There are three primary offices (or roles) in Israel:
- The king (head of the physical army)
- The priest (head of the spiritual army)
- The prophet (one who hears from Yahweh)
In general, the prophet serves as Israel’s ears, telling the people what Yahweh says. The priest serves as Israel’s mouth, making intercession for the people. The king serves as Israel’s hands and feet, ordering, organizing, and leading the people to victory in Yahweh’s wars. But in the beginning it was not so.
In the beginning, there was no formal king or priest. Adam served as the king (leader), and his sons offered up sacrifices.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 4:3-4
3 And in the process of time it came to pass that Qayin [Cain] brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to Yahweh.
4 Hevel [Abel] also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And Yahweh respected Hevel and his offering,
The patriarch Noach (Noah) not only filled the role of the king, but he also offered sacrifices himself.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 8:20
20 Then Noach built an altar to Yahweh, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
However, if we keep watching, a pattern of incremental changes appears. As a patriarch, Avram was technically able to serve as a priest, yet he did so only to a limited extent. While Avram set up an altar at Moreh (and later called on the name of Yahweh there), he did not offer sacrifices or offerings on this altar.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 12:7
7 Then Yahweh appeared to Avram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” And there he built an altar to Yahweh, who had appeared to him.
After Yahweh delivered Avram in war, Avram gave Him back a tenth of everything (through Melchizedek).
B’reisheet (Genesis) 14:18-20
18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of Elohim Most High.
19 And he blessed him and said: “Blessed be Avram of Elohim Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;
20 And blessed be Elohim Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand.” And he gave him a tithe of all.
What we will see is that Yahweh likes role specialization, and division of labor. A proper division of labor advances the economy. It also creates a more effective military, and a more effective priesthood. This is why we will see all three roles be established as separate set-apart offices.
When Yahweh later told Avram to make Him an offering, no altar was involved—so again Avram only fulfilled the priesthood role in a limited way.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 15:7-10
7 Then He said to him, “I am Yahweh, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to inherit it.”
8 And he said, “Adonai Yahweh, how shall I know that I will inherit it?”
9 So He said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
Later, Ya’akov (Jacob) only set up one stone. Thus he filled the priestly office in an even more limited capacity.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 28:18-22
18 Then Ya’akov rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously.
20 Then Ya’akov made a vow, saying, “If Elohim will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on,
21 so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then Yahweh shall be my Elohim.
22 And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be Elohim’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.”
Israelites are tradition-oriented people, and they follow the patterns their forefathers established. Therefore, it is almost certain that Ya’akov tithed to the Melchizedekian order, as his grandfather Avram had. Notice, then, that we want what our ancestor Ya’akov wanted: we want Elohim to be with us, keep us in the way we are going, and give us bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that we all come back home to our Father Yahweh’s house in peace. And since the vows of the fathers are binding on the children, Yaakov’s vow still applies to us today.
While Yahweh was setting up the priesthood as a separate office, He was also developing the kingship as a separate office. These changes are hard to see until we look at the generational trend.
The first step in establishing an internal kingship was for Avram to go down to Egypt to be under the rule of an external king (Pharaoh). This was a foreshadowing of how Israel would later go down to Egypt.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 12:10
10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Avram went down to Egypt to dwell there, for the famine was severe in the land.
Now let us look at the idea of succession within Israel. Whenever a sitting king dies, the kingship normally transfers to the oldest surviving legitimate full-blood son. In Avraham’s case, Ishmael had been sent away (at least partly because he was the son of a concubine, and not the son of a full legal wife). Yahweh also confirmed that Yitzhak (Isaac) was to inherit the birthright of kingship.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 21:12
12 But Elohim said to Abraham, “Do not let it be displeasing in your sight because of the lad or because of your bondwoman. Whatever Sarah has said to you, listen to her voice; for in Yitzhak your seed shall be called.”
Birthright succession can get convoluted, but since Yitzhak was the oldest full-blood son still living at home when Avraham died, the kingship role automatically fell to him. After Yitzhak, the kingship would have gone to Esau, except Esau had sold his birthright to Ya’akov.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 25:33
33 Then Ya’akov said, “Swear to me as of this day.” So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Ya’akov.
Later, when Ya’akov stole Esau’s blessing, Esau swore revenge. This led Ya’akov to flee to Padan Aram, where he ended up with two wives, two concubines, and twelve sons. This made the line of succession complex. Reuven (Reuben) was the firstborn, so he was first in the line of succession to the kingship. However, he forfeited his birthright when he defiled his father’s bed.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 49:3-4
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn, My might and the beginning of my strength, The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not excel, Because you went up to your father’s bed; Then you defiled it—he went up to my couch.”
This shows us that there are moral qualifications for the kingship. Ya’akov also removed Simeon and Levi from the succession because they took revenge on Shechem after the rape of Dinah (Genesis 34:25). This shows us that kings are not to be vengeful or violent.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 49:5-7
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers; Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
6 Let not my soul enter their council; Let not my honor be united to their assembly; For in their anger they slew a man, And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; And their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob And scatter them in Israel.”
Because Judah was next in birth order and succession, he was next to receive the scepter.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 49:10
10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.”
The scepter symbolizes a king’s right to rule. Ya’akov (Israel) prophesied that the scepter would not depart from Judah’s line until Shiloh (Messiah) comes, at which time the scepter will go to Him. (We will come back to this in later chapters.)
Deuteronomy shows why Leah’s, and not Rachel’s son was to inherit first born (and hence kingship) status.
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 21:15-17
15 “If a man has two wives, one loved and the other unloved, and they have borne him children, both the loved and the unloved, and if the firstborn son is of her who is unloved,
16 then it shall be, on the day he bequeaths his possessions to his sons, that he must not bestow firstborn status on the son of the loved wife in preference to the son of the unloved, the true firstborn.
17 But he shall acknowledge the son of the unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his.”
Although the birthright went to Judah, Israel was still able to give a special blessing to Rachel’s oldest son Joseph. And because Joseph was favored, the other sons were jealous, and sought to kill him.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 37:19-20
19 Then they said to one another, “Look, this dreamer is coming!
20 Come therefore, let us now kill him and cast him into some pit; and we shall say, ‘Some wild beast has devoured him.’ We shall see what will become of his dreams!”
Yet Joseph was saved from bloodshed because he was sold as a slave in Egypt. Interestingly, he later became a type of king in Egypt, as he ruled over them all.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 41:40-42
40 “You shall be over my house, and all my people shall be ruled according to your word; only in regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”
41 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.”
42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph’s hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.
Yahweh always does everything for a reason. He sent Joseph ahead to make provision for all of his brothers in the coming great famine.
B’reisheet (Genesis) 45:10-11
10 “You shall dwell in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near to me, you and your children, your children’s children, your flocks and your herds, and all that you have.
11 There I will provide for you, lest you and your household, and all that you have, come to poverty; for there are still five years of famine.”
Yahweh transitioned Israel from patriarchal rule to rule by kingship. Joseph was a type of internal king that helped ease the transition to be under an external king (Pharaoh). Although that particular Pharaoh had been gentle with Israel for the sake of Joseph, later a new king arose who did not know Joseph.
Shemote (Exodus) 1:8
8 Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.
This new external king made the Israelites’ lives bitter with hard bondage and rigor.
Shemote (Exodus) 1:14
14 And they made their lives bitter with hard bondage — in mortar, in brick, and in all manner of service in the field. All their service in which they made them serve was with rigor.
Pharaoh was a tyrant, but his rule held Israel together while they were changing from patriarchy to kingship. Suffering unites people, and after 430 years there were no longer twelve rival tribes, but a single nation of Israel. Further, all twelve tribes were primed to accept an internal servant-king, if it would get them delivered from their external tyrant-king (Pharaoh).
Yahweh sent Moshe (Moses) to fulfill internal king and prophet roles. He also sent Aharon (Aaron) to serve as Israel’s internal priest. As we will see, the initial priesthood was the priesthood of the firstborn, who were taken unto Yahweh after the slaying of all the firstborn of Egypt.
Shemote (Exodus) 12:51;13:1-2
51 And it came to pass, on that very same day, that Yahweh brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies.
1 Then Yahweh spoke to Moshe, saying,
2 “Set apart to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”
Under the priesthood of the firstborn, Israel was to offer the firstborn of both man and beast to Yahweh. It was this firstborn priesthood that was to serve as a sign upon our hands, and as frontlets between our eyes.
Shemote (Exodus) 13:15-16
15 “’And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that Yahweh killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to Yahweh all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’
16 It shall be as a sign on your hand and as frontlets between your eyes, for by strength of hand Yahweh brought us out of Egypt.”
In Exodus 19, Yahweh promised that if Israel would obey His voice, and keep His covenant (which included the sacrifices to redeem the firstborn), they would be a kingdom of priests, and a set-apart nation unto Him.
Shemote (Exodus) 19:5-6
5 “’Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine.
6 And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a set apart nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
Some people think all of the men were to be priests. However, that is not correct, as Yahweh distinguished between the people (verse 21) and the priesthood (verse 22).
Shemote (Exodus) 19:21-22
21 And Yahweh said to Moshe, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to gaze at Yahweh, and many of them perish.
22 Also let the priests who come near Yahweh set themselves apart, lest Yahweh break out against them.”
So what does Exodus 19:5-6 mean? It probably means that each man serves as both king and priest of his own household. That is, he has the authority to train up his family to hear and obey Yahweh’s voice and commands.
[Note: As the democratic West continues to turn further away from Yahweh, and elects new kings who “do not know Joseph,” each man’s authority as king and priest of his household is progressively being suppressed. As we explain in Revelation and the End Times, the state is attempting to break up birth families so the state can be our family, usurping Yahweh’s authority.]
Moshe was a special kind of leader called an anointed judge (distinct from judges appointed by men). As an anointed judge, Moshe filled both the kingship and prophetic roles. Notice, however, that the role of a judge is more like the role of a prophet than the role of a king, in that an anointed judge’s authority does not transfer to his children.
While Moshe could not delegate his duties as a prophet, he could delegate some of his duties as a king. Because the job was too big for any man to do alone, Moshe’s father-in-law told him to set judges (rulers) over sub-divisions in each tribe. This would make the governmental process more efficient and effective.
Shemote (Exodus) 18:17-23
17 So Moshe’s father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you do is not good.
18 Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. For this thing is too much for you; you are not able to perform it by yourself.
19 Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and Elohim will be with you: Stand before Elohim for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to Elohim.
20 And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.
21 Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear Elohim, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.
22 And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.
23 If you do this thing, and Elohim so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”
Later, when we study the Melchizedekian order, we will see how Yeshua told His disciples to use the same kind of subdivisions (over 100s and 50s).
Marqaus (Mark) 6:39-40
39 Then He commanded them to make them all sit down in groups on the green grass.
40 So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.
With a system of delegation and supervision in place, Yahweh then gave Moshe the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). He also gave Moshe a more detailed set of laws for the judges over the subdivisions of 1,000s, 100s, 50s, and 10s, so they would know how to apply the Ten Commandments to specific situations (Exodus 21-24). This is where the Christian nations get their concepts of federal, state, and local governments, as well as higher and lower courts.
In Exodus 24 we meet the 70 elders.
Shemote (Exodus) 24:1-2
1 Now He said to Moshe, “Come up to Yahweh, you and Aharon, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.
2 And Moshe alone shall come near Yahweh, but they shall not come near; nor shall the people go up with him.”
The record in Numbers 11 provides a scriptural basis for a council of 70 elders. The British Parliament, the US Congress, the Israeli Knesset, the Jewish Sanhedrin, etc., are all derived from this concept. One main purpose of these institutions is to give the people an orderly way to make their voices heard.
Once there was order and organization within the tribes, Moshe went up on the mountain for forty days and forty nights. In his absence, the people asked Aharon to give them something visible to worship. Because Aharon did not yet realize that it was his job to keep the people from sinning, he and the priesthood of the firstborn sought to please the people. However, Yahweh became enraged at their idolatry, so He replaced the priesthood of the firstborn with the Levites, who were willing to oppose the people when necessary.
Shemote (Exodus) 32:25-29
25 Now when Moshe saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies),
26 then Moshe stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is for Yahweh — come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him.
27 And he said to them, “Thus says Yahweh Elohei Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.'”
28 So the sons of Levi did according to the word of Moshe. And about three thousand men of the people fell that day.
29 Then Moshe said, “Consecrate yourselves to Yahweh today, that He may bestow on you a blessing this day, for every man has opposed his son and his brother.”
While it is everyone’s job to oppose evil, the priests are responsible to teach the people the difference between the set-apart and the profane. However, while Israel was in the wilderness under the Levitical order, the priests had full authority to discipline the nation, under the Melchizedekian order, in the dispersion, the rules are different. It is now assumed that each one of us who has Yeshua’s Spirit will want to help Him, and thereby become His help-meet. But because the model of government spelled out in Scripture is not easy, our churches are full of teachers satisfying itching ears.
TimaTheus Bet (2 Timothy) 4:3-4
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;
4 and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.
In the next few chapters we will take a closer look at the Levitical priesthood.