Saturday, August 21, 2010

Moses as a Priestly Figure

Earlier this week I posted on the way the Tabernacle seems to be reflected in the Sinai experience. Specifically, Sinai appears to have a tripartite structure. The top of the mountain would seem analogous then to the holy of holies.

Given this, we might go on to point out that if Sinai is a Tabernacle, Moses is depicted as a quasi-high priestly figure--Moses alone ascends to the top, i.e., the holy of holies.

In fact, Exodus seems to suggest Moses' sacerdotal identity in other ways. Notably, Moses is portrayed as performing priestly actions, such as:
1. interceding for Israel before the Lord (cf. Exod 19:9; 34:27)
2. making atonement for Israel (cf. e.g., Exod 32:11–14; Jer 15:1; 4Q504 [4QWords of the Luminariesa])
3. carrying out cultic actions (cf. Exod 24:3–8)
4. officiating the ordination ritual of the Levites (cf. Lev 8)
serving in the tabernacle (cf. Exod 33:7–11).
Of course, Moses’ Levitical lineage further links him with the priesthood (cf. Exod 2:1).

It is probably not surprising then that in a lengthy section Philo explicitly identifies Moses as a priestly figure (cf. Mos. 2:66–186). He begins:
We have already, then, gone through two parts of the life of Moses, discussing his character in his capacity of a king and of a lawgiver. We must now consider him in a third light, as fulfilling the office of the priesthood.


Anonymous said...

The covenants all are begun by a priest-prophet-king man and a woman by his side.

Sister Mary Agnes said...

Dr. Barber, I am just curious: are there any scholars who seriously think Moses is NOT a priestly figure? Moses' priesthood seems so obvious, I would be curious to know the points of view of those who don't see it that way...

Bruce Killian said...

Moses is obvoiusly a priest. Hisfather in law had only daughters and Moses lived with Jethro the priest of Midian (a descendant of Abraham by Keturah) for forty years. Moses was ordained during that period. Only the High Priest was allowed in the Holy of Holies, and Moses was allowed in therefore he was not just a priest but a high priest.
Grace and peace,