The descendants of Zadok (Ezek 48:11-48:12)

“This shall be

For the consecrated priests,

The descendants of Zadok.

They kept my charge.

They did not go astray,

When the people of Israel

Went astray,

As the Levites did.

It shall belong to them,

As a special portion,

From the holy portion

Of the land.

It shall be

A most holy place.

Adjoining the territory

Of the Levites.”

The descendants of Zadok were going to have a special place as mentioned in chapter 44. They were the ones who had not gone astray, like the other Levite priests, in the time before the exile. Thus, they will get a special portion of the holy section of this land, next to the other Levitical priests.

 

The dedication of the altar (Ezek 43:18-43:20)

“‘On the day

When it is erected

For offering

Burnt offerings

Upon it,

For dashing blood

Against it,

You shall give

A bull

For a sin offering.

The Levitical priests

Of the family of Zadok,

Who draw near to me

Shall minister to me.’

Says Yahweh God.

‘You shall take

Some of its blood.

You will put it on

The four horns

Of the altar.

You will put it on

The four corners

Of the ledge.

You will put it

On the rim,

All around.

Thus,

You shall purify it.

You will make atonement

for it.’”

The first thing to be done on this new altar, after it was erected for offerings, was a burnt offering. The Levitical priests of the family of Zadok was based on a righteous priest, who was descended from Eleazar, the son of Aaron. Zadok had aided King David during the revolt of his son Absalom in 2 Samuel, chapters 13-22. Then this Zadok helped bring King Solomon to the throne in 1 Kings, chapters 1-2. After Solomon’s building of The First Temple in Jerusalem, Zadok was the first High Priest to serve there in 1 Kings, chapter 4. Thus, it was not strange that the house of Zadok occupied the high priesthood throughout much of the Second Temple period. These Levitical priests were the ones who came near to Yahweh to minister to him. The first of the sin offerings was a bull. These Zadok Levitical priests were to put its blood on the 4 horns of the altar, plus on the rim all around it for a purification and an atonement at the same time.

 

Levitical priests (Jer 33:18-3:18)

“The Levitical priests

Shall never lack

A man in my presence

To offer burnt offerings,

To make grain offerings,

To make sacrifices forever.”

Now Yahweh indicates, via this oracle, that they would never lack Levitical priests. These priests would offer burnt offerings, grain offerings, and other sacrifices to Yahweh forever.

The holy vestments of Aaron (Sir 45:7-45:9)

“The Lord blessed Aaron with stateliness.

He put a glorious robe on him.

He clothed him in perfect splendor.

He strengthened him

With the symbols of authority.

Aaron had linen undergarments.

He had a long robe.

He had the ephod.

The Lord encircled him with pomegranates.

There were many golden bells all around.

This sent forth a sound as he walked.

Their ringing could be heard in the temple.

This was a reminder to his people.”

Next Sirach explains the holy vestments of Aaron. The problem, of course, is that Aaron never made it to the Promise Land to wear any of these vestments, since he died in the desert or wilderness, centuries before the Jerusalem Temple was built. These were the vestments of the Levitical priests, not Aaron, as described in Exodus, chapter 28. Aaron was to be stately and splendid wearing these robes of authority. He was to wear linen undergarments, a long robe, and the ephod. According to Exodus, the long robe was blue with pomegranates all around it. The bells were to remind people that he was coming into the Temple that did not yet exist. The ephod was an old cultural vestment, an embroidered garment, believed to be like an apron with shoulder straps, worn by Levitical priests in ancient Israel.

The great fraternal life (Ps 133:1-133:3)

A song of ascents.

“How very good it is!

How pleasant it is!

Kindred brothers live together in unity!

It is like the precious oil upon the head.

It runs down upon the beard.

It runs down on the beard of Aaron.

It runs down over the collar of his robes.

It is like the dew of Hermon.

It falls on the mountains of Zion.

For there Yahweh has commanded his blessing,

Life forevermore.”

Psalm 133 is another very short psalm in this series of pilgrimage songs on the ascent to Jerusalem. This wisdom song emphasizes the value of brothers living together in unity. This was like the holy oil that one puts on one’s head. As in the ceremony for the consecration of the Levitical priests, it runs down as on the beard of Aaron and over the collar of his robes. This good fraternal life is like the dew from the mountains of Hermon in Syria. Here the dew falls on Mount Zion. From Mount Zion, Yahweh gives his blessings of life forever. Thus this very short psalm concludes with everlasting life.

The crossing of the Jordan River (Josh 3:14-3:17)

“When the people set out from their tents, to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the harvest time. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan. While the waters flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh also stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.”

This is just like Moses at the Red Sea. The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stand in the middle of the Jordan River. The river stops flowing until all the Israelites cross over. No one gets wet. Notice that this takes place near a town called Adam and Zarethan, which is near the Jabbok River.

Preliminaries for the crossing of the Jordan River (Josh 3:1-3:6)

“Early in the morning Joshua rose and set out from Shittim with all the Israelites. They came to the Jordan. They camped there before crossing over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people. ‘When you see the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place. Follow it, so that you may know the way you should go. You have not passed this way before. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, a distance of about two thousand cubits. Do not come any nearer to it.’ Then Joshua said to the people. ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow when Yahweh will do wonders among you.’ To the priests Joshua said. ‘Take up the Ark of the Covenant. Pass on in front of the people.’ So they took up the Ark of the Covenant and went before the people.”

The crossing of the Jordan will be similar to the crossing of the Red Sea, almost like a liturgical worship action since the Ark of the Covenant must lead them into battle. After 3 days, the officers told their troops to follow the Levitical priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant. However, they were to stay a good distance away from them. Everyone had to sanctify themselves for the next day as the Ark of the Covenant passed through them.