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Easton's Bible Dictionary

 

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Priest
        The Heb. kohen, Gr. hierus, Lat. sacerdos, always denote one who
        offers sacrifices.
        At first every man was his own priest, and presented his own
        sacrifices before God. Afterwards that office devolved on the
        head of the family, as in the cases of Noah (Gen. 8:20), Abraham
        (12:7; 13:4), Isaac (26:25), Jacob (31:54), and Job (Job 1:5).
        The name first occurs as applied to Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18).
        Under the Levitical arrangements the office of the priesthood
        was limited to the tribe of Levi, and to only one family of that
        tribe, the family of Aaron. Certain laws respecting the
        qualifications of priests are given in Lev. 21:16-23. There are
        ordinances also regarding the priests' dress (Ex. 28:40-43) and
        the manner of their consecration to the office (29:1-37).
        Their duties were manifold (Ex. 27:20, 21; 29:38-44; Lev.
        6:12; 10:11; 24:8; Num. 10:1-10; Deut. 17:8-13; 33:10; Mal.
        2:7). They represented the people before God, and offered the
        various sacrifices prescribed in the law.
        In the time of David the priests were divided into twenty-four
        courses or classes (1 Chr. 24:7-18). This number was retained
        after the Captivity (Ezra 2:36-39; Neh. 7:39-42).
        "The priests were not distributed over the country, but lived
        together in certain cities [forty-eight in number, of which six
        were cities of refuge, q.v.], which had been assigned to their
        use. From thence they went up by turns to minister in the temple
        at Jerusalem. Thus the religious instruction of the people in
        the country generally was left to the heads of families, until
        the establishment of synagogues, an event which did not take
        place till the return from the Captivity, and which was the main
        source of the freedom from idolatry that became as marked a
        feature of the Jewish people thenceforward as its practice had
        been hitherto their great national sin."
        The whole priestly system of the Jews was typical. It was a
        shadow of which the body is Christ. The priests all prefigured
        the great Priest who offered "one sacrifice for sins" "once for
        all" (Heb. 10:10, 12). There is now no human priesthood. (See
        Epistle to the Hebrews throughout.) The term "priest" is indeed
        applied to believers (1 Pet. 2:9; Rev. 1:6), but in these cases
        it implies no sacerdotal functions. All true believers are now
        "kings and priests unto God." As priests they have free access
        into the holiest of all, and offer up the sacrifices of praise
        and thanksgiving, and the sacrifices of grateful service from
        day to day.

Bibliography Information
Easton, Matthew George. M.A., D.D., "Biblical Meaning for 'Priest' Eastons Bible Dictionary".
bible-history.com - Eastons; 1897.

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