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Old Testament Overview - The Priesthood


Israel's priesthood is a picture of the church.  As Israel's priests were those who pointed the way for Israel to draw close to God, so we of the church are those who point the way for people to draw near to God today. See Hebrews 10:19-22  The instructions about the selection, consecration, regulations, duties, and support of the Old Testament priesthood, then, can teach us much about how we are to draw near to God today.

Selection: A type of our selection to the Christian priesthood.

The selection of the High Priest and Priests:

1. They were selected from the descendents of Aaron (Exod. 6:18, 20, 28:1)
a. Nadab and Abihu—two of Aaron's four sons died before they had any children.
b. Eliezar and Ithamar—the remaining two sons bore children and were, therefore, the fathers of the priestly line.

2. All those with physical defects were ineligible for the priesthood. (Lev. 21:17-23) (symbolizes our cleansing through the blood of Christ, I Pet. 1:22-23)

3. The typical meaning:  As the Old Testament priests received their office through being born into Aaron's family, so we are the new Testament church receive our priestly office through being spiritually born into Christ's family. (Rev. 1:5-6; I Pet. 2:5, 9-10)

The Consecration of the Aaronic Priesthood:  A type of our consecration to the Christian priesthood. (Exod. 29:1-37; Leviticus 8:1-36)

1. Aaron and his sons were washed with water. (Exod. 29:4; Lev. 8:6)

a. Symbolic of the priest's  purification from sin. (I Pet. 1:22)
b. Typical of Jesus Christ's blood purifying us from sin. (Heb. 10:19-22)

2. Aaron was clothed. (Exod. 29:5-6; Lev. 8:7-9)

a. Symbolic of God's  glory and beauty
b. Typical of Jesus Christ's glory and beauty. (Heb. 7:26, 8:1-2)

3. Aaron and the tabernacle anointed. Exod. 29:7; Lev. 8:10-12)

a. Symbolic of the priests being set apart for a divine purpose.
b. Typical of Jesus' and our anointing by the Holy Spirit for a divine purpose.
(Isa. 61:1-2; Acts 10:38; I Cor. 12:13; II Cor. 2:14-17; Acts 1:8)

4. Aaron's sons clothed. (Exod. 29:8-9; Lev. 8:13)

a. Symbolic of them being purified.
b. Typical of our being clothed with Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:27; Col. 3:10-14)

5. Burnt (ram) and sin (bull) offerings given for Aaron and his sons. (Exod. 29:10-18; Lev. 8:14-21)

a. Symbolic of atonement for sin.
b. Typical of Jesus Christ's blood, the atonement for our sin. (Col 1:20;           Heb. 9:11-14, 22; I Peter 2:24)

6. Ram of consecration (peace offering) for Aaron and his sons. (Exod. 19:19-28; Lev. 8:22-29)

a. Blood from offering put on the tip of the right ear, thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot of Aaron and his sons. (Exod. 29:20-21;          Lev. 8:23-24)
(1) Symbolic of the role of the priest in being attentive to God's instructions (ear) and being obedient to carry them out (hand and foot).
(2) Typical of Jesus' Christ's obedience to the Father and opportunity to obey the Father through Jesus being in us. (John 5:19, 30, 6:38, 8:28; Rom. 12:12)

b. Special wave offering (Exod. 29:22-26; Lev. 8:26-29)  The fat and the right leg portions of the offering were placed in the hands of Aaron and his sons and were waved to and from horizontally.
(1) Symbolic of God's reception of the offering and His return of the offering to Moses.
(2) Typical of God' reception of Christ's offering and the returning of Christ to us through the Holy Spirit. (John 14:12-26)

c. Blood from the offering and the anointing oil sprinkled on Aaron and his sons. (Exod. 29:21; Lev. 8:30)
(1) Symbolic of consecration of Aaron and his sons to service.
(2) Typical of Jesus Christ's consecration to service and our consecration to service as His followers.

7. Priestly meal: the remainder of the flesh of the ram of consecration was cooked by Aaron and his sons and eaten by them. (Exod. 29:31-34; Lev. 8:31-32)

a. Symbolic of God's holy provision of their needs.
b. Typical of our receiving into ourselves the Spiritual life of Jesus Christ.
(John 6:31-35, 52-59)  The seven days of consecration are typical of our need to completely consecrate ourselves to God. Rom. 12:1-2

Regulations: A type of our need to keep ourselves from worldly defilement (I Pet. 1:15, 2:9-12)


1. They were not to defile themselves:
a. by touching the dead (except one of their immediate family). (Lev. 21:1-6)
b. by signs of mourning (Lev. 21:10-12)
c. by marriage with a public prostitute or a divorced woman (21:7-9)

2. Priests' daughters who became harlots were to be burned with fire. (Lev. 21:9)

3. Priests who unwittingly became unclean were required to abstain from holy gifts (offerings) until they were legally purified. (Lev. 22:2-7)

4. Voluntary transgression of the Levitical law of cleanliness by priests were punishable by death. (Lev. 22:9)
5. The priests washed their hands and feet before entering the tabernacle.          (Exod. 30:17—21; 40:30-32)

6. Priests were not allowed to drink wine or strong drink when they were performing their priestly duties in the tabernacle. (Lev. 10:9; Ezekiel 44:21)

The High Priest:  The same regulations applied to the High Priest as the Priests, except in the following cases.

1. He was not allowed to marry even a widow. (Lev. 21:13-14)

2. He was not allowed to touch any dead person, even his mother or father, or become involved in mourning for them. (Lev. 21:11-12)

Duties:  A type of our spiritual duties as members of Jesus Christ's priesthood. (I Pet. 2:9-10; Rom. 15:16; Hebrews 13:15-16)


1. In the Holy Place:
a. Burn incense on the altar and trim lamps every morning and evening        (Exod. 27:21; 30:7-8)
b. Put showbread on the table every Sabbath. (Lev. 24:5-8)

2. In the Court:
a. Keep burnt offering fire constantly burning. (Lev. 6:9, 38-40)
b. Clear ashes away from altar. (Lev. 6:10-11)
c. Offer the morning and evening sacrifices. (Exod. 29:38-40)
d. Bless the people after the daily sacrifices. (Lev. 9:22; Numb. 6:23-27)
e. Wave different portions of the sacrifices (symbolic of God's reception of the offering and His return of the offering to the priest.) (Lev. 7:31-36)
f. Sprinkle blood on the altar and offer sacrifices. (Lev. 1:5, 7-9, 11-13; etc.)
g. Blow silver trumpets and jubilee horn at festivals. (Lev. 23:23; Numb. 10:1-10)

3. General duties:
a. Inspect unclean persons (especially lepers). (Lev. 13-14; Gal. 6:1)
b. Administer the oath of purification to women accused of adultery. (Numb. 5:15;
II Cor. 2:5-10)
c. Appraise things dedicated to sanctuary. (Lev. 27)                                    
d. Instruct people in the Law (Lev. 10:11; Deut. 17:11; II Chron. 15:3, 17:7-9)
e. Act as a court of appeals in difficult cases. (Deut. 17:8-13, 19:17, 21:5;      Matt. 18:18; II Cor. 6:1-6)
f. Address troops in time of war. (Deut. 20:2-4)

Duties continued

High Priest: The same as for the priest except as follows:

1. Presented the sin offering for himself (Lev. 4:3-12) and the congregation.   (Lev. 4:13-35)

2. He special functions on the Day of Atonement. (Lev. 16)

3. He consulted God concerning His will with the Urim and the Thumim.     (Exod. 28:30; Numb. 27:21; I Sam. 30:7-8)

4. He supervised worship and the Priests.

Priest Support: A type of God's provision for us. (Matt. 6:33)

High Priest and Priests:

1. One tenth of the tithe paid to the Levites. (Lev. 23:10, 17; Numb. 18:26;
Deut. 18:4)

2. Special tithe every third year. (Deut. 14:28, 26:12)

3. Redemption money paid for first born:
a. Human first-born—5 shekels. (Numb. 18:16)
b. First-born of unclean beast—according to its value. (Lev. 27:26-27;          Numb. 18:15)
c. Flesh of first-born clean animals. ((Numb. 18:17-18)

4. Redemption money paid for man or things on special occasions. (Lev. 27)

5. Percentage of the spoil of war. (Numb. 31:25-47)

6. The showbread and the flesh of offerings. (Numb. 18:8-14; Lev. 6:18; 7:6-10)

Old Testament Overview Studies

Old Testament Overview
Table of Contents
Old Testament Overview Outline
Old Testament Overview Genesis
Old Testament Overview Exodus to Deuteronomy
Old Testament Overview Furniture of the Tabernacle
Old Testament Overview Dress of Priests and High Priest
Old Testament Overview Dress of High Priest
Old Testament Overview Canaan: What Can it Teach Us?
Old Testament Overview Israel, God's Kingdom
Old Testament Overview Moses—Failure the Backdoor to Success
Old Testament Overview The Mosaic Covenant
Old Testament Overview The Ten Commandments
Old Testament Overview The Offerings
Old Testament Overview Uncleanness
Old Testament Overview The Priesthood
Old Testament Overview The Festivals
Old Testament Overview The Nazirite Vow
Old Testament Overview Joshua to Ruth
Old Testament Overview Prophecies of the Redeemer—Genesis to Ruth
Old Testament Overview I and II Samuel
Old Testament Overview Saul and David Compared
Old Testament Overview Jonathan and David Compared
Old Testament Overview The Davidic Covenant
Old Testament Overview I And II Kings
Old Testament Overview Israel's and Judah's Kings
Old Testament Overview Divided Kings who Divided
Old Testament Overview Criticisms of God's Actions in the Old Testament
Old Testament Overview Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther
Old Testament Overview Ruth and Esther Compared
Old Testament Overview Job to Song of Solomon
Old Testament Overview Proverbs: Wise Man or Fool?
Old Testament Overview Isaiah
Old Testament Overview Jeremiah
Old Testament Overview Daniel
Old Testament Overview Hosea
Old Testament Overview Joel
Old Testament Overview Amos
Old Testament Overview Obadiah
Old Testament Overview Jonah
Old Testament Overview Micah
Old Testament Overview Nahum
Old Testament Overview Habakkuk
Old Testament Overview Zephaniah
Old Testament Overview Haggai
Old Testament Overview Zechariah
Old Testament Overview Malachi