List of High Priests of Israel

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This page gives one list (partly traditional) of the High Priests of Ancient Israel up to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE. Because of a lack of historical data, this list is incomplete and there may be gaps.

Line of the High Priests of Israel[edit]

A traditional list of the Jewish High Priests

The office did not always pass directly from father to son. The high priests, like all Jewish priests, belonged to the Aaronic line. The Bible mentions the majority of high priests before the captivity, but does not give a complete list of office holders. Lists would be based on various historical sources. In several periods of gentile rule, high priests were appointed and removed by kings. Still, most high priests came from the Aaronic line. One exception is Menelaus, who may not have been from the Tribe of Levi at all, but from the Tribe of Benjamin.

From the Exodus to the Babylonian Exile[edit]

I Chronicles 5:30-40 in Hebrew Bible Book of Ezra 7:1-5 Josephus[1] Seder 'Olam Zuta Important priests in the Tanakh
Aaron Aaron Aaron Aaron Aaron
Eleazar Eleazar Eleazar Eleazar Eleazar
Phinehas Phinehas Phinehas Phinehas Phinehas
Abishua Abishua Abishua Abishua Abishua
According to the Samaritans, Shesha is inserted, said to be the son of Abishua and father to Bukki.
Bukki Bukki Bukki Bukki Bukki
Uzzi Uzzi Uzzi Uzzi Uzzi
Zerahiah Zerahiah Eli Eli Eli, descendant of Ithamar, son of Aaron [2]
Meraioth Meraioth Ahitub Ahitub Ahitub
- Azariah Ahijah Ahijah Ahijah
Amariah Amariah Ahimelech Ahimelech Ahimelech
Ahitub Ahitub Abiathar Abiathar Abiathar
Zadok Zadok Zadok Zadok Zadok, son of Ahitub (son of Amariah, son of Meraioth, son of Zerahiah, son of Uzzi — 1 Chr 6:6-8) of the line of Eleazar, High Priest during the reign of King Solomon and the construction of the First Temple
Ahimaaz Ahimaaz Ahimaaz Ahimaaz Ahimaaz, son of Zadok, High Priest during the reign of King Solomon
Azariah Azariah Azariah Azariah Azariah, son of Ahimaaz ("prince" during Solomon's reign — 1 Ki 4:2)
Johanan - Joram Joash Johanan, son of Azariah
- - Isus Jehoiarib Jehoiarib, head of a family of priests
- - - Jehoshaphat -
- - Axioramos Jehoiada Jehoiada, brother-in-law of King Ahaziah
- - Phideas Pediah -
- - Sudeas Zedekiah -
Azariah - Juelus Joel Azariah II
Amaria - Jotham Jotham -
Ahitub - Urias Urijah Uriah, priest (2 Ki 16:10; Isaiah 8:2)
Meraioth - Nerias Neria Azariah III, son of Johanan, son of Azariah II (c. 715 BC — 1 Chr 6:9, 2 Chr 31:10)
Zadok - Odeas Hoshaiah -
Shallum Shallum Shallum Shallum Shallum, son of Zadok
Hilkiah Hilkiah Elcias Hilkiah Hilkiah, priest at the time of King Josiah.
Azariah IV Azariah IV Azaros Azariah IV Azariah IV, son of Hilkiah (1 Chr 6:13)
Seriah Seriah Sareas Seriah Seriah, son of Azariah IV (2 Ki 25:18)

Some name Jehozadak, son of Seriah, as a high priest prior to being sent to captivity in Babylonia, which however is a misreading of biblical references to "Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest." Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi) wrote that Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the [High] Priest, "does not [mean] that Jehozadak ever served in the high priesthood, for he was exiled to Babylon in the days of Jeconiah, as it is written: And Jehozadak went when… exiled etc.," but Joshua his son was the High Priest when they ascended from Babylon during the time of the Second Temple. Now why was Azariah the son of Seraiah the scholar not the High Priest, but [instead] his nephew Joshua the son of Jehozadak? This is the reason: because Joshua ascended with Zerubbabel many days and years before Ezra ascended.[3]

A genealogy from Aaron through Eleazar to Jehozadak can be found in 1 Chronicles, chapter 6. As in several biblical genealogies, some names may be omitted. Therefore it is uncertain whether high priests mentioned elsewhere (such as Jehoiada and Jehoiarib) are simply omitted or did not belong to the unbroken male line in this genealogy. During the later time of the judges, the office went to Itamar's descendants for a period, the first known and most notable high priest being Eli. After Abiathar was expelled, the office returned to the line of Eleazar. It is not sure whether all those mentioned in the genealogy between Zadok and Jehozadak were high priests. From Solomon's time until the captivity, Josephus names 18 high priests,[4] while Seder 'Olam Zuta names 19.

After the Babylonian Exile[edit]

  • Joshua, son of Jehozadak, ca. 515-490 BC, after the restoration of the Temple
  • Ezra, son of Seraiah, ca. unknown, sometime after Joshua's term (disputed) [5]
  • Joiakim, son of Joshua, ca. 490-470 BC
  • Eliashib, son of Joiakim, ca. 470-433 BC
  • Joiada, son of Eliashib, ca. 433-410 BC {A son married a daughter of Sanballat the Horonite for which he was driven out of the Temple by Nehemiah}
  • Johanan, son of Joiada, ca. 410-371 BC
  • Jaddua, son of Johanan, ca. 371-320 BC, during the reign of Alexander the Great. Some have identified him as Simeon the Just.

The five descendants of Joshua are mentioned in Nehemiah, chapter 12, 10f. The chronology given above, based on Josephus, however is not undisputed, with some alternatively placing Jaddua during the time of Darius II and some supposing one more Johanan and one more Jaddua in the following time, the latter Jaddua being contemporary of Alexander the Great.

Inter-Sacerdotium: It is unknown who held the position of High Priest of Jerusalem between Alcimus' death and the accession of Jonathan. Josephus, in Jewish Antiquities XX.10, relates that the office was vacant for six years, but this is indeed highly unlikely, if not impossible. In religious terms, the High Priest was a necessary part of the rites on the Day of Atonement - a day that could have not been allowed to pass uncelebrated for so long so soon after the restoration of the Temple service. Politically, Israel's overlords probably would not have allowed a power vacuum to last that length of time.

In another passage (XII.10 §6, XII.11 §2) Josephus suggests that Judas Maccabeus, the brother of Jonathan, held the office for three years, succeeding Alcimus. However, Judas actually predeceased Alcimus by one year. The nature of Jonathan's accession to the high priesthood makes it unlikely that Judas held that office during the inter-sacerdotium. The Jewish Encyclopedia tries to harmonise the contradictions found in Josephus by supposing that Judas held the office "immediately after the consecration of the Temple (165-162), that is, before the election of Alcimus"[6]

It has been argued that the founder of the Qumran community, the Teacher of Righteousness (Moreh Zedek), was High Priest (but not necessarily the sole occupant) during the inter-sacerdotium and was driven off by Jonathan. This view is based on sources from the Qumran, that portray the teacher as a figure of authority usually associated with the high priest, however, without clearly spelling out names or events.[citation needed]

Hasmonean dynasty[edit]

High Priest under Herodians and Romans[edit]

During the First Jewish-Roman War[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 10:151-153 (10.8.6, in the order: book, chapter and verse.)
  2. ^ {According to Samaritan sources[citation needed] a civil War broke out between the Sons of Itamar {Eli (Bible)} and the Sons of Phineas - which resulted in the division of those who followed Eli and those who followed High Priest Uzzi ben Bukki at Mount Gerizim Bethel {A third group followed neither}. Likewise according to Samaritan sources[citation needed] the high Priests line of the sons of Phineas died out in 1624 A.D. with the death of the 112th High Priest Shlomyah ben Pinhas when the priesthood was transferred to the sons of Itamar; see article Samaritan for list of High Priests from 1613 to 2004-the 131st High priest of the Samaritans is Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq}
  3. ^ Quoted from the Judaica Press Tanach with Rashi Commentary.
  4. ^ 17 Priests are listed in Antiquities of the Jews 10:151-153, but Josephus also mentioned High Priest Seraiah in 10:149.
  5. ^ There is a slight controversy within rabbinic sources as to whether or not Ezra had served as. See HaQoton, Reb Chaim "Was Ezra a High Priest" also printed in the Jewish Bible Quarterly (July 2013)[1]
  6. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Judas Maccabseus
  7. ^ http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=269&letter=M
  8. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.2
  9. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5