William Rainey Harper.

Constructive studies in the priestly element in the Old Testament; An aid to historical study for use in advanced Bible classes online

. (page 1 of 15)
Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperConstructive studies in the priestly element in the Old Testament; An aid to historical study for use in advanced Bible classes → online text (page 1 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



* APR 1 1902







Constructive Studies








Professor of Semitic Languages and Literatures in the University of Chicago



(Cbc lUntversfts of Cbfcago press

Copyright igo2
By William R. Harper


This treatment of the Priestly Element in the Old Testament is intended
to serve as a guide for students who wish to take up the questions relating to
the subject from an historical point of view. The materials for a preliminary
study of the various topics are gathered together, and arranged with sugges-
tions as to order and method of procedure.

It is thought that the work proposed is within the reach of the more
mature pupils in the Sunday school, although the needs of college and theo-
logical students have been kept especially in mind.

The general results of modern historical criticism have been taken as a
basis for the work, since it is only from the point of view of history that
these subjects may now be considered intelligently. Each special topic con-
nected with the general subject of the Priestly Element furnishes a beautiful
illustration of the growth and development of Israelitish and Jewish thought
under the controlling influence of a conception of God which became more
and more pure with the advancing centuries.

Three methods of treatment have been employed, each being deemed
best adapted to the case in hand, viz.: in Chapter I, a systematic statement of
the scope of the Priestly Element ; in Chapters II-IV, an historical statement
covering in barest outline the story of the Priestly Element as a whole, in its
progress and development; in Chapters V-XI, a classified and comparative
examination (indicated by questions and suggestions based upon the material
presented) of the more important special factors which, taken together,
constitute the Priestly Element.

Some effort has been made to indicate definitely and fully the more acces-
sible literature on each topic. I wish to express my appreciation of the
assistance rendered me by my colleague, Dr. John M. P. Smith, especially in
the arrangement and verification of the scriptural references, and the refer-
ences to the literature on the various topics. For obvious reasons the latter
have been arranged chronologically, the literature in languages other than
English being placed by itself.

A second series of studies, designed to supplement and complete the
present work, is in process of preparation. In these it is proposed to take up
(i) the priestly literature of the Old Testament, viz., the priestly histories, the
codes of legislation, the Psalms ; (2) the priestly ideas as a whole ; and (3) the
relation of the Priestly Element to the work of Old Testament Prophecy and

William R. Harper.

December i, iqoi.


Part I.

Chapter I. — The general scope of the Priestly Element in the Old Testament i

Part II.


Chapter II.— The history of worship in the earlier Old Testament period . . 13

Chapter III.— The history of worship in the middle Old Testament period . . 27

Chapter IV.— The history of worship in the later Old Testament period ... 42

Part III.


Chapter V. — The laws and usages concerning the priest, considered compara-
tively . . 61

Chapter VT. — The laws and usages concerning the place ot worship, consid-
ered comparatively 74

Chapter VII. — The laws and usages concerning sacrifice, considered compara-
tively 83

Chapter VIII. — The laws and usages concerning feasts, considered compara-
tively 94

Chapter IX. — The laws and usages concerning the sabbath and kindred insti-
tutions, considered comparatively 108

Chapter X. — The laws and usages concerning clean and unclean, considered

comparatively '^9

Chapte"r XI. — The laws and usages concerning prayer and related forms of

worship, considered comparatively 131

Paet Fiest

I. General Scope of the Priestly Element in the Old



§1. Three Elements Enter into Religion. — The reli-
gion of an individual or nation depends upon the promi-
nence given to one or another of these elements:

(i) ff^^rj-^z/, or, more technically, ^«//, a word which Pss. 103:1; 150.
expresses the general attitude of the individual or group
of individuals toward an outside higher world of super-
natural or divine existence, and includes the outward
acts that in various forms symbolize the inward thought.

(2) Belief, or, more technically, creed, a word which Deut.6:4;
expresses the peculiar intellectual position entertained

by an individual or group of individuals concerning cer-
tain facts supposed to be essential, and their explana-

(x\ G?//^«(:A or, more technically, ^//^/V.y, which includes Mic. 6:8;
^•^' r 1 Isa. 1:16,17;

all the acts and feelings of man in so far as they are James 1:27.

related to his duties to himself and to his fellows, and

to the fundamental ideas of right and wrong.

§2. Three Great Channels of Revelation are found in
the Old Testament ; through these, separately and
together, there has come down to us a wonderful story
of the interworking of God and man. These are :

(i) The word of the prophet, including the utter- ]^J- 'j^/^J^J
ances through centuries of that unique order established
to give to the Hebrew nation and to the world the
"word " of God.

(2\ The counsel of the saafe, including the wise say- Jer. i8:i8;

V / o ' o J Pfov. I :g, 25,

ings and philosophical teachings (in the form of proverbs, 30; 8:14.
riddles, essays, dialogues, etc.) found, for example, in the
books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.

(3) The instruction (or law) of the priest, which forms Jer. 18:18;
the subject of consideration in this and the following

§3. The Place of Worship is First of All to be Noticed.
— In ancient times because it seemed to men that certain


Kings 14:23;
I Chron. 21 :2g;
Exod. 19:2,3, 12.

Gen. 12:6; 13:18.

Gen. 16: 13, 14.

Gen. 31:44-54;
Gen. 28:18-22.

Exod. 20:24-26;

1 Kings 7: 48;

2 Kings 16:10-15;
Exod. 27:1-8;

I Kings 2:28-30.

Josh. 4:11;

1 Sam. 4:3-6;

2 Sam. 6:2-17;
Exod. 25:10-21;
Exod. 25: 22.

2 Sam. 7: 2-6;
Exod. , chap. 26;
Exod. 33:7-9;
Numb. 17:4, 12, 13.

I Kings 6:1,2,
14, 37, 38;

Ezek. 43:1-12;

Hag. 1:4-14;

Ezra 3:12, 13;

places were more favored by the gods than were others, in
modern times because men fancy that a certain environ-
ment is especially conducive to the spirit of worship, the
place has always been a subject of greatest importance.
The place was in early days something connected with

(i) High places, or hills, were especially sought as
being the abode of God.

(2) Trees of a notable character are frequently referred
to as connected with worship.

(3) Springs, or wells, are places by the side of which
angels were thought to dwell.

(4) Sacred stones are mentioned as places to which
the god came to meet his worshiper, and on which food
was placed or libations of oil poured out.

In each of these places Jehovah had shown his pres-
ence, and it was for this reason that the hill or tree or
spring or stone was sacred. (From Numb. 22 : 41 it is to
be seen that this idea of sacred places was found among
other nations; cf. also Isa. 16: 12.)

The place was also often something of a more or less
artificial chaxdiCXtr, as is seen jn the use of —

(5) The altar, which was sometimes only of loose
earth thrown up ; at others, of unhewn stone ; at still
others, of gold and precious stones. This altar was the
refuge and asylum of him who fled the hand of ven-
geance, the witness of vows, the place on which the sac-
rifice was laid.

(6) The ark, or chest, a sacred box in which certain
sacred things were deposited ; which was used in case of
war, because it was thought to afford protection ; and
was designated as a place of communion with God.

(7) The tent, or tabernacle, a dwelling in which the
ark was preserved, and around which the holiest associa-
tions clustered. Moses made most practical use of it, and
it came to occupy an important place in Hebrew thought
and tradition.

(8) The temple, which with the progress of civilization
(the establishment of courts and the building of palaces)
took the place of the tent, as being more dignified than


a tent. There was (a) Solomon's temple, erected at a
significant period of national development; {f) the tem-
ple of Ezekiel's vision, which was destined to play an
important part in the history of Israel's religious
thought ; and {c) the second temple, erected with some
disappointment, after the return from exile.

It is to be noted, once more, that communion with Exod. 3:8-5;
God is sought and obtained in connection with natural ^' *^'*
places (hills, trees, springs, stones) and with places
constructed by man (altars, ark, tent, temple). It will
be at a later time, when temples are destroyed, men
are scattered, groups living here and there, when the
realistic conception gives place to the idealistic, and
the material to the spiritual, that synagogues and
churches will spring into existence, and, thus in still
another form, satisfy the inward craving of humanity
for a sacred place, in which to offer worship to the unseen

§ 4. The Priest, or Minister of worship, was the second
necessity of worship, the first being the place. It was the
priest vi\vo conducted the worship.

(i) His function was threefold: to carry the ark, to Deut. 10:8;

Judg. 17:7-13}

minister to Jehovah, to bless in his name. In the earliest 18:3-6;

Lev. 8:i-io.

times the need of having some such priest was felt, his
presence being thought to be attended with peculiar

(2) The priest-idea became so strong in Israel that Deut. 14:2;
the nation itself was understood to be a nation of priests, Ezra 7:21, 25, 26<
or a priestly nation, set apart to minister to the other

nations of the world. After the exile, kings ceased to sit
on Israel's throne ; and priests, under the form of a
hierarchy, controlled the affairs of the nation. This fact
shows how great a role the priest played in Israelitish

(3) Besides the priests and prophets who served and i Kings 18:19-22;
spoke for Jehovah, there were at many times in Israel's Ezek. 8:15, 16. '
history priests and prophets whose lives were devoted to

the service of other gods. /

§5. Sacrifice was the most significant act of worship J
in ancient times.


Gen. i8: i-8;
1 Sam. i: 3-8;


Chron. 16:1-3.

Ps. 51:18,19;
Isa. i: n-17;
Lev., chaps. 1-7;

8-10; 11; 12-15;


Gen. 8:20;
Lev., chaps. 4,9.

Lev. 3: 1-6;
Judg. 20: 26.

Gen. 35:14;
Exod. 29: 40, 41;
Numb. a8: 7.

Exod. 30:1, 7-9;
Numb. 4: 16.

Lev., chaps. 5, 7,

Numb. 6: 12.

(i) At first this was a social meal, a banquet in which
the offerer and his friends participated and to which the
deity was invited. There are frequent references to such
sacrificial meals in which the members of a family, or of
a clan, or, indeed, of a whole nation took part. This meal
was full of joy, sometimes boisterous. Those who par-
ticipated were eating and drinking with the deity ; it was
a communion of the worshiper and his god.

(2) In later times sacrifice became more formal, and
gradually grew into an exclusively religious act. , The
prophets strongly denounced sacrifice in which the true
spirit of worship was lacking, or which in itself, without a
proper life, was thought to gain Jehovah's favor. The
book of Leviticus is devoted to the subject of sacrifice,
viz., the method, the kinds, etc., etc. This more formal
and exclusively religious conception of sacrifice came to
prevail universally in the last centuries of Israel's history.

(3) Several different kinds of offerings or sacrifice
were distinguished, according as each expressed a par-
ticular purpose, or was presented by a particular method ;
among these were :

{a) The burnt-offering, which consisted of the burning
of a whole animal of the proper kind upon an altar as an
offering to Jehovah.

if) The peace-offering, which was also an animal sacri-
fice, but differed from the burnt-offering in that it
provided for the giving of only the blood and certain
specified parts of the animal to Jehovah, the rest being
eaten by the sacrificial guests.

{c) The drink-offering, which was a libation of wine,
or oil, usually made in connection with other offerings.

{a) The incense-offering, in which fragrant spices were
burned with the thought that the rising fragrance was
acceptable to Jehovah.

(^) The trespass-offering, which was made for the pur-
pose of expiating offenses against Jehovah and man in
which the damage could be estimated and covered by
compensation ; the blood of the animal was poured out
to Jehovah, the fat was burned on the altar, and the rest
was the perquisite of the priests.


(/) The sin-offering, which occupied a very important Lev. 4:24-34;

, . , , , r ,. , , , . , , Lev. , chap. 16;

place m the cultus and of which the emphasis placed Numb., chap. 7;

upon the shedding of blood is a conspicuous feature ;
the specifications for this part of the ritual are very com-
plete and detailed.

ig) TAe wave-offering, consistins of certain portions Deut. 12:6-17;

r , .,. , . , . , Numb. 15: ig-ai;

of the sacrifice that were given over to the priests and Numb. 18:8-29;

111 1 r 11 1 r 1 ExOd. 29:27, 28,

were waved by them before the altar as a token of the

fact that they belonged to Jehovah, but had been given

over by him to the priests.

(4) Great care was taken as to the materials which Exod. 20:24;

29: 40; 30; i;
might enter into a sacrifice. These were in general flesh, Lev. 2: i, 4, 13;

7^ 12* 231 I3»

fine flour or meal, incense, oil, wine, cakes of dough,
salt. Here again important conceptions were associated
with each of the materials, and regulations were enacted
prescribing the exact character and amount of materials
to be used.

§ 6. The Times of Worship were an important item, for i Sam. 9:12, 13,
these were the feast occasions; these were often merely iSam.i:3,4.
the social meals of a clan ; or, in other cases, were con-
nected with a pilgrimage. They had their origin in connec-
tion with the times of the moon and the seasons, arising,
as they did, out of the pastoral or agricultural life. Men
whose hearts have the same tendencies are drawn
together, and in the act of association there is worship ;
for the more closely they are united, the nearer they may
come to God. To know more of God is itself to worship
him, and the highest form of worship is, perhaps, that
which involves communion with others as well as with

(i) There were three great feasts, the first coming in Exod. as : 14-17.
the springtime, the second in the early summer, the
third in the autumn. These correspond roughly to
the more modern Easter, Pentecost, and Thanksgiving

(2) There were also special feasts and feast days, hos.2:ii.
which in early times seem to have been' of a joyous

(3) There were days, like the Day of Atonement, Lev. 16:2934.
which were days of affliction rather than of joy.


Zech. 7:3-5;
Esther 9: 38-31.

Gen. 24: 12 fr.;
I Sam. I :io; 8:6;
I Kings 8:23-53;
Isa. 38:2, 3;
Weh. 1:4-11; 2: 4-

Judg. 11:30-39;
iSfim. 1:11;
Judg. 13:3-7;
Numb. 6: i-ia.

I Kings 6: 19;
Exod. 28:30;
Gen. 20:3; 28:

Mai. 3:5;
Dan. 2:2;
Deut. 18:9-13.

Gen. 4:21;
Amos 5 : 23 ;
Isa. 30:29, 32;
Jer. 48:36;
Numb. 10: 2;

Josh. 6:4ff ;
Pss. 137:2; 33:2;
2 Sam. 16: 14;
Exod. 15: 20;
P88.I49:3; 150:4.

(4) There were also fast days, as well as feast days,
celebrating some great calamity.

§ 7. Other Acts of "Worship. — In connection with and
forming a part of worship were several specific acts,
such as —

(i) Prayer; this was always implied in the act of
sacrifice, but very frequently it was independent of
sacrifice. If the deity is a person, and if he has real inter-
est in his clan or tribe or people, he will surely listen to
them, when in distress their heart appeals for succor ;
and also when in joy they express appreciation of some
great favor which he has shown them. Abraham's prayer
for the city in which his relatives dwelt is characteristic
of the earliest and the latest periods of civilization, and
is thoroughly typical of humanity.

(2) The vow was a kind of prayer, very common in
ancient times, and, when once made, regarded as invio-
lable. It sometimes involved a simple gift; at other
times, perhaps, as in the case of Jephthah, the sacrifice
of a human life ; and again, as in the case of the Nazirite,
it signified setting apart to the service of God.

(3) The oracle and dream, as methods of ascertaining
the divine will, must be counted as acts of worship. In
these methods, as in all the others, the Israelites did not
differ from the other ancient nations in the midst of
whom they dwelt.

(4) Sorcery was employed in many forms, for there
were diviners, augurs, enchanters, charmers, consulters
with familiar spirits, wizards, and necromancers; but acts
of this kind were always forbidden.

(5) Music and dancing wtxt z.Q.coxn'^zxiVtXitnX.'s, oi wor-
ship. If worship is the expression of the heart in com-
munion with God, it must include melody and rhythm,
sound and movement. Music has always formed a part
of worship, and in many cases dancing has accompanied,
not only festival, but worship.

§8. Songs and Hymns of Worship. — These furnish us,
perhaps, the highest product of the priest-work ; for,
although much of the Psalter is prophetic in its character,
by far the greater part is the high and holy expression


of the soul of individual or nation in its deepest com-
munion with God ; and nowhere in all literature may
religious songs of so tender and deep a character be
found as in the Hebrew Psalter, the hymn-book of the
Hebrew temple, the work of the Hebrew priest. These
have been variously and quite minutely classified; but
here reference may be limited to —

(i) Songs of thanksgiving, in which gratitude is Pss. 103; 134; 136.
expressed for great favors received from Jehovah and his
praises are gladly sung.

(2) Songs of petition and prayer, in which the poet Pss. 80; 88; 102.
pleads for the intervention of Jehovah in behalf of

himself or of Israel, bringing deliverance from difficulty
and danger, or restoration to divine favor.

(3) Songs of penitential confession, in which the sin- Pss. 51; 116; 130.
ner pours out his confession of sin and guilt.

§ 9. Laws Regulating Worship and Life were, likewise,
largely formulated, promulgated, and executed by the
priests. Legislation, therefore, in its stricter sense, was
the function of the priests, rather than of the prophets or
sages. The priest's work included something more than
the various elements which enter into or are connected
with what we would today call worship. In those days
the religious life and the secular life were the same.
Religion and politics were the same. This means that
it was impossible to draw a line between religious life
and ordinary life. The priest's work dealt with both. It Deut. 22: 1-12;

, , , , . , , , Exod. 21:1-35;

had to do, consequently, with such matters as the treat- 22:1-27.

ment of one's neighbor's cattle, the treatment of birds,

the buildina: of a house. There were laws, for example. Lev. 19:9-37;
, , , . , , , Exod. 23: 1-9.

concernmg the harvest, the oppression of the poor, the

treatment of defectives, tale-bearing, etc., etc. These
are a few examples only, taken from the great law-
books, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. It is to be
understood, of course, that these laws, as they were from
time to time formulated, included the teachings of the
prophets and sages, as they appeared and did their work
and passed away. But in addition to these laws of soci-
ological character there were the laws which regulated



Exod. 33:18, 19;
Deut. 30: 15-20;
Lev., chap. 21.

2Chron.5:2— 7:2
cf. I Kings,
chap. 8.

Chron., chaps.
t/. 2 Kings, chaps,

2 Chron. 35:

tf. 2 Kings


the details of worship in all respects, e. g., the priest, his
dress, his maintenance, the offerings, their material, etc.,
etc. These more strictly come into consideration in
connection with topics already discussed (cf. §§3, 7).

§ 10. The History of Worship was naturally written or
compiled by priests, and thus constitutes a part of the
priest-work of the Old Testament. The history of Israel,
as we find it in the books of Samuel and Kings, had already
I Chron., chaps, ^ggn written (about 550 B. C). This history was prepared

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryWilliam Rainey HarperConstructive studies in the priestly element in the Old Testament; An aid to historical study for use in advanced Bible classes → online text (page 1 of 15)