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P3. Regarding God's Priests as Holy    [Make a Comment]

We are to regard all of God's priests as holy.

This precept is derived from His Word (blessed is He):

Genesis 22:17-18
I will most certainly bless you; and I will most certainly increase your descendants to as many as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand on the seashore. Your descendants will possess the cities of their enemies, and by your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed - because you obeyed my order.

Exodus 19:5-6
'... Now if you will pay careful attention to what I say and keep my covenant, then you will be my own treasure from among all the peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be a kingdom of cohanim for me, a nation set apart.' These are the words you are to speak to the people of Isra'el.

Exodus 28:1-3
You are to summon your brother Aharon and his sons to come from among the people of Isra'el to you, so that they can serve me as cohanim - Aharon and his sons Nadav, Avihu, El'azar and Itamar. You are to make for your brother Aharon garments set apart for serving God, expressing dignity and splendor. Speak to all the craftsmen to whom I have given the spirit of wisdom, and have them make Aharon's garments to set him apart for me, so that he can serve me in the office of cohen.

Leviticus 21:8 (Maimonides RP32; Meir MP50; Chinuch C269)
Rather, you are to set him apart as holy, because he offers the bread of your God; he is to be holy for you, because I, ADONAI, who makes you holy, am holy.

Hebrews 5:4-6
And no one takes this honor upon himself, rather, he is called by God, just as Aharon was. So neither did the Messiah glorify himself to become cohen gadol; rather, it was the One who said to him, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father." Also, as he says in another place, "You are a cohen forever, to be compared with Malki-Tzedek."

Hebrews 9:11-12
But when the Messiah appeared as cohen gadol of the good things that are happening already, then, through the greater and more perfect Tent which is not man-made (that is, it is not of this created world), he entered the Holiest Place once and for all. And he entered not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus setting people free forever.

1 Peter 2:9-10
But you are a chosen people, the King's cohanim, a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; before, you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Revelation 1:4-6
From: Yochanan To: The seven Messianic communities in the province of Asia: Grace and shalom to you from the One who is, who was and who is coming; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne; and from Yeshua the Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the earth's kings. To him, the one who loves us, who has freed us from our sins at the cost of his blood, who has caused us to be a kingdom, that is, cohanim for God, his Father - to him be the glory and the rulership forever and ever. Amen.

The history of God choosing certain men to set apart as His priests, holy unto Himself, begins with God's promise to Abraham that through him, "all the Nations of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 22:18). We see this continuing in the Mosaic Covenant where Israel is made by God to be a "kingdom of priests (cohanim) a nation set apart" (Exodus 19:5-6), and Aaron and his sons are installed as priests of Israel (Exodus 28:1-3), and "set apart as holy" unto Him (Leviticus 21:8). Later, as part of the New Covenant, Yeshua is made a High Priest (Cohen Gadol) compared to Malki-Tzedek (Hebrews 5:4-6), and all covenanted disciples of Yeshua were made cohanim under Him (2 Peter 2:9-10).

According to Leviticus 21:8, the Levitical cohanim under Aaron were to be regarded as holy, so how much more must we regard those who are New Covenant cohanim holy as well.

Notwithstanding the change in the Covenant (Hebrews 8:13) and our loss of the Jerusalem Temple along with the cohanim's Temple-related duties, the Judaism that survives today reserves a number of functions for those who are believed to be descended (patrilinearly) from the early Levitical cohanim1. Among them are special aliyot to the bima (invitations to read from the Torah during services), redeeming the firstborn son of an "Israelite" (the ceremony of Pidyon HaBen), and imparting the Birkat Cohanim (Priestly Blessing or Aaronic Benediction). Among Messianic Jewish congregations, some retain the tradition of calling a Levitical cohen to the Torah, and many will seek a Levitical Cohen to officiate at the Pidyon HaBen of a firstborn Jewish son. However, because of the expansion of God's priesthood in the New Covenant, the Birkat Cohanim is generally ministered by the presiding leader of a service.


1. Historically, cohanim were only men; today, however, there is a movement within Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism to extend the status of cohanim to women; this is not accepted within Messianic Judaism.


This Mitzvah P3 has continuing applicability for Messianic Jews and other New Covenant believers as well. In the Mosaic Covenant, although all Israelites were priests as part of a "kingdom of priests," God established, within Israel, a "leadership" priesthood drawn from the Tribe of Levi. Similarly in the New Covenant, although all believers are priests as part of a priesthood of believers, elders in the body of believers have been given specialized functions that parallel those of Aaron and his sons - especially in teaching, and in rendering judicial decisions. For this service, the New Covenant Texts enjoin honor for our elder leaders in ways that are parallel to the commandment of Torah to regard priests as holy.

Whereas Gentiles and Jews alike become New Covenant cohanim by virtue of their confessed faith in Yeshua, only a Jew can be a Levitical cohen. See other mitzvot in this book for conduct that is required of and prohibited to a Levitical Cohen.

Commentators:
Maimonides, Meir, and HaChinuch are unified in stating that a Cohen should be treated with honor befitting his inherited identity. He should be made to be first in all matters of holiness, the first to be called to Torah, the first to say the blessing at meals, and the first to be served. This deference to the Cohen's holiness should be made regardless of the Cohen's willingness to accept it.

NCLA: JMm JFm KMm KFm GMm GFm

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