Page images

Distinction between Priests and Levites.


whose presence was an insult to Jehovah's sanctuary. Such men shall no more enter the house, but in their place shall come the Levites not of the house of Zadok, who are to be degraded from the priesthood because they officiated in old Israel before the idolatrous shrines (xliv. 5 seq.) This one point is sufficient to fix the date of the Levitical law later than Ezekiel. In all the earlier history, and in the code of Deuteronomy, a Levite is a priest, or at least qualified to assume priestly functions; and even in Josiah's reformation the Levite priests of the high places received a modi. fied priestly status at Jerusalem. Ezekiel knows that it has been so in the past; but he declares that it shall be otherwise in the future, as a punishment for the offence of ministering at the idolatrous altars. He knows nothing of an earlier law, in which priests and Levites are already distinguished, in which the office of Levite is itself a high privilege.”

The distinction of priests and Levites, though rarely alluded to in the pre-exilic history, since there was no occasion so to do,' is yet explicitly recognised in 1 Sam. vi. 15; 2 Sam. xv. 24 ; 1 Kings viii. 4. Upon the first return of the exiles under Zerubbabel, ninety years before the alleged date of the Levitical law, we not only find priests and Levites sharply distinguished and separately enumerated, but distinctions are made among the Levites themselves, who are variously classed, as by hereditary descent, singers, porters, etc. (Ezra ii. 36 ff.; Neh. vii. 39 ff. ; xii. 1-9); comp. also the account of the first inhabitants of Jerusalem after the exile (1 Chron. ix. 1). The same thing recurs upon the going up of Ezra, fourteen years before the supposed origin of the Levitical law (Ezra vii. 7, 24; viii. 15 ff.) These distinctions cannot have been introduced by Ezekiel's Torah ; they could not have arisen in the exile, when there was no temple service and no occasion for singers and porters. They must, of necessity, have been transmitted from the period before the exile, and represent the distribution of functions then made among those that were employed at the sanctuary. Priests and Levites must, therefore, have had Separate duties, and formed distinct classes while Solomon's temple still stood. But further, the subdivisions of the Levites tice of idolatrous rites within those sacred precincts (Ezek. viii. 3 ff. ; ? Kings xxi. 4 ff.) This shameless violation of law is no proof that the law was not in existence. The Nethivim (Ezra viii. 20) and children of Solomon's servants (ii. 58) do not fall under the same condemnation (Neh. x. 28, 29). They were, no doubt, circumcised, and performed such menial services for the Levites as were permissible for proselyted foreigners (Josh. ix. 27).

The distinction is not even made in Malachi (see ü. 4-8; iii. 3), though be conld not, on any critical hypothesis, have been ignorant of its existence


2 A

above referred to are also unknown to the Levitical law, which apportions them in quite a different manner, having no possible relation to post-exilic times, but only to the wandering in the wilderness, viz., the functions which they severally performed in the transportation of the tabernacle and its furniture (Num.

ch. iv.)


Again, that the Levitical law of the priesthood was prior to Ezekiel, and not vice versa, appears from the nature of the

While the former limits the priesthood to the family of Aaron, Ezekiel goes still further, and restricts it for cause to the line of Zadok, one of his descendants.? While the Levitical law does not define the sanctuary duties of the Levites, but leaves them, as they might naturally be left at the outset, to perform such services as the priest might require of them (Num. xviii. 2); long usage gradually assigned to them specific tasks, as the charge of the gates, slaying the sacrifices, boiling their flesh, etc. (2 Chron. xxii. 4 ; xxx. 17; xxxv. 13). And this is what Ezekiel expects them to do (xliv, 11 ; xlvi. 24). Indeed, Ezekiel seems to make allusion to the Levitical law in the very passage under discussion. He calls the employment of the uncircumcised foreigners in the temple a breach of God's covenant (xliv. 7). It was, therefore, in his eyes, the violation of a positive divine statute, which can only be Numbers xviii. 4, where any “stranger," i.e. non-Levite, is prohibited from doing the work assigned to Levites. And if Levite had always, prior to the time of Ezekiel, been synonymous with “priest,” or at least denoted one who is " qualified to assume priestly functions,” it is remarkable that he should employ it as he does without any modifying epithet (xlviii. 11-13), in contrast with priests, and in the sense of those who are disqualified from assuming priestly functions.

“A second point in Ezekiel's law is a provision for stated and regular sacrifices." Nehemiah engages the people to “a

[ocr errors]

1 It has, indeed, been denied that Zadok (1 Kings ii. 35) was of the seed of Aaron. But such a groundless denial of what is explicitly settled by his genealogy (1 Chron. vi. 8, 53 ; xxiv. 3 ; xxvii. 17), is fitly characterised by Delitzsch as “ manufacturing history." And how the Levitical regulation could, in that case, have been built upon that of Ezekiel, and the restriction of the priesthood to the family of Zadok could have led to its restriction to another family of quite different descent, becomes still more inexplicable.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

voluntary charge of a third of a shekel for this purpose (Neh. x. 32)." “ In Ex. xxx. 16 the service of the tabernacle was defrayed by the fixed tribute of half a shekel.” If this “refers to the continual sacrifices,” it differed from Nehemiah's rate plainly enough, but it does not follow that “this law,” which bears no evidence of being a permanently obligatory precept, “was still unknown to Nehemiah, and must be a late addition to the Pentateuch." And, on the other hand, if it does not refer to them, it is a rash and unwarranted conclusion on the part of the Professor that stated offerings were ordained with no provision for supplying them.

“A third point in Ezekiel's law," and the last which Professor Smith insists upon, “is the prominence given to the sin-offering and atoning ritual. The altar must be purged with sin-offerings for seven consecutive days before burnt sacrifices are acceptably offered on it (xliii. 18 seq.) The Levitical law (Ex. xxix. 36, 37) prescribes a similar ceremony, but with more costly victims. At the dedication of Solomon's Temple, on the contrary (1 Kings viii. 62), the altar is at once assumed to be fit for use,

in accordance with Ex. xx. 24, and with all the early cases of altar-building outside the Pentateuch. But, besides this first expiatory ceremonial, Ezekiel appoints two atoning services yearly, at the beginning of the first and the seventh month (xlv. 19, 20, LXX.), to purge the house. This is the first appearance, outside of the Levitical code, of anything corresponding to the great day of atonement in the seventh month, and it is plain that the simple service in Ezekiel is still far short of that solemn ceremony. The day of atonement was also a fast day. Now, in Zech. vii. 5, viii. 19, the fast of the seventh month is alluded to as one of the four fasts commemorating the destruction of Jerusalem, which had been practised for the last seventy years. The fast of the seventh month was not yet united with the purging of the house,' ordained by Ezekiel. Even in the great convocation of Neh. viii..x., where we have a record of proceedings from the first day of the seventh month onwards to the twenty-fourth, there is no mention of the day of expiation on the tenth, which thus appears as the very last stone in the ritual edifice."

Professor Smith affirms that there were no expiatory rites for cleansing the altar of Solomon's temple; but the sacred historian in explicit terms declares the very reverse. In the summary account of the transaction given in Kings the order of the ceremonial is not particularly stated, except that the services were continued “ seven days and seven days." This of itself suggests a distinction between these two periods, and implies that there was a week preliminary to the proper week of the annual feast; and the most obvious purpose of such a week is that of sacrificial purgation. This very natural pre

. sumption is confirmed by the express language of 2 Chron. vii. 9 : "they kept the dedication of the altar seven days, and the feast seven days."

The day of atonement, it is true, is not mentioned by Ezekiel, but his silence does not prove that he knew nothing of it. For he likewise makes no allusion to the feast of weeks, which belonged even to the first legislation (Ex. xxiii. 16; xxxiv. 22), and this though he speaks of passover and tabernacles (Ezek. xlv. 21, 25). He does not allude to the daily evening sacrifice (1 Kings xviii. 29, 36; 2 Kings xvi. 15; see Ezek. xlvi. 13 ff.); nor to the high-priest (2 Kings xii. 7, 10; xxii. 4; xxiii. 4); nor to the priestly dues enjoined in Deut. xviii. 3 ; see xliv. 28 ff. It is also true that no mention is made of its observance in the Old Testament history, nor in fact for a long time after. The earliest allusion to it is by Josephus (Ant. xiv. 16. 4), who tells us that Herod took Jerusalem (B.C. 37) on the solemnity of the fast, as Pompey had done twenty-seven years before. The feast of weeks is spoken of but once between Moses and the exile (1 Kin. ix. 25; 2 Chron. viii. 13). The Sabbatical year is not mentioned until the period of the Maccabees (1 Macc. vi. 53). The fast of the seventh month, alluded to by Zechariah, in commemoration of the murder of Gedaliah (2 Kin. xxv. 25), was entirely distinct from the annual humiliation for sin. The Professor seems to think that the day of atonement was not instituted for some years after the Levitical law was brought out by Ezra. This will involve him in fresh difficulties; for, as Delitzsch remarks, it will be necessary to exclude from Ezra's law not only Lev. xvi., where the services of the day are described in detail, but also all the allusions to it elsewhere, as Ex. xxx. 10, which speaks of one annual atonement; Lev. xxiii. 26-32; xxv. 9; Num. xviii. 7, which speaks of a priestly duty within the veil; Num. xxix. 7-11; and all passages containing the name given to the lid of the ark in consequence of the expiation effected there," the mercy-seat;” and it would be very extraordinary, if the ritual of the day of atonement, in which the mercy-seat

1 It is perhaps referred to, though this is not certain, in Josephus, Ant. xiii. 10. 3, where the high-priest Hyrcanus is spoken of as alone in the temple, offering incense.

Pentateuch still on its old foundations.


[ocr errors]

occupies so conspicuous a place, dated from a time when the ark and mercy-seat had ceased to exist.

It is a significant fact also that Ezekiel's Torah was revealed to him (xl. 1)“ in the beginning of the year, in the tenth day of the inonth;" if the tenth of Tisri, the first of the civil year, be meant, this was the day of atonement, and likewise the day on which the trumpet was blown to usher in the year of jubilee. The combination of this day with the release of prisoners is clearly shown by Isa. lviii. 6, and that the prophet was acquainted with the law (Lev. xxv. 8-10) is shown by his allusion to its terms (Isa. Ixi. 1 ff.). Ezekiel was acquainted with the year of jubilee, and speaks of it as well known, which consequently involves a knowledge of the day of atonement, with which it began.

We have now completed our task. And as we lay down our pen, may we not say of this latest critical attempt to roll the Pentateuch off its old foundations, that it has not achieved success? It has enveloped Mount Blanc in a cloud of mist, and proclaimed that its giant cliffs had for ever disappeared. But, lo! the mist blows away, and the everlasting hills are



still in place.


Art. VI.-The Sacrificial Aspect of Christ's Death." THE question, “ How shall man be just with God ?" which

, perplexed the upright Job in that dim era before Abra

appeared as the crowning example of the faith which is imputed for righteousness, has been the chief agitating theme of all the ages. Around it have circled controversies, and out of it have grown systems, which are familiar to every reader of theology. During considerable periods there have seemed to be settlements of the cardinal points, and substantial

agreement upon what is termed “the Catholic Doctrine.” Again the matter would be opened and a revision demanded, followed by a general acquiescence, with the old views substantially re-established, modified by such changes of phase or

1 From the New Englander.

« PreviousContinue »