Priesthood, Temple(s), and Sacrifice

Robert Hayward

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780199237777
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

 Priesthood, Temple(s), and Sacrifice

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This article draws on various biblical sources and discusses the origins and identity of the priests and the Levites, their separate duties and functions, and their status in the life of Israel as a nation under the authority of the Torah. The duties and functions of the priests in Israel included determining the will of God, sometimes through oracular means (ephod, Urim and Thummim), sometimes by their exercise of specialized knowledge; the teaching of tôrāh, offering explicit instruction in the manner in which YHWH is to be served; the setting upon YHWH's altar of the blood of animal victims, and the portions allotted to the altar; the privilege of offering incense and other non-animal offerings belonging to the category of most holy things; oversight of the purity of sanctuary, sacred objects, and worshippers; and the administration of oaths and the pronouncing of blessings in YHWH's name. The traditional records suggest that these duties varied little from one age to another. What was often at issue, however, was the question who might perform which action.

Keywords: Israel; Torah; 1 and 2 Chronicles; Chronicler; biblical writers; Levites; Hebrew Bible

Article.  15956 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Judaism and Jewish Studies ; Religious Studies

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