This Bible Study will give you a more comprehensive explanation of what the Priesthood means in the Bible, what were its functions, its garments, which it symbolizes in the new covenant and its relationship with Jesus Christ.
What is the Priesthood according to the Bible?
The priesthood was the ministry chosen by God for the service of the Tabernacle and the sacred things (Nu 16:9-10). Therefore, for this office God chose Aaron and his sons Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar (Ex 28:1). Aaron being the First High Priest of Israel, and his sons the first priests. Likewise, the other Levites were led by the sons of Aaron, since only the tribe of Levi was set apart for this purpose.
“And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office, even Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Aaron’s sons (Ex 28:1)”.
What was the function of a priest according to the Bible?
- To be an interceptor of the people before God, making atonement for the sins of the people through sacrifices.
- Serve in the sacred things of the Tabernacle or Temple (Ex 27:21).
- Consult God to know his will and transmit it to the people (Deut 17:9-11).
- Instruct the people in the Law of God (Lev 10:11; Ezr 7:10).
- Serve as a judge in legal cases or disputes (Deut 17:8-9)
- Encourage the people for the Battle (Deut 20:2-4)
- Carry the Ark of the Covenant on special occasions (Nu 4:15, Jos 6:6)
- Serve as a scribe (Ezr 7:6, Ne 8:9).
- Be the treasurer of tithes and contributions (Ne 10:38)
- Collect the tithes of the people (He 7:5).
What is the Meaning of the Priesthood in the New Covenant?
The meaning of the priesthood in the new covenant symbolizes the church redeemed by Christ. In such a way that when we come to Christ we become “a chosen generation a royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9, Rev 1:6, 5:10, 20:6). Therefore, just as it was a function of the priests in the old covenant to reconcile the sinner with God, so the church in this new dispensation also has the responsibility to bring the sinner closer to God through the Sacrifice of Christ (Ro 5:10-11; 2 Co 5:18; He 10:12).
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Pe 2:9)”.
The priests were previously led by a high priest. In the same way today, the church is being led by Jesus Christ, High Priest and Head of the Church (Heb 5:10; 6:20; Eph 5:23; Col 1:18).
What is the High Priest in the Bible?
The High Priest was the most important of the priests, because he was the only one who could enter the Holy of Holies. Each year he had the duty to sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the mercy seat, to atone for the sins of the people (Ex 30:10). Therefore, he was the representative of the people before God. For this reason, he wore the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on the breastplate and shoulder pads, as a symbol that he carried the nation in him (Ex 29:12, 21, 29-30).
“And Aaron shall bear the names of the children of Israel in the breastplate of judgment upon his heart, when he goeth in unto the holy place, for a memorial before the Lord continually. And thou shalt put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim; and they shall be upon Aaron’s heart, when he goeth in before the Lord: and Aaron shall bear the judgment of the children of Israel upon his heart before the Lord continually (Ex 28:29-30).”
What is the Meaning of the High Priest in the New Covenant?
The Meaning of the High Priest in the New Covenant symbolizes Jesus Christ as our representative before God. Since it went through the heavens and entered the Holy of Holies once and for all. He also appeared before the Father, not with the blood of bulls or goats, but with his own Blood, to make atonement for our sins and thus reconcile us to God (Heb 9:11-12; 10:19-20; 4:14).
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us (He 9:11-12).”
Therefore now we can approach trustingly to the throne of grace, to receive mercy and grace, as well as help from God, in the moment that we need it most (He 4:16).
High Priest’s Garments
For the Priestly Garments, God ordered special garments as a symbol of honor and distinction before the people (Ex 28: 2). Therefore, full of spirit of wisdom to those who would work in the priestly garments (Ex 28: 3).
What is the Meaning of the High Priest’s Garments?
These were the garments of the High Priest and their significance: The breastplate, the ephod, the robe, the tunic, the miter, and the belt.
Meaning of Pectoral
The breastplate was woven with threads of gold, blue, purple, red and white twisted linen (Ex 28:15). Its measurements were 22 cm long and 22 cm wide (Ex 28:16). He also wore 12 precious stones inlaid, each of which had the names of the tribes of Israel written on it. Therefore, it symbolizes in this way that he was the representative of the people before God (Ex 28:29-30).
Finally, the breastplate also had pockets and in them the priest kept the Urim and Thummim to consult the will of God.
Meaning of Efhod
The ephod was like a kind of apron embroidered in threads of gold, blue, purple, red and white twisted linen (Ex 28: 6). It was attached to two shoulder pads and fastened with a belt (Ex 28:7-8). Thus each shoulder piece had an onyx stone with the names of the tribes of Israel, six on one side and six on the other (Ex 28:9-11). Therefore this symbolized that the high priest carried on his shoulders the burden of the whole nation (Ex 28:12).
Meaning of the Mantle
The mantle was woven in blue, it was placed on top of the white robe and under the ephod. On the edge of the robe was adorned with bells and blue, purple and red fabrics (Ex 28:31-34). The high priest wore the mantle while ministering in the Holy Place and his bells sounded while he was in the presence of the Lord (Ex 28:35).
Meaning of the Miter
The miter was like a kind of turban that covered the head of the priest while he performed his duties. It was made of fine linen (Ex 39:28), it had a gold leaf on its forehead, with the engraved title, “HOLINESS TO JEHOVAH” (Ex 28:36). Therefore this sheet was held with a blue thread that was on the Mithra (Ex 28:37). The word “holiness” means to be separated from evil and separated for God.
Meaning of the Cinto
The belt was made of threads of gold, blue, purple, red and white twisted linen (Ex. 39:5). With respect to this, gold represents “The Divine Christ”, the Blue “the Celestial”, the purple “The Royalty of Christ”, the red “The Blood of Christ”, the white linen “The Holiness”. As for the garment, it was fastened to the ephod, to bind the garments of the high priest (Ex 29:5, 9). Likewise, the tight belt in the Bible is a symbol of strength (Ps 18:32, 45:3).
Consecration of the priests and their meaning
For the consecration of the Priests, God commanded Moses to wash them at the entrance of the Tabernacle and cover them with priestly garments (Ex 29:4-9). Therefore, this is a symbol of the step of faith we take when we are Baptized in Christ, so we are cleansed for the service of God. We are clothed in clothing of righteousness through Jesus Christ (Gal 3:27).
Why did God establish the Priesthood?
First, God had chosen the people of Israel to be his special treasure and a nation of priests, only set apart for him. However, the people quickly corrupted God’s plans by turning to their sin (Ex 19:5-6).
“So, God chose the tribe of Levites and set them apart for this purpose, so they would be the representatives of the whole nation (Nu 16:9-10). Also, through the system of sacrifices that God established, he wanted to teach the nation the truths to come. Finally with the coming of Jesus Christ, God extended his plan to all believers in any nation on earth, to be “royal priesthood” and “holy nation” set apart for Him, through sacrifice and faith in Christ Jesus (1 Pe 2:9)”.
The Priesthood in the Old Testament before the Mosaic Law
Before the Mosaic Law, many men of God exercised the priesthood in their families and their clans.
- Noah: And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done (Ge 8:20-21)
- Abraham: And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord (Ge 12:8).
- Issac: And he builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the Lord, and pitched his tent there: and there Isaac’s servants digged a well (Ge 26:25).
- Jacob: Then Jacob offered sacrifice upon the mount, and called his brethren to eat bread: and they did eat bread, and tarried all night in the mount (Ge 31:54).
- Jethro (Priest of Madian): And Jethro, Moses’ father in law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God: and Aaron came, and all the elders of Israel, to eat bread with Moses’ father in law before God (Ex 18:12).
- Job: And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually (Job 1:5).
Other important aspects of the Priesthood in the Bible
- Aaron was the first High Priest (Ex 28:1, Heb 5:4).
- They wore special garments (Ex 28:2).
- They were consecrated to the Lord (Ex 29:1-9).
- They received divine orders from God (Ex 30:18-21).
- Their maintenance was the offerings of the people (1 Co 9:13; Nu 5:8-10).
- Some priests failed (Lev 10:1-3, 2 Chr 36:14, 1 Sa 2:12-17, 22, 27-36, 1 Re 2:27, Ezr 9:1-2).
- They did not receive territories in the promised land (Nu 18:20, Lev 27:21).
- The Lord was his inheritance (Nu 18:20).
- There were priests very faithful to God (Nu 25:6-13, 1 Sa 2:35, 2 Chr 13:10, Lk 1:5-6).
- They led the miraculous crossing of the Jordan (Jos 3:1-17).
- They were placed by David in divisions for service (1 Chr 24: 1-31).
- They were engaged in religious reforms (2 Chr 29: 4-19).
- They returned from exile (Ezr 1:5, 2:1).
- They led in the rebuilding of the Temple (Ezr 3:8-13).
- They were tax free (Ezr 7:24).
- They were taken captive to Babylon (Jer 29:1).
- They were opponents of Jesus and they condemned him.
- They persecuted the Apostles and believers in Christ (Heb 4:1-21, 5:17-41, 22:30, 23:1-5).
- They could not make the people perfect (Heb 7:11, 19, 10:1-2).
- The Levitical priesthood was canceled because of its weakness and uselessness (He 7:18).
- They were appointed by law as weak men (He 7:28).
- They were substituted because they died (He 7:23).
- They served in the Tabernacle and the Temple.