselves (besides being the principal landmark
for the development of priestly activity) between the division of the
monarchy and the actual realization of cult-centralization. The ancient
part of the blessing, Dt. 33:8-9a,ll, speaks of Levi in the singular; the
tribal sense is thus stronger, and the paramount priestly activity of the
time is oracular consultation. The text of the early eighth century level
of the blessing (w. 9b-10) slips into the plural; the tribal sense is atten¬
uated in favor of a more functional sense. Oracle work by this time
had given way to tora-giving, and sacrificial activity had come to be
thought of as a capital priestly activity. The Levites were supposed to
be particularly faithful to the Covenant — again, in the spirit of “Shiloh”.
The division of the blessing of Levi on the basis of a change from
singular to plural and back again is confirmed by what we know from
other texts on the nature of priesthood in earlier days and in later days.
The early eighth century date for the more recent part of the text is
itself based on comparative evidence, but the date is probable as an
approximation. It is in the eighth century too that Hosea associates
written tora and sacrifice (Hos. 8:12). The text of Dt. 33:9b-10 is valuable
for showing that the Levites were associated with fidelity to the Covenant,
with the handing-down of customary laws and of instruction based on
Covenant, with holocaust and, perhaps, with incense-offering — all of
these things together at this particular point of historical development.
It is also valuable for showing that properly priestly functions were the
things considered to be characteristic of Levites at that time.

B. Judiciary Activities of Priests

Our analysis of Dt. 33:9b-10 has already brought to our notice the
role of priests in handing down instruction and judgements of customary
law, besides their more liturgical functions. A word remains to be said
about the accomplishment of public judiciary work by priests in Israelite
society in the period of the divided monarchy.
Albrecht Alt, in his pioneer work on Israelite law, mentioned in
passing that priests had nothing at all to do in judging cases on the
basis of casuistic law inherited from Canaan; this kind of judiciary

30 Cf. pp. 191f.


work fell to the lot of lay tribunals made up of the land-holding elders
m a given piace. A priest had a part to play only in the pronouncing
and declaring of apodictic law, in which he served as the speaker for
God in what was to all intents and purposes a sacral act 31 This is
probably the original shape of Israelite legal practice. It seems to be
implicit m the narrative of Exod. 18:13-26, with Moses dividing judgement
of cases between himself and the elders. As this narrative now stands,
the basis of the allotment is one of the gravity of the case (v. 22), but
when Moses tells his father-in-law Jethro what he has been doing, he
says that the people have been coming to him to consult Yahweh, and
that he has been deciding matters, not by applying casuistic law but
by instructing the litigants in the huqqim and torot of God (vv. 16b,20).
We have already noted that the priestly trait given here to Moses’ figure
depends on these two verses (16b and 20), but that the two of them
are probably later additions to the text.32 But when and why were they
In the second quarter of the ninth century, according to 2 Chr. 19:8,11,
King Jehoshaphat established tribunals in Jerusalem comprising priests
and elders, for the “cases of Yahweh” (matters of religious law) and
for civil disputes. Amariah the chief priest was the authority in the
cases governed by religious law, and Zebadiah, ndgid. of Judah, for those
governed by civil law.33 In doing so he was in effect establishing a
tribunal of second instance, above the tribunals of first instance established
here and there outside Jerusalem (vv. 4-7). Rolf Knierim has shown how
Exod. 18:13-26, with w. 16b and 20 now added (and most probably the
other insertions, w. 21b and 25b, too), is the old Mosaic tradition now
given an aetiological relation to these new developments in the judicial

31 Alt, Die Vrsprunge des israelitischen Rechts, pp. 16f., 33, 61f. (= KS, I, 289,
302, 324f.). The role of the priest in rites of ordeal in cases of occult crime (cf. Num.
5:11-31), too, may be included in the priest’s work of sacral judiciary work.
32 Cf. above, pp. 47f.
33 It was long the fashion to see the Chronicler’s report of this judicial reform
of Jehoshaphat as a fiction based on the ordinances of Dt. 16:18ff.; 17:8-13. There
are surely elements of the Chronicler's account which he himself has added; the
detail about the levites serving in a subordinate position as bailiffs of the court
accords only too well with his post-exilic interest in seeing that levites not be for¬
gotten but that they be in a position subordinate to that of priests. Josephus Anti¬
quities IV.viii.14 speaks of a long-standing practice of having two levites appointed
as assistants to each judge in his day, and the practice may well have existed at
the time of the Chronicler. But the details of the Chronicler's account of the re¬
form show not only discrepancy with those of Deuteronomy (Dt. 16:18 has the
provincial judges throughout the provincial cities; 2 Chr. 19:5 has them only in the
fortified cities) but conformity with institutions of the earlier monarchical period
(the ndgid of the House of Judah, who according to 2 Chr. 19:11 is to preside
over civil cases, must belong to a time when the ndgid still retained a certain im¬
portance in society, an importance which he lost gradually in the monarchical period):
cf. W. F. Albright, “The Judicial Reform of Jehoshaphat," in Alexander Marx Jubilee
Volume (English Section; New York, 1950), pp. 61-82, especially pp. 74-82. Com¬
mentators since 1950 accept the substantial authenticity of the Chronicler’s report
of Jehoshaphat’s judicial reform.

practice of monarchical Judah.34 The present narrative’s division of

cases into those of greater importance, to be handled by Moses with his
huqqim and tdrot, and those of lesser importance, to be handled by
the subordinates, covers the division of the new monarchical judiciary's
work into that done in Jerusalem, where the priests in matters of their
competence were to give judgement on the basis of sacral law, and that
done in other cities with their courts of first instance. One is inclined
to doubt that the cases handled by Amariah and his priestly associates
were to be settled merely by the proclamation of a divine judgement.
The procedure must have been forensic and casuistic, although the law
to be applied was itself probably apodictic, in the style of the Code
of Holiness (Lev. 17-26).
Dt. 17:8-13, too, provides for a tribunal of second instance, at the
place of the central sanctuary, to which cases can be appealed from the
local tribunals of elders throughout the land. The text is difficult to
date; it appears, however, to reflect a development of the judicial organiza¬
tion made by Jehoshaphat, who had also brought his hand to bear
on judicial reform in the individual localities of his realm (2 Chr. 19:5f.).35
But in these provisions set down in Deuteronomy there is no clear
distinction between cases of religious law and those of civil law; nor
is there any clear indication of a priestly tribunal distinct from the
lay judge’s tribunal. May we conclude that all cases appealed were
submitted to a tribunal on which both judge and priest sat, with the
priest supposed to give what we should call a more moral sort of
judgement? If so, we have an indication that the judicial competence
of priests was broadening.
In the ancient prescriptions of Dt. 21:1-9 on the exculpation by
implicit oath of the inhabitants of the city nearest to the spot where
the body of a man murdered by an unknown hand has been found,
priests are introduced, with the ordinance that every case of litigation
or assault is to be settled by them (v. 5). This, though, is a later addition
to the text. The priests ultimately have no part at all to play in the

34 Knierim, "Exodus 18 und die Neuordnung der mosaischen Gerichtsbarkeit,’’

pp. 157-67.
35 A. Bertholet, Denteronomium (KHC, V; Freiburg i.B.-Leipzig-Tubingen, 1899),
p. 54; C. Steuernagel, Das Deuteronomium (HK, 1/3; Gottingen, 1900), pp. 64f. ;
F. Horst, Das Privilegrecht Jahves (FRLANT, n.f. XXVIII; Gottingen, 1930), pp. 104ff.;
Noth, "Das Amt des 'Richters Israels’," p. 416; G. von Rad, Das fiinfte Buck Mose:
Deuteronomium (ATD, VIII: Gottingen, 1964), p. 84, hold that Dt. 17:8-13 is a com¬
bination of two originally distinct ordinances, one for a priestly tribunal, the other
for the tribunal of a lay judge, or that the presence of the priest is merely a
secondary addition to the original ordinance. But having accepted the substantial
historicity of the Chronicler's account of Jehoshaphat's arrangements in the 9th cen¬
tury (cf. above, n. 33), the principal reason for questioning the basic unity of Dt.
17:8-13 falls. I do think, however, that the specification of the priest(s) as Levitical
and the homiletic flourishes in w. 11 and 13 (and the clause qualifying the priest
in V. 12) are specifically Deuteronomic touches.

exculpation of the city according to the ancient passage as it continues;

that part of the text having to do with priests interrupts the description
of what is to be done, and is manifestly secondary. But the addition
does show the attitude of the time when it was inserted, presumably by
a Deuteronomistic redactor in the sixth century.
The torot of priests would normally be instructions and decisions
of sacral law, distinction between the pure and the impure, the sacred
and the profane, but they would also at times, at least from the middle
of the ninth century in Jerusalem, be given in more properly forensic
contexts, and the judicial competence of priests appears to have broadened
with the centuries, for in the sixth century Ezek. 44; 24 provides for
their functioning as judges in litigation without distinction of types of
litigation, and this corresponds with the roughly contemporaneous addition
of Dt. 21:5. The development of priestly tribunals may very well have
been limited to the official priests in Jerusalem, however, for that is
its setting in Jehoshaphat’s reforms, it is implicitly its setting in Dt. 17:8-13,
and the material in Ezek. 40-48 bears heavily the stamp of Jerusalem’s
Temple circles.

V. Levites and the Prophetic Spirit; Hosea

At the end of the eighth century the Levites were still scattered
abroad in the land, and their priests went about their work with torot
and sacrifice but were still excluded from the royal sanctuaries — entirely
excluded, once Dan had fallen into the hands of the Assyrians. They
were conservative, and they prided themselves on their fidelity to the
ancient Covenant. Understandably enough, they opposed the entrenched
priesthoods of the royal establishments, not only out of rivalry but out
of religious ideals, too. In this they were not alone.
It has been pointed out that the prophet Hosea, in the third quarter
of the eighth century, shared this same spirit of fidelity to the old purely
Israelite Yahwism with the requirements of its Covenant, and that along
with opposition to the official state priesthoods Hosea also appears to have
shown considerable sympathy for the non-official, Levitical circles as
such.36 Indeed, Hos. 12:8-11 is outspokenly against “Canaan” and the
culpable prosperity of Israel, while conjuring up the ideal of the old
days of wandering, and even though Hosea condemns wicked priests
and exterior, formalized cult (4:4-14; 6:6; 8: Ilf.), he shows himself to
be in favor of the kind of dacat and mispat and tora characteristic of
good priests by the very fact that he condemns priests for their failure

36 H. W. Wolff, “Hoseas geistige Heimat," ThLZ 81 (1956) 83-94 (— Wolff, Gesam-

melte Studien zum Alten Testament [Theologische Biicherei, XXII; Munich, 1964],
pp. 232-50.

to give them to the people (4:6; 5:11; 6:5f.; 8:12). He condemns the
calves of monarchical, non-Levitical Bethel (8:5f.; 10:5; 13:2), which he
calls Beth-aven in pejorative contexts (4:15; 5:8; 10:5), but in 12:5 he
hearkens back to the days of ancient Bethel, called now by its proper
name. Like the priests excluded from the royal sanctuaries — as Levites
other than those of the sanctuary of Dan were — he is anti-monarchical
(8:4; 13:11), and in 9:15 he even condemns Saul’s proclamation as king.
The tone of Hosea’s anti-monarchical words is not far from that of
Samuel's in 1 Sam. 15’s version (cf. 15:22f.) of the tradition of conflict
between the secular requirements of the monarchy and the old sacral
traditions, otherwise set forth in 1 Sam. 13:7b-15a. The idea in both
1 Sam. 15 and in Hosea is that obedience has pride of place over mere
external worship.
Moreover, in Hosea, as in the anonymous man, probably himself
from prophetical circles,37 who compiled 1 Sam. 1:1-4: la, there is a
certain nostalgia for the days of Israel before the monarchy, and a
strong disapproval of the failure of established priesthoods to live up to
their divinely willed obligations. The Levites, shadowy though their
history is during all this period, show kinship with this mentality, although
they too would doubtlessly have been subject to the same condemned
abuses, had they been more successful in finding comfortable and secure
places in the more important sanctuaries. As things turned out, the
Levites, relatively untainted by the cultural and religious influence of
Canaan,38 were known for their fidelity to Yahweh’s Covenant and its

37 Noth, VS, p. 60, n. 3.

38 It is very difficult to agree with R. Kittel, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, II,
66, n. 3, that in the period of the divided monarchy the Levites more and more
represented Canaanite worship while the role of representatives of Yahwist tradition
went to the prophets. The priests of the official sanctuaries were undoubtedly subject
to a certain Canaanizing influence by cultural osmosis in the royal centers, despite
themselves, but that is by no means to say that they became Baalists. Of tha
non-official priests scattered throughout the countryside those who were not Levites
apparently did not resist the influence of Canaanite religion very strongly, with the
result that Levites came to predominate among those country priests who were
more intent upon preserving the purity of Yahwism, to judge from Deuteronomy,
which, however, may have oversimplified the picture because of Levitical sympathies.
These Levite-priests, rather than being in conflict with the prophets, share a certain
common set of ideals with them. The notion, formerly very popular (in part, no
doubt, because of a certain polemic situation in the Christian world), that there
was an essential conflict between Old Testament priests and prophets, has given
way to a more realistic appraisal: cf., for example, A. C. Welch, Prophet and Priest
in Old Israel (Oxford, 1953), pp. 72-75; H. H. Rowley, "Ritual and the Hebrew
Prophets,” JSS 1 (1956), pp. 353f. (= Rowley, From Moses to Qumran [London, 19631,
pp. 130f.); W. Eichrodt, The Theology of the Old Testament, I (London, 1961), pp. 364f.;
E. Wurthwein, "Kultpolemik oder Kultbescheid?” in Tradition und Situation (Got¬
tingen, 1963), pp. 115-31. One of the best discussions of this matter is that of GonzAlez
Ntjnez, Profetas, sacerdotes y reyes en el antiguo Israel, pp. 272-80, who shows that
it is futile to argue either that Old Testament prophecy, of itself, is cultic or that
it is anti-cultic, for there are examples of both kinds of prophetic utterance.
Chapter Six

Deuteronomy and its Wake

As the seventh century dawned in Israel, the Levites were dispersed

up and down the land, but they were not the priests of Jerusalem. They
had not been the priests of monarchical Bethel, and the Levitical priest¬
hood at Dan in the far north had lasted only until the first deportation
by the Assyrians in 733, or at most until the definitive fall of Samaria
in 721 (Judg. 18:30).1 The seventh and sixth centuries were times of
uneasiness and then of catastrophe in Palestine, and in such times flourish
movements of reform and of desire to find identity in a return to origins.
Such movements would naturally find sympathy among the Levites, who
prided themselves on their own fidelity to the laws and customs inherited
from the times of Israel’s origins. These laws and customs based on
ancient covenant (or at least supposedly based on it) were to be the
norm of religious reform and revival, and the Levites stood to profit
from such trends, especially in the domain of priestly rights. The prag¬
matic opposition of the entrenched non-Levitical priests in Jerusalem
was a powerful force to be reckoned with, though, and the Levitical
victory was to be only a pyrrhic one for the Levites themselves.

I. Deuteronomy and the Levites

There are many unsolved problems in the study of Deuteronomy.

Did it originate in the Northern Kingdom or in the Southern? 2 Was it

1 On the event to which Judg. 18:30 refers, and the various interpretations of
the verse, cf. C. Hauret, “Aux origines du sacerdoce danite,” in Melanges Bibliques
rediges e'n I'honneur de Andre Robert (Paris, 1957), pp. lllff.
2 The majority of scholars working with the problem today favors a Northern
origin, especially because of the published work of A. C. Welch, The Code of Deute¬
ronomy (London, 1924); G. von Rad, Deuteronomium-Studien (FRLANT; 2nd ed., Got¬
tingen 1948- henceforth to be cited in its English translation: Studies in Deuteronomy
[Studies in'Biblical Theology, IX; London, 19531); A. Alt, "Die Heimat des Deutero-
nomiums," in KS, II, 250-75. This has been accepted only with reservation (while
admitting the good possibility of incorporated material from the North) by M. Noth
"Jerusalem und die israelitische Tradition," Oudtestamentische Studiiin 8 (1950) p. 46
(= Noth, Gesammelte Studien, p. 186).

meant specifically to be a reform program, or rather a codification of

existing laws?* * 3 In either alternative, was Deuteronomy itself used as
a pattern or norm in the reforms of Hezekiah and of Josiah?4 *
For our present concerns it is enough to accept as reasonably well
established that Deuteronomy in its present codification contains laws
and prescriptions, and descriptions of practice to be followed in given
cases, that are relatively ancient.6 These have here and there been
brought up to date and adapted to more contemporary circumstances,
and have been embellished with hortatory material.6 The finished pro¬
duct of the Deuteronomic corpus juris or code (Dt. 12-26) had taken
its present shape, minus a few later alterations of minor extent, some

A basically Northern origin has been rejected recently by O. Bachle, Israel und
die Volker (ATANT, XLI; Ziirich-Stuttgart, 1962), pp. 204ff., in favor of an origin
among the official circles of Jerusalem and the landed gentry of Judah. N. Lohfink,
“Die Bundesurkunde des Konigs Josias,” Biblica 44 (1963) 261-88 , 461-98, accepting the
identification of the “Book of the Law” found in Josiah's reign (2 Kgs. 22:8) with
Deuteronomy, suggests that this document may have been the written covenant-
document of Jerusalem itself, subjected to some subsequent editing. M. Weinfeld,
“Deuteronomy — the Present State of Inquiry,” JBL 86 (1967) 249-62, thinks the work
may come from sapiential scribes of the courts of Hezekiah and Josiah.
3 It is seen as a pattern for a planned reform by Alt, op. cit. (in preceding note),
pp. 274f.; cf. also J. Wellhausen, Prolegomena zur Geschichte Israels (6th ed., Bar-
lin, 1905), p. 9. Alt himself does not deny that much if not most of the legal con¬
tent of Deuteronomy is made up of what already existed and was known to the
compiler or compilers. G. Holscher, "Komposition und Ursprung des Deuterono-
miums,” ZAW 40 (1923) 161-255, sees Deuteronomy as something quite removed from
reality, a post-exilic plan for what amounts to an almost utopian state; in this
he has not found a following.
4 On this problem, cf. E. Konig, Das Deuteronomium (KAT; Leipzig, 1917), pp.
48ff.; A. C. Welch, The Work of the Chronicler (The Schweich Lectures, 1938; London,
1939), pp. 97-148; H. H. Rowley, “The Prophet Jeremiah and the Book of Deutero¬
nomy,” in Studies in Old Testament Prophecy Presented to T. H. Robinson (Edin¬
burgh, 1950), pp. 157-74; H. Cazelles, “Jeremie et le Deuteronome,” RScR 38 (1951)
5-26; A. Jepsen, “Die Reform des Josia,” in Festschrift Friedrich Baumgartel (Erlan¬
gen, 1959), pp. 97-108; H. H. Rowley, "Hezekiah’s Reform and Rebellion,” BJRL 44
(1961/62), pp. 427 f.; E. Nicholson, "The Centralisation of the Cult in Deuteronomy,”
VT 13 (1962) 380-89.
s This has been seen since the work of T. Oestreicher, Das deuteronomische
Grundgesetz (Beitrage zur Forderung christlicher Theologie, XXVII/4; Giitersloh, 1923)
and of Welch, The Code of Deuteronomy, nor has it been regularly denied even by
those who hold a much more recent origin for the code itself than Oestreicher and
Welch would admit.
6 For attempts at sifting these various stages of growth, cf. J. Hempel, Die
Schichten des Deuteronomiums (Leipzig, 1914), and, for Dt. 12 -18, Horst, Das Privileg-
recht Jahwes and C. A. Simpson, "A Study of Deuteronomy 12-18,” Anglican Theo¬
logical Review 34 (1952) 247-51. Hempel, Horst, and Simpson work with theories
of documentary supplementation. Von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy, passim but
especially pp. 11-24, uses form-criticism in approaching the problem. New possibili¬
ties for the form-critical approach itself have been opened by K. Baltzer, Das Bun-
desformular (Wissenschaftliche Monographien zum Alten und Neuen Testament, IV;
2nd ed., Neukirchen, 1964), pp. 40-47, showing the influence of Ancient Near Eastern
covenant formularies in Dt. 1-4; 28:69 - 30:20 and in fragments elsewhere in the
framework of Deuteronomy; also by M. Weinfeld, "Traces of Assyrian Treaty For¬
mulae in Deuteronomy,” Biblica 46 (1965 ) 417-27, who is concerned with Dt. 28; cf.
also Lohfink, op. cit. (above, n. 2).

years before the reign of Josiah, and, no matter what the provenance
of the code and its sources were, its contents were known and respected
in Judah of the late seventh and the sixth centuries. It is the code
itself that is now our principal concern, for we have already examined
the old and originally independent Blessing of Moses (Dt. 33); Dt. 31:9,25f.
and Dt. 10:8f. are Deuteronomistic and will be taken up briefly later.
Dt. 27, in which the Levites are associated with Moses in addressing
the people (27:9) and then pronounce the curses attached to infractions
of Covenant law (27:14) presents a literary problem of its own, but the
part the Levites play in this chapter raises no particular historical ques¬
tions independent of those based on other texts.

A. The Effects of Cultic Centralization

The Deuteronomic code contains a good bit of material on priests

drawn from local customary practices, but for the historical development
of priesthood reflected in the code the most important points to be con¬
sidered are the relation of priests to the centralization of worship in
a single, central sanctuary, and the quasi-identification of priests with
Levites. (As we shall see, priests in Deuteronomy are not really equated
with, or equivalent to, Levites.) Whether we hold the code as a whole
to be a program or simply a codification, these points in themselves
represent a program rather than the legal consignment of established
fact, although it remains true that the germs both of the notion that
all priests should be Levites and of the notion that there should be a
single sanctuary had already been present in Israelite antiquity. Levites
had been particularly desirable as priests (Judg. 17 -18), and had made
particular claims to priestly functions (Dt. 33:8-11; 1 Sam. 2:27f.); they
had been, de facto, the priests of Shiloh, of Jerusalem in David’s reign
(along with Zadok), and perhaps, though not clearly, of Shechem (cf.
Dt. 27; Josh. 8:30-35). The great sanctuaries of Israel had always held
a primacy over all others. But at no time had all priests in Israel been
Levites, and at no time had even a central sanctuary, despite its primacy,
been an exclusive sanctuary.
Yet something — perhaps experience of the divisiveness of the Nor¬
thern and Southern royal sanctuaries existing in rivalry with one another,
or the chronic influence of Canaan and even of Assyria on the country
sanctuaries — led to a reaction and caused the drastic step of complete
centralization of sacrificial worship in a single sanctuary to be called for.
Efforts were twice made on royal initiative to take this step: first under
Hezekiah (2 Kgs. 18:4,22; 2 Chr. 31:1; Isa. 36:7), then under Josiah, after
things had slipped back into the old ways under Manasseh (2 Kgs. 23:5,
8f.,15-20; cf. Dt. 12; 14:22-29; 15:19-23; 16:1-17). There is no positive
reason for questioning the tradition that Hezekiah’s effort met with con-

siderable success,7 and Josiah's undertaking dealt the coup de grace to

the country shrines. This holds true, no matter what the relation of
Deuteronomy, in its present form or in its antecedents, is to the historical
reforms of either Hezekiah or Josiah. On both occasions the priests
serving country sanctuaries were ipso facto put out of sanctuary work.
Since the Zadokites retained their position in Jerusalem, the only sanc¬
tuary remaining after Josiah’s reform really took hold, the Levites as
a whole eventually found themselves completely out of any secure sanc¬
tuary work.
Deuteronomy seems to be sympathetically aware of that problem of
the Levites which would be an inevitable result of centralization’s actual
accomplishment. The code takes great pains to exhort Israelites to prac¬
tical, social, charity toward the Levites living out in the land, who, unlike
members of the other tribes with their tribal holdings, were ordinarily
subject to a more precarious economic existence. Thus, they are to be
remembered at times of pilgrimage to the central sanctuary (12:12,18;
16:11,14; 26:11) and at all times out in the land (12:19). They are to
have a share in the annual tithes eaten in the place of the central sanc¬
tuary (14:27), and they, along with the gerim,8 the orphans, and the
widows, are to have their share in the triennial tithes, which are distri¬
buted entirely to the poor and the needy (14:29; 26:12f.). Dt. 18:6ff.
provides for the case of the Levite who wishes to come to the central
sanctuary and function there as priest, and it would seem, especially
from v. 8 (which, however, is obscure), that the case envisaged is that
of a Levite who wishes to establish himself permanently at the central
sanctuary after having disposed of his affairs in the city of his origin.
This provision remained, in fact, a dead letter (2 Kgs. 23:9 and the fact
of the Zadokite line’s continuation in the Temple of Jerusalem), and
when we inspect the provisions which the Deuteronomic code as a whole
made for priests we notice that, unlike the centralization program, which
was carefully put into practice, the priestly program shows an ideal which
was not realized — at least not in the way provided for by Deuteronomy

7 F. L. Moriarty, “The Chronicler’s Account of Hezekiah’s Reform,” CBQ 27 (1965),

p. 406.
8 Levites were not called gerim any more by the time Deuteronomy was written.
This does not mean that their sociological position had changed essentially from
that of gerim in the ancient sense; it means rather that the term gerim by this
time had come to be reserved to non-Israelite people settled in Israel: cf. Lev.
17:12f.; 19:33; Dt. 29:10; Josh. 9:27. Levites and gerim are often mentioned together
in Deuteronomy (Dt. 14:29; 16:11,14; 26:llfL), because, although ethnically the two
groups are distinct, their status is more or less the same sociologically. Deuteronomy
and the Deuteronomist in Joshua show that Levites were, as ever, not tribal land¬
holders: they "had no part with the other tribes” (Dt. 10:9; 12:12; 14:27,29; 18:1;
Josh. 13:14,33; 18:7), and for the Deuteronomist the theological reason for this is
that “the priesthood is their inheritance” (Josh. 18:7).

B. “Priest" and “Levite” in the Deuteronomic Code

According to Deuteronomy, all functioning priests are, implicitly, Le¬

vi tes: the only functioning priests must be those of the single sanctuary
remaining, and the priests there are called Levitical priests (Dt. 17:9;
cf. 17:8) or, simply, Levites (Dt. 18:6). It has been suggested that the
expression "the priests the Levites” (or "Levitical priests”) in Deuteronomy
refers exclusively to the altar-clergy of the central sanctuary, and that
the simple term "Levite” refers to the land Levite who was not a priest
because he had no altar functions.9 The case does not seem to be quite
that simple. In the Deuteronomic code, “Levite” still has a purely ethnic,
tribal sense,10 and “priest” has a functional sense. By the compound
expression "Levitical priests” men are meant who are priests potentially
(in the Deuteronomic program) if not actually, and who belong to the
tribal remnant of Levi. The compound expression is not very old; it
belongs to the final stages of the redaction of the Deuteronomic code
as such. This can best be seen by looking at the details.
In old material used in compiling the code — and only in such
material — it is the word "priest” alone that is used when priest is
meant. Thus, in the codification of the old rubrics for the offering of
first-fruits (26:1-11), the priest before whom the Israelite makes his decla¬
ration of faith and who places the offerings before the altar (26:3f.) is
called simply "the priest.”* 11 The same is true of the emboldening and
inspiring declaration made by "the priest” before men setting out for
battle in holy war (20:2ff.).12 The relative antiquity of 18:5, which also
speaks simply of "the priest,” will be taken up in a moment.
Next, there is material, most probably extant before the ultimate
codification of the material in Deuteronomy, in which the simple word
"priest” appears to have been expanded in redaction to "Levitical priest."
The priest-judge in 17:8-13 is called "the priest” in v. 12, but v. 9 speaks
of "the Levitical priests.”13 The code of Deuteronomy is concerned here
with showing that such priests are to be Levites, but not so concerned
that it adds the term "Levite” consistently. The mention of Levitical

G. E. Wright, "The Levites in Deuteronomy,” VT 4 (1954) 325-30. This inter¬

pretation has been examined and questioned by J. A. Emerton, "Priests and Levites
in Deuteronomy,” VT 12 (1962) 128-38.
10 Cf. Dt. 18:1,5, where the word "tribe” itself is used.
11 On the antiquity of this section, cf. von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy, p. 23.
The hortatory conclusion (w. 10b-ll) ought probably to be ascribed, with other
hortatory passages, to the latest redaction of the code, in accordance with voni
Rad's own form-critical principles. It is in this conclusion that we find the ad¬
monition to give a share in pilgrimage joy to the Levite and the ger.
12 In this text, centralization of worship is not presupposed, and the role of
the priest reminds us of the old practice of consulting Yahweh before engaging
battle (cf. 1 Sam. 14:3,18-23; 22:10,13,15; 30:7). Again, on the antiquity of the pas¬
sage, cf. von Rad, op. cit., p. 22. . . , , .._
is On the historicity of this passage, its pre-Deuteronomic foundations, and its
Deuteronomic retouching, cf. above, p. 122.


priests who have in their keeping the scroll from which a copy of the
law is to be produced upon the accession of a king (17:18) does not
have the characteristics of great antiquity: it is in hortatory material
now found embedded in what is basically and originally not exhortation
but legal codification.
Dt. 24:8 exhorts the people to pay careful heed to the instructions
given by “the Levitical priests” in cases of leprosy. This is tora in the
classical sense: a distinction in matters of sacral purity. Dt. 24:8f. is
distinguished from the surrounding laws by its hortatory style, by its
unexpected change from second person singular to second person plural,
and by the historical allusion to an event in the desert after the Exodus,
unique in this particular group of laws; its hortatory style indicates that
it belongs to one of the latter redactions of the code.14 Prof. Wright,
in distinguishing "Levitical priests” in Deuteronomy as altar-clergy and
"Levites” as client Levites living out in the land, has proposed tom-giving
as a remaining means of livelihood for the latter class, which would be
the non-priestly class of Levites. The difficulty here is that tom-giving,
as we have had occasion to observe in the preceding chapter, is very
much a specifically priestly activity by the end of the monarchy, and
this Deuteronomic text is careful to specify that the Levites who give
it in matters of leprosy are Levitical priests. In the old prescriptions
on the case of a man killed by un unknown murderer and found outside
a city, the Deuteronomic insertion (21:5) also assigns to Levitical priests
the duty of pronouncing on cases of dispute or assault. This work would
be done throughout the land, not only in the place of centralized worship,
yet the term of function, "priest,” is used — and these priests away
from the one and only sanctuary would not, in Deuteronomy's program,
be altar-priests.
One might, of course, surmise that a Levite, to be a functioning
priest, did not absolutely have to be an altar-priest, that he could also
be a tom-giving priest or an adjudicating priest out in the land, away
from the central sanctuary. This, indeed, does not seem to be directly
excluded by Deuteronomy. Still, in actual practice, did priests who were
not actually functioning at a sanctuary (where they would, by this time,
be altar-priests) really give tora — especially that tora in the strict sense
which was specifically priestly and ritualistic? And, in spite of Dt. 21:5,
did adjudicating priests function as adjudicators if they were not already
functioning as priests (altar-priests) at a sanctuary? If not, then cultic
centralization would not leave much opening for Levites with priestly
aspirations to eke out a living by tom-giving and adjudicating, though
whether or not Deuteronomy foresaw that is hard to say.
Our most important text is Dt. 18:1-8, which, as it now stands, is
a provision of the latest redaction of Deuteronomy, presupposing the

14 For the principle, cf. above, n. 11.


program for centralization of worship and providing for Levites who

might wish to continue in priestly work at the central sanctuary.15 In
this passage we find all three expressions: “the Levitical priests” (18:1),
“the priest” (18:3), and “the Levite” (18:6, plural in 18:7). There are
reasons for this variety. The "priest” of v. 3 is, once again, in old
material;16 the compiler needed a list of a priest's statutory share in
sacrificial offerings and reproduced such a list (w. 3f.) which was already
at hand. In v. 1, the expression "Levitical priests, all the tribe of Levi”
is used because Levitical tribal affiliation is essentially to the point, while
at the same time there is a matter of that actual priestly functioning
which enables the person in question to have his lot in the sacrificial
offerings (18:1b); hence the compound expression "Levitical priests.” Then,
in v. 6, the simple term "Levite” is used because the aspect of the ques¬
tion now is that of a Levite, out in the land and not actually working
as a priest, who might want to come in to the central sanctuary and
find such work. The case envisaged by vv. 6-8, in other words, is that
of a Levite who, at the moment of his case’s consideration, is not actually
functioning as a priest but who would like to function as an altar-priest
in the only place where that is to be possible. The simple term “Levites”
(rather than "Levitical priests”) in v. 7 probably results from a sense
of stylistic balance (Levite/Levites): the Levite from outside in v. 6, the
Levites his brethren in v. 7.
It is here in Dt. 18:1-8 that we see most clearly that for the code
of Deuteronomy all Levites are potentially priests, even if not actually
priests. This is the sense of 18:1: "The Levitical priests, all the tribe
of Levi,... will live off the sacrificial offerings to Yahweh.”17 The text
has in mind those Levites who are actually functioning in sacrificial work,
for only they can share in the offerings, but it also indicates that any
Levite in the whole tribe should have a right to do that kind of work
and share in the offerings, even though he not actually be exercising
that right. The author of this passage in the code reasons this way:
the Levites, unlike the other tribes, have no portion of land (v. 1), and
the reason for this is that they are to live off the sacrificial offerings.
This is not, of course, by any means the way all Levites support them-

15 Cf. Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, p. 131.

is Von Rad, Das ftinfte Buck Mose (ATD, VIII, Gottingen, 1964), p. 87.
17 The phrase lak-kohdnim halewiyim kol sebet lewi has been taken to mean
"the Levitical priests and the whole tribe of Levi,” with the result that "the whole
tribe of Levi” is seen not as in apposition to "the Levitical priests” but rather as
designating an expansion of the priestly group taken as only one segment of the
tribe- Wright, op. cit., p. 326. Against this interpretation, cf. the arguments which
Emerton op. cit., pp. 133f., presents from Hebrew syntax and from Deuteronomic
style One might also point out that in the present text of Dt. 18:1-5 the "priest”
of v 3 is the antecedent of “him” in v. 5 ("Yahweh has chosen him among all the
tribes”)’ it is clear that the author of v. 5 has Levi in mind and that in incor¬
porating the material including v. 3 he establishes an identity between Levi and
priest, between the tribe of Levi and priests.

selves, but the author wishes to connect his theological explanation with
the tribe’s priestly prerogatives. That even the client Levites are included
implicitly in this view is shown by Dt. 12:12; 14:27,29, which speak of
the client Levites who (being able to make their living from altar work,
unlike other Israelites) have no “portion and inheritance” with the rest
of the Israelites.18 This being so, the author reasons further, any Levite
from anywhere in Israel has a right to go to the central sanctuary and
minister in the name of Yahweh (w. 6-8), sharing in the priestly rights
listed in w. 3f. For Deuteronomy, only a Levite should be a priest, and
all Levites are potentially priests even though not all are functioning
So, as Prof. Wright has observed, “priest” in Deuteronomy is not
absolutely synonymous with “Levite”; but neither is “Levite” absolutely
synonymous with client Levite, nor does Deuteronomy seem to intend
deliberately to limit "priest” to the altar-priest, although it can be doubted
that by this time there was much chance of a man's being a priest
without being an altar-priest. "Levite” is still, as in earlier days, a term
of tribal affiliation and there is a distinction to be made between a
Levite's basic and exclusive priestly rights in the concept of Deuteronomy
and the question of whether he is actually serving as a priest or not.
As an indirect result of the attitudes canonized in Deuteronomy, however,
the days of the use of the term “Levite” as a tribal name rather than
a functional one were numbered.

C. The Relation of the Levites to Deuteronomy

We have considered the ideas of Deuteronomy in abstraction from

the question of its geographical origin, and even from the question of
a specifically Levitical origin of the code.
No matter what the geographical provenance of Deuteronomy is, it
is not unlikely that the code as we now have it does have Jerusalem
in mind as the place of centralized worship, although in its process of
development that may not always have been the case.19 A consideration
germane to our present study: the identification of the one place of sacri¬
ficial worship as Jerusalem makes it easier at least to see why the more
recent material in the code takes it more or less for granted that at
the general feasts the poor client Levites will be there to accompany
the festivities (12:12,18; 16:11,14; 26:11), for there were colonies of Levites
in the vicinity of Jerusalem, at Gibeon, Geba, Anathoth, and Almon (Josh.
21:17f.), and this proximity to Jerusalem makes possible their coming
along to the general feasts without making much of a journey. Such

is Emerton, op. cit., p. 135.

Cf. F. Dumermuth, "Zur deuteronomischen Kulttheologie und ihren Vorausset-
zungen,” ZAW 70 (1958) 58-98, especially pp. 61-70.

was not the case in the neighborhoods of Bethel or of Shechem under

the monarchy,20 and Dan in the far north had always been out of the
question as a location for real centralization of worship. However this
may be, by the seventh century Bethel, Shechem, Dan were all in what
had been the Northern Kingdom, Samaria had fallen, and by the end
of the century Jerusalem was in fact the actual location of the central
sanctuary. It had no real rivals.
Whether or not Deuteronomy itself is a product of Levitical circles
themselves,21 it wholeheartedly accepts in principle the Levitical claims
to priesthood — exclusive claims at that. Would this point also be gained
in practice, as was that of the central sanctuary? These claims were
not necessarily accepted by Levites alone. The Levitical claims, like the
movement toward a single legitimate sanctuary in Israel, were capable
of broader appeal. In support of such claims were venerable traditions
associating Levites with covenant-fidelity and priestly work which went
back to the ancient days of Shiloh and of Davidic Jerusalem. The official
priesthood of the Zadokites in Jerusalem could not make such claims,
but the reform mentality in seventh century Judah could readily be im-

20 The presence of Shechem itself in the lists of Levitical cities (Josh. 21:21) is
intrusive. It springs from a secondary combination of the list of Levitical cities
with the list of cities of refuge (Josh. 20:7f.); cf. M. Noth, Das Buck Josua (HAT,
1/7; 2nd ed., Tubingen, 1953), p. 127.
21 The theory of a Levitical origin of Deuteronomy has been presented particularly
by Baudissin, Geschichte, pp. 93f., Horst, Das Privilegrecht Jahves, p. 123, and von Rad,
Studies in Deuteronomy, pp. 66-69; also, apparently, by Aa. Bentzen, Die josianische
Reform und ihre Voraussetzungen (Copenhagen, 1926), which I have not been able
to consult. It has been rejected by M. Weinfeld, "Deuteronomy — the Present
State of Inquiry," JBL 86 (1967), pp. 252ff. There are certain details in von Rad’s
exposition which I think lend themselves to further discussion. In answering the
objection that Levites could not have composed Deuteronomy because they would
have been "sawing off the branch upon which they sat," he says (pp. 67f.) that there
is no difficulty here, because, from the point of view of literary criticism, the
material on cult-centralization belongs to the latest and final layer of redaction (a
point on which Weinfeld disagrees). But he adds that at this stage the country
Levites had probably "long outgrown the cultic sphere proper" and were occupying
themselves "with the scholarly preservation and transmission of the old traditions."
To this it must be objected that the latest layers of material are the very ones in
which Deuteronomy shows an interest in Levitical claims to the cultic sphere (cf.
Dt. 18:1-8, and the relation of "priest-Levite" to its contexts). For that matter,
did the Levites ever outgrow the cultic sphere proper? From the days of the
Judges onwards, we see their interest in the cultic sphere, and both the tension
between Levites and Zadokites in the latter chapters of Ezekiel and the place of
the Levites in Chronicles show that this interest continued long after Deuteronomy.
Cult-centralization can not really be said to align itself totally with the vested in¬
terests of the Levites, and the provisions for Levites may show a sympathy for
them without direct identification with them; nor are the Levites the only pos¬
sible source for the earlier compilations of laws in the code, for Mosaic traditions
were not limited to circles of Levitical "preaching” (von Rad, p. 69) — a point well
made by Lqhfink, "Die Bundesurkunde," pp. 495f. There is much in Deuteronomy
that does suggest the literary work of priests. The very transmission of the written
sacral law was no doubt largely in their hands (cf. Dt. 17:18), but those priestly
hands are not necessarily Levitical.

pressed by such claims, and religious Israelites in general can reasonably

be assumed to have accepted it as fitting that Levites should be allowed
to continue their ancient priesthood now in the Temple of Jerusalem.
The same reform mentality can also be assumed to have found little
difficulty even in accepting the notion, implicit in the venerable code
of Deuteronomy, that only Levites were really fit to be Yahwistic priests,
in the general tightening-up of fidelity to the old spirit of the covenant.
Yet, the non-Levitical Zadokites remained in control in Jerusalem.
The tension between the Zadokites and the Levites was heightened, the
interest of the more general religious populace, aware of both Deutero¬
nomy and its consequences, was now somewhat aroused, and the Levitical
claims were given implicit divine sanction in the codification of the very
laws inspiring reform — a situation the Zadokites would have to find
some way of coping with.

II. The Josian Reform and its Aftereffects

Once the Deuteronomic code’s implicit notion that there was a par¬
ticular seemliness in having priestly functions carried out by Levites
had spread abroad in Judah (even where it had not been accepted before),
and with it had spread abroad the code’s explicit provision that any
Levite who might care to could function as priest in the Temple with
other Levitical priests, we may readily suppose that there were a number
of Levites who set to work agitating for the practical realization of their
freshly patented claims. The Zadokite priests already entrenched in
Jerusalem were equally determined, surely, to keep any breach from
being broken in the walls of long-standing custom which defended their
preserve. In this they were apparently successful.

A. The Reform of Josiah

When King Josiah set out upon his religious reform (2 Kgs. 22:3 -23:25;
2 Chr. 34:1 -35:19) around the year 622,22 one of his first steps was to
exterminate the pagan cults in Jerusalem and its environs and in all
Judah (2 Kgs. 23:4-7; 2 Chr. 34:3ff.), along with their pagan priests, called
kemarim in 2 Kgs. 23:5, kohdnim in 2 Chr. 34:5. So far so good for all
Yahwists and Yahwistic priests. But when afterwards he proceeded to
carry out in practice the actual centralization of Yahwistic worship itself,
in the spirit of Deuteronomy (2 Kgs. 23:8a,9), he removed the priests
of all the country shrines of Judah, submitted their altars to ritual pro¬
fanation, and brought these priests to the royal capital. Worse yet was

22 For a summary of the chronological questions involved in the reform of Josiah,

cf. J. Bright, A History of Israel (London, 1960), p. 296.

in store for the priests in the old Northern Kingdom, who, instead of
being brought to Jerusalem, were peremptorily executed (2 Kgs. 23:15,19f.;
2 Chr. 34.5f.). The measures taken in the South covered the entire ter¬
ritory of Judah, “from Geba to Beersheba” (2 Kgs. 23:8), and those in
the North extended as far as Upper Galilee (2 Chr. 34:6).23
Josiah s steps were surely in conformity with the ideal of centralized
worship expressed in Deuteronomy, but there are some noteworthy dif¬
ferences between the situation after centralization as Deuteronomy en¬
visioned it and the situation actually obtaining in Josiah’s fait accompli.
The country priests were, to be sure, given an opportunity to come to
the central sanctuary. This, as far as the Levites were concerned, was
in conformity with Dt. 18:6-8; yet, contrary to the whole spirit of Dt.
18:1-8, Levites — even those who had been functioning as priests in the
country — were not admitted to any work around the altar of the
Temple, the most important work of the Jerusalem priesthood and the
only real source of income left for priests after Josiah’s reform measures.
That a number of the priests who had been serving the sanctuaries of
the high places were Levites is indicated indirectly by Ezek. 44:10-14,
a fiercely Zadokite passage, however, whose exaggeratedly negative accu¬
sation of idolatry among the rival Levites can be discounted on the basis
of the positive attitude toward Levites evident in Deuteronomy and else¬
where. Nevertheless, the Yahwistic priests mentioned in the account of
Josiah’s reform are called simply “priests,” and there is no particularly
urgent reason to think that all the priests who had been serving the
country shrines were really Levites, in either the North or the South.
The priesthood of the Temple remained non-Levitical, and outsiders,
Levites or not, were not really admitted to priestly functions there: “the
priests of the high places could not go up to the altar of Yahweh in
Jerusalem, but they ate unleavened bread in the midst of their brethren”
(2 Kgs. 23:9). Those outsiders who found and accepted work in the
Temple could only function as cultic workers of inferior rank.
This may well be the historical situation behind the final develop-

ss This remark is worth making, because Alt, “Die Heimat des Deuteronomiums,"
p. 258, limits the southern measures to the areas belonging to Judah but not to
the territory of the “city-state of Jerusalem,” i.e., the area including Bethlehem and
Netophah in the south, Jerusalem itself, and the cities of Judah north of Jerusalem:
cf. Alt, "Bemerkungen zu einigen judaischen Ortslisten des Alten Testaments,” BBLAK
(= ZDPV) 68 (1946-51), p. 196 (= KS, II, 292). But the precision "from Geba to
Beersheba” expresses a totality which would include the cities, like Geba, north of
Jerusalem. Alt’s explanation is influenced by his own interpretation of the lists of
Levitical cities (Josh. 21:1-42; 1 Chr. 6:39-66), in which he sees Josiah’s reform as a
cause of the gap in the area between Jerusalem and Hebron ("Bemerkungen,” pp.
199-206 1= KS, II, 294-301]). Alt would also limit Josiah’s rather violent intervention
in the northern sanctuaries to the area in the hill country of Ephraim and Manasseh
— the territory of the northern gap in the Levitical lists. But the text of 2 Chr.
34:6 clearly states that this intervention was extended as far as the territory or
Nephtali, and, as Bright, History, p. 297, says, there is no positive reason to doubt this.

ment of the oracle in 1 Sam. 2:27-36, directed originally against the Elides,
then gradually expanded to aim at other Levites besides the immediate
family of Eli. Although Noth, the most recent scholar accounting for
growth in the oracle, prefers to situate the final term of this development
earlier, in the times of divided monarchy,24 one may suspect that w. 35f.
belong to the time of Josiah, or slightly afterwards. When we read the
closing words of the oracle:

And it will come to pass, that everyone who is left of thy house
will come to bow down before him (the "faithful priest” of v. 35)
for a petty coin and a cake of bread, and will say “Please attach
me to one of the priestly functions, that I may have a morsel of
bread to eat!” — 1 Sam. 2:36

we are immediately reminded of 2 Kgs. 23:9’s remark that the priests

left without work, and excluded from going up to the altar in Jerusalem,
"ate unleavened bread in the midst of their brethren.” Before the actual
realization of cult-centralization, there was priestly work to be had else¬
where, and even though such work in the rural shrines would not be
particularly remunerative, it would hardly leave its practitioners in so
abject a condition as that portrayed in the oracle.
Besides, there is the figure of the "faithful priest” in the preceding
verse (1 Sam. 2:35) to be considered. Yahweh "will build for him a
lasting house” (a continuing lineage), and the genre of the oracle indicates
that he is the (tacitly) eponymous ancestor of a priestly group. He is
not Levi, nor is he Aaron, for he must be someone understood to be
chronologically posterior to Eli. The only priestly figure suggesting itself
is that of Zadok. But it is only in post-Josian times that we really find
Zadok acquiring this sort of heroic eponymous stature: cf. Ezek. 43:19;
44:15; and especially 40:45f., which distinguishes other priests from the
"sons of Zadok” who are in charge of the service of the altar — again,
a reminder of the information given in 2 Kgs. 23:9 that the priests coming
in from outside Jerusalem were not allowed to go up to the altar of the
Temple. And it was only with the co-operation of the reforming king
that the Zadokites succeeded in the effective exclusion of the Levites,
contrary to the provisions of Deuteronomy, along with the exclusion
of any other priests coming from the country sanctuaries which had
been suppressed in conformity with the provisions of Deuteronomy. The
Zadokites were, after all, the priests of the contemporary sanctuary of
the Ark, the royal Temple in Jerusalem, and if, in 1 Sam. 2:35, the "faith¬
ful priest” is Zadok as symbol of the whole Zadokite lineage, while
"Yahweh’s anointed one” is David as symbol of the whole Davidic dynasty,
then the statement in 1 Sam. 2:35 that the faithful priest will always

24 Noth, "Samuel und Silo,” VT 13 (1963), p. 394, with n. 5.


walk before Yahweh’s anointed one is consonant with that close associa¬
tion of Davidic dynasty and royal temple which lay at the heart of the
Jerusalemite nationalist-religious ideal expressed most explicitly in 2 Sam. 7
and underlying many of the oracles of Isaiah and Micah. The Zadokites
in Jerusalem were important personages by this time, and both king
and nobles had recourse to the leading priests in serious matters not
even limited to the cultic sphere (cf. Jer. 21:1; 29:24,29; 37:3). These
Zadokites of Jerusalem were undoubtedly men of considerable sophistica¬
tion, while the predominantly rural Levites were certainly not, and we
have an echo of this in the tone of 1 Sam. 2:36. A king would not be
particularly interested in having his trusted priests displaced by men
who were politically and socially inexperienced.
Josiah's suppression of possibilities for priestly work outside of Jeru¬
salem affected not only the Kingdom of Judah, but the territory of the
old Kingdom of Israel as well, where the cultic center of Bethel had
even experienced a temporary revival of sorts some time after Samaria
had fallen to the Assyrians, a deported priest having been sent back to
Bethel from his exile to teach the people how to fear Yahweh and follow
his customary laws (2 Kgs. 17:25-28). From now on, the South, with
Jerusalem, will be the only scene of development in legitimate priesthood.

B. New Levitical Claims in Deuteronomistic Material

The Levites could not be expected to accept their priestly exclusion

with a good grace. In their favor they had prescriptions of the Deute-
ronomic code, but those prescriptions remained a dead letter. In the
Deuteronomistic historical corpus, and in the Deuteronomistic redactional
material in the Book of Deuteronomy itself, we find traces of a new
turn in the apologia for the Levites. The Levites were excluded from
work as sacrificial altar-priests. There was the danger that they might
be excluded from all priestly work. If they wished to assure some kind
of work in the only remaining legitimate sanctuary, they would have
to establish new claims, facing their new situation, in which they were
already relegated de facto to that position of priestly inferiority with
respect to the Zadokites which would, with time, be fixed in the post-exilic
distinction between priests (the sons of Aaron) and levitical minor clergy.25
The Deuteronomistic redaction does not seem to be particularly
partisan in its handling of priests. The redactional hand shows theological
intent rather than a will to force the issues.26 But the Deuteronomist

25 Cf. Alt, “Die Heimat des Deuteronomiums/' p. 259, n. 3.

26 This can be seen in the Deuteronomistic handling of the oracle of 1 Sam.
2:27-36. The full oracle is included in the Deuteronomistic historical work, but the
Deuteronomist, rather than taking it as anti-Levitical (and ignoring the undertones
of vv. 35f.), takes it at its original face value as anti-Elide alone, and lets it fulfill
a function in the Deuteronomistic theology of history. The oracle is presented by

has (or Deuteronomists have) very definite ideas on what functions should
be reserved to Levites, and these ideas may well be those used by Levitical
groups themselves in pushing their claims after the tactical defeat suffered
in the outcome of the Josian reform. The most revealing texts are
Dt. 10:8,27 and Dt. 31:9,25f.28
Dt. 10:8 ascribes to Moses the selection of the tribe of Levi “to carry
the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, to stand before Yahweh for minister¬
ing unto him, and to bless in his name." According to Dt. 31:9, Moses
gave the written Law to "the priests, the sons of Levi, who carry the
Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh, and to all the elders of Israel,” and
Dt. 31:25f. adds that Moses told "the Levites, who carry the Ark of the
Covenant of Yahweh,” to place the book of the Law beside the Ark.
The text of 10:8 offers us a picture of priestly functions drawn mostly
from the later strata of the Deuteronomic code: standing before Yahweh
(cf. Dt. 17:12; 18:5), ministering unto him, and blessing in his name
(cf. Dt. 18:5; 21:5).29 These texts in the code, with the exception of 21:5
(the late insertion which we have already examined), all read simply
"the priest.” The Deuteronomist makes the application to Levites, and,
in 10:8, adds a new function, the first to be mentioned: that of carrying

the Deuteronomistic edition as one of those examples which show how God's effi¬
cacious word and man's response were behind events in Israel’s history, seen as
the accomplishment of that word — the word of God in this instance being an
oracle against the Elides, and its accomplishment being shown in 1 Kgs. 2:27 with
the deposition of Abiathar. For other examples of the pattern: word of God — ac¬
complishment in an event, in the Deuteronomistic history, cf. von Rad, Studies in
Deuteronomy, pp. 78-81.
27 Dt. 10:6-9 is clearly later material interrupting the continuity of its preceding
and following context: cf., besides Noth, VS, p. 17, n. 3, the remarks of H. Cazelles,
Le Deuteronome (BJ; Paris, 1950), p. 55, note c); N. Lohfink, Das Hauptgebot (Ana¬
lecta Biblica, XX; Rome, 1963), p. 291. Vv. 6 and 7, with the figure of Aaron as:
priest and the succession of Eleazar in priesthood, show ideas proper to P, and
are probably even later than w. 8 and 9, in which the Levites themselves appear
as priests (an idea excluded by P). Vv. 8-9 were probably inserted immediately
after v. 5 (in which Moses puts the tablets of the Law in the Ark), the juncture
being inspired by partial analogy with the kind of concept found in Dt. 31:25f. (in
which Moses gives the book of the Law to the Levites to put in the Ark).
as On the literary criticism of Dt. 31:9 and 31:25f., cf. Noth, VS, pp. 39f., 214.
Noth entertains some doubts about attributing the expressions "the priests, the sons
of Levi, who carry the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh” in 31:9 and "the Levites
carrying the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh” in 31:25 to the Deuteronomist, be¬
cause they are not found, in precisely those words, in other Deuteronomistic texts.
Yet, the elements of both expressions are found throughout Josh. 3-4, in material
which Noth finds specifically Deuteronomistic (cf. Noth, Das Buck Josua, pp. 32-38).
If these texts are not actually of the Deuteronomist, they are characteristically found
in the work of the Deuteronomist, and they reflect attitudes contemporary with
his time.
29 The MT of 18:5 reads: "to stand to minister in the name of Yahweh,” while
the Samaritan and the Greek read, "to stand before Yahweh, thy God, to minister
(unto him) and to bless in his name.” The MT’s "to minister in the name of
Yahweh” is curious; perhaps it is the result of a corrector’s feeling it improper
for a levite (in the post-exilic sense) to bless, but admissible for him to "minister.”
The Samaritan and Greek give what was probably the original reading.

the Ark. The same function is the only one mentioned for the Levites
in 31.9 and 31:25, although these two texts show a certain association
of Levites with custody of the Law. The relation between Levites and
a moral custody of the Law we have seen to be an older tradition among
Levites and their sympathizers (prophetic groups, the cam ha-'dres, and
others sharing their religiously conservative, covenant-minded bent). Here,
the only new aspect is the actual, physical custody of the written document
of the Law with which Moses is said to have entrusted them.
Something entirely new, however, is the idea of Levites as carriers
of the Ark (distinguished in emphasis from the idea of Levites as
custodians of the Ark or of its sanctuary). It occurs also in the Deute-
ronomistic material of Josh. 3 and of Josh. 8:33: there it is the "priest-
Levites” who carry the Ark of the Covenant (Josh. 3:3; 8:33).30 Further¬
more, the Deuteronomistic editor of the story of the return of the Ark
from Philistine captivity, finding it somewhat sacrilegious for the Ark
to be touched by profane hands, has inserted a statement that it was
“Levites” who took it down from the cart near Beth-shemesh (1 Sam.
6:15), and in the account of the flight of David and his partisans from
Jerusalem during the revolt of Absalom the editor, after the text’s
mention of Zadok, has added: “and all the Levites with him, carrying
the Ark of the Covenant of God" (2 Sam. 15:24), a textual intervention
which has resulted in considerable disturbance of the rest of the text.
This notion is not ancient. At the time of the entrance into Palestine,
it is doubtful that priests of any kind were required to carry the Ark,
but by the time the Ark was settled properly with its own sanctuary
and the sanctuary’s priestly attendant in the Promised Land, sacral
propriety required that it be transported by priests (cf. 2 Sam. 6:6f. and
the late texts of Exod. 25:15; Num. 4:5,15, 20), even though the requirement
was not always really fulfilled (1 Sam. 7:1a, a case of necessity), and
the early narratives did not always take great pains to state that the
carriers were priests (2 Sam. 6:13,15,17). In the account of the crossing
of the Jordan, it is possible that it was the Deuteronomistic redactor who
consistently added the word "priests” to the participial expression “carrying

so Josh. 3 - 4 presents Old Testament literary criticism with one of its most com¬
plex problems, but for those who reckon at all with the presence of Deuteronomic
or Deuteronomistic elements in these chapters Josh. 3:2-4 is one section on which
all agree- S. R. Driver, Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament (9th ed.
reprinted; New York, 1957), p. 105, assigns it to D; Rudolph, Der “Elohist,", pp. 170,
279, to his Deuteronomiker; Noth, Das Buch Josua, p- 32, to the Deuteronomist.
Eissfeldt Hexateuch-Synopse, p. 206*, even in allotting this entire section to E, ex¬
cepts the words "of the Covenant” and “Levites” in 3:3, as being additions made
by D (cf. p. 280*). Our other text, Josh. 8:33, is found in a section (8:30-35) con¬
taining traditions which are decidedly pre-Deuteronomic, but the material has been
worked over by a Deuteronomistic hand, and v. 33 is one of the more easily detected
instances of Deuteronomistic work: cf. Eissfeldt, p. 281, Rudolph, pp. 198f., Noth,
Josua, pp. 51ff.

the Ark” or “carriers of the Ark,”31 but the addition may just as well
be anterior to the Deuteronomist, coming perhaps from the hand of the
"collector” of the traditions,32 for the idea that priests alone should be
carriers of the Ark is older than the time of the Deuteronomistic redaction.
Even when priests did carry the Ark, however, in the older narratives
they were not necessarily Levites (cf. 2 Sam. 6:3 with 1 Sam. 7:1b;
1 Kgs. 8:3,6; also Zadok perhaps in the original state of 2 Sam. 15:24).
In certain cases they were Levites (Hophni and Phinehas in 1 Sam. 4:3-11;
Abiathar in 1 Kgs. 2:26), but for the incidental reason that the Ark being
carried happened at the time to be in a sanctuary cared for by Levites.
The idea that, not just priests, but specifically Levites should be carriers
of the Ark seems to be Deuteronomistic, to belong to the time after the
reform of Josiah and before the new formations which were to take shape
when Judah was recovering from the Exile.33
In the days before the monarchy the trump held by the Levites
had been the accepted notion that it was peculiarly fitting for Levites to
be in charge f sanctuaries. If it is true that the Levites were the
attendants and caretakers of the desert sanctuary, then they really were
the carriers of the Ark in the desert. Why, then, had no issue been
made of this before? 34 Because the whole situation involving Levites and
sanctuaries had not been the same before. In earlier days, the Ark,
indeed, had been in one place, one sanctuary, at any given time, but
there were other sanctuaries, too; Levites seeking attachment to other

The simple “carriers of the Ark” occurs only in 3:15a. Elsewhere in the
account of the crossing, the word “priests” is added before it (and in 3:3 "priest-
Levites”). Authorities are widely divided on the literary criticism of the verses in
Josh. 3-4 which mention priests carrying the Ark (except for 3:3), i.e., of 3:6,8,13,14,
15a,17; 4:9,10,11,16,17,18. Of the authorities mentioned in the preceding note. Driver
assigns all these verses either to D or to P, none to J or E. Rudolph and Noth
agree in assigning 3:14-17 and 4:9 to a previously existing source — for Rudolph
it is J, for Noth that of his Sammler. Driver and Noth also agree on a Deuteronomic
or Deuteronomistic character of 3:6,8. Eissfeldt distributes the material among J, E,
and his L.
32 On the work of the Sammler or “collector” postulated by Noth, cf. his Das
Buck Josua, pp. llff.; the idea can also be found in Rudolph, op. cit., pp. 164-211
(in the course of his analysis), but for Rudolph this already collected material be¬
longs, practically, to J.
33 The ideal of Levites carrying the Ark is retained by the Chronicler, who has
altered the account of David’s bringing the Ark to Jerusalem in such a way that
the unnamed bearers of the Ark in 1 Sam. 6 are made Levites (1 Chr. 15:2f., Ilf.);
in 15:2 he adds the peremptory statement that “The Ark of God can be carried
by no one but the Levites." He also makes Levites of the priests who brought the
Ark into the Temple of Solomon (2 Chr. 5:4). For P, with its systematic relegation
of levites to a position of inferiority to priests, this is inadmissible: levites must
not touch the Ark but must carry it with bars (Exod. 25:15), and if they draw
near to it before it has been 'covered by priests they do so at the peril of their,
lives (Num. 4:5,15,20).
34 In ancient traditions the tent and the Ark were not closely associated. Their
union must, however, have been effected already in David’s time: cf. G. von Rad,
Theologie des Alten Testaments, I (Munich, 1958), p. 237, n. 108.

sanctuaries had to lay direct stress not on their having carried the Ark in
the desert but rather on their having taken care of the desert sanctuary.
In the situation obtaining in the period now concerning us, however,
there was only the one sanctuary, in Jerusalem, and further emphasis
on the aspect of sanctuary administration was tactically useless in the
face of the Zadokites. Both the administration of the Temple and the
work at the sacrificial altar in the courtyard of the Temple were firmly
in the hands of the Zadokites. Still, there remained less important types
of priestly service. If the Levites could successfully argue that they had
divine sanction for close contact with the Ark, they could hope for
admission to various types of priestly service in the Temple building itself,
where the Ark was kept. Their position would be inferior to that of the
Zadokites, but they would at least have some kind of priestly work open
to them. To judge from later developments, they were at least successful
in attaining this goal, although the affair was to go yet further, in
directions unforeseen.

III. The Kingdom’s End, and the Exile

A. The Zadokites of Jerusalem through Jeremiah’s Eyes

As the doom of the Kingdom of Judah approached, the prophet

Jeremiah, of a family that was priestly — and probably Levitical — in
Anathoth (Jer. 1:1; cf. Josh. 21:18; 1 Kgs. 2:27), arose to call the people
and its leaders to task in the name of Yahweh. In reading through
the Book of Jeremiah, we can collect a number of fragmentary vignettes
portraying the official, royal, Zadokite priesthood of Jerusalem. The
picture sketched by Jeremiah is usually a rather sombre one. More often
than not it shows priests and prophets together. Prophets and priests
are excoriated for their malice, their fraud, their inattentiveness to God
(Jer. 2:8; 5:31; 6:13 = 8:10; 23:ll,33f.). Prophets and priests rose up
together in hard-hearted blindness against Jeremiah’s oracular pro¬
We need not conclude from this that priests and prophets were,
objectively, any more evil than the populace of Judah as a whole.
Both groups of sacral personages are simply mentioned together with
others — kings, noblemen, and indeed the whole citizenry of Judah and
Jerusalem — in 1:18; 2:26; 13:13; 32:32, and even in oracles decrying
idolatry (8:1) and infidelity to covenant (34:19). These texts come from
all periods of Jeremiah’s activity. Some were pronounced before the
reforms of Josiah were completely realized (1:18; 2:26; 8:1), and we
find in Zephaniah, too, a condemnation of prophets and priests included
in an oracle against all the leaders of Judah, pronounced around the

year 630 (Zeph. 3:4).35 Conditions do not seem to have changed very
much with the passing of the years; the same kind of oracle is still being
pronounced during the final siege of Jerusalem (Jer. 34:19).
We even have a glimpse of a better side of the picture. Some
of the priestly elders were associated with Jeremiah (19:1), and when
Jeremiah in his poetic evocation of dire times in the land speaks of
prophets and priests wandering about the countryside as though out of
their senses (14:18), he is using an image which would not have had a very
strong impact if prophets and priests had not ordinarily been men upon
whom the people relied for good judgement; the imagery of the whole
oracle depends upon violent contrast with the situation before calamity
befell. Even through Jeremiah himself complained that

The prophets prophesy in the name of

the Lie (Baal),
And the priests give instruction (tor a)
on their own authority. — Jer. 5:31,

still the hope of the populace did rest on confidence that "instruction
would not fail with the priest, nor counsel with the sage, nor the word
with the prophet” (18:18).
Such optimism does not seem to have been in Jeremiah’s own eye
when he himself looked at the priests of Jerusalem,36 but Jeremiah
was probably somewhat prejudiced. He was from Anathoth, where there
were unpleasant memories attached to the Zadokite priesthood in Jeru¬
salem from its very beginning (1 Kgs. 2:26f.), and he was a man who
remembered Shiloh (Jer. 7:12,14; 26:6), a name which conjured up not
only the nostalgic religious past of Israel of the covenant but also the
rivalry between the Zadokites and those priestly elements excluded from
altar-functions in Jerusalem (1 Sam. 2:27-36; Jer. 26:9). Jeremiah himself,
a prophet, and of a priestly family, was to some extent a sign of con¬
tradiction to the picture he himself paints of both classes. There were
different types of priests and prophets, and Jeremiah was admittedly
an exceptional man.

B. The Exile’s Effects on the Clergy

Judah in general was sinful, and the priests of Judah too. The
Babylonians came and conquered. "Priest and prophet were killed in
the sanctuary,” mourned Lam. 2:20. One month after the fall of Jerusalem,
Nebuzaradan, Babylonian commander of the guard, destroyed the Temple

35 Cf. Eissfeldt, Introduction, pp. 424f., for the oracle’s authenticity and for a
date before the Josian reform’s complete accomplishment.
ss Jer. 31:14, which shows little hope for priests in Jeremiah’s heart, may not
be authentic: cf. W. Rudolph, Jeremia (HAT, 1/12; 2nd ed., Tubingen, 1958), p. 179.

along with much of what was left in the city (2 Kgs. 25:8ff. = Jer. 52:12ff.)
and took Seraiah, the chief priest, Zephanaiah, the second priest, and
the three keepers of the sacred threshold, together with other members
of the highest echelon of royal Jerusalem, and brought them all to Riblah
in Syria, where they were executed (2 Kgs. 25:18-21 = Jer. 52:24-27).
We have almost no details on the conditions of the Jews actually
taken into exile after 587. We do know what kind of people were
taken into exile in the first deportation, in 597: the ruling class, warriors,
useful craftsmen and artisans — all of them men of real ability (2 Kgs.
24:14ff.). Priests were among them (Jer. 29:1), and Ezekiel must have
been one of their number (Ezek. 1:3 with 33:21). The Babylonian
selection of people to be deported followed a classical pattern, although,
unlike the Assyrians, the Babylonians did not bring in people from other
regions to take the place of those deported: members of the better
trained classes were deported, while the poor and the ineffectual were left
in the land, for they would not cause trouble that could not be managed
by the conquerors.37
It is impossible to say whether or not some Zadokites remained behind
in Jerusalem. People continued to go in pilgrimage to the site of the
ruined Temple, according to Jer. 41:5, but this detail is found in a
context which is chronologically situated a very short time after the
destruction, and the pilgrims were from the North, where definite word
of the presence or absence of possibilities for continuing accustomed
liturgical ceremonies in a more or less accustomed way may not yet
have penetrated. The introduction to the Book of Baruch (Bar. 1:1-14)
mentions a high priest in Jerusalem, the presence of the altar, and
provisions for elaborate sacrifices, all shortly after the destruction in 587,
but the passage is certainly not authentic, and the superscription itself
with the chronological data does not even belong to the original form
of the rest of the introduction.38 Enno Janssen, in placing Lamentations
in a liturgical setting, has seen such an oracular passage as Lam. 4:21f.
as evidence of the active presence of a priest in Jerusalem during the
Exile,39 but even Begrich, who isolated this particular oracular Gattung
and who held a priestly origin for it, was quite aware of its use by

37 E. F. Weidner, "Jojachin, Konig von Juda, in babylonischen Keilschrifttexten,

in Melanges syriens offerts a Monsieur Rene Dussaud, II (Paris, 1939), 923-35, has
published and analyzed texts excavated in Babylon and dating from the tenth to
the thirty-fifth year of Nebuchadnezzar II (i.e., from 596/95 to 570) which include
lists of names and professions of people, from various identified regions, being held
captive in Babylonia. . , ,
38 cf. A. Lefevre in A. Robert and A. Feuillet (eds.), Introduction a la Bible,
I (Toumai, 1957), 734f. B. N. Wambacq, "L’unite litteraire de Baruch 1-111,8,” in Sacra
Pagina I (Bibliotheca Ephemeridum Theologicarum Lovaniensium, XII; Paris-Gem-
bloux,' 1959), 455-60, adds new considerations based on the original language of the
various sections of Baruch. . im
39 E. Janssen, Juda in der Exilszeit (FRLANT, LXIX; Gottingen, 1956), p. 101.

prophets as well as by priests.40 Indeed, our knowledge of the type comes

almost entirely from prophetical works and prophetical contexts; in
situating it in a cultic context we are led toward the cultic prophet
rather than to the priest.
On the question of altar-sacrifice in Jerusalem during the Exile we
have no information at all. The building of a new altar by Joshua
and Zerubbabel around 520, while the Temple itself was still in ruins
(Ezra 3:1-6,8) might suggest that altar-sacrifice had ceased with the
destruction by Nebuzaradan in 587, although it has been argued, with
at least equal probability (although still without direct evidence of any
kind), that those remaining in Judah would have built an altar for
sacrifice somewhere near the altar destroyed in the catastrophe but not
on the old altar's foundations, and that those who eventually returned
from the Exile disregarded the substitute altar to reconstruct a legitimate
one on the foundations of the one destroyed.41 Whatever is to be said
of this, even if regular sacrifice did cease in Judah during the Exile, that
does not necessarily exclude the presence in Judah of men from priestly
families, or of some priests still functioning in non-sacrificial work, and
it would certainly not exclude the presence of men who were Levites.
The national sanctuary was no more, and what pre-exilic priests may have
been left were, in any event, not functioning as official, regularly sacrificing
priests of the recognized, national, sacrificial worship, at least not as
far as the Jewish leading classes in Babylonia and their attitudes were
In Babylonia itself, there is no mention of a sanctuary or of properly
priestly activity, either. In Ezek. 11:16 Yahweh calls himself the sanctuary
of the exiles, and that implies that the exiles had no real sanctuary with
sacrificial liturgy. The house of the priest-prophet Ezekiel was a rallying-
place for the elders of Judah in exile (Ezek. 8:1), but Ezekiel has
nothing to say about any priestly activity of his own or of any other
Jew in Babylonia.
While priests went off in fairly large numbers to Babylonia, Levites
as such did not to any such extent. The client Levites, poor people,
and not influential, were the kind of people least likely to be taken
into captivity, and Ezra 2:40 = Neh. 7:43 tells us that only seventy-four
Levites returned from the East, against over four thousand priests.
It is true that this list seems to distinguish inferior cultic levites from
priests already, but this particular distinction seems to have originated
largely in Babylonia, as we shall see, and the Levites who were there

40 J. Begrich, “Das priesterliche Heilsorakel," ZAW 52 (1934) 81-92, especially pp.

91f. (= Begrich, Gesammelte Studien, pp. 217-31, especially pp. 229ff.).
41 Janssen, op.cit., pp. lOlff. Janssen points out that Ezra 3:1-6 reflects the
Chronicler's idea that legitimate liturgical arrangements had to come from the com¬
munity exiled in Babylonia and that what had been done on the initiative of those
remaining in Judah was not acceptable.

— not a large number, and probably not the really poor client Levites of
Deuteronomy — would then be those first directly affected by this
distinction. The very unequal proportion of Levites to priests among
those returning from Babylonia was probably based on a genuinely
unequal proportion of those deported to Babylonia. We can fairly safely
say that a majority of important, functioning priests went into exile,
while a majority of Levites did not.

Chapter Seven

Aaronides, Levites, and Zadokites

The problem now facing us is this: we know that before the Exile
the word “priest” was the name of a function, while the word "Levite”
was the name of a tribal group which had long before ceased to be
independent and which had been living among the other tribes, with
the status of particularly favored gerim. Deuteronomy had canonized the
idea that membership in the tribal remnant of Levi gave a man a right
to function as a priest if he wanted to, yet the outcome of Josiah’s
reform left it impossible for anyone who was not a Zadokite to function
as a sacrificing altar-priest. Deuteronomy had also insinuated unmistakably
that all priests ought to be Levites, yet the only legitimate priests now,
the Zadokites, were not Levites. Tensions were there to be resolved
somehow or other, and resolved they were, at the end of a process in
which all priests — and that means particularly the originally non-
Levitical Zadokites themselves — claimed to be of a special group of
Levites that was Aaronide ("the priests, the sons of Aaron”), while the
Levites in the broader and authentic sense remained in a position of
cultic subordination to the priestly group and were called simply "levites.”
At the end of this process, in fact, all cultic personnel, priestly or not,
had been made "levites” of one sort or another. Who were the Aaronides
originally, how did all this come to pass, when, and where?

I. Exodus 32: Levites against Aaronides? Aaron in Early Tradition

The opposition between Aaronides and Levites is clearly present after

the Exile. An earlier, pre-exilic, trace of this opposition, however, has
often been seen in Exod. 32, which, in its present form, gives Aaron
a leading role in the making of the golden calf at Sinai (Exod. 32:1-6),
shows Moses roundly condemning the making of the golden calf as an
act of infidelity to Yahweh (32:7-20,30-35), and includes a section on a
violent act of fidelity to Yahweh on the part of the Levites (32:25-29),
an act which is by implication in contrast with the infidelity involved
in this making of the golden calf and which leads to Moses’ investing
the Levites as "priests of Yahweh." Aaron has his share of the condemna¬
tion (32:21-24,25b,35b), but it is the infidelity of the people as a whole

which is contrasted with the account of an act of fidelity on the part

of the Levites. The golden calf is an element of tradition which most
probably has something to do with the worship in the sanctuary established
by Jeroboam at Bethel in the Northern Kingdom after the political
schism (1 Kgs. 12:26-32).1 The text of Exod. 32 as we now have it
does contrast the fidelity of the Levites with the infidelity of the people,
and Aaron is, in the present text, associated with the wrong-doing of
the people. At first sight, there does indeed appear to be an echo of some
controversy between Levites and the priesthood of Bethel in all this.
The priests of Bethel, then, would be the forerunners of the later
Aaronide priesthood, more or less victorious over the Levites in competition
for priestly rights, and this is the way the episode has usually been
When the episode is carefully considered, though, certain fundamental
questions about this interpretation arise. The text of Exod. 32 is
universally acknowledged to be not a literary unity but a composite,
with traces of subsequent retouching.3 The block made up of vv. 25-29,
which deals with the Levites, is secondary in its present context, although
we are still faced with the question whether its insertion in its present
context was determined by a polemic against the Aaronides or not.
The answer to that question will depend to a large extent on the function
of Aaron in the text of Exod. 32 as a whole.

A. Aaron’s Role in the Episode

1. Aaron in Exodus 32 Itself

Exod. 32 has been seen both as a narrative originally favorable

to the cult at Bethel and as one originally unfavorable to that cult.
In each hypothesis, what was Aaron's original role?

1 For the parallels between Exod. 32 and 1 Kgs. 12:26-32, cf. M. Aberbach and
L. Smolar, "Aaron, Jeroboam, and the Golden Calves,” JBL 86 (1967) 129-40, especially

2 This line of interpretation began when H. Oort, "Die Aaroniden,” Theologisch

Tijdschrift 18 (1884) 289-335, proposed that Aaron was considered the ancestor of all
priestly groups in the Northern Kingdom. It has been continued, but with limita¬
tion to the priesthood of Bethel, by R. H. Kennett, "The Origin of the Aaromte
Priesthood," JTS 6 (1905) 161-86; F. S. North, "Aaron’s Rise in Prestige," ZAW 66
(1954) 191-99; S. Lehming, "Versuch zu Ex. XXXII,” VT 10 (1960) 16-50 (cf. especially
pp. 46f.). M. Noth, Das zweite Buch Mose: Exodus (ATD, V; 2nd ed., Gottingen, 1961 )r
p. 206, does not directly consider the question of the Aaronides, but he suspects
that the presence of the section on the Levites shows an opposition to more than
one priesthood in the North. _____ __ 1Qn(V.
s Cf the commentaries on Exodus by H. Holzinger (KHC, II, Tubingen, 1900),
p 108- B Baentsch (HK, II/l; Gottingen, 1903), pp. 268f.; G. Beer and K Galling
That 1/3- Tubingen, 1939), p. 153; M. Noth (ATD, V; 2nd ed„ Gottingen, 1961), p. 201;
also Eissfeldt, Hexateuch-Synopse, pp. 50f.; Rudolph, Der “Elohist,” pp 51f.; Lehming,
op. cit.; W. Beyerlin, Herkunft und Geschichte der dltesten Sinaitraditionen (Tubin¬
gen, 1961), pp. 24-28, 144-53.

Walter Beyerlin sees the original narrative of the golden calf (basically
vv. 1-6) as a favorable aetiological narrative for the particular form of
the worship at Bethel; the secondary material of Exod. 32 would, then,
have been negative material directed against the cult which in the earlier,
positive, narrative, had been legitimized.4 If this analysis is correct
(whether it is or not it something we need not decide here), would such
an early, aetiological, narrative for Bethel's cult mean to include an
aetiology for Bethel’s priesthood as such? And could such a priesthood
be called an "Aaronide” priesthood? This would practically require
Aaron's presence as a clearly priestly figure in the narrative, since neither
the presence the people alone nor the presence of Aaron as a non-
priestly figure is enough to provide auch an aetiology. But Aaron’s figure
in Exod. 32 is not that of a priest. He performs no priestly act, and
his building an altar (v. 5) is not an act reserved to priests in the Old
Testament: it is regularly, as here, an element in the account of the
foundation of a sanctuary, by men who were not priests (Gen. 12:7f.;
13:18; 26:25; 33:20; Josh. 22:10; Judg. 6:24; 2 Sam. 24:25).
Aaron's presence in Exod. 32 is determined rather by the setting of
the scene (at least in the ordering of the Pentateuchal narrative) at the
foot of Sinai. The Sinai-context is established by Exod. 24:12-15a — the
text immediately preceding Exod. 32 when the intervening material of
chapters 25-31 (belonging to P) is removed. In 24:14 Aaron and Hur
are left with the people at the foot of Sinai when Moses ascends the
mountain. If Aaron had been introduced in 24:14 in deliberate preparation
for 32:1-6, why would Hur, who is totally absent from chapter 32, and
totally unrequired either by chapter 32 or by the context of 24:14, be
placed with Aaron in 24:14? The presence of Aaron and Hur in 24:14
is more likely determined by their presence together in the relatively old
narrative of Exod. 17 (cf. 17:10,12),5 and the presence of Aaron in 24:14,
consequently, has not been contrived deliberately by someone who had
the golden calf narrative of chapter 32 in view. If the original nucleus
of the narrative of the golden calf really was favorable to the cult at
Bethel,1(5 and if at that stage Aaron was already present in the narrative,
then his role was not that of a priest meant to lend luster to the
priesthood of Bethel.

4 Beyerlin, op. cit., pp. 146f. The earlier, positive, form of the narrative would
have presented Aaron, too, in a favorable light: ibid.., p. 149; cf. also Pedersen, Israel,
III/IV, 192.
5 Noth, VP, p. 198; cf. also G. Westphal, “Aaron und die Aaroniden,” ZAW 26
(1906), p. 211.
e An original hostility towards Bethel is not proven by the element of the golden
calf in the narrative, an element which is probably authentic and which was by
no means necessarily idolatrous in the beginning of worship at Bethel, or before.
The calf was probably no more identified with the divinity itself than were the
analogous cherubim of Jerusalem: cf. O. Eissfeldt, "Lade und Stierbild,” ZAW 58
(1940/41), p. 205 (= Eissfeldt, Kl. Schr., II, 296).

And what is to be said of the role of Aaron in the narrative if the

narrative was meant from the very outset to discredit the cult at Bethel?
The account was certainly meant to be unfavorable when the secondary
material began to grow around it, and Aaron was certainly present at
that stage, even if he was not present in it before. Does the narrative’s
being against the cult at Bethel mean that it is aimed directly at the
priesthood of Bethel? Naturally, if it was against the cult it can be
said to have been implicitly and indirectly against the priests responsible
for the cult’s execution, but that is not a direct opposition — and certainly
not an opposition of rivalry — to the priesthood itself in Bethel: it
remains an opposition to the cult. As for Aaron (who is still not a
priest), the entire episode is condemning, not his sin, but the sin of
the people. In w. 7-14, Yahweh's words to Moses mention only the
people, and Moses’ prayer is for the people. At the climax of vv. 15-20
it is the people who must drink the dust of the pulverized image
sprinkled on the surface of the water.7 Significant is the question Moses
puts to Aaron at the beginning of their dialogue in vv. 21-24: "What has
this people done to you that you have brought them into a great sin?"
(v. 21).8 While Aaron is an important accomplice, and Moses’ interlocutor
in the encounter, the initiative and the sin are primarily the people’s,
even though this is the unit in the literary complex which shows Aaron
in the most unfavorable light. In the section on the Levites (w. 25-29)
it is, again, the people who have been unfaithful, and such is also the case
in the last unit (vv. 30-35). Twice Aaron himself is inculpated (vv. 25b,35b),
but both of these phrases are insertions made even after the secondary
units of the golden calf narrative — excepting, perhaps, w. 21-24 —
had already been united as we have them today.9 The role of Aaron

^ On this action as an ordeal, cf. R. Press, "Das Ordal im alten Israel,” ZAW
51 (1933), pp. 125f.
s The guilt of the people rather than of Aaron in this text is even more strongly
indicated if we take the Hiph'il hebe°ta as a Hiph'il used to express consent to the
root idea (Jouon, Grammaire, §54d), as T. J. Meek has taken it in his translation,
"that you have let them incur such great guilt," in The Complete Bible: an American
Translation (Chicago, 1939).
s Exod. 32:25b is a parenthetical remark as it now stands; had it been intended
by the same hand as that responsible for v. 25a, the verse would rather begin:
"And when Moses saw that Aaron had broken the people loose..." The mention
of Aaron presupposes that vv. 25-29 have already been united with at least the
essential part of the material which now precedes, and, as Holzinger, Exodus (KHC,
II), p. 109 points out, simsa in 25b is (ate Hebrew. V. 35b’s remark that Aaron made
the calf is superfluous after 35a’s statement that "Yahweh struck the people because
they made the calf." For Noth, Exodus, p. 201, vv. 21-24 and 35b are even later than
25b, as is the present text of vv. lb-4, which would be a substitute for a primitive
text in which Aaron had nothing at all to do with the golden calf before it was
already made by the people. In this he is followed by Lehming, op. cit., pp. 47f.,
who, in addition, interprets vv. 21-24 as a late attempt to exculpate an already in¬
culpated Aaron. For an opposite view on the originality of vv. lb-4, however, cf.
Beyerlin, op. cit., p. 24, n. 3.

in the narrative is not that of a priest but that of a leader at Sinai who
serves as an interlocutor in what dialogue the narrative requires.

2. Aaron Elsewhere in Early Tradition

Nor does Aaron appear as a priest elsewhere in the earlier Pentateuchal

narratives. Only in P does he clearly appear as a priest in the Pentateuch,
and for a fairly long period in the elaboration of the narrative traditions
he seems to have been a polyvalent figure capable of taking on a plurality
of diverse aspects.10 Gunneweg, too, sees this diversity of aspects, but
in all of them — even those in the earlier texts, including Exod. 32 —
he sees some suggestion of priesthood.* 11 Is this justified? That Aaron
has a priestly color accounting for some (but not all) of the late, though
pre-P, additions of his person to the story of Moses in Egypt in places
where he was originally not present, or not mentioned, is quite probable,
thanks to Gunneweg’s analysis.12 This probably accounts for his addition
in such texts as Exod. 8:21; 10:8,10f., which speak of sacrifice. But does
the figure of Aaron really have a priestly color in passages where he was
present before such late additions?
In the case of Num. 12, Gunneweg argues convincingly that Aaron's
figure in the original tradition of the sin and punishment of Miriam was
not negative, but is he justified in taking the next step, arguing that
Aaron’s intercession (Num. 12: Ilf.) is a cultic trait, and even a priestly
trait, because of the relation (found in Lev. 13-14) between cultic impurity
and the leprosy with which Miriam was smitten? 13 Aaron’s intercession
is not with God but with Moses. His turning and noticing that Miriam
was suddenly leprous is not necessarily a symbol of priestly declaration
in cases of leprosy, and the fact that the root sgr is used of shutting
out lepers in both Num. 12:14f. and Lev. 13 -14 does not prove that it
bears a cultic connotation, for the shutting out of lepers is a natural
thing, whether it is surrounded with cultic prescriptions and taboos or not.
Gunneweg’s interpretation of Exod. 17:8-16, a very early tradition, depends
upon an understanding of Aaron’s activity here (and Hur’s) as helping
Moses in a priestly activity of blessing.14 In this text, is Moses' raising
his arms, considered in its effects, really that of blessing, or is it not
rather an act of Yahwistic "magic”? 15 Even if it were an act of blessing,
that would still not strike a particularly priestly note, for blessing in
earlier texts is not reserved to priests, or even to kings: cf. Josh. 14:13;
22:6f. (Joshua); Num. 22:6, etc. (the prophet Balaam), and the texts

10 Cf. Kenneit, op. cit., p. 163; Westphal, op. cit., pp. 211, 216; Noth, VP, pp. 195-99.

11 Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, pp. 81-88, and, for Exod. 32, pp. 88-95.
12 Ibid., p. 85.
is Ibid., pp. 82ff.
14 Ibid., pp. 84ff.

is An interpretation already made by Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit, p. 156.


(some of them P) in which fathers bless their children, e. g., Gen. 27:4;
28.1,6, 32:1; 48:9. The texts in which Aaron appears with Moses before
Pharaoh also include texts in which Aaron, with his rod, has the aspect of
a magician of the true God (cf. Exod. 7:9f.,19; 8: lf.,12f.); the corresponding
actions, when performed by Egyptians, are performed by magicians (the
hartummlm of Exod. 7:22). Magical wonder-working may at some stage
or other of Israelite religion have been considered the business of a priest,
but we have no evidence that such was ever the case. Such acts remind
us rather of the stories recounted of the prophets Elijah and Elisha,
who were not considered priests.16
The figure of Aaron, then, is not yet a priestly one either in Exod. 32
or in other early Pentateuchal texts. The hypothesis that the “Aaronides”
were originally priests of Bethel becomes dubious.

B. Exodus 32:25-29 and the Levites

The section on the Levites, vv. 25-29, as all today agree, was added
to the literary complex of Exod. 32 after that complex as a whole had
taken shape (with the remark on Aaron in v. 25b added still later). If
we ask ourselves at what chronological point this section was added,
we can answer only that it was done after the material against the
golden calf had achieved its unity. If that material as an assembled
literary whole belongs to a Northern E, then vv. 25-29 may not have been
added much before the eighth century, for nowhere in the ninth-century
stories of the combats of Elijah and Jehu against idolatry in the Northern
Kingdom do we find the golden calves in the North attacked, whereas
in the eighth century Hosea was railing against them (Hos. 8:5f.; 10:5;
13:2).17 If the material as a whole belongs to J,18 the general Southern
opposition to the schismatic sanctuaries of the North would make a
much earlier date possible, and for that matter, an earlier date in E is
not excluded, for the stories of Elijah and Jehu do not necessarily tell

is Gressmann, op. cit., p. 269, holds the original figure of Aaron in both Exod.
32 and Num. 12 to have been that of a priest (and Miriam’s in Num. 12 originally
to have been that of a priestess!). For Gressmann, Aaron and Miriam were priests
at an early stage, then, at a later stage of growth in tradition, they began to take
on the traits of prophets. One suspects strongly that it was the other way around,
as far as Aaron the prophet and Aaron the priest goes, and one wonders if Miriam
is ever a priestess at all in Biblical tradition.
ii A similar condemnation is attributed to Ahijah of Shiloh in 1 Kgs. 14:9, but
this text is an addition to the earlier part of the story of Ahijah, while, at the same
time, it is itself earlier than the Deuteronomistic redaction. Cf. Noth, US, pp. 79ff.
is The greater part of the material in Exod. 32 is usually attributed to E or an
Elohistic complex, but Rudolph, Der “Elohist,” p. 49, thinks it comes more likely
from southern Levitical circles, although not belonging to J, which Rudolph dates
before the time of Jeroboam I and the origins of his schismatic cult. Noth, UP,
p. 33, n. 115, calls it a secondary element within J, except for vv. 7-14 (“Deutero¬
nomistic”: n. 113). S. Lehming, "Versuch zu Ex. XXXII,” also ascribes it to J.

all.19 On the other hand, a date much later than the fall of the Northern
Kingdom and the end of its royal cult in the eighth century is not likely,
and the disparate units had been assembled by the time J and E — what¬
ever we understand by "J” and "E” — had taken shape. This was still
the time of an Aaron who lacked priestly color in the traditions.

1. Significance of the Fragment Itself

It is very unlikely that this material on the Levites was originally

composed for insertion into its present context, with which it has no
intrinsic relation, once we have subtracted the still later insertion of
v. 25b. On the other hand, it does not stand well by itself, and it may
well have been detached from another narrative context for insertion
here.20 The element of the Levites’ killing "brother, friend, and neighbor”
(v. 27; cf. v. 29) is strangely reminiscent of something in the older part
of the blessing for Levi in Dt. 33:

He said of his father and his mother:

T have not seen him';
His brethren he knows no more;
His children he ignores. — Dt. 33:9a

Both express a stout-hearted detachment from kith and kin which appears
to have been an integral part of Levitical traditions. The section in
Exod. 32, moreover, has as its conclusion the conferment of priesthood
on the sons of Levi by Moses himself, the most telling aetiology we have
for the priestly rights of the Levites. We have here a fragment of a
classical aetiological tradition explaining the appropriateness of priest¬
hood among Levites, torn asunder from its original context and inserted
in its present context. The original event, historical or not, on which
this aetiology was built is lost, but the central idea of the aetiology is
that as a result of some act of vigorous and heroic fidelity on the part
of the Levites, an act which required the decimation of relatives of the
Levites themselves, the remaining Levites acquired priestly standing, the
acquisition being sealed with Mosaic approbation. The similarity of Exod.
32:27,29 to Dt. 33:9a need not show direct literary dependence of either

19 R. de Vaux,
"Le schisme religieux de Jeroboam Ier,” Angelicum 20 (1943), p. 82.
20 Gressmann,Mose und seine Zeit, pp. 215f. Noth, VP, p. 160, n. 416, thinks,
however, that the block of vv. 25-29 was composed specifically for insertion in its
present context and that it is, accordingly, meant from the outset to be a polemic
against the non-Levitical priesthood of Bethel; we have already noted that he does
not hold it to be in any way anti-"Aaronide.’’ Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester,
pp. 35ff., concludes, rightly I think, that vv. 25-29 express an opposition of value
between zealous Levites and sinful people, not between Levites and a rival priesthood,
and that Aaron does not figure here at all before the later addition of v. 25b. Gun¬
neweg leaves open the question whether vv. 25-29 were originally composed for
insertion into the complex of Exod. 32 or had a previous separate existence.

text on the other, and, in fact, does not seem to show such dependence.
The idea is put differently in each text, and both appear to be separate
expressions of a common traditional theme. The text of Deuteronomy
does nothing to explain its startling remarks on Levi and his kinsmen,
taking it for granted, instead, that the readers or hearers know the back¬
ground-story well enough to grasp the allusion. A form of the story
itself is partially preserved in the fragment in Exodus.21
When we pause to consider the matter more closely, we notice that
the story explains not only the priesthood of the Levites but also the
partial disappearance of the Levites as a full tribe, for this decimation
of kinsmen serves also to explain the reduction of the tribal Levites,
who had survived only as gerim. The two things are explained together.
The story itself is governed by a double meaning, a sort of pun or
word-play, on the ambiguous expression "to fill (the) hand,” which in
Classical Hebrew is often used to denote entrance upon a priestly office
(Exod. 28:41; 29:9,33,35; Lev. 8:3; 16:32; 21:10; Num. 3:3; Judg. 17:5,12;
1 Kgs. 13:33), but which is also used of having one's hand filled with
profit gained from another (Ps. 26:10), and even of filling one’s hand with
justice (cf. Ps. 48:11).22 According to the aetiological fragment of Exod.

21 In this we disagree with Smith and Bertholet, “Levites,” in Encyclopaedia

Biblica, III, 2775, and Lehming, op. cit., p. 42, for whom Exod. 32:25-29 is dependent
on Dt. 33:9 itself. In Dt. 33:9 the Levites ignore their kinsmen; in Exod. 32:27,29 they
slay their kinsmen. Dt. 33:9 follows an allusion to God’s putting the Levites to
some kind of test at Massah and Meribah, but Exod. 32:25-29 does not mention this
detail (which may have been found in the fragment's original context, however).
22 The Akkadian expression mullu qata, "to fill the hand,” meaning to entrust
someone with something abstract, has long been known among Biblicists as an ex¬
pression cognate to the Hebrew mills'3 yad. In Hebrew, it usually refers to inaugura¬
tion in priestly office or function, but it refers to the fact of a man’s installation
in office, not to any kind of ceremony: cf. P. Dhorme, "L’emploi metaphorique des
noms de parties du corps en hebreu et en akkadien," RB 32 (1923), p. 194.
But today the idea of filling the hand with profit or spoil at the expense of
another (and, still more significantly, of filling the hand with a spoil that consists
of human lives) can also be illustrated with parallels from Mesopotamia — more
precisely: with parallels from Mari, where we find so many relations, striking though
elusive, to the culture of ancient Israel. A letter of a certain Samadahum to his
"lord” speaks of slaves taken as spoils from the captured city of Sibat as the "fil¬
ling of the hand” (mil qati) of the conquerors (C.-F. Jean, ARM, II: Lettres diverses
[Paris, 1950], 13.17 with context): the hand is filled with spoils; the spoils, however,
are not things but men. In another letter, published by G. Dossin, ARM, V: Cor¬
respondence de Iasmah-Addu (Paris, 1952), 2.5'-7', Iasmah-Addu tells Isme-Dagan, Vice'-
roy of Ekallatim, that the god has delivered into Isme-Dagan’s hand those who had
been disturbing the land, and the expression he uses is "filled them to your hand”
{ana qatika umallisunuti)-, the hand-filling is actually the result of a victorious armed
intervention. The author of the Mari text published by Dossin in RA 42 (1948), p. 131,
rev. line 31, would "fill to Zimri-Lim’s hand” {ana qat Zimri-Lim umtallisunuti) the
chieftains of the marauding Binu-iamina; cf. also ARM, XIII, 23.15f. Moreover, if we
inspect the context of the expression in Iasmalj-Addu’s letter to Isme-Dagan, we
discover that those "filled” to the latter’s hand were actually killed. It is in the
light of this that a relation of these texts to Exod. 32:29: "Fill your hands... each
man at the expense of his son and his brother” (or "with his son and his brother"),
in its own context, may be considered.

32:25-29, the Levites, rallying to Moses’ call for fidelity to Yahweh, took
sword in hand and killed many Israelites, and particularly other Levites
— their "sons and brothers.” The misfortunes of the Levites as a tribe
are thus explained to the credit of the Levites themselves. The climax
of the faithful Levites’ dramatic intervention comes with Moses' cry in
v. 29: "Fill your hands today (or with the LXX and Targum Onkelos,
"Today you have filled your hands”) for Yahweh, each man at the expense
of his son and his brother, so that he (Yahweh) may give you his blessing
today.” 23 Here the double meaning of the expression "to fill the hand”
comes into play: the Levites are there with the human spoils of justice
after their intervention, and at the same time this is bound intimately
and inseparately with the assumption of priesthood by the Levites, which
is what the narrative wishes to explain: the Levites, as a result of their
"filling their hands” in the slaying of their kinsmen, have “filled their
hands” in the sense of becoming priests. The procedure is splendidly
Semitic. It is a form of that kind of aetiology found in countless Old
Testament narratives which explain the origins of a place, a person, a
group of people, with a story using a word-play, thereby furnishing an
etymology which is scientifically inexact but, to simple people, delightful
and striking, while at the same time providing an aetiology. Indeed,
behind Moses’ exclamation may even be a desire in the narrative to
provide a popular explanation for the very expression "to fill the hand”
in the sense of "to become a priest,” which the Israelites themselves
must have found rather curious. As an aetiology was being given for
the priesthood of the Levites, the expression “to fill the hand” as applied
to entrance upon priestly function was itself given a popular explanation
in terms of its not unfamiliar, and more easily explicable, use in the
sense of a spoil-taking, after an armed altercation, which could even
entail the taking of human lives.24

23 In the light of the usage now known from the Mari texts, we may be quite
justified in translating, "each man (filling his hands) with (Hebrew be) his son and
his brother” — all the more so because "to fill with” is the normal sense of mille*
in Hebrew. The kinsmen themselves, and their lives, are the spoils, the vanquished
men put to death.
24 G. B. Gray, Sacrifice in the Old Testament, pp. 249f., has objected to seeing
the expression “fill your hands” in Exod. 32:29 as one having to do directly with
the Levites’ becoming priests, limiting it instead to the sort of concrete sense that
"to fill the hand” has in 2 Kgs. 9:24 (Jehu "filled his hand” with a bow), but Gray
would still admit some obscure allusion to priesthood. P. Heinisch, Das Buch Exodus
(HS, 1/2; Bonn, 1934), pp. 234f., objects that no one fills his own hands and makes
himself a priest, so that any interpretation of Exod. 32:29 in this sense must be
false. Heinisch would interpret the text as meaning “fill your hands with a sacri¬
fice,” i.e., make a sacrifice of thanksgiving to Yahweh. It is true that in the late
text of 1 Chr. 29:5 the expression "to fill one’s (own) hand” is used in the sense
of filling one’s hand with a gift for cultic offering, but in the older text of Lev. 16:32,
which unmistakably has to do with entrance into priestly office, a priest does, just
as unmistakably, fill his own hand. The same may be true of the late 2 Chr. 29:31a,
if it is addressed to the levites of the preceding verse, with the address to the

2. The Fragment in its Present Context

Even though the insertion on the Levites in w. 25-29, taken by itself,

has nothing to do with Aaron or with Aaronides, is its placing in its
present context governed by some polemic between Levites and Aaronides
in the pre-exilic period? This is not likely. At the time of the fragment’s
insertion, Exod. 32 was disparaging the evil of the cult itself in Bethel
rather than its priesthood. It is opposition to the cult that must have
occasioned the insertion. The Levites in the period of the divided mon¬
archy had particular reason to oppose the cult in Bethel because priests
of their tribe were excluded from it, but they had more idealistic reasons
for opposing it, too. Conservative, attached to the old-style Yahwism
and its traditional sacral institutions, they were opposed to what seemed
in their eyes (and the eyes of people of the same mentality) to be the
idolatrous air of infidelity surrounding the worship at Bethel, and they
were proud to contrast this with their own fidelity to what they thought
was the purer Yahwism of olden times. It was this fidelity to Yahweh
which led to their being ideal priests in the first place, according to
the fragmentary account in w. 25-29, and this fidelity is what basically
is being contrasted with the infidelity of the people responsible for the
type of cult at Bethel. The Deuteronomic antithesis is perceptible here:
on the one hand, a single legitimate sanctuary (in Jerusalem?), Levitical
priests, and fidelity to covenant law; on the other, sanctuaries like Bethel
away from the "amphictyonic” sanctuary, priests who were not Levites,
and infidelity to covenant law (by making images, for example).
The insertion is, neither in its original form nor as a part of the
present tradition-complex or literary complex, a polemic against any
"Aaronides” or any priestly group. It is rather an apology for Levitical
religious prestige, made by contrasting the Levites’ own high degree of
fidelity with the popular infidelity responsible for the type of cult found
at Bethel, although the Levites’ fidelity is presented as the grounds for
their priestly prerogatives.25 If in its negative attitude towards the cult
at Bethel it is implicitly against the non-Levitical priesthood of Bethel,
it is, nevertheless, not "anti-Aaronide,” for, in Exod. 32, Aaron's role is
not that of a priest. The most strongly negative phrases on Aaron in
the whole complex of Exod. 32 are the latest additions, w. 25b and 35b,

people beginning only in v. 31b, but the case is not clear enough. At any rate,
as Noth, Exodus, p. 206 says, the interest of the aetiological fragment of Exod.
32:25-29 lies in the climax: the Levites were to be priests.
25 Lehming, "Versuch zu Ex. XXXII,’’ pp. 43f., has found the felicitous expression
"apology” (rather than polemic) for the primitive sense of vv. 25-29, although he
believes the over-all sense of Exod. 32, once Aaron has been artificially given a more
active role in the episode, to be polemical and to be directed against the Northern
sanctuary’s priesthood. This does not affect the question of vv. 25-29, for Lehming
situates such a development of Aaron’s role after the incorporation of these verses
into their present context.

at least one of which (v. 25b), if not both, was added after vv. 25-29.
The time and source of these latest additions are difficult to deter¬
mine. 28 If what we shall propose below is valid, they probably came
from sympathizers with the Levitical position, or from Levitical circles
whose hopes lay in maintaining the old claims of Levi and rejecting the
new ones of Aaron, when Aaron the Levite was being used as the epo¬
nymous head of a group (essentially Zadokite) seeking to establish itself
as more Levitical than the Levites themselves.
At any rate, if it is granted that Exod. 32, minus the two late added
phrases in vv. 25b and 35b, is not the echo of a dissension between
Levites and a group of priests styling themselves "sons of Aaron,” then
it is no longer tenable that the Levites were struggling with Aaronides
as early as the time when J and E took consistent shape; nor is it tenable
that the Aaronides were originally a group of priests at Bethel in the
North, or that Exod. 32 represents a polemic between Southern Zadokites
and "Northern Aaronides.”

II. The Zadokite-Levite Compromise

A. Some Previous Reconstructions

A number of hypotheses have been formed to explain the appearance

of the Aaronides on the post-exilic scene where the Zadokites had stood
before. The three which have won the most attention are those of R. H.
Kennett, F. S. North, and Adam C. Welch.
For Kennett,27 the original Aaronides were priests of Bethel, and
Bethel continued in operation as a sanctuary after the Assyrian conquest
of the Northern Kingdom, so that when the impious reign of Manasseh
was afflicting Judah in the first half of the seventh century pious Judaeans
could, and did, flee to Bethel, where they could worship as they ought.
When Judah fell to the Babylonians, the Zadokite priests of Jerusalem
were taken to Babylonia, and once again the pious faithful went to
Bethel for their worship, perhaps even inviting the Aaronide priests
of Bethel to Jerusalem to take charge of worship there. After the Exile,
Kennett continues, Zerubbabel came to Jerusalem to undertake the restora¬
tion of the Temple and its cult, but the Joshua son of Jehozadak who
assumed charge of the priesthood (Hag. 1:1; Ezra 3:2, etc.), and whose
father, according to 1 Chr. 5:41, was of Zadokite lineage, was not really
a Zadokite but an Aaronide. This at first caused difficulties with Zerub¬
babel, who accepted the Zadokite exclusivism known to him from his
personal upbringing among the exiles in Babylonia. The prophetic party

26 Noth, Exodus, p. 201.

27 R. H. Kennett, "The Origin of the Aaronite Priesthood,” JTS 6 (1905) 161-86.

in Palestine, however, was unwilling to allow Joshua to be deposed, and

the returning Zadokite priests had to accept him as their head. The
news of this state of affairs then reached Babylon, where the Zadokites
there realized that they had to merge with the Aaronides or suffer the
consequences off exclusion themselves from the restored priesthood in
Jerusalem — now Aaronide. After a while, the Zadokites, because of
their superior formation, came to dominate the priesthood of Jerusalem
again. All this belongs to Kennett’s hypothesis. How may we judge it?
It is true, as Kennett says, that the sanctuary of Bethel was restored
after the fall of Samaria (2 Kgs. 17:25-28), or at least that a priest was
sent back there, but we are told by 2 Kgs. 23:15 that it ceased to operate
after the reform of Josiah, and we have no evidence of a restoration
either before, or during, or after the Exile; nor do we have evidence of
any attachment of Jews in Jerusalem to Bethel during any of this period.
The Zadokite lineage of Joshua son of Jehozadak can not be held as
incontrovertably certain on the basis of the Chronicler's genealogy alone,
it is true, but no evidence to the contrary is forthcoming. The idea that
there was a certain coolness between Zerubbabel and Joshua comes from
a very dubious interpretation of those words of the oracle in Zech. 6:12-15
which say that there shall be a “counsel of peace” between the two;
but there is no indication, in fact, that this peace is of the sort that
comes after a dispute — quite the contrary (cf. Zech. 4:1-6,10-14). The
starting-point for Kennett’s construction is an identification of Aaronides
with the priesthood of Bethel, and we have already called this identifica¬
tion seriously into question.
A far more radical hypothesis has been proposed by North.28 For
him, there is no problem of how the Aaronides — again, of Bethel —
got the upper hand in Jerusalem, for what really happened was that
during the exile Bethel supplanted Jerusalem as the religious center of
the Palestinian Jews. The Zadokites, he continues, returned from exile,
saw what had happened, made themselves Aaronide by a genealogical
fiction, and as a result their prestige was restored and Jerusalem became
again the religious center of Palestine.
North’s “key” is his interpretation of Zech. 7:1-3, which would have
the authorities in Jerusalem sending a message to Bethel to ask for
advice on a matter of ritual practice. His interpretation is necessarily
quite hypothetical, as any interpretation of this difficult and corrupt text
must be, for the textual problems are practically insoluble and the syntax
depends on their solution. North’s hypothesis takes for granted that
the Aaronides were the priests of Bethel, ignores the Jerusalemite ideal
of Judaism at the time of the Exile along with that ideal's roots even
among the common folk of the North of Palestine (cf. Jer. 41.5), and

28 F. S. North, "Aaron's Rise in Prestige,” ZAW 66 (1954) 191-99.


fails to explain how after the Exile Zadokites could possibly have remade
Jerusalem instead of Bethel the place of the national sanctuary simply
by styling themselves Aaronides, if the transfer of that shrine’s locality
to Bethel were so popular a thing.
Welch’s view is a more sober one.29 According to his theory, it
would be an over-simplification to represent Ezra’s work of restoring
the Temple as the work of the returned exiles. The remnant in Palestine
had renewed sacrificial worship on the site of the destroyed Temple in
Jerusalem, and Neh. 10 would contain the dispositions on which they
agreed for the maintenance of that worship.3,0 Whereas Ezekiel insisted
that only Zadokites should be priests, with levites relegated to a menial
position, the re-establishment after the Exile saw a compromise which
would settle the problem by refusing to limit the priesthood to Zadokites
and widening the circle to include all those who could claim descent
from Aaron, i.e. to include the priests who had remained in Judah. The
same compromise, while refusing to admit levites to a status of equality,
also refused to degrade them.
Most of Welch’s theory has much to be said in its favor. The only
part of it to which one might really want to take exception is Welch’s
postulation of organized priestly activity in Palestine during the Exile.
There may have been some such activity there, but it would have been
of an unofficial character, if it existed at all. The document of Neh. 10,
no matter what is thought about its original provenance and the circum¬
stances of its incorporation into the present text of Nehemiah, certainly
supposes a Temple that is standing and in use, not a ruined one whose
rebuilding is only projected,31 and Welch’s situation of that document in
the period of the Exile has not found acceptance in subsequent studies.
It may be noted that Welch does not deal with the question of the original
Aaronides; he merely notes the role Aaron had in the genealogical lists
which belong to the post-exilic period.32 A number of problems remain
for us to grapple with.

B. The Original Aaronides: a Levitical Group in Judah

The popular tendency to see a close relation of early Aaronides to

Bethel has had as its corollary the tendency to look upon them as a
group originating in the North. In our discussion of Exod. 32 we have
already loosened the hypothetical connexion with Bethel, noting at the
same time that that text, before its final touches, provides no evidence

29 A. C. Welch, The Work of the Chronicler (The Schweich Lectures, 1938; Lon¬
don, 1939), pp. 157-60.
so Welch gives his reasons for so interpreting Neh. 10 in his Post-Exilic Judaism
(Edinburgh, 1935), pp. 67ff.
31 Cf. W. Rudolph, Esra und Nehemia (HAT, 1/20; Tubingen, 1949), pp. 180f.
32 The Work of the Chronicler, pp. 85f.

of a quarrel between Levites and any group attaching themselves to Aaron.

There are good reasons for seeking Aaronide origins not in the North
at all, but rather in the South.

1. Aaron in Local Tradition; the Lists of Levitical Cities

The figure of Aaron the priest becomes clear only after the Exile,
in P, but that figure was not something which P constructed without
antecedents. We have observed that the early traditions preserved in
the Pentateuch do not consider Aaron a priest, but the quest for the
figure of Aaron, leader in the desert, leads us already to southern Judah
and its traditions.33 In the same region we find the tradition on Aaron
and the elders eating bread before God (Exod. 18:12).34
We do not find demonstrably Northern traditions on Aaron. Exod. 32
in its present form does have to do with the cult at a Northern sanctuary,
but — apart from the doubt surrounding the precise nature of the golden
calf episode in its earliest stage of tradition, and the doubt about Aaron’s
role in the episode at that stage — our previous discussion, with the
divergent views of authorities cited, has shown at least that arguments
can be given for a Southern background to Exod. 32 just as well as for
a Northern background. The reference to Aaron (with Moses) among
Josh. 24’s old, and presumably Northern, Shechem traditions, in Josh. 24:5a
(missing in the LXX), is, in all probability, a very late gloss.35 The figure
of Aaron seems, then, to have belonged originally to the South, and if
that is the case, the suspicion arises that a group of men calling them¬
selves Aaronides or sons of Aaron also ought to be sought in the South,
not in the North.
When we pursue our search further, we come to the list of Levitical
cities whose more original form is given in Josh. 21:9-42, paralleled in
1 Chr. 6:39-66 (LXX 6:54-81). 36 In the distribution of these cities through

S3 Noth, VP, p. 198. . . „

34 r. Knierim, "Exodus 18 und die Neuordnung der mosaischen Genchtsbarkeit,
ZAW 73 (1961), pp. 152ff., even sees this text as a Levitical cult-aetiology, whose
original purpose was that of showing Aaron, Levite and first priest of Israel to
have been properly initiated in priestly work under the tutorship of the priest Jethro.
Aaron here in the company of the elders, eating bread with Jethro before God, is
not at all clearly a priestly figure, but at least we do have an ancient tradition
having the area in the far South, near Midian, as its Haftpunkt, and the bearers
of the tradition deemed Aaron important enough to have his presence assured m
th© scene •
as Cf. Rudolph, Der "Elohist," pp. 245f.; Noth, Das Buck Josua, p. 140 and1 im-
nlicitlv G. von Rad, Das formgeschichtliche Problem des Hexateuch (BWANT, IV/26,
Stuttgart, *1938), p. 6 (= von Rad, Gesammelte Studien turn Alten Testament IMumch,
19611 dd. 14f.). Recently C. H. Giblin, "Structural Patterns m Jos. 24,1-25, LB(J Zb
(1964), pp. 56f., has added further reasons both from the structure and from the

C°nt3fw °F. ALBRiGHT^^The^ist of Levitic Cities,” in Louis Ginzberg Jubilee Volume

English Section (New York, 1945), pp. 49-73, has compared the texts of the lists

the length and breadth of Palestine, the geographical distribution ac¬

cording to the territories of the other tribes is doubled by a distribution
according to a division of the tribe of Levi itself into three groups: the
Kohathites (found in greater Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh),
the Gershonites (found in Manasseh, Asher, Issachar, and Naphtali), and
the Merarites (found in Zebulun, Reuben, and Gad). The Kohathite group
contains a large subgroup whose cities include all those mentioned in
the list for the southern hill-country of greater Judah, as well as the
cities immediately to the north of Jerusalem. This subgroup is that of
the Aaronides.
In sifting this material as it is assembled in the present text, we
have to distinguish the arrangement according to territories of various
tribes from the arrangement according to Levitical groups. The geo¬
graphical distinction of the list's cities according to tribal territories is
probably secondary, as is the interpolation of the cities of refuge,37 but
the distribution of the cities according to the three Levitical groups of
Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites, and the subgroup of Aaronides,
is presumably original in the present list. 38 This intra-Levitical grouping
belongs more naturally to the purpose of a list of specifically Levitical
cities, and if the list was obtained from Levitical circles, the familiar
interests of those circles themselves would more naturally have entered
into its arrangement. There is a reason for the arrangement according
to tribes when the list is used in a work (Josh. 13:1-21:42) setting out
to describe the tribal distribution of the land, but there is no particular
reason for interpolating the arrangement according to Levitical groups,
whether extrinsically by the editor of Josh. 13:1-21:42 or intrinsically
by Levites themselves for polemic or apologetic ends.39 It might be
objected that the post-exilic Aaronides attached themselves to Levitical
genealogies through the line of Kohath (Exod. 6:16-24, which is P), but
it may just as well be that this post-exilic genealogy, which demonstrably

in Joshua and Chronicles, continuing M. L. Margolis’ method of evaluating the Greek

readings, to arrive at a primitive text in which the discrepancies between the lists
in the two books are almost eliminated. Num. 35:1-8 is dependent on the city-list
found in Joshua, because it presupposes the demonstrably secondary insertion of
the cities of refuge in Joshua’s list of Levitical cities: cf. Noth, Das Buck Josua, p. 127.
Noth, toe. cit.
38 Ibid.; also K. Mohlenbrink, “Die levitischen tlberlieferungen,” ZAW 52 (1934),
p. 225. Alt, “Bemerkungen zu einigen judaischen Ortslisten des Alten Testaments,"
BBLAK (= ZDPV) 68 (1946-51), p. 201, n. 40 (= KS, II, 297, n. 1), thinks this arrange¬
ment by groups, too, is secondary, but he does not say why.
30 Mohlenbrink, op. cit., p. 212, sees the city-distribution in the list as a result
of “intense conflict among groups of Levitical priests." One must ask why. The
cities are there; different groups of Levites — geographically different groups —
live in them. Tribal divisions into subgroups among Semitic peoples certainly are
not evidence of conflict among the groups but rather of simple differences based
on geographical or administrative distinction within a larger group eager and proud
to maintain its general identity.
II. the zadokite-levite compromise 161

uses material already at hand,40 is using a fact still well known (that
the Aaronides were related to the Kohathites) as the foundation for its
genealogical derivation of Aaron from Kohath.
The groups in the city-list more credibly show a certain regional
solidarity which had gradually grown up among the Levites once they
had progressed from the stage of wandering gerim to that of settled
gerim scattered throughout the land — a regional solidarity expressed,
in Israelite fashion, by setting up descent from a common ancestor. The
arrangement is hardly a primitive one. We can not reasonably expect
that the wandering individual Levites of pre-monarchical days would so
consistently have assembled in previously existing clans when they were
settling down. The clans of Num. 26:58ab« are probably those of a
previously existing arrangement: the names of two of them (the Libnites
and the Hebronites) are based on place-names in southern and south¬
western Judah, and we know that what traces we have of the early
Levites do lead us to the south of Palestine. Subsequently, the circum¬
stances of Levitical settlement dissolved those ancient unities, and new
ones based on the geographical areas of the settlement throughout the
other tribes then arose. The Aaronide group took shape as a part of
this process, and the Aaronides were in the South, precisely where the
traditions on Aaron, the priest, seem to have come into being.

2. The Chronological Question

The dating of the list of Levitical cities is disputed, and the question
of an original list and the list in its present form is involved in the
dispute.41 Rather than enter upon that problem in all its details, let
us merely note that even according to the minimal theory, which holds
the terminus cl quo for the list as it stands to be no earlier than the
reform of Josiah, we are still in the pre-exilic period, and still in the
period when two tensions were greatest: the ideological tension between
the principle that priests should be Levites and the fact that the Zadokites

40 The names Libni, Hebron, Mahli, and Mushi, all treated as personal names
in Exod. 6:17ff. and other genealogical constructions, are derived from the names
of the Levitical clans in the ancient tradition found in Num. 26:58, on whose antiquity
cf. Noth, Das System der Zwolf Stdmme Israels, pp. 122-32, with Mohlenbrink, op. cit.,

P 41 w. F. Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, pp. 121-25, and op. cit.
(above n 36), argues for an original date not much after the time of David and
Solomon,'on the grounds that certain cities in the list were not under Israelite
control very long afterwards; cf. also B. Mazar, "The Cities of the Priests and the
Levites ” VT Suppl 7 (1960) 193-205. M. Noth, "Uberlieferungsgeschichthches zur zwei-
ten Haifte des Josuabuches,” in Alttestamentliche Studien Fnedri^ Nots°%%
60. Geburtstag gewidmet (Bonner Biblische Beitrage, I; Bonn, 1950), pp. 164-67, dis¬
agrees with Albright’s chronological conclusions, but abstains from trying hims
to offer a definite solution. On Alt’s views, dating the list after Josiah’s reform,
cf. above, Chapter Six, n. 23.


were not, and the sociological tension between the entrenched Zadokites
and those Levites seeking to make a living as priests.
The next problem in dating is caused by the division into the three
groups and the Aaronide subgroup. Hertzberg claims that this division
can only lead us into the post-exilic period when, alone, it would have
any significance.42 But its significance may quite well be just what it
purports to be: a demographic subdivision within a larger tribal group.
One wonders what its post-exilic significance would be if it were not
originally just that, for it was not absolutely necessary for the Aaronides
to be derived from the Kohathites (in Num. 7:8 they are not), and the divi¬
sion into Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites serves little pragmatic
purpose in the post-exilic material. The three groups are mentioned in
genealogical lists, but the two not used for Aaronide derivation are not
continued: cf. 1 Chr. 5:27-41 (LXX 6:1-15). Some isolated confirmation
of the group-locations given by the city-list is afforded by Judg. 18:30:
the priest of new Dan in the extreme North was "son of Gershom,” and
it is there in the far North — in Naphtali, Issachar, and Asher — that
Josh. 21:27-33 puts the Gershonites. According to Num. 3:21-37; 4:2-33,
the Kohathites are supposed to carry the Ark, and that does have some
significance, while the functional distinction between Gershonites and
Merarites has little significance: the Gershonites have charge of tent
coverings, curtains, doorscreens, hangings, and their appurtenances, while
the Merarites have charge of the frames, bars, columns, pedestals, columns,
and their appurtenances. One has the impression that this distinction
between the work of the Gershonites and that of the Merarites is made
solely because the genre required somthing of the sort to correspond
with a real division within the tribe known from tradition.
Noth presents the more specific argument that it is the derivation
of the Aaronides from the Kohathites which is post-exilic.43 Inspection
of the Old Testament material, though, reveals that as time passes the
connexion between the Aaronides and the Kohathites grows not stronger
but weaker. In the genealogy of early P in Exod. 6:16-23 the connexion
is there.44 In the clan distribution worked with by Num. 3, Eleazar,
son of Aaron (v. 32) presides over the Kohathites (w. 27-31), although
he is not made a part of them. In the more recent strata of P, the
“sons of Aaron” are quite distinct in function from the "sons of Kohath”

42 H. W. Hertzberg, Die Bucher Josua, Richter, Ruth (ATD, IX; Gottingen, 1954),
p. 118.
43 Das Buch Josua, p. 131.
44 That the genealogical list of Exod. 6:14-27 is an insertion in already existing
material hardly needs demonstration, and its attribution to P is not disputed. That
the list itself is compounded from previously extant genealogical elements having
a separate existence already before the Exile has been argued by Mohlenbrink, "Die
levitischen Uberlieferung," pp. 207ff„ but he would not take the attachment of Aaron
to the Kohathite lineage as anything more than secondary, although early (before
the Exile?): loc. cit. and pp. 187ff.

(cf. Num. 4:5,15).45 Turning to the genealogical material found in Chron¬

icles, we find two juxtaposed genealogies of which the first, 1 Chr. 5:27-41
(LXX 6:1-15), makes Kohathite Levites of Aaron, Eleazar, Phinehas, and
the chief priests of Jerusalem down to the Exile, while the second, 1 Chr.
6:1-15 (LXX 6:16-30) presents as Kohathite Levites only men who are either
unimportant or otherwise unknown (but including the Korah who appears
in competition with Aaron in Num. 16). Of these two lists, the first
shows indications of being the earlier one: the introduction (w. 27-29)
follows the schema of Exod. 6:16-23, the list does not carry the series
of names any further than the Exile, and it uses the form Gershon (v. 27)
characteristic of the Pentateuch. The second, which makes no connexion
of either Aaron-Eleazar-Phinehas or of the chief priests of Jerusalem
with the Kohathites, uses the form Gershom (6:1) characteristic of the
compilations proper to Chronicles.46 The first list, with Aaron as a
Kohathite, then, is earlier than the second list with no such connexion.
Still another text, 1 Chr. 15:4-10, makes a complete distinction between
"sons of Aaron” and Levites (v. 4) and uses the Levitical triad Kohath-
Gershom-Merari, without any inclusion of Aaronides; this text is even
later than Chronicles as a whole, for if it were not a secondary insertion
in the text the following v. 11 would be superfluous.47
So, with the passage of time after the Exile the place of the Aaronides
within the Kohathites seems not to have grown in tradition but rather
to have been neglected — deliberately. In the original material on the
Levitical cities the Aaronides are very much a part of the Kohathites,
and no more than that (cf. Josh. 21:9f.); this is certainly not a creation
of the time represented by the later strata of P, and it does not show
traces of any construction being made by someone with clerical concerns.
In material secondary to the original list in Josh. 21, Aaron does appear
as a priest (Josh. 21:4,13).48 This secondary material (presumably of
early P), with Aaron a priest but the Aaronides still Kohathites, may

45 On the consensus of scholarly opinion that Num. 4 belongs to a more recent

stage of P, cf. Ejssfeldt, Introduction, pp. 204f.
46 In Chronicles, apart from 1 Chr. 5:27, which we have just seen, the form
Gershon is found only in 1 Chr. 23:6, which is also in a section showing evidence of
being pre-Chronicles. W. Rudolph, Chronikbiicher (HAT, 1/21; Tubingen, 1955), p. 158,
concludes that 1 Chr. 23:3-6a is pre-Chronicles, and the following w. 6b-24 post-
Chronicles. 6b, however, (“according to Gershon, Kohath, and Meran ), can be
reckoned as the completion of 6a, “And David divided them into classes according
to the sons of Levi," just as easily as it can be reckoned as the introduction to the
list that follows. The fact that David is the agent in 6a just as in vv. 3-5 assures
the attachment of 6a to the preceding verses, and their existence before Chronicles
can be argued for with Rudolph's reasons, pp. 153f.
4r Rudolph, op. cit., p. 115. „ , , ,, . ^
48 Josh. 21:13 is a secondary insertion of a city of refuge, and the doublet of

be post-exilic, or it may even be pre-exilic, but in any case it serves as

a further indication that the ethnographic arrangement is earlier still
— earlier than even the early strata of P — and that it was not ten¬
dentious but matter-of-fact. In the later strata of P, when once the
post-exilic arrangement had become fixed, Aaronides were distinct and
separate from the Kohathites, and superior to them. In the end, Noth’s
own dating for the city-list in Joshua, a matter in which he has come
to follow Alt, leads him to admit that the place of the Aaronides among
the Kohathites must be at least earlier than the restoration of the Temple
under Zerubbabel. 49
Even if we were to accept Alt’s theory of the Josian reform in the
late seventh century as an established terminus a quo for the present
list in Joshua, we would still know that the list has an earlier back¬
ground: Gershom or Gershon in the far north has a chronological point
of reference before the fall of the Northern Kingdom a century earlier
(Judg. 18:30); some sort of association with Levites, or at least with
priests, is independently attested in tradition for a number of cities in
the list, 50 and the division of the settled Levites into three groups with
a subgroup is hardly something which developed suddenly after the meas¬
ures taken by King Josiah. On the other hand, the development of the
Aaronide subgroup, as a subgroup, must be more recent than that of
the distinct groups of Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites, because
otherwise we should expect the Aaronides, instead of being a part of
the Kohathites, to be a fourth group on a par with the other three.
The existence of the sons of Aaron as an ethnic group of Levites,
then, is relatively late, although hardly as late as some scholars believe,
and this group is in the South. The figure of Aaron the Levite, too,
is late, though pre-exilic, and the growing figure of Aaron as a distinct
entity also, as we have seen, has its roots in the South. Aaron as a
hero of the Mosaic period, and a hero particularly cherished in the tradi¬
tions of the South, lends himself to adoption as the eponymous head of
a group of southern Levites. He appears as a Levite — still very much
an ethnic term — before he appears as a priest. Exod. 4:14 speaks of
Moses’ brother, "Aaron, the Levite,”51 but neither the text nor the scene
suggests that he was considered a priest.52 The original list of Levitical

49 Ibid., p. 132.
50 On the basis of Num.26:58, add Libnah and Hebron to the partial list in
Albright, Archaeology and the Religion of Israel, p. 123.
si Although an opinion like that of Holzinger, Exodus (KHC, II), p. 9, can be
found assigning Exod. 4:14 to a late redaction of P because of Aaron's being called
a Levite, the majority of scholars assign the verse to an earlier source, J or E, yet
allowing in various ways for its belonging to a later stratum within J or E; thus:
O. Procksch, Das nordhebrdische Sagenbuch: die Elohimquelle (Leipzig, 1906), p. 68,
n. 1 (secondary within E); G. Beer, Exodus (HAT, 1/3), p. 12 (E, but on p. 36: an
addition of younger hands, because of the growth of Aaron’s role in the tradition);
Noth, VP, p. 31 with n. 103 (an addition to J).
52 Baudissin, Geschichte, pp. 58f., Procksch, loc. cit., S. R. Driver, The Book of

cities makes him and his sons members of the tribe of Levi, but it is
only the secondary material, very easily post-exilic, which makes him a
priest. Aaron’s intrusion beside Moses may in some cases, like Exod.
8:21; 10:8,10f., have been determined by the original text’s mention of
sacrifice, which by the time of the later monarchy was a strongly priestly
attribute, but the intrusions as a whole may show a Levitical influence,
and the fact that certain of the intrusions may be made with a priestly
prerogative in mind is not suprising, if the intrusions came from groups in
which priestly prerogatives were a continuing interest. Such intrusions can
show a directly Levitical concern with only an indirectly priestly concern.
In addition to the suggestion, already dealt with, that the Aaronides
were originally priests of Bethel, it has been proposed that they were
from the beginning Zadokites of Jerusalem seeking to legitimize them¬
selves as Levites by appealing to a Levitical Aaron as their ancestor, and
opposing him to a Levitical Moses held by the authentic Levites to be
their ancestor.53 To this, one must object that, whatever can be said
about the traditions of opposition or rivalry between Aaron and Moses
(Exod. 32:21-24; Num. 12:1-9,11), we have already noted that in these
texts there is no allusion to priesthood involved, and it is not demonstrable
that Levites appealed to Moses in opposition to another group appealing
to Aaron. The text of 1 Sam. 2:27-36, which comes almost certainly from
Zadokite circles in its present form, makes no appeal to Aaron (for the
"faithful priest” of 1 Sam. 2:35 must be chronologically posterior to Eli),
and does not mention Moses (for to see Moses as that father of the house
of Eli mentioned in w. 27f. is gratuitous). Finally: the exilic text in
Ezek. 44:6-16 is overtly anti-Levitic and pro-Zadokite, but neither in this
passage nor in any of the other texts found in Ezekiel is the figure of
Aaron used at all.

3. Conclusion: the Original Aaronides

The general result of our inquiry indicates that the Aaronides were
indeed members of the tribe of Levi, and that the members of the tribe
who lived in Judah — excepting north-western Judah between the moun¬
tain country and the coastal plain — were, for some time before the
Exile, those known (at least among themselves) as sons of Aaron. If this
is so, then the majority of those Levites seeking admission to priestly

Exodus (The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges; Cambridge, 1911), p. 29,
Noth, VP, pp. 195, 197, say that since "Levite” in Exod. 4:14 distinguishes Aaron from
Moses (who, according to Exod. 2:1, was a Levite), the qualifier “Levite” in 4:14
refers not to a tribe but to a function. But the text’s insisting on Aaron's being
a Levite is not necessarily meant to distinguish him from Moses; it can quite as
well be an emphasis on a point the writer wanted to make and which at that time
was not yet universally taken for granted: that Aaron was a Levite.
s3 R. Smend, Die Erzdhlung des Hexateuch auf ihre Quellen untersucht (Berlin,
1912), pp. 352-60; Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit, p. 281.

functions in the Temple after Josiah's suppression of the rural sanctuaries

were, in fact, Aaronides, and it would be above all against these Aaronides
— especially those in cities near Jerusalem like Anathoth, Gibeon, Geba,
and Almon (Josh. 21:17f.) — that the late pre-exilic Zadokites had to
defend their position. The rest of the Kohathites, and certainly the
Gershonites and the Merarites, were too far away from Jerusalem.
But the Levites of latest pre-exilic Judah, in pressing their claims,
made no issue of their being Aaronides, a fact which had no relevance
to their purposes. At this stage of development it was still enough for
the Levites to be Levites, the Zadokites were not yet having recourse
to a genealogical Aaron, no other group — not even in Bethel — can
be shown to be in competition, and the figure of Aaron is not yet defined
as that of a priest.

C. Ezekiel 40-48: the New Division is Shaped

It has been increasingly recognized in recent study that the material

in chapters 40-48 of the Book of Ezekiel was not all written at the
same time; Hartmut Gese’s thorough investigation of this material has
shown a plurality of strata composed over a number of years.54 It is
the latest of these strata (Ezek. 44:6-31, with the glosses in 40:46b; 43:19;
45:l-8a; 46:19-24; 48: 11), 55 called by Gese the “Zadokite stratum,” which
is of principal interest for the question of clerical directions at the time
of the Exile in the sixth century. Gese assigns even this late stratum
to an exilic date sometime prior to the governorship of Zerubbabel, and
the substantially exilic character of the material in Ezek. 40-48, conse¬
quently, remains unchallenged, no matter who its author is (or who its
authors are).56
This Zadokite stratum in Ezekiel shows an important gain for the
Deuteronomic code's idea that priests are to be Levites: the Zadokites
themselves are called "Levitical priests” (Ezek. 43:19; 44:15), and are
included among the "sons of Levi” (40:46). We know that the Zadokites
were not historically Levites at all, but these texts reveal that before
the end of the Exile Zadokite circles themselves were capitulating to
the pressure of current ideals or value-judgements and admitting that
ideally they should be Levites.
In capitulating to the ideal, however, they will not capitulate to the
real Levites themselves. Although the Zadokite stratum in Ezekiel cedes

54 H. Gese, Der Verfassungsentwurf des Ezechiel (Kap. 40-48) traditionsgeschicht-

lich untersucht (Beitrage zur Historischen Theologie, XXV; Tubingen, 1957).
55 Ibid., pp. 57-67.
se Ibid., p. 122. Gese’s principal reason for holding Zerubbabel’s governorship
as terminus ante quem for the Zadokite stratum is that in this stratum the institu¬
tion of a high priest, known to exist with the priest Joshua, Zerubbabel’s contem¬
porary (Hag. 1:1 etc.; Zech. 6:11; Ezra 3:2 etc), is unknown.

to the ideal by calling the sons of Zadok "Levitical priests,” it always

avoids directly calling Levites "priests”; the Levites must accept a rank
of inferiority. To the Zadokites these texts reserve the service of the
altar, from which the largest part of priestly revenues normally came.
The Levites were allowed only the service of the Temple (44:11,15; 45:4f.;
46:20-24), and this service is not to be reckoned as a priestly ’ service
(44:13 with 44:11,14); here the distinction is more radical than that of
the different and presumably somewhat earlier stratum in 40:45, which
calls those serving the Temple "priests.” The situation reflected in the
earlier stratum is illuminated by what we have proposed above as the
late pre-exilic Levitical program reflected in certain concepts of the Deu-
teronomistic redaction: a program in which Levites, appealing to a newly
developed tradition of their being carriers and caretakers of the Ark,
were asserting a right to work as priests in the Temple of the Ark
even though they could not compete with the Zadokites for work as
priests at the sacrificial altar in the courtyard.57 The Zadokite stratum
narrows the concept of "priest.”
Thus, with these Zadokite texts in Ezekiel, at least by the end of
the Exile if not slightly before, a significant step had been taken: Zadokites
were already being reckoned as Levites (in English: with a capital "L”),
but a clear distinction was made between priests and levites (better
written with a small “1”). Aaron and the "sons of Aaron” are not men-

57 Cf. above, pp. 137-41. Gese, op. cit., pp. 64f., holds that in Ezek. 40:45-46a
the priests of higher rank serve the altar, and those of lower rank the Temple
(bayit), while in the "Zadokite” stratum’s Ezek. 44:11-15 Zadokites serve the sanc¬
tuary (miqdas; the understanding is Gese’s, p. 127), and the Levites the Temple area
(bayit; again, the understanding is Gese’s p. 127); in a third text, Num. 18:1-7 (P),
the Aaronides serve both the altar and the sanctuary (qodes), the Levites the tent.
Building on these observations, Gese says (p. 121) that both the situation implied
by Ezek. 40:45-46a and that implied by the somewhat later Ezek. 44:11-15 have been
worked and blended into Num. 18 (and Num. 3-4, also P). This may be the case,
but Gese goes on to reason that the arrangement in P is earlier than that of the
Zadokite stratum in Ezekiel (without denying that Num. 18, as a written document,
could be later than the texts in Ezekiel), and, since in Num. 18:5’s allotment of
both altar service and sanctuary service to Aaronides he sees a provision for two
groups — the sons of Eleazar (Zadokites) and the sons of Ithamar — among the
Aaronides, he then concludes that the alliance between the Zadokites and the sons
of Ithamar is chronologically prior to Ezek. 44:6-31’s program for an exclusively
Zadokite priesthood, not chronologically posterior to it.
To this some exception can be taken. Num. 18 does not mention Zadok, Eleazar,
or Ithamar at all, and we have no texts which suggest that the division between
the sons of Eleazar (Zadokites) and sons of Ithamar corresponds to the division
of work between altar service and sanctuary service (so, rightly, Gunneweg, Leviten
und Priester, p. 190). We have no evidence that an exclusivly Zadokite priesthood
was chronologically posterior to P's Aaronide priesthood including both Zadokites
(sons of Eleazar) and sons of Ithamar; we have no texts clearly prior to the post-
exilic period which associate Eleazar and Ithamar, but for the post-exilic period,
even outside of P, we have Ezra 8:2. Nor should we forget that Num. 18, like the
rest of the material in P, takes Aaron for granted as the all-important ancestor of
the Zadokites; none of the strata in Ezekiel make any use of him, or any mention
of him, at all.

tioned. Levites are simply "Levites” or "sons of Levi.” The Zadokite

texts in Ezekiel are rigid. The Exile still lies heavy on Israel, and that
phenomenon evident among oppressed peoples throughout the sweep of
human history is in evidence: in the oppressed populace a group relieves
its frustration by vindictively blaming a rival group or groups for the
evils which have descended on the people; thus the Zadokite mentality
in the Exile accuses the Levites of being idolators and of being those
who have led Israel into the sin for which it is paying so dearly (Ezek.
44:10-12). The incriminating group projects itself into a position of
election and of superiority to its rival groups, and such appears to be
the attitude of the Zadokite stratum in Ezekiel, incriminating its Levitical
rivals, who, when the day of liberation comes, are to remain decidedly
inferior to the elect Zadokites. As far as we know, there was no other
group of priestly claimants cohesive enough to provide so ready a target.
But in the national sense of relief to come after the advent of the
Persians, the frustrated vehemence of the Zadokites toward their rivals
will abate, and will even allow for a certain amount of compromise.

D. Conditions in the Return from Exile

The program of the Zadokite stratum in Ezek. 40 - 48 may seem at

first sight to have been kept in mind when the restoration of Judah was
being organized after the Exile: when the Temple is restored, the levites
attached to it will be ministers rather than priests (Ezra 8:17). Yet,
the program of Ezek. 40 - 48 was not really accomplished in all its details.
The Levites had not been reduced to replacing the temple servants (the
netinim), a number of whom were still to be found when the Jews re¬
turned from Babylonia (Ezra 2:43-58 = Neh. 7:46-57; Ezra 8:20).58 The
distinction between priests and levites is now firmly established (Ezra
2:36-40 = Neh. 7:39-43),59 but what is the precise sense of those terms now?

58 That these netinim are descendants of those before the Exile and not Levites
who have actually been reduced to that state is shown by two cases in which ethno¬
logical rather than genealogical derivation is given (in Ezra 2:50 = Neh. 7:52) and
by the rarity of Yahwistic theophoric names among them; on the other hand, they
had been associated ethnically with the Israelites, otherwise they would hardly have
been included in the lists of those returning: cf. Rudolph, Esra und Nehemia, p. 23.
59 The distinction is taken very much for granted in the more recent texts found
in Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 1:5; 3:8ff.; 12:6,10,18,20 etc.; Neh. 8:13) and in Chronicles
(1 Chr. 6:33f; 9:2,10,14; 13:2; 15:4,14 etc.; 2 Chr. 5:12; 7:6; 8:14f. 11:13 etc.). Is the
list in Ezra 2 = Neh. 7 one drawn up in Nehemiah’s time, or is it an older list from
the time of an initial return movement before the year 520? G. Holscher, "Die
Bucher Esra und Nehemia,” in HSAT, II (4th ed.; Tubingen, 1923), pp. 503f., sees
the document as a list of worshipers in the Temple made largely for reasons of
taxation, after the time of Nehemiah; cf. also R. Pfeiffer, Introduction to the Old
Testament (3rd ed.; New York, 1941, pp. 822, 836). This position is extreme and has
not won a following. F. Ahlemann, "Zur Esra-Quelle,” ZAW 59 (1942/43), pp. 81ff.,
87f., interprets it as an enumeration of those who returned with Ezra, and that
would take us down at least to the year 458. For Rudolph, Esra und Nehemia,
pp. 16f., it must date from slightly before 520, and for K. Galling, "The ‘Gola-List’

The numbers given for priests and levites in this list are impossible
to evaluate for real accuracy, but they surely express a general proportion
of some validity. The list counts 4,289 priests, but only 74 levites.
Ezra could obtain only a small number of levites to accompany him
from Babylonia to Palestine (Ezra 8:15-20), and the figures in the list
given by Neh. 11 for the population of Jerusalem total 1192 priests, but
only 284 levites, even when the temple-singers are included. The small
proportion of levites has been explained by the fact that Levites were
not deported in large numbers in the first place, and that those in
Babylonia would not care to return to a situation in which they would
be mere temple-servants.60 But we should not overlook the relatively
large number of netinim who returned: they are 392 in the list of Ezra
2:58 = Neh. 7:60, and 220 of them accompany Ezra according to Ezra 8:20;
so their number is considerably larger than that of the returning levites.
The lot of the netinim, who had not yet been assimilated to the levites,
would, if anything, be worse than that of the latter, yet they returned
in numbers greater than those of the latter. We need not doubt that the
number of Levites led into captivity was not very large, but the number
of Zadokite priests taken from Jerusalem may not have been as large
proportionately as that indicated in the lists of Ezra and Nehemiah for
those returning. The numbers given for priests may have been swollen
by the accretion of non-Zadokite priests.
If this hypothesis is correct, a number of Levites (members of the
tribe of Levi) had assured for themselves acceptance in priestly status
even by the Zadokite element in Babylonia, by the time of the return
to Judah. Not all Levites would have succeeded in doing this, or could
have succeeded in doing so; those who did not were left in the status
of simple non-priestly levites. How might those Levites counted as priests
have managed to achieve this? In the first place, the new hope and
relaxation of tensions following upon the common trials of defeat and

according to Ezra 2, Nehemiah 7,” JBL 70 (1951) 149-58, from slightly after 520.
Rudolph accepts it as an authentic list of those returning; Galling takes it as a
list of the worshipers already in Palestine. For W. F. Albright, The Biblical Period
from Abraham to Ezra (New York - Evanston, 1963), p. 92; p. 110, n. 180, it is origi¬
nally a census-list of Judah, begun at the restoration and including both the re¬
turned exiles and Jews already established in the district, with corrected numbers
and additional entries to bring it up to date down to the time of Nehemiah, about
a hundred years later. If, as is possible, the original structure is from the time
of the first return at the end of the sixth century, whether before or after the
people listed had actually arrived in Palestine, then the distinction between priests
and levites in the list reflects the situation already obtaining at the beginning of
the restoration. It can also, to be sure, be later.
eo E. Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthums (Halle, 1896), pp. 175ff.; Rudolph,
Esra und Nehemia, p. 22; de Vaux, Les institutions, II, 223f., 254 G. Holscher’s
explanation ("Levi," in Pauly-Wissowa, Real-Encyclopadie, XII/2, col. 2185) that tor
the priests all males of age fitting them for service are counted, while for the levites
and the lesser cultic personnel only those actually employed are counted, has little
if anything to support it.

exile must have done much to assuage old antagonisms and to build up
a new spirit of partnership which would make it easier for the Zadokites
and their rivals to bury the proverbial axe.61 Once the Zadokites themselves
had admitted the principle that priests should be Levites, it would be
somewhat awkward to bar all Levites from priesthood, and besides, the
absence of sacrificial worship during the Exile meant that the question
of whether one was a priest or not had little pragmatic significance for
the time being. Furthermore, we know from the final chapters of the
present Book of Isaiah that in the climate of early post-exilic Judaism
there was a certain lack of concern for traditional rights and privileges in
the matter of who might be a priest or a levite. In Isa. 61:6 the Israelites
at large are told that in the coming era of greatness they will "be called
'priests of Yahweh’ and 'ministers of our God’,” and in the universalist
text of Isa. 66:21 Yahweh even declares that he will make some of the
foreigners coming to Mount Zion priests and levites.
Those Levites who managed to be accepted as priests may have done
so on the basis of their personal qualities. It was the better type of
man who was regularly deported in the deportations of the Ancient Near
East, and a man of this type, especially if he already had some sort of
priestly background, could more easily, though perhaps grudgingly, be
accepted by the Zadokites who continued to form the core of the Jewish
priesthood. Those exiled Levites who were unable to make such personal
qualities felt remained levites (with an increasingly small 1), and returned
as such. The netinim had no chance of any assimilation to the ranks
of the priests, but, like the levites, returned anyway. Most Levites had
never left Palestine.

E. The New Division is Sealed; Aaron and the Genealogies

The head of the priesthood in the restored Temple was Joshua, son
of Jehozadak (Hag. 1:1 etc.; Zech. 6:11; Ezra 3:2 etc.), whose father
was Seraiah, the last of the Zadokite chief priests of Jerusalem before 587
(2 Kgs. 25:18 = Jer. 52:24), according to the genealogical data proffered
by 1 Chr. 5:40 (LXX 6:14). In the documents having to do with the
early return to Palestine there is no mention of Aaron or of the "sons
of Aaron.” If the hypothesis we have evolved in the preceding paragraph
carries weight, some mingling of Zadokites and priestly Levites had
already been done, but Aaron was not yet used to seal the matter
genealogically. This may even be the stage at which the text of David's
cabinet officers was altered in 2 Sam. 8:17 to bring Zadok into the family
of the Elides.

61 Gunneweg, Leviten and Priester, p. 196, makes a good point in stressing the
difference between the fanatically exclusive tone of the Zadokite stratum in Ezekiel
in dealing with non-Zadokites and the calmer tone of P, which allows for a certain
amount of compromise and is concerned with fixing arrangements already made.

Somewhat later, with Ezra, there are two groups of priests returning
from Babylonia: the descendants of Phinehas and the descendants of
Ithamar (Ezra 8:2): the beginning has been made of the widespread
genealogical construction which will make both Zadokites (through Phi¬
nehas son of Eleazar) and non-Zadokites (through Ithamar) Aaronides.62
Ezra himself is attached by the text of Ezra 7:1-5 to Aaron through the
lineage of Eleazar. It has been suggested that the origins of this con¬
struction of a double priestly lineage with a common forefather, Aaron,
are to be sought in Babylonia between the time of Zerubbabel and the
time of Ezra. 63 From the evidence available to us, this is quite likely
the case. This construction is not known in the list of Ezra 2 = Neh. 7,
but it was applied in the list of those coming with Ezra from Babylonia
(Ezra 8:2); yet, at that same time it was not used in Palestine (cf. Ezra
10:18-22). Nevertheless, we can not entirely exclude the possibility that
the same construction was developing in Palestine, where the document
of Neh. 10:2-28, probably recovered from archives where it had been kept
from the time of Nehemiah himself,64 includes a list of priests (Neh.
10:3-9) whose individual names, when compared with those of other texts,
suggest that the priestly groupings in Palestine were rearranging them¬
selves and tending toward the eventual common derivation from Aaron.65
Whether the Zadokites became "sons of Aaron” in Babylonia or in
Palestine, or in both places more or less simultaneously (the Jews in
Babylonia not lacking contact with their brethren in Judah, as we know
from Ezekiel), they did this by assimilation with another group. This
group, when all the evidence is in, appears to be that of the Levites who
before the Exile had been living in Judah: the Kohathite group of

62 We can not say why the name Ithamar was chosen. Phinehas, if drawn from
documents or traditions which have come down to us, must have been inspired by
1 Sam. 1:3; 2:34; 4:4, with perhaps Judg. 20:27f. Phinehas, by reason of his Elide
and Levitical background in tradition, was particularly suitable for a genealogical
construction seeking to assimilate "Zadokites” to those associated with the name
of Zadok's traditional rival, Abiathar, but, as ancestor of Abiathar, somewhat clumsy
for use as an ancestor of Zadok, in any genealogy seeking at the same time to
keep the two groups distinct. The disadvantage for any desire to keep Zadokites
and Abiatharides distinct seems to have been sensed quickly, for Phinehas was soon
moved down a degree and given a father, Eleazar, as head of the Zadokite lineage.
The name Eleazar may have been inspired by 1 Sam. 7:1.
63 De Vaux, Les institutions, II, 264ff. The theories of Baudissin, Geschichte, p. 199,
Smend, Die Erzdhlung des Hexateuch, p. 355, and Gressmann, Mose und seine Zeit,
pp. 275, 281, that the Zadokites had already been known as descendants of Aaron
in the period of the monarchy suffers from a total lack of witness from so early
a time, and from the further difficulty that the tradition of Aaron, Levite and priest,
developed fairly late and seems originally to have been connected with Levites rather
than with Zadokites.
34 Rudolph, Esra und Nehemia, pp. 173f.
65 Kittel, Geschichte des Volkes Israel, III (Stuttgart, 1927-29), p. 406. Cf. also
J. M. Myers, Ezra, Nehemiah (The Anchor Bible; Garden City, 1965), p. 176, on the
list in Neh. 10 as the reflection of an expansion from the situation seen in Ezra 2 =
Neh. 7 and in Ezra 8, but earlier than the courses of priests in 1 Chr. 24:7-18.

Levites, most of whom — and indeed all of whom in the environs of

Jerusalem — had come to be known as Aaronides. These were the
Levites taken into captivity, and these were the Levites remaining in
Judah. They were the ones who before the disaster of 587 had been
fighting for a place in the Temple as priests.
Once the Zadokites had enhanced their own stature by making
themselves "Levites,” and some Levites had managed to assure standing
for themselves as priests, a new nomenclature had to be found. The
tribal sense of the term "Levite” was now thinned down and blurred.
The remaining members who were not priests but who wished to continue
work in the Temple would retain their old group name, in a sense which
would henceforth be appellative rather than gentilitial. The priests, while
retaining Levi as an ancestor shared with the inferior class, required
another ancestor, a couple of degrees removed from Levi, to distinguish
them from their inferiors. Aaron, already developed as a Levite in
Levitical circles, was used. His figure had the further attraction, by
this time, of association with the heroic period of Israel, with the great
events of Sinai and the Exodus. Thus the mutual assimilation of Zadokites
and priestly Levites was covered, as was their common distinction from
the rest of the levites. There remained, however, a distinction of the
Zadokites from another lineage appealing to descent from Eli through
Abiathar — a lineage which presumably was that of authentically Levitical
priests. This was done by using, respectively, Phinehas son of Eleazar
for those Aaronides who were traditionally Zadokites, and Ithamar, Elea-
zar's brother, for those who were not.66
The lesser levites functioning in Jerusalem must have remained
predominantly Kohathite; the area had been Kohathite before the Exile
(even where it had not been specifically Aaronide), and those Levites
who had taken part in the Exile and Return were of the Kohathite group.67
This predominance is hinted at in the artificial distribution of tasks in
chapters 3, 4, and 10 of the Book of Numbers: the Kohathites carry the
Ark (after it has been duly covered by the Aaronides: Num. 3:15) or the
sacred objects (Num. 7:9; 10:21), while the Gershonites and the Merarites
carry the various parts of the tent and its attachments — a kind of
Num. 16’s most recent stratum, belonging to P, shows a dispute over
the right to priestly function, presented as a revolt led by "Korah, the
son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi” (Num. 16: la) against

66 Cf. above, n. 62.

67 Noth,Das Buck Josim, p. 131, reasons that the division of the Levites into
the three groups of Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarites in the Levitical city-list
of Josh. 21 can not be earlier than the list of Ezra 2 = Neh. 7, because it seems
to be unknown in Ezra 2:40 = Neh. 7:43. But it is absent there, not necessarily
because the division did not exist at that time, but because the Levites in Babylonia
were of only one of these groups — the Kohathites.

Moses and Aaron.bS The Levite Korah appears here, as in the genealogical
material of Exod. 6:21 (cf. Exod. 6:18) and 1 Chr. 6:7 (LXX 6:22) as a
Kohathite. This later stratum of Num. 16, depicting the struggle over
priestly prerogatives as the revolt of a Kohathite against a priestly Aaron,
must come from a moment before the priestly Aaronides had assured
their position, a period when they were still in conflict with the Levites
best in a position to challenge them: those Kohathites not admitted as
Aaronides. Gunneweg sees a similar situation behind an insertion of
Aaron and Eleazar into the material of Num. 4 (Num. 4:5-15,16,17-20), an
insertion which has the effect largely of replacing the Kohathites by Aaron
and Eleazar and which, like the recent P-stratum in Num. 16, suggests
strongly that at this stage of historical development the principal rivals
of the Aaronides were their "next of kin,” the Kohathites.69 At this
stage of development, the tension between the established priestly group
and its rivals was represented as a tension between Aaron and Kohath.
The process of development in the relation between Kohathites and
Aaronides can be seen by comparing three blocks of material in Chronicles.
In the genealogical material of 1 Chr. 5:27-41 (LXX 6:1-15) Aaron, Eleazar,
and the chief priests of Jerusalem down to the Exile are Kohathites.
The somewhat later genealogy of 1 Chr. 6:1-15 (LXX 6:16-30) excludes
Aaron, Eleazar, and the chief priests from the ranks of the Kohathites,
but includes Korah as a Kohathite. The still later inserted material of
1 Chr. 15:4-10 makes a clear-cut distinction between “sons of Aaron” and
"sons of Levi,” and if, in the redactor's mind, a logical connexion exists
between this inserted block and the following v. 11, which is independent
of it, then the late redactor reckons the sons of Kohath among the sons
of Levi, not, however, among the sons of Aaron.70

es Although the details of this narrative’s literary division differ slightly from
author to author, there are few who disagree that the latest stratum deals with
a contest of rivalry between Korah and Aaron and that this stratum belongs to
a fairly late stage of development within P: cf., for example, J. Wellhausen, Die
Composition des Hexateuchs (4th ed. = 3rd; Berlin, 1963), pp. 102-06 (remembering
that Wellhausen's Q is practically equal to what has now come to be styled P), with
the further observation (adopted from Kuenen) on p. 342; Noth, VP, pp. 15, 19, 138f.;
S. Lehming, “Versuch zu Num. 16,” ZAW 74 (1962) 291-321 (on Korah and Aaron in
late material, p. 318). J. Liver, “Korah, Dathan and Abiram,” Scripta Hierosolymi-
tana 8 (1961) 189-217, although rejecting a division of the narrative on the basis of
different literary sources, sees Korah, nevertheless, as a Levite, the sons of Korah
as Levites, and the story of Korah in Num. 16 as one intruded into the tradition
of a revolt of Dathan and Abiram against Moses, by priests of Jerusalem seeking
to defend their position against Levites. Liver would place this intrusion, however,
fairly early in the monarchical period rather than after the Exile — something he
can more easily do not reckoning with a post-exilic P.
69 Gunneweg, Leviten und Priester, p. 180.
to We have seen above, p. 163, the reasons from the viewpoint of tradition-
criticism for placing the genealogical arrangements of 1 Chr. 5:27-41 (LXX 6:1-15)
chronologically prior to those of 1 Chr. 6:1-15 (LXX 6:16-30), and the reasons from
the viewpoint of literary criticism for seeing 1 Chr. 15:4-10 as a block of material
added after the basic text of Chronicles had already taken form.

Despite the partnership of sorts established between the Zadokites

and the authentically Levitical priests, the Zadokites always retained a
certain higher level in priestly aristocracy, in which they always formed
the core. In the early material of P, Ithamar is on a genealogical par
with Eleazar, who, however, is the prior of the two in order of mention
(Exod. 6:24 and parallels of the same stage of P), but it is to Eleazar that
God gave the priesthood after Aaron's death (Num. 20:24ff.), and, in¬
terestingly and significantly, Ithamar supervises the more menial work of
the Gershonites and Merarites (Num. 4:28,33; 7:8), while Eleazar is set
over that of the Kohathites (Num. 4:16).
The Levites, then, had their victory of principle: all priests would
henceforth be “Levites.” But the Zadokites had their victory of strategy:
most Levites would no longer be priests. And beside the old gentilitial
sense of the word "Levite” a new sense stood: that of a function. The
gentilitial sense would be overshadowed by the name of function, and
in the restored Jewish community "levite” would mean primarily a cultic
functionary of subordinate rank. The core of the levites in this new
sense was certainly made up of tribal Levites, but with the passage of time
groups of cultic personnel in general, the temple-singers particularly (1 Chr.
23:3-27:34), were assimilated into this generic, subordinate class.
Chapter Eight

Priesthood in the Restored Jewish Community

In the preceding chapter it was with a view toward tracing the

formation and new delineation of groups among the clergy that we
discussed priests and levites in the Exile, and in their gradual return to
Palestine. We turn now more directly to the history of the clergy in
the actually restored Jewish community in Palestine after 538.

I. A Community Headed by Priests

Independent Israelite monarchy was now a thing of the past. The

restoration of the Jewish community in Palestine was conditioned by
its subjection to the new empire of the Achaemenid Persians, an empire
which considered it a good thing for its own interests to grant to its
subject peoples what was for those times a remarkable amount of ethnic
and religious autonomy. Whatever is to be said of the puzzling
Sheshbazzar, "prince of Judah” (Ezra 1:8), and his work, or of the
disputed question of a return beginning already under Cyrus and Cambyses
(i. e., between 538 and 522),1 it is certain that by the second year of

1 If Sheshbazzar is identified with the Shenazzar, fourth son of King Jehoiachin,

listed in 1 Chr. 3:18, as E. Meyer, Die Entstehung des Judenthums, pp. 75ff., Albright,
The Biblical Period, p. 86, and others, have done, then a member of the House of
David was sent to Palestine in an official capacity already under Cyrus, not long
after 538. The Chronicler has evidently seen in Sheshbazzar a descendant of David,
as K. Galling, Studien zur Geschichte Israels im persischen Zeitalter (Tubingen, 1964),
p. 81, has observed, although the historical accuracy of this, along with the modern
identification with Shenazzar, is open to question; cf. the sceptical evaluation by
Noth, The History of Israel, pp. 309f., who is quite ready, however, to admit the
possibility that a Davidite was in fact entrusted with the execution of the royal
decree. The question of returning Jews between 538 and 522 depends largely on the
interpretation of the list of those returning given in Ezra 2 = Neh. 7; on this, cf.
above, Chapter Seven, n. 59. The information in Ezra 2:63 = Neh. 7:65 that the
tirsata3 (Zerubbabel, we may presume) forbade those priests unable to document
their priestly lineage to exercise their ministry until a priest should rise "for the
urim and thummim” suggests that some priests had arrived in Jerusalem before
Joshua, or at least before Joshua actually became high priest, if the sense of the
expression "for the urim and thummim” is to be understood in the light of P’s pre¬
scription (Exod. 28:30; Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21) that only the high priest was to have
the urim and thummim entrusted to him.

Darius I Hystaspes (520) the Jews had as governor or civil commissary

(peha) in Jerusalem Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel son of King Jehoiachin,
and as high priest the Zadokite, Joshua, son of Jehozadak (Hag. 1:1 etc.).
Thus there was established a certain continuity with the old institutions
which had served Judah before the national calamity: a scion of the
House of David was engaged in some kind of civil administrative mission,
and a Zadokite priest was in charge of the restored community’s cultic
life. Actually, the old civil establishment was never really to live again.
Zerubbabel was by no means a king. His precise status in the Persian
administration is not clear, but Judah seems not even to have attained
the rank of an independent province separate from Samaria within the
Fifth Persian Satrapy until the time of Nehemiah.2
In cultic affairs, however, the community in Judah seems to have
worked from the very beginning of the Restoration on the pattern known
from the days before the fall of Jerusalem. This was doubtlessly true
also of the specifically cultic responsibilities of the Davidic civil governor
Zerubbabel: his role in the rebuilding of the Temple was in quite natural
continuity with the responsibilities which the kings of Judah and Israel
had had for the establishment, maintenance, and support of the national
cult. Yet, Zerubbabel's authority was, after all, but a pale reflection
of that of his royal ancestors, and the relative importance of the head
of the priesthood increased in comparison with that of the head of the
civil order. In contemporary texts, Joshua appears with a new title,
that of “great priest,” or, as we say in English, “high priest” — hak-kohen
hag-gadol (Hag. 1:1,12,14; 2:2,4; Zech. 3:1,8; 6:11). We have seen that
this title as such is not given to the head of the national sanctuary's
priesthood by any clearly original reading to be found in texts prior
to the Restoration, and that the reason for this is perhaps to be found
in the important and active role of the king as representative of the
people before God and as supreme moderator of the national cult, a role
which left the head of the professional priests in a position too subordinate
to inspire his being given such a title.3 Now, in the Restoration, the
enormously reduced status of the Davidic civil governor, and above all
the fact that the head of the priesthood is no longer a royal official,
subordinate to a sovereign Jewish king at all, make that title possible.
This is the situation in the realm of actual fact. Even in the realm of
religious ideals the priesthood at this time is no longer inferior to civil
authority. In a set of cultic provisions incorporated in the present text
of Ezekiel but belonging to one of the later strata in that book,4 the

2 Cf. A. Alt, “Die Rolle Samarias bei der Entstehung des Judentums,” in Fest¬

schrift Otto Procksch (Leipzig, 1934), pp. 22ff. (= KS, II, 331f.).
3 Cf. above, p. 103.
4 For Fohrer, Ezechiel (HAT, 1/13), p. 254, the ordinances of Ezek. 45:21 - 46:15
represent an intermediate stage between those of Deuteronomy and those of P. Ezek
45:21a,22-25 ; 46:1-10,12 form the nucleus of what Gese, Der Verfassungsentwurf des

national holocaust is still the holocaust of the prince (titist* * * * 5), but the
actual offering is to be done by priests, and the prince, although allowed
to advance further toward the inner Temple than the people at large,
is required to remain in the Temple porch (Ezek. 46:1-4).
True it is that men like the prophet Haggai had great hopes for
Zerubbabel as Yahweh's “seal ring” when the kingdoms of the earth
should be overthrown (Hag. 2:20-23), and the original text of Zech. 6:11
certainly spoke of a royal crown which was to be placed on Zerubbabel’s
head,5 but even when such sanguine expectations were being entertained
for Zerubbabel, Joshua the priest was given a place not inferior to the
scion of David but rather alongside of him. Joshua was to sit at
Zerubbabel’s right hand as he sat and reigned on his throne, and the two
of them were to share “counsel of peace” (Zech. 6:13); the two olive
branches paired beside the bowl on the golden lampstand seen by Zecha-
riah in the night were Joshua and Zerubbabel, two “sons of oil" who
were paired in "standing by the Lord of the earth” (Zech. 4:11-14). 6
A very short time afterwards, Zerubbabel vanished from the Biblical
stage, and with him vanished the last remnant of the House of David
in any kind of civil administration. Since Jerusalem and Judah were
at this time, it appears, a part of the province whose capital was Samaria,
all civil administration of the area was centered in a city at some distance
from Jerusalem. This very eclipse of Jerusalem as a civil capital served
to enhance the city's quality as the spiritual capital of all Judaism, and
the Jewish community, now scattered in Babylonia and Egypt and the
other places which would constitute the increasing diaspora, was now
no longer a nationalist community but a religious community. This
development effected an important change in the character of the priest¬
hood of Jerusalem, for it meant that this priesthood was now the leading
element in the restored community. The head of the priesthood, the
high priest, was no longer a royal civil servant, as he had been in the
days of the monarchy, nor was he on more or less equal footing with
a Jewish civil administrator, as he had been envisaged by Haggai and
Zechariah when Zerubbabel was briefly present at the beginning of the
Restoration. He was, in fact, the supreme religious leader in a now
primarily religious community. In a certain modified but nevertheless

Ezekiel, pp. 85ff., calls the "nasP-stratum." Since he considers the nasp-stratum
to be earlier than the Zadokite stratum in Ezek. 40 - 48, he assigns an "exilic, probably
late exilic, date" to the nasp-stratum (pp. 120ff.).
s This is quite evident from the context, as the commentaries regularly point
out, and Joshua’s name was only later substituted for that of Zerubbabel.
6 K Galling, "Konigliche und nichtkonigliche Stifter beim Tempel von Jerusa¬
lem," BBLAK (= ZDPV) 68 (1946-51) 134-42, suspects that this image is chosen to
make it quite clear that the priest Joshua is not to be in that subordinate position
with respect to the House of David which was occupied by the chief priests before
the Exile. Von Rad, Theologie des Alten Testaments, II, 300, interprets this text as
a unique prophetic view of Israel as a dyarchy.


quite real sense he had become to the restored Jewish community what
the kings had been to the pre-exilic community. It may well be that
it is just this situation, elevated to the level of ideals, that is reflected
in Exod. 19:6's words of God addressed to the people: “You will be to
me a kingdom of priests and a holy people (mamleket kohanim wegdy
qados),” for there are good reasons for understanding mamlakd when
balanced with goy as the ruling power balanced with the people ruled,
mamlakd and goy being the two complementary facets constituting a
nation.i * * * * * 7 If so, mamleket kohanim in this text means a nation who
rulers are priests.
The significance of this development, and its acceptance by the com¬
munity, are reflected in the textual alteration of Zech. 6:11: Zerubbabel
vanishes from the text and the high priest Joshua appears as the sole
receiver of the crown of sovereignty.8 From that time on, the Jewish
community in Judah remained a sort of theocratic community under
Joshua and his successors,9 * until the arrival of Nehemiah, appointed
governor (peha in Neh. 5:14; 12:26; tirsataP in Neh. 8:9; 10;2) by the
Persians in 445,1€ marked the re-establishment of a civil authority distinct
from the religious authority in Jerusalem. This distinction was still
prevailing around the year 410, for we know from the Elephantine texts
that at that time Bagoas was governor in Jerusalem and Johanan, men¬
tioned in Neh. 12:22 (and probably in Neh. 12:11, reading Johanan for
Jonathan), was the high priest.11
The question how much longer this situation lasted can not be given
a simple answer. In the excavations of Ramat Rahel a little to the south
of Jerusalem, a number of fourth-century jar stamps have turned up
which read yhd (or yhwd) phw°, “Judah; the governor” (phw3 being

i The evidence for this sense of mamlakd, already suspected by various scholars
in various Biblical texts, has been carefully assembled, previous work surveyed, and
the application convincingly made to Exod. 19:6 by W. L. Moran, “A Kingdom of
Priests," in J. L. McKenzie (ed.), The Bible in Current Catholic Thought (New York,
1962), pp. 7-20 (cf. especially pp. 10-17), who would assign a pre-monarchic date to
this text, however. G. Fohrer, " ‘Priesterliches Konigtum,’ Ex. xix,6," ThZ 19 (1963)
359-62, noting characteristically Deuteronomic phraseology in Exod. 19:3b-8, would
rather assign Exod. 19:6 with its context to the very end of the monarchical period,
although he admits that mamleket kohanim indicates a structure in which the
ruling power is priestly.
s Cf. Horst in T. H. Robinson and F. Horst, Die zwolf Kleinen Propheten (HAT,
1/14; 3rd ed.; Tubingen, 1964), pp. 237f.
9 Cf. Galling, Studien zur Geschichte Israels im Persischen Zeitalter, p. 148.
19 Nehemiah received his commission in "the twentieth year of Artaxerxes" (Neh.
2:1). Since in Nehemiah’s case Artaxerxes was certainly Artaxerxes I, who reigned
from 465 until 424 (cf. the summary of the evidence in Bright, A History of Israel,
pp. 375f.), Nehemiah received his commission in 445.
ii Cf. the copy or draft of a letter addressed to Bagoas, dated in the seventeenth
year of Darius (i.e., Darius II, who reigned from 423 until 404), which mentions
Johanan in connexion with events in the fourteenth year of the same reign, in
A. Cowley, Aramaic Papyri of the Fifth Century B.C. (Oxford, 1923), 30:14,18-21,30.

almost certainly the equivalent of the Biblical peha),I * * * * * * * * * * 12 and this indicate
the continued presence in Jerusalem of a civil governor answerable to
the Persian imperial administration during the fourth century. In at
least two fourth-century jar-stamp inscriptions, however, and in a similar
inscription on a coin of the same period found at Beth-zur, a proper
name is found in conjunction with yhd/yhwd; in one of these inscriptions
(from Ramat Rahel) the proper name is found in conjunction with both
yhwd and phw3. In each case the proper name is not Iranian but Jewish:
°wryw (Urio), yhzqyhw (Yehizqiyahu or Hezekiah), and yhw'zr (Jeho-
ezer).13 It has been suggested that these names are characteristic of
post-exilic priestly families and that we might see in these inscriptions
some evidence that by the fourth century it was the high priest in
Jerusalem who served as governor within the Persian administration
itself.14 This is quite possible, but the evidence adduced is not entirely
conclusive, since we can not be sure that any one of the bearers of
these names in the inscriptions really was a high priest, and since those
men whom we know to be high priests in the Bible are always called
“high priest” or "priest,” even in periods when there was no distinct
civil governor appointed for the Jewish community. Still, it is true that
when Biblical documentation begins again in the second century B.C.,
the highest local authority in Jerusalem, both civil and religious, will
be in the hands of the high priest.
It is important to note that even when a civil commissary or governor,
distinct from the high priest, was present in Jerusalem, his office as

I2 Cf. Y. Aharoni, "Excavations at Ramat Rahel,” Biblical Archaeologist 24 (1961),

pp. 108-12.
is For yhwd *wryw, cf. N. Avigad, "A New Class of Yehud Stamps,” Israel Ex¬
ploration Journal 7 (1957) 146-53; for the coin inscribed yhzqyhw yhd, cf. O. R. Sellers,
The Citadel of Beth-zur: a Preliminary Report of the First Excavation (Philadelphia,
1933), pp. 73f.; for yhwd yhwezr phw*, Aharoni, loc.cit.
14 Avigdad, op. cit., suggests that Urio is the Urio of Neh. 3:4,21 (in a passage

containing priestly names) and also the Urio who was father of Meremoth, the
treasurer of Ezra in Ezra 8:33. W. F. Albright, "The Seal Impression from Jericho
and the Treasurers of the Second Temple," BASOR, No. 148 (Dec. 1957), 28ff., makes
the association between high priest and temple treasurer, and would agree that Urio
of the jar-stamp was of a priestly family, since names at this time were often re¬
peated from generation to generation in Jewish families; but he would not accept
Avigad's identification of the Urio of the jar-stamp with the Urio of the Biblical texts..
Aharoni op. cit., p. 112, notes that Josephus Contra Appionem i,187ff. refers to a high
priest named Ezechias (Hezekiah, Yehizqiyahu) at the start of the Hellenistic period,
and Aharoni concludes, after connecting this Ezechias with the yhzqyhw of the coin
from Beth-zur, that the high priest had authority to mint coins not so much be¬
cause he was high priest and temple treasurer but rather because he was also the
civil governor. J. M. Grintz, "Jehoezer — Unknown High Priest?, Jewish Quarterly
Review n.s. 50 (1960) 338-45, following, like Albright, the principle that the same
name occurred in different generations in the same family, examines the pertmen
epigraphic and Talmudic material, along with the writings of Josephus to conclude
that Jehoezer was a name found exclusively in priestly circles after the Exile, and
that the Jehoezer of the jar-stamp from Ramat Rahel was either a pnestly temp
treasurer, or even a high priest, who also functioned as governor.

such meant little for the ideals and aspirations of the Jewish community.
He was a representative of a foreign administration. The Jewish com¬
munity was henceforth a primarily religious community, and as such
its own principal dignitary — abstracting from questions of personality —
was the high priest.15
Neh. 12:10f. gives us the succession (perhaps incomplete) of high
priests from the beginning of the Restoration until around the year 400:
Joshua, Joiakim, Eliashib, Joiada, Jonathan (probably the Johanan of
Neh. 12:22), and Jaddua. Aside from Joshua, we know nothing about
them, except in the cases of Jonathan, whom we have found mentioned
in the Elephantine papyri, and of Eliashib, who co-operated in the re¬
building of Jerusalem by seeing to the construction of the Sheep Gate
and part of the city walls in the time of Nehemiah (Neh. 3:1).16

II. Characteristics of Priests in the Fifth Century

A. In Jerusalem

The image of fifth-century priests sketched by Biblical texts here

and there is not a particularly edifying one, but it is not a complete
one, either, by any means. Mai. 1:6-2:9 upbraids priests for being callous
in the fulfillment of ritual prescriptions and dishonest in handing down
tor a. When Nehemiah returned to Jerusalem for his second term as
governor, he found the secular Ammonite Tobiah installed in a room
of the Temple, thanks to the priest Eliashib (whether he is the high
priest of that name or another priest is disputed); Nehemiah had Tobiah
expelled from the sacral area and had the room cleansed of its pollution
or desacralization (Neh. 13:4-9). Nehemiah also discovered that a daughter
of the high priest Eliashib had married the son of the Samaritan governor
Sanballat, and proceeded to run Sanballat’s son out of Judah (Neh. 13:
28f.); Ezra too had marriages of members of priestly families with
foreigners to cope with (Ezra 10:18). To judge by the tasks awaiting
Nehemiah on his return to Jerusalem after a protracted absence (Neh. 13),
the high priests could not even be depended upon to keep order in
the city.
Nehemiah also regulated the working-order of the Jerusalem clergy
and provided for the delivery of wood for the sacrificial fires (Neh.

is On problems having to do with the anointing of high priests, cf. DE Vaux,

Les institutions, II, 269f. An excursus on the subject was prepared for the present
work, but reasons of economy in space and of order in exposition make advisable
its publication separately.
is Josephus has some details on high priests of this time. They can be found
assembled in Myers, Ezra, Nehemiah (The Anchor Bible), pp. 197f., but the historicity
of Josephus' non-Biblical material for this period is always open to question, and
fact therein is often muddled.

13:30f.), at the same time assuring the payment of tithes, whose neglect
had led levites to leave their work in the Temple of Jerusalem and to
turn to farming for a living (Neh. 13:10f.). It would be unfair to see
these measures taken by Nehemiah, the civil governor, merely as the
correction of situations resulting from clerical neglect, for they were
measures which before the Exile would have fallen to the responsibility
of the civil ruler, the king, as the man ultimately responsible for the
upkeep and maintenance of the royal sanctuary and its liturgy. More
profoundly significant is the difference between the general attitude of
the priests of Jerusalem and that of Ezra and Nehemiah. The priesthood
of Jerusalem was establishing broadminded liaisons with Samaritans and
other outsiders which foreshadowed that openness towards the world at
large characteristic of the Sadducees and the Jewish priests of Greco-
Roman times; men like Ezra and Nehemiah, zealous Jews from Babylonia,
were particularistic in their religious nationalism.17
Among the priests of Jerusalem mentioned in the Bible at this time
we do not find traces of that sort of concern and activity which would
foreshadow that of the later "doctors of the Law and the Prophets. ”
The priests of post-exilic Jerusalem were Temple-administrators and cultic
personnel rather than men learned in sacred writings. Ezra himself,
a priest and a scribe (Ezra 7:12; cf. also Ezra 7:6,11; Neh. 8: Iff.) was
no real exception, for Hebrew soper or Aramaic sapar in these texts
did not originally mean "exegete learned in the sacred writings”: in the
official Aramaic of the Persian imperial administration the term was a
technical term or title meaning something like "official” or "administrative
officer” and requiring further specification by a following genitive, as in
Ezra 7:12, the beginning of an Aramaic document from the Persian chan¬
cery, addressed to Ezra, “sapar of the law of the God of Heaven.” This
may have been Ezra’s original title, a title signifying originally an ad¬
ministrative officer whose competence within the Persian administrative
organization had to do with the interests of the Jewish God and his
community, based on Jewish religious law, with the title sapar only later
re-interpreted in the properly Jewish milieu to mean "scribe skilled in
the law of Moses,” as in the Hebrew of Ezra 7:6.18

17 M. Delcor, “Hinweise auf das samaritanische Schisma im Alten Testament,”

ZASN 74 (1962), pp. 283ff., thinks that the account of Abijah’s sermon in 2 Chr. 13
is aimed by the Chronicler at Samaritan priests, who had taken over priesthood
in the North and driven out the Aaronide priests and the Levites. But F. M. Cross,
“Aspects of Samaritan and Jewish History in Late Persian and Hellenistic Times,"
HTR 59 (1966) 201-11, using recent finds (especially the papyri from the cave in the
Wadi Daliyeh), cautions against reading back into Persian times the hatred which
marked the relations of Jews and Samaritans in Roman times.
18 H. H. Schaeder, Esra der Schreiber (Beitrage zur historischen Theologie, V;
Tubingen, 1930), pp. 45-49. Schaeder, p. 49, remarks that Kittel, Geschichte des
Volkes Israel, III/2, 577, 581f., came to the same conclusion from a different way
of approach.

B. The Jewish Priests at Elephantine

It is in the fifth century that we have a fleeting glimpse of the

priests of the Jewish colony at Elephantine in Upper Egypt. Albert
Vincent, after studying the Elephantine documents, has concluded that
these priests, like their counterparts in Jerusalem, took care of sacrifices,
incensations, and libations, but that they were of no particular im¬
portance in the civil or judicial affairs of the colony.19 He has also
stated that there are no indications of any preoccupation with tora, or
of any concern with ritual prescriptions or with accurate and traditional
distinctions between the pure and the impure.20
With the sparse evidence we have, though, it is difficult to see whether
they practiced some sort of ford-giving or not, and their seeming lack
of concern for the date and length of the Passover and the Feast of
Unleavened Bread, seen by Vincent as the reason for the “Passover Pa¬
pyrus” with its prescriptions,21 may perhaps indicate not that they were
lacking in concern with such matters but rather that they did not care
a great deal about the prescriptions in such matters then in force in
Jerusalem — in other words, that they were attached to tradition as
they knew it, and not as it was applied, reformed, interpreted, in Jeru¬
salem. These priests, after all, were out of close touch with Jerusalem,
even if they knew something about what was going on there. It has
been argued, besides, that the colonists at Elephantine had come origi¬
nally from Bethel, or that they had absorbed a considerable number of
refugees from Bethel, sometime around the middle of the sixth century.22
If so, then certain details of their sacral customs, about which we know
little, may, in fact, have been those of pre-exilic Ephraim, and the priests
of Elephantine were probably not sufficiently interested in bringing di¬
vergent details into line with the practice of post-exilic Jerusalem for
them to take the initiative themselves in doing so.

III. Organization and Duties of Post-Exilic Priests and Levites

A. Organization

The Biblical texts do not reveal the structural organization of this

post-exilic priesthood in Jerusalem with all the clarity we should like.
It has been suggested that Ezra introduced in Jerusalem a collegiate
organization of the local priesthood which was inspired by Babylonian

19 A. Vincent, La religion des Judeo-arameens d’Elephantine, pp. 472-78, 483.

20 Ibid., pp. 479f.
21 No. 21 in Cowley, Aramaic Papyri.
22 Vincent, op. cit., pp. 360f., 566, n. 3; Albright, Archaeology and the Religion
of Israel, pp. 171ff.

colleges of priests, and that this Jewish college of priests was what later
developed into what the Mishnah calls the k'neset — the college of
doctors of the Law and the Prophets.23 We have already noted, in the
preceding section, the difficulty in seeing post-exilic priests as forerunners
of the doctors of the Law and the Prophets. It is true that there were
colleges of temple-personnel in Mesopotamia to which the word kinistu
was applied, but the Neo-Babylonian and Late-Babylonian kinistu or
kinastu is often associated with persons of lower rank like the erib biti
and the manual laborer attached to the temple.24 Besides, the existence
of the Mesopotamian kinistu is not a clear indication that the Jewish
keneset had a Mesopotamian origin and background, because the Meso¬
potamian term itself is Aramaic in origin,25 and both the Jewish term
and the Mesopotamian term may quite well have been derived indepen¬
dently from Aramaic, the college itself being different in nature in the
two areas.

B. Duties and Activities

On the respective duties of priests and Levites, we have the infor¬

mation provided by P and by Chronicles.
P, as we know already, assigns the Kohathite Aaronides to the care
and service of the Ark, the sacred vessels, and the altar (Num. 3:31),
while the levites, under Aaronide supervision (Num. 3:9,32), are to take
care of the Tent which is the predecessor of the Temple (Num. 1:50-53;
3:7f.; cf. 3:21-26; 4:22-23). The Chronicler, with his pronounced partiality
for levites, retains the old Levitical claim that it is the Levites (not speci¬
fically priests) who are to carry the Ark (1 Chr. 15:2; 16:4,41; 2 Chr.
5:4f.),26 but the author responsible for the material in 1 Chr. 23:25-32,
which is secondary,27 cancels the Chronicler's attribution to David of
the Levites' assignment of caring for the Ark in the Temple, and has
David rather assign the Levites to a place corresponding doubtlessly to
that actually occupied by the levites of the secondary hand’s own time:
they are simply to be in the service of the House of God. The Chronicler
himself shows his hand not only in retaining for levites their late pre-
exilic vindication of the right to carry the Ark: he does so also in speaking
of "priests and levites” in places where the parallels in Kings speak only

23 £. Dhorme, “Le texte hebreu de 1’Ancien Testament,” Revue d’histoire et de

phitosophie religieuses 35 (1955), pp. 135f.
24 Cf. von Soden, Akkadisches Handwor ter buck, s.v. kiniStu, and on the functions

of the erib biti: Dhorme, Les religions de Babylonie et d'Assyrie, pp. 205f.
25 Von Soden, loc. cit.
26 Cf. Welch, The Work of the Chronicler, pp. 64-73.
27 its secondary nature was first pointed out in J. W. Rothstein and J. Hanel,
Kommentar zum ersten Buch der Chronik (KAT, XVIII/2; Leipzig, 1927), pp. 419f.,
who are followed, on this point, by subsequent commentators.

of priests.28 He seems unwilling to acquiesce in any principle of levitical

inferiority with respect to priests.29

1. Priests

At the top of the clerical pyramid was, of course, the high priest.
We know something of the actions of certain of these high priests from
the accounts of their relations with Ezra and Nehemiah, but we do not
know much about their regular life and work in this period. The high
priest’s great moment liturgically must surely have been his function in
the annual Day of Atonement, described in detail in Lev. 16. Sirach,
in his eulogy of the high priest Simon at the beginning of the second
century B.C., confirms this impression, for the ritual actions which Simon
is described as performing in Sir. 50:5-21 are those of the Day of
As for the other priests, Jer. 33:18 characterizes them as men who
stand before God to make the holocaust rise, to make the vegetable
offering smoke, and to accomplish daily sacrifice.39 P, in Lev. 1 - 6,

28 Welch, op. tit., p. 55. The present MT also gives the impression that the
Chronicler retains that expression so characteristic of Deuteronomy: “the Levitical
priests” or "priest-Levites” (hak-kohanim halewiyim; 1 Chr. 9:2; 2 Chr. 5:5; 23:18;
30:27; cf. also Ezra 10 ;5; Neh. 10:35; 11:20). But does he really? For all of these
texts, except 2 Chr. 5:5, there are variants reading “the priests and the Levites.”
There is a stylistic reason for suspecting that an original "the priests and the
Levites” has become “the Levitical priests” in the MT, by the simple dropping of
the copula we. A. Kropat, Die Syntax des Autors der Chronik (BZAW, XVI; Giessen,
1909), pp. 62f., has found that in the style of the Chronicler we always precedes
each noun of a series except the first, or, in groups of four nouns in series, it
precedes the second and the fourth; if a noun is second in a series, it is preceded
by we. This can not be applied as a criterion to halewiyim, precisely because of
the possibility of the word’s being adjectival, but when it is applied to hak-kohanim
we discover that, of the texts cited at the beginning of this note, in both of the
two instances (1 Chr. 9:2 and Neh. 11:20, presuming with some degree of probability,
that the latter is from, or has gone through, the Chronicler’s hand) in which
hak-kohanim is second in a series the we is not present in the MT, although in both
instances there are Greek variants (and for Neh. 11:20 a Syriac variant) reading "and
the priests and the Levites.” This suggests the possibility that original wave’s have
been dropped before hak-kohanim in these texts because they were being dropped
before the following halewiyim, and that an original waw has been dropped else¬
where in those passages of the Chronicler now reading, in the MT, hak-kohanim
halewiyim. There are still many places in the MT of the Chronicler's work where
nothing of the sort has happened, the MT itself reading hak-kohanim u^haUwiyim.
That hakohanim halewiyim must be correct in 2 Chr. 30:27 because, according to
Num. 6:22 and Lev. 9:22, only priests might bless (Rudolph, Chronikbiicher, p. 303),
is an argument worth considering, although its edge is somewhat blunted by the
Chronicler's general tendency to add “and the levites” to any mention of priests.
29 Welch, The Work of the Chronicler, p. 77.
so The entire section Jer. 33:14-26 is lacking in the LXX, and its incorporation
into the present Book of Jeremiah must have taken place rather late, after a period
of independent circulation. It is not easily dated with precision, but its concern
with hopes of both Davidic and Levitical continuation reminds us of the earlier
chapters of Zechariah, shortly after the Exile. The passage is concerned with Levites
who are priests (cf. v. 21), and that too suggests a date not very long after the

informs us in considerable detail that they took care of blood-sprinkling

and of application of blood to the altar, that they caused various types
of sacrifice to smoke on the altar, performed the ordinary rite of expia¬
tion, and poured out the sacrificial libations. Moreover, it was they who
blessed the children of Israel (Num. 6:22-27; cf. Lev. 9:22f.). The rest
of Leviticus provides many a detail on the priest’s role in matters having
to do with the pure and the impure, but it is evident both in the text
of Jer. 33:18 and in P that the priest’s function by this time is that of
the man playing the key role in sacrifice. This is evident, too, in Chron¬
icles (2 Chr. 5:14; 29:16,21; 30; 16; 35:11), which also mentions the priestly
blessing (1 Chr. 23:13). Chronicles adds another detail by assigning litur¬
gical music in general to the levites but reserving the sounding of trum¬
pets to priests (cf. especially 2 Chr. 29:26; also 1 Chr. 16:6; 2 Chr. 5:15;
7:6; 13:14; Ezra 3:10; Neh. 12:35,41); the same detail is found in Sirach’s
description of the Day of Atonement: the singers (Sir. 50:18) are not
said to be priests, but those who sound the trumpets are priests (Sir.

2. Levites

On the duties of the Levites, P has not much to tell us that is

realistically concrete. P’s insistence that the Levites are to take care
of the Tent, of course, is indirect but clear information that they were
to take care of the fabric of the Second Temple, in Jerusalem. The
Chronicler is much more detailed and concrete. Levites are divided
into organized and structured classes of singers and musicians (1 Chr.
15:16-22; 25:1-31; 2 Chr. 5:12; 29:25f., 30) and of gate-keepers (1 Chr.
15:23; 26:1-19). They collect money for the Temple (2 Chr. 24:5f.; 34:9).
They serve as scribes and officials and as overseers of building construc¬
tion for the Temple (2 Chr. 34:12f.). According to 1 Chr. 9:26-32 and
1 Chr. 23:25-32, they have charge of the Temple-courts and of the supply-
rooms of the Temple with their contents, the cultic utensils, the flour,
wine, oil, incense, and spices; they must see to the ritual purifications
of holy things and of the preparation of the various types of ritual
bread; they are to accomplish the liturgy of thanksgiving and praise each
morning and evening and at times when holocausts are offered; they are
to provide the night-watchmen of the Temple, who are also to open the
Temple in the morning.
All of these tasks were certainly performed in the Temple of Solomon
long before the Exile, but they were not performed by Levites. Even
at the time of Ezra and Nehemiah the gate-keepers were not reckoned
as levites (Ezra 2:42,70; 7:24; 10:24; Neh. 7:45; 10:28; 11:29); nor were

Exile, before the distinct separation of priests and levites was clearly and defini¬
tively made.

the singers (Ezra 2:41 = Neh. 7:44). The other tasks around the Temple
which Chronicles assigns to levites must have been performed by the
temple-servants, that is to say: by the netinim and “the sons of Solomon's
servants,” who still existed as such in the return from Exile (Ezra 2:
43-58 = Neh. 7:46-60; Ezra 8:20) and who are also mentioned elsewhere
in Ezra and Nehemiah, but who in Chronicles are mentioned only in a
list of those who had once returned (1 Chr. 9:2). In the religious attitude
of settled post-exilic Judaism, only priests and levites should be entrusted
with temple duties. All other groups were replaced by levites, or assi¬
milated to the levites. That this assimilation was not totally realized
even when the present books of Chronicles were taking shape is sug¬
gested by the listing of classes of singers (1 Chr. 25), gate-keepers (1 Chr.
26:1-19), and those entrusted with other tasks around the Temple (1 Chr.
26:20-32) separately from the listing of classes of Levites (1 Chr. 23:1-24;
24:20-31); it is also suggested by the fact that in the Chronicler’s account
of Josiah’s Passover in 2 Chr. 35 the role of the levites lies in sacrificial
preparation (vv. 10f.), while in v. 15 the “Asaphite singers” and the gate¬
keepers are mentioned first (not as levites), and then are followed by
"their brothers, the levites,” who are to provide for the absent gate¬

3. Cultic Prophets Among the Levites?

It is quite possible, although not certain, that among those other

groups assimilated to the levites were groups of cultic prophets, who
in earlier times had been quite distinct from priests. In 1 Chr. 25:1-6,
certain musical "sons” of the Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun who are said
to be levites in 2 Chr. 5:12 and 29:12ff. are to "prophesy” with harps,
psalteries, and cymbals. In v. 5 Heman is called a "seer” (hdze), as are
Asaph in 2 Chr. 29:30 and Jeduthun in 2 Chr. 35:15. In 2 Chr. 20:14f.
we read that "the Spirit of Yahweh came upon Jehaziel..., a Levite of
the sons of Asaph” and that Jehaziel then made an utterance which is
markedly prophetic in style. If a comparison is made between the text
of 2 Kgs. 23:2 and the closely parallel 2 Chr. 34:30, we notice that the
"priests and prophets” who went up to the House of Yahweh with the
king and the people in the text of Kings have become “priests and
levites.” 31
Although the very existence of cultic prophets as a distinct group

si Welch, Prophet and Priest in Old Israel, p. 130, n. 2 and The Work of the
Chronicler, pp. 89f., has drawn upon the implications of 1 Chr. 25:1-6 for the idea
of cultic prophets. This and the other texts have been advanced by Johnson, The
Cultic Prophet in Ancient Israel, pp. 69-75, as evidence of the existence of cultic
prophets and of their assimilation to the levites by the time of the Chronicler. There
is also a good summary of the question in J. M. Myers, I Chronicles (The Anchor
Bible; Garden City, 1965), pp. 171f.

is still under discussion,32 we must at least admit that, if they did exist,
then they too, by the time of the Chronicler, were subject to the priests
and were being assimilated to the levites, as levitical singers and musi¬
cians. A long-standing sharing of ideals by Levites and men in prophetic
circles would have facilitated such an assimilation — and to speak of
prophetic "circles” is not necessarily to speak of closely organized and
cohesive “groups” or "bands” of prophets.

4. Levitical Teachers or Preachers?

There remains something to be said about yet another activity of

levites in the work of the Chronicler (including the Chronistic redaction
of Ezra-Nehemiah), an activity which is for the most part new, and which
is easily misunderstood. The Levites are said to be men "making” the
people "understand” (mebinim, Neh. 8:7ff.; 2 Chr. 35:3). In 2 Chr. 17:8,
according to the text in its present condition, they are even said to take
part in a mission setting out to teach (lammed in v. 7) in the cities of
Judah. This has understandably led to widespread views that the levites
served as teachers of Israel at the time of the Chronicler, and von Rad
has even claimed to find in the Chronicler a Gattung which he calls
"the Levitical sermon.” 33 There are a number of reasons, however, for
calling into question the accuracy of this attribution of a genuine teaching
function to the levites of the Chronicler's day.
In the episode recounting the specifically teaching mission at the
time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 17:7ff.) the basic material is probably old,
but in this original material those sent to teach in the cities of Judah
are not levites but the sarim, lay officials, of v. 7. The Chronicler’s con¬
tribution is the addition of priests and levites to the mission — the
addition of the priests being inspired by v. 9's mention of the book of
the law which the sarim took along with them (a book which in the
original material was by no means a collection of torot in the priestly

32 Cf. DE Vaux, Les institutions, II, 249ff. It is a fact that "to prophesy” alternates
with "to sing” in 1 Chr. 25:1-6 (de Vaux), and even Mowinckel, Psatmenstudien,
III, 26, has proposed the possibility that the verb nibba5, "to prophesy,” here ex¬
presses action undertaken under a broader, more general, even poetic type of inspira¬
tion. On the other hand, of the psalms whose titles contain the name of Asaph,
Heman, or Jeduthun (or Ethan), at least five (Pss. 50, 75, 76, 81, 82) contain material
which can be qualified as "prophetic,” an indication that tradition looked upon
these men, or men associated with those names, as prophets in a stricter sense
(Myers, I Chronicles, p. 172, following Gunkel and Begrich). One might object that
the existence of prophets who prophesied in cultic situations is not yet a proof of
their organization into well defined groups; the texts in Chronicles do imply such
an organization, but without totally excluding prophecy in a cultic situation by an
individual not belonging to such a group (cf. 2 Chr. 24:20).
53 G von Rad "Die levitische Predigt in den Biichern der Chromk, in Festschrift
Otto Proksch (Leipzig, 1934), pp. 113-24 (= von Rad, Gesammelte Studien zum Alten
Testament, pp. 248-71).

sense),34 and the inclusion of the levites being brought about by the
Chronicler’s general tendancy to mention levites along with priests, pari
passu, when left to his own devices.
The texts in which the Chronicler calls the levites mebinim are more
difficult to assess. The word mebin has among its possible meanings
that of “skilled”; for the Chronicler, the levites were skilled (mebinim)
in music and song (1 Chr. 15:22; 25:7f.; 2 Chr. 34:12). This sense is
not allowed by the passages which more particularly concern us here,
where the sense required must be transitive and probably factitive (“to
cause to understand”), but it does confirm the impression that the epithet
mebinim was particularly associated with levites. Neh. 8:7-9 is not free
from the problems of interpretation which beset its entire context. It is
most likely that the Chronistic editor has taken already extant material
(the “Ezra Memoirs”) and retouched them.35 In the first of these three
verses a number of men (distinct from, or together with?) the levites
are said to make the people understand the law (mebinim... lat-tdra, v. 7);
to be noted is the unique use of the participial mebinim in a context
where the verbal forms are otherwise wayyiqtdl, even when describing
concomitant action. In the following verse (v. 8), the levites are said
to read from the book (some manuscripts and the versions add “of the
Law”), whereas in the rest of the passage it is Ezra alone who reads
(w. 3,5,18). In v. 9 the present text reads: “Then Nehemiah the governor,
and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the levites who caused the people
to understand (ham-mebinim et ha-cam), said,” but the verb “said” remains
in the singular. We may infer that here, again, Ezra alone spoke in
the earlier text,36 and that the addition of the levites (and of Nehemiah)
is the work of the Chronistic editor. In 2 Chr. 35:3 the levites are
again called “those who cause all Israel to understand” (ham-mebinim
lekol yisrcPel). This phrase has nothing to do with the duties of the
levites at the Passover fetival whose ordering is to follow, and it happens
to occur in one of the passages (2 Chr. 35:1-4) in which the Chronicler
departs from the more realistic attachment of levites to the service of
the House of God (corresponding to P’s attachment of them to the service
of the desert tent), attaching them, rather, to the service of the Ark,
in that Levitical tradition well known to the Deuteronomist.37 This
suggests that the Chronicler's calling the levites mebinbn here and in
his additions to Neh. 8:7ff. is another instance of his reflecting a Deu-
teronomistic Levitical tradition, probably that of Dt. 31:9-13, in which

Cf. J. M. Myers, II Chronicles (The Anchor Bible, Garden City, 1965), pp. 99f.
Cf. Noth, VS, p. 128; Eissfeldt, Introduction, p. 557; Rudolph, Esra und
Nehemia, pp. 141-44.
33 Cf. Rudolph, op. cit., p. 148. Noth, VS, p. 130, opts rather for Nehemiah as
the sole speaker in the earlier text.
87 Welch, The Work of the Chronicler, p. 71.

the Levitical priests are entrusted with the Deuteronomistic code, which
they are to read to the people once every seven years.38
The epithet may not be entirely out of touch with reality. The
Chroniclers addition in Neh. 8:8 has the levites giving out the law in
translation (after Ezra s reading in Hebrew), and thus causing the people
to understand the reading (wayydbinu bam-miqrcf). It is not inconceiv¬
able that this addition was inspired by a new function of levites, known
already at the time of the Chronistic compilation: a function as liturgical
readers of the sacred text, reading to the people in Aramaic, or reading
an interpretation constituting an early form of targum.,39 thereby “causing
the people to understand” the Hebrew text of the sacred writings. Ac¬
tually, the more accurate expression might be “liturgical singers” of the
sacred text rather than liturgical readers,” for in the civilizations of
the Near East passages from sacred books are traditionally not read
but sung. The Coran is not read in public: it is sung or cantillated,
and so are the Biblical texts in the Christian churches of the East and
in the synagogues (and until quite recently in the normal, sung liturgies
of the Latin Church). This function would be quite consonant with the
levites function as temple-singers.40 The use of mebinim in this sense
also helps to explain why Chronicles is fond of using the same word,
intransitively, instead of some word like mahir to say "skilled” when
speaking of the levites’ skill in singing: mebin and its plural mebinim
had come to be a characteristic epithet of levitical singers.
To translate meblnim as "teachers,” then, is misleading. Used of
the levites, it means rather "interpreters” or "expositors,” when it does
not simply mean "skilled.” For P, the "teaching” activity of priests — a

38 This is also one of those Deuteronomistic passages in which the Levites are
called those "carrying the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh" (Dt. 31:9).
39 On Neh. 8:8 as a text illuminating the origins of the tar gum, cf. Welch, Post-
Exilic Judaism, pp. 272f. Von Rad, Studies in Deuteronomy, p. 14, too, remarks that
in this passage we "can not be expected to believe that the ad hoc invention of
something completely novel is implied"; however, for von Rad, as we shall note,
the passage represents the levites giving didactic instruction in the Law, rather than
a translation or an interpretation thereof.
40 P. Kahle, in the first edition of his The Cairo Genizah (The Schweich Lectu¬
res, 1941; London, 1947), p. 124, saw in Neh. 8:8 an indication that "the Jewish tradi¬
tion which connects the origin of the targum with Ezra is quite correct"; but in the
second edition of The Cairo Genizah (Oxford, 1959), p. 103, n. 6, after reviewing
pertinent Rabbinic material, he says of Neh. 8:8 that "here we already have the idea
that the right accents contribute to the right understanding of the text." In this
later edition, Kahle was struck particularly by the phrase sm ski in Neh. 8:8, and his
interpretation connects the text with the origins of the work of the Massoretes
rather than with that of the targum. In this he is approaching the interpretation
of M. Gertner, "The Masorah and the Levites," VT 10 (1960) 241-84, based on Pal¬
estinian and Babylonian Talmudic texts (cf. pp. 244-48). It is not irrelevant here
to note that the singing of the Coran or of Christian liturgical texts (including
readings from the Bible) also use melodic patterns and formulas related to the sense
of the text being sung — the singing thus contributing to the right understanding
of the various co-ordinated parts of the text.

development of their tom-giving in the old classical sense of handing

down practical rules and decisions on the ritually pure and impure —
is expressed by the Hiph'il hora, corresponding to the nominal tora: they
are to "distinguish between the sacred and the profane, the impure and
the pure, and teach (hora) the children of Israel the statutes which Yahweh
has dictated" (Lev. 10:10f.). When the Chronicler writes of this "teaching”
activity of priests handing down tora, he does not use the participle
mebin: he knows and uses the correct participle more of the verb hora:
cf. 2 Chr. 15:3 — a very clear example in which we find the three
words associated: kohen, more, tora. 41 Even this "teaching” activity in
a restricted sense is limited to priests. The levites in the Chronicler’s
work (as in P's) are not teachers, nor are they preachers, and although
the Gattung which von Rad calls "the Levitical sermon” is indeed that
of a sermon, there is no evidence that it was given by levites, and even
less that it was characteristic of levites.42

IV. Summary; Theological Implications

In conclusion: in the post-exilic restoration of Judaism the priest is,

as always, the attendant of the sanctuary, but the ancient simplicity of

Whether the tora in this text is to be taken as the old classical priestly tora
or rather in the later sense of the written tora of Ezra — even of the developing
Pentateuch — is hard to say, and so the exact nature of the activity expressed by
more here is also unclear. In the actual vital development of institutions and of
linguistic usage the lines were not as clearly drawn as we should like to have them
drawn, anyway.
42 It is true, as von Rad, points out in his essay "Die levitische Predigt in den
Biichem der Chronik," passim, that the examples he cites share points of reference
with the prophets and with Deuteronomy. Prof, von Rad himself has also related
Deuteronomy to Levitical ideas, in his Studies in Deuteronomy, pp. 66-69, and
H. W. Wolff, "Hoseas geistige Heimat,” ThLZ 81 (1956) 83-94 has seen similarites
of thought found in Deuteronomy, in prophetic circles typified by Hosea, and in
Levitical circles; but to move from these kinships of mentality to the postulated
existence of Levitical preaching in Chronicles is to take quite a leap. The inter¬
pretation of Neh. 8:7f., of course, is important for von Rad’s thesis. He must deny
that Neh. 8:7f. portrays the Levites merely translating or interpreting the reading
of the law, and he does so in fact, both in "Die levitische Predigt," pp. 113f. ( =
Gesammelte Studien zum Alten Testament, pp. 248f.) and in Studies in Deuteronomy,
pp. 13f. The key problem is the meaning of the word meporas in v. 8. H. H.
Schaeder, Esra der Schreiber, pp. 52f., and in greater detail in his "Iranische Beitrage,
I, ” Schriften der Konigsberger Gelehrten Gesellschaft: Geisteswissenschaftliche Klasse
6 (1930), pp. 199-212, concludes that the word is a Hebraicized form of the Aramaic
participial meparas found in Ezra 4:18, and that the word means "interpreting" —
in the contexts of Ezra and Nehemiah: more specifically "interpreting” in the sense
of "translating” from the scroll lying before the reader. Von Rad, unlike most
scholars, does not accept this explanation. Nevertheless, that the word means
"interpreting” in some sense is certain, and even though Schaeder's specification
that in Neh. 8:8 it has the sense of “translating" may not be satisfactorily proven,
von Rad's own specification that it has there the sense of didactic teaching or preach¬
ing is, in its own turn, difficult to prove.
IV. summary; theological implications 191

that concept has developed into a complex division in which the many
tasks around a busy Temple are divided between priests and levites. Of
the ancient oracular consultation, there remains nothing but, materially,
the urim and thummim of the high priest’s ornamental breast-piece (Exod.
28:30; Lev. 8:8) and, formally, the ford-giving of priests, slowly expanding
(Lev. 10: lOf.) through decisions on the sacred and profane into an activity
involving the handing down of traditional legal material and its applica¬
tion. "Levite” in genealogical contexts retains a residual tribal sense,
and includes the priests; in functional contexts it covers all the lesser
ministrants of the Temple, distinct from the priests.
The only properly sacral institution in Judah, the only one whose
members represent Yahweh to the community and the community to
Yahweh, is now that of the priesthood.43 A comparison of parallels in
Kings and Chronicles shows an unwillingness in the latter work to admit
the cultic actions of kings, who in the old days had been the mediators
or representatives par excellence between Yahweh and the people: ac¬
cording to 1 Kgs. 8:55-61 Solomon blesses the assembly of Israel at the
dedication of the Temple, but there is nothing of this in the Chronicler's
parallel (2 Chr. 6:40-7:1); according to 2 Sam. 8:18 David’s sons are
priests, but in 1 Chr. 18:17’s parallel list they are stewards; King Uzziah's
leprosy is simply mentioned in 2 Kgs. 15:5, but 2 Chr. 26:16-20 explains
it as the result of Uzziah's presumption in trying to bum incense on the
altar of incense. These cultic actions are now reserved exclusively to
priests. The inferior cultic work of the netinim, and perhaps the work
of former cultic prophets, is now reserved to levites.
All of this corresponds to a theological development in which the
holiness of priests (sacral, ritual holiness rather than ethical or moral
holiness) is accentuated in contrast to the relatively reduced holiness of
the rest of the community.44 It is because the priests and the levites
are holy that they may take charge of the objects belonging to the Temple
(Ezra 8:28,30) and may enter into the Temple (2 Chr. 23:6; 35:5). The
people of Israel, too, possess a certain holiness which non-Israelites do
not have, a holiness which also has a certain relation to their liturgical
participation; 45 but, while the people are "sanctified” or "sanctify them¬
selves” ritually in order to take part at a distance in the liturgy (2 Chr.
30:17), they are nowhere in post-exilic texts said to be holy in a properly

43 Cf. von Rad, Theologie des Alten Testaments, I, 248.

44 That P emphasizes the distance between priests and ordinary Israelites on
grounds of holiness, carrying the distinction into practice by reserving to laymen
all ritual activity that has no direct cultic consequence (Lev. 13:54; 14:4f.) and to
priests all activity that does have such consequence (Exod. 29:11; Lev. 1:5), and that
P works with a concept of different degrees of holiness, has been pointed out by
Koch Die Priesterschrift von Exodus 25 bis Leviticus 16, pp. lOlf.
45 Koch, op. cit., p. 102 (Exod. 29:14; Lev. 13:46; 14:3a,8 - all additions of P to
extant ritual material, according to Koch).

ritual or cultic context. It is the priests and levites who may exercise
their proper functions because they are holy, and if Exod. 19:6, which
is not in a specifically ritual or cultic context, speaks of a ruling power
that is priestly and a people ruled that is holy,46 this may be because
the religious mentality behind the text envisaged the ritual holiness in¬
herent in the priestly ruling power as something flowing down to affect
the people ruled — the ideas of corporate personality and of fluidity
between the one and the many being in operation here.
Whether it is the restriction of cultic functions to priests and levites
which is to be explained by this development in the theology of holiness,
or, conversely, the theological development which is to be explained as
a result and a justification of the interests of the clerical groups, is
debatable. Signs of this restriction’s development are already evident
in late pre-exilic texts,47 and this fact, along with the fact that the people
at large are not totally excluded from the realm of even the ritually holy,
is perhaps an indication that the restriction developed independently of
the theology of holiness but that the theology was brought to bear in
justifying the restriction.

46 Cf. above, n. 7 (p. 178).

47 Cf. above, pp. 106f.
A Halting Place: the Hellenistic Age

The history of Jewish priesthood continues until the moment when

the destruction of the Jewish commonwealth and the cessation of sacri¬
ficial liturgy in Jerusalem in 70 A.D. bring to an end the priesthood of
Israel. With the beginning of the Hellenistic Age, however, our study
comes to a prudent close.
There is almost nothing to be said of Jewish priesthood under the
Ptolemies, just as there is almost nothing to be said of Judah in general
under the Ptolemies, for from this period reliable documentary material
on Judah is almost entirely lacking, and what archaeological evidence we
have does not, of itself, give a very clear picture of the historical context
from which it has come. It is in the Ptolemaic period (rather than the
late Persian period) that Paul Lapp, who speaks with authority on ques¬
tions connected with Palestinian pottery in the Hellenistic period, would
place the jar-stamps bearing the title phw° with a Jewish proper name.1
If this is the case, then the Persian institution of a civil governor or
commissary in Judah in addition to the high priest was taken over and
continued in the Ptolemaic period — unless the high priest himself was
the phw3. Dr. Lapp has reserves to make about the accuracy of treating
Judah as a semi-autonomous state with the high priest as its civil and
religious leader at this time, since M. Rostovtzeff and others have shown
that the Persian policy of decentralized administration in Syro-Phoenicia
and Palestine underwent a process of radical revision under the Ptolemies,
with, among other things, a direct tax paid by the high priest to the
king in Alexandria.2

1 P. Lapp, “Ptolemaic Stamped Handles from Judah," BASOR, No. 172 (Dec.
1963) 22-35.
2 Ibid., pp. 31-34, with the references to Rostovtzeff, U. Kahrstedt, and A. H. M.
Jones. It is interesting to note that this very matter of the tax paid by the high
priest to the central government leads E. Bickermann, Der Gott der Makkabaer (Ber¬
lin, 1937), p. 56, to just the opposite conclusion. For Bickermann, it was only in
the third century B.C. that the high priest began to achieve a certain amount of civil
independence, the sign of this being that only then do we seem to find the high
priest paying a tax suggesting, for Bickermann, the relation of a semi-autonomous
ruler to his suzerain. As for the fact of the high prie