40. Zadokites in Ezekiel

Discuss the regulations found in Ezekiel 44:6–16 and describe the relationship between Levites and Zadokites, which they prescribe. Do you judge this passage to have originated with the prophet Ezekiel or to be a later addition to the Ezekiel corpus? How do you reconstruct the socio-religious setting out of which it arose? How does it fit into the larger history of the priestly houses between the years 622 and 400 BCE? Draw upon recent scholarship relating to this question where helpful.

Summary: The regulations in Ezek 44:6-16 are pro-Zadokite and anti-Levite. Zadokites are given the rights to be priests in charge of the altar, while Levites are only allowed to be ministers in the sanctuary, but not at the altar. This pro-Zadokite view stands in contrast with Deuteronomy's view which allowed all Levites to be priests. It seems that after the exile, Zadokites gained the upper hand because they were the elite that were taken into exile and they were also those that returned to Jerusalem after 538 BCE. The conflicts between the Zadokites and other Levites were resolved with the Zadokites coming out on top. Ezek 44:6-16 seems to have been redacted by Zadokites and thus there is a pro-Zadokite bias.

I. Discuss the regulations found in Ezekiel 44:6–16 and describe the relationship between Levites and Zadokites, which they prescribe. 

*In 1957, H. Gese, Der Verfassungsentwurf des Ezechiel (Kap. 40-48) traditionsgechichtlich untersucht (Tübingen, 1957) proposed that Ezek. 40-48 was composed of several strata, culminating (and terminating) in a so-called “Zadokite strata,” positioning the Zadokites atop the priestly chain of command.

*In Ezekiel 40-48 (the so-called "Zadokite Stratum"), especially in 44:6-16, there is a clear preference for the Zadokites over the Levites. Several references are made to Levites; Ezekiel makes a strong distinction between various kinds of Levites. In 40:46, we are told that “the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar; these are the descendants of Zadok, who alone among the descendants of Levi may come near to the YHWH to minister to him.” See also 43:19. See also 48:11. The Levites, generally, will have property in the renewed holy city and Temple; in Ezek. 48:22, the property of the Levites will be “in the middle of that which belongs to the prince.” 

*Ezekiel is in agreement with P (Num 3:6-9; 18:1-7) that the priests take a more important role than the other Levites. The Levites are there to assist the priests, who are Aaron's descendants. 

*According to Hartmut Gese, Ezekiel 40-48 does not constitute a literary critical unit but rather numerous additions of the text have corrected the first draft in accordance with the historical reality of the Second Temple.  Zimmerli noted that one can distinguish a nasi stratum (44:1-3, 45:21-25, 46:1-12) and a Zadokite Stratum (44:6-16,28-30a, 45:13-15).  The nasi stratum speaks of the nasi (prince) as the leader of the cultic congregation with the am ha ares at his side.  It always uses nasi in the singular and speaks postitively of him, in contrast to those places which restrict his role (Ezek 45:8b-9, 46:16-18).  This strata is closely linked to Leviticus 4.  The Zadokite stratum is characterized by a “you (plural)” address to Israel, restricts the priesthood to the Zadokites, and degrades the other priests (Levites) to ancillary personal in the Temple.

44:6-16: Levites are evil. They are punished.

*The Levites "went astray," "brought in foreigners" into the sanctuary," "went far away after their idols," "they will "bear their iniquity," "they caused the house of Israel to fall into iniquity," they ministered "before their idols," "the shall bear their shame and abominations."

*In charge of the Temple, but not the altar: They are ministers in the sanctuary; they minister as gatekeepers and ministers of the house. "They will keep charge of the temple, for all its work, for that has to be done in it." They will slay the burnt offering for the people. But, they will come "near to Me as priests." They will not come near the "holy things" or into the "most holy place." t

*The Levites are inferior to the Zadokites. They are not serving as priests, but as temple workers.

44:6-16: Zadokites are righteous. They are rewarded.

*They Zadokites "kept charge of My sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from Me." 

*In charge of altar as priests: "They shall come near to Me to minister to Me," "they shall stand before Me to offer to Me the fat and the blood," "they shall enter my sanctuary," "they shall come near My table to minister to Me," "they shall enter inner court," 

*They Zadokites are called "Levitical priests" (Ezek 43:19; 44:15). They get the greater revenue as priest of the altar (Cody).

II. Do you judge this passage to have originated with the prophet Ezekiel or to be a later addition to the Ezekiel corpus? 

*Haran, Greenberg, Niditch attributed Ezek 40-48 ("the temple vision") to Ezekiel.

*Gese and Cody both argued for a Zadokite Strata in Ezek 40-48, especially 44:6-16, which was redacted by the Zadokites to place them above the Levites.

*Indeed, one may see Ezek 44:6-16 as dating to a stratum from the post-exilic time period when the Zadokites were polemicizing against the Levites in order to establish their authority in Yehud (Stephen Cook).

*In this unit 40-48, the Zadokites are usually called "Levitical priests" while the "levites" are not to be reckoned as priests. This is suspicious since Deuteronomy specifically allowed for all Levites to priests. Thus, there seems to have been a redaction that tried to establish the Zadokites as superior over the other Levites (Cody).

III. How do you reconstruct the socio-religious setting out of which it arose? How does it fit into the larger history of the priestly houses between the years 622 and 400 BCE? 

1.) Josiah (640-609) & the discovery of Deuteronomy in 622 BCE

*Josiah was king over Judah 640-609 BCE. Deuteronomy was presumably found (more likely written) in 622 BCE in the Temple (2Kgs 22-23). As a result of finding and reading the book of Deuteronomy, Josiah purged the temple of the vessels of Baal and Asherah and tore down the high places where Levites traditionally offered sacrifices. He also instituted centralization of the cult of Jerusalem. 

*Furthermore,  according Deuteronomoy, the Levites and the Aaronid Priests had equal footing.

•Deut 17:14ff: king is subject to Levites, must read the law before them.

•They can conduct sacrifices and teach.

•No stratification of the priesthood in Deuteronomy

•Levites are not lower than Aaronids

•No high priest mentioned anywhere in Deut.

•But in DtrH: designation “High Priest” does occur in DtrH: (1) Josh 20:6; (2) 2 Kgs 12; and (3) 2Kgs 22 (Hilkiah is High Priest)

*Despite the promised equality of priests and Levites in Deuteronomy, after Josiah's reform, the Levites lost their shrines. And although they were invited to go up to Jerusalem and minister at the temple as priests (Deut 18:6-8), nevertheless they suffered exclusion at the Jerusalem Temple (2 Kgs 23:9) despite Deuteronomy's support.

*Wellhausen interpreted this text (Ezek 44) as inventing moral grounds to justify a distinction between Zadokites and Levites caused by the failure in practice of the Deuteronomic legislation, which legislation he saw as giving all Levites equal sacrificial rights in Jerusalem (Deut 18:6-8). That is, because the Deuteronomic legistaion failed to realize full equality for priests and Levites, Ezekiel invented a moral reason why the Levites are subordinate to the Zadokites, namely, because the Levites "went astray."

2.) Exile (587 BCE), Return (538 BCE), and the Book of Chronicles (400 BCE)

*Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 BCE by Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The Judaeans, including the Zadokite priests such as Ezekiel, were taken into exile to Babylon. 

*Cyrus of Persia conquered Babylon in 539 BCE and allowed the Judaeans to return to Judea in 538 BCE. 

*Hanson (96) claims that while the Zadokites (like Ezekiel) were taken away to exile, the Levites took control of the Temple site; thus, a passage like Isa. 63:18, “For a brief time your holy people held possession, but our adversaries have desecrated your sanctuary,” refers to the brief exilic period when the Zadokites (= “our adversaries”) were gone, and the Levites (= “your holy people”) held control.

*Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the Aaronid supremacy is due to the fact that (1) they were the ones in control during the time of the fall of Jerusalem (Abiathar had been deposed by Solomon), and (2) since the Babylonians took the upper-class Aaronids into exile and they were the ones who lead the return to Jerusalem through Ezra under the Persians. 

*The Persians gave support to the Aaronid Zadokites by granting them permission to run the internal affairs of the 2nd Temple. They gave the Zadokites the political power they needed to enforce what Ezekiel may only have envisioned as a solution.

*Ezek 44 claims that only the Zadokites had the right to be priests. However, in actual post-exilic practice, it was not just the sons of Zadok who served as priests, but a broader group, "the sons of Aaron." It has been suggested that after the Temple was destroyed and the majority of Zadokites were carried off into exile, makeshift religious services were continued in Jerusalem during the exile and supervised by non-Zadokite priests; upon the return of (mostly Zadokite) priestly personnel from the exile, there was conflict between rival houses, and some sort of compromise proved necessary (cf. AncIsr, 395–97; Cody 1969: 156–74; Hanson 1975). In the work of the Chronicler and the Priestly writers, all sons of Aaron have priestly privileges (1 Chr 24:1–6; Exodus 28–29; Num 3:1–4). But even though the postexilic literature extended the priesthood to all Aaronides, the line of Zadok's ancestor Eleazar is given a more prominent role in P (cf. Num 26:1–4; 31:13, 21, 25–31) and is granted the Lord‘s promise of perpetual priesthood (Num 25:10–13). 

*In Chronicles 6:33-4, the author makes a distinction between the Levites generally, who “were appointed for all the service of the Tabernacle of the House of God,” and Aaron and his sons, who “made offerings upon the altar of burn offering and upon the altar of incense, performing all the tasks of the most holy place to make atonement for Israel.” Thus, it seems that Zadokites and Aaronides were actual priests while Levites did other functions within the temple. In 1Chron. 9, we find reference to several Levites who are in charge of various things in the second temple, like being gatekeepers, making flat cakes,and singing. The Levites are depicted as carriers of the ark (1Chron. 15:15, etc.) and as singers and musicians (1Chron. 15:16ff.).

*But, in Ezra, we see a type of merging of the Deuteronomic model of priesthood and P/Ezekiel's model of priesthood. Ezra is a Zadokite priests as is prescribed by P and Ezekiel. But, he also a scribe of the Torah as is prescribed by Deuteronomy, which focuses on learning and keeping the Torah.

*The Zadokites apparently managed to hold the high priesthood until the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, and the origin of the community of the Dead Sea Scrolls likely was related to the loss of that office by the Zadokites (Cross 1961: 127–60; CMHE, 334–42).


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