The Unique Priesthood of Moses

(Posted by Paige)

We’re working in Hebrews 9 now in my Bible study, and I have been struck afresh by the unique priestly role that Moses has in Israel’s history.  I’m wondering if any of you have remarked on this unique priesthood or taught or read about it.  I’d benefit from your observations about its features and redemptive-historical significance.  Would it be fair to say that Moses’ priestly work of intercession, mediation, & consecration  (esp. Ex. 19-20, 24, 29, 33-34) is something of a cross or a bridge between the patriarchal priestly roles and Aaron’s high priestly line?  It’s fascinating to me that when we think of Israel’s first priest we think of Aaron — but Moses was the priest who installed him!

Thanks in advance for your thoughtful ideas.

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8 Comments

  1. rfwhite said,

    October 28, 2013 at 3:50 pm

    PB: tell us some more about “the unique priestly role that Moses has in Israel’s history.” What do you see as the uniqueness of his role (not that there is none, just wanting to get your take on it)?

  2. rfwhite said,

    October 28, 2013 at 7:37 pm

    PB: here’s a thought — the distinctiveness of Moses that you have observed derives from the fact that he was the mediator of the old covenant.

  3. Reedhere said,

    October 29, 2013 at 7:18 am

    What about Moses as a part of the covenant patriarchal priesthood? Abraham, Isaac and Jacob functioned as family-head priests (Samuel as well, Noah seems likely, and possibly Job too). Cf., Heb. 3:5. If this observation follows, might this be the bad is for Moses’ priestly function, and then connection to the Aaronic priesthood?

  4. paigebritton said,

    October 29, 2013 at 8:53 am

    If I’m not mistaken, Moses does several priestly things (sacrifice, consecration, intercession, mediation) without ever being directly designated as a “priest” of Israel in the text of the Pentateuch. If Aaron is the high priest, and Moses is the one who consecrates him and his sons, then Moses seems to be a higher priest. Who consecrated him for this role? …Looks like he’s direct from God, like Melchizedek & Jesus.

    Also, Moses does these things at the transition between (maybe?) patriarchal/clan leadership and priestly leadership of Israel (Reed’s point, too). And he’s a transition point between unwritten priesthood and written-down priesthood. (And he’s the writer-down of the written-down priesthood. I could go on, but you get the picture.)

    Things like that. I’ll bet his priestly role is pregnant with redemptive-historical and typological significance. I don’t think I’ve ever heard or read much about it, except of course about the intercession part.

    Thanks!

  5. Reedhere said,

    October 29, 2013 at 9:11 am

    Don’t think Moses is transitionalif by that we mean replacement. Samuel, of the same model, functioned so in the midst of the Mosaic covenant era.

    Thought about Melichizedak connection. Discarded it, as Hebrews seems two make a strong case about the uniqueness of this priestly order, as in we only know of two members, Christ and old Melchi.

    Think some meditation on Hebrews 2 will provide some substantive insights. There a direct comparison between Moses and Christ is presented, in their covenant origination roles.

    Maybe here an insight: Moses as the head of the old covenant establishes the priesthood of Aaron; Christ as the head of the new covenant establishes the priesthood of believers.

  6. Pete Rambo said,

    October 29, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I believe Moses’ function is less transitional than archetypical.

    While a transition is occurring, moving from patriarchal priestly duties to Israel functioning as a nation, God’s will from the beginning was a nation of priests. (Ex. 19:4-6ff) Peter confirms this in I Pe. 2. At the time of this transition, the cultural context for Israel was that most all surrounding nations were led by king-priests. Abraham had functioned in this role to a degree, as well as a prophet… all offices for the yet future Messiah. Scripture tells us that the Messiah would be One ‘like unto [Moses],’ thus making Moses the archetype of the Messiah, one who holds all three offices. Prophet, priest, and king (judge).

    From Moses forward, the offices are not again seen embodied in one person until Messiah with the possible exception of shadows in Samuel. (David and Solomon have faint glimmers as priests.) When the lines between offices are blurred or usurped (Saul) there are Divine consequences. This division is partly to prevent Israel from looking like the nations, and partly to highlight the uniqueness of Moses and Who he represents.

    A cursory study of Moses reveals more than 70 parallels to person and work of Messiah. One of those is the somewhat hidden origination of the priestly authority.

    Reed correctly identifies Hebrews 3, which points to Moses’ direct appointment by God and the connection between the Messiah and Moses, however, Moses only appoints Aaron after the people reject God’s face to face offer (compare Ex. 20:19 and 27:21-28:2ff), so the parallel may not work apart from the simple picture of Messiah consecrating priests.

    Now, here’s why it is important to understand and rightly divide Moses’ role, not just as priest, but as prophet and king/judge. The Good News of the kingdom is to go to Jew first and also to the Greek. Jerusalem, then Judea, etc… One ‘like unto [Moses]’ will uphold and teach the Law. Israel is commanded to reject any false prophet (Deu. 13) who teaches against the Law, therefore, they are in a catch-22 when we present Messiah Jesus/Yeshua and then say He ‘did away with’ or abrogated any part of the Law. They are required by Law to reject Him as a false prophet. When we do that, their blood is on our hands.

    1800 years of past Christian/Catholic history reveal very little success among the Jews when we present a ‘Gentile’ Moses as the Messiah. The last 100 years, and more specifically, the last 25 years have revealed incredible gains among Jews, largely a result of scholars on both sides seeking to recapture the Jewishness of the One Like Unto Moses. (Michael L. Brown, PhD, The Real Kosher Jesus or The Return of the Kosher Pig, by Rabbi Itzhak Shapira as examples)

    Moses’ priesthood is less about transition than it is about archetype. “And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Luk 16:31

    More important than presenting a risen Messiah, is presenting One ‘like unto Moses.’

    Blessings.

  7. rfwhite said,

    October 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    PB: for what it’s worth, it looks to me that, as Pete R points out and as Reed suggested, the priestly functions that you mention were one aspect of Moses’ mediatorial role. That role, to which God ordained him, was threefold: priestly, prophetic, and judicial (the latter being “proto-royal,” if you will), anticipating the offices in Israel and the offices of the new covenant mediator to come.

  8. paigebritton said,

    October 30, 2013 at 7:40 am

    Hey, thank you all. The focus on the archetypal mediatorial role of Moses, with its three aspects corresponding to Christ’s three offices, is a helpful encapsulation of the “unique priesthood” that I was seeing.

    BTW Reed, I wasn’t intending to identify Moses with Melchizedek’s order there, just commenting that Moses, Melchizedek and Jesus all apparently got their priestly commissions straight from God (Aaron’s appointment was mediated by Moses!). I loved your insight that maybe “Moses as the head of the old covenant establishes the priesthood of Aaron; Christ as the head of the new covenant establishes the priesthood of believers,” though I appreciate Pete’s caution about the direct parallel there.

    Intriguing stuff. Thanks for interacting about it with me!


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