Crossway has a helpful series of blog articles called “10 Things You Should Know . . .” These articles summarize key ideas from some of Crossway’s recent books. And this week, they posted my contribution about the priesthood.
1. The Edenic origin of the priesthood.
In Eden, God created mankind in his image to reflect his glory. In this setting, God crowned man with glory and honor (Ps. 8:5), authorized him to subdue and rule (Gen. 1:28), and gave him priestly instructions for serving in his garden-temple (Gen. 2:15; cf. Num. 3:8). This is the prototype of royal priesthood from which all other priests will be molded. In other words, when the priesthood is legislated in Israel, it will pick up language and imagery from Eden. At the same time, the Law of Moses divided the royal and priestly roles originally united in Adam. Thus, only a second Adam can unite priesthood and kingdom in a manner similar to Eden.
2. The cosmic fall of the priesthood.
When Adam sinned and fell short of God’s glory (cf. Rom. 1:21–23; 3:23; 5:12, 18–19), God expelled him from God’s garden-sanctuary (see Ezek. 28:11–19), destroying any chance of Adam serving God as priest-king. In the fall, Adam’s sin made sacrifice necessary, as indicated by the events of Genesis 4. Because death was the punishment for sin, blood must be shed. To be certain, the full consequence of sin and the need for a priest would require later revelation to explain (see Leviticus), but it is worth noting the original intent and downfall of the priesthood. For the rest of the Bible, we find a search for someone who could stand before God and serve as a mediator (cf. Job 9:33–35).
3. The fraternal development of the priesthood.
From Eden to Sinai, priestly ministration continued, but in a very ‘itinerant’ fashion. In the days of the Patriarchs, firstborn sons grew up to be mediators for their families. Job is a good example of this (Job 1:5), as is Abraham. In the Abraham narrative (Gen. 11:27–25:18), we find Abraham building altars (Gen. 12:7, 8; 13:4, 18), interceding for others (Gen. 18:22–33), and obeying God by offering a sacrifice (Gen. 22:1–18). While Abraham and his sons lacked the title of priest, these “priests” play an important role in understanding the earthly “priesthood” of Jesus—a priest in function, but without legal title. At the same time, the priestly service of firstborn sons helps explain Israel’s role as a royal priesthood (Ex. 19:6).
For the last seven points, see Crossway’s 10 Things You Should Know About the Priesthood in the Bible.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds