List of High Priests of Israel

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This article gives a list of the High Priests (Kohen Gadol) of Ancient Israel up to the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 AD. Because of a lack of historical data, this list is incomplete and there may be gaps.

High Priests of Israel[edit]

A traditional list of the Jewish High Priests

The High Priests, like all Levitical priests, belonged to the Aaronic line. The Bible mentions the majority of high priests before the Babylonian 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 Solomon's Temple[edit]

The following section is based on information found in the various books of the Bible, including the genealogies given in First Book of Chronicles and the Book of Ezra, the works of Josephus[1] and the early-medieval Seder Olam Zutta.

Although Phinehas and his descendants are not directly attested as high priests, this portion of the genealogy given in 1 Chronicles 6:3–15 is assumed by other sources (including Josephus[2] and Seder 'Olam Zutta), to give the succession of the office from father to son. At some time, the office was transferred from descendants of Eleazar to those of his brother Itamar.[3] The first known and most notable high priest of Itamar's line was Eli, a contemporary of Samuel.

  • Eli, descendant of Ithamar, son of Aaron
  • Ahitub, son of Phinehas and grandson of Eli
  • Ahijah, son of Ahitub
  • Ahimelech, son of Ahijah (or brother of Ahijah and son of Ahitub)
  • Abiathar, son of Ahimelech

Abiathar was removed from the high priesthood for conspiring against King Solomon, and was replaced by Zadok, son of Ahitub, who oversaw the construction of the First Temple. According to the genealogies given in 1 Chronicles 6:3–15, Zadok was a descendant of Uzzi (through Zerahiah, Meraioth, Amariah and Ahitub) and thus belonged to the line of Eleazar.

First Temple period[edit]

From Solomon's time until the Babylonian captivity the High Priests officiated at Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem.[citation needed] Information about who served in that office diverges between the Bible, Josephus and the Seder Olam Zutta. While Josephus and Seder 'Olam Zuta each mention 18 high priests,[4] the genealogy given in 1 Chronicles 6:3–15 gives twelve names, culminating in the last high priest Seriah, father of Jehozadak. However, it is unclear whether all those mentioned in the genealogy between Zadok and Jehozadak were high priests and whether high priests mentioned elsewhere (such as Jehoiada and Jehoiarib) are simply omitted or did not belong to the male line in this genealogy.

1 Chronicles 6:3–15
(* Also mentioned in Ezra 7:1–5)
Josephus[5] Seder Olam Zutta Other biblical information
Zadok* Zadok Zadok - contemporary of King Solomon Zadok was High Priest during the construction of the First Temple.
Ahimaaz Ahimaaz Ahimaaz - contemporary of King Rehoboam
Azariah Azariah Azariah - contemporary of King Abijah Among the "princes/officials" of King Solomon listed in 1 Kings 4:2 "Azariah, son of Zadok, the priest" appears in first place.
Johanan Joram -
- Isus (Yehoshua) Joash - contemporary of King Jehoshaphat An Amariah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 19:11 as "the chief priest" under King Jehoshaphat.
- - Jehoiarib - contemporary of King Jehoram
- - Jehoshaphat - contemporary of King Ahaziah -
- Jehoiada[6] Jehoiada - contemporary of King Jehoash Jehoiada, brother-in-law of King Ahaziah, is mentioned in 2 Kings 11:4–17 as a priest leading the coup against Queen-mother Athaliah and installing Jehoash of Judah as king of Judah.
- Axioramos (Ahiram) - -
- Phideas Pediah - contemporary of King Jehoash -
- Sudeas Zedekiah - contemporary of King Amaziah -
Azariah Juelus Joel - contemporary of King Uzziah Azariah II is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26:14–18 as a "chief priest" opposing King Uzziah. In 1 Chronicles 5:36 Azariah, son of Johanan is singled out as "he it is that executed the priest's office in the house that Solomon built in Jerusalem".
Amaria Jotham Jotham - contemporary of King Jotham -
Ahitub II Urias Urijah - contemporary of King Ahaz Uriah is mentioned in 2 Kings 16:10–16 as a priest who, on orders of King Ahaz, replaces the altar in the temple with a new, Assyrian-style altar. He is also mentioned as a witness in Isaiah 8:2.
- Nerias Neria - contemporary of King Hezekiah An Azariah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 31:10 as "the chief priest, of the house of Zadok" under King Hezekiah.
Zadok II Odeas Hoshaiah - contemporary of King Manasseh -
Shallum* Shallum Shallum - contemporary of King Amon Shallum, son of Zadok II.
Hilkiah* Elcias Hilkiah - contemporary of King Josiah and of King Jehoahaz Hilkiah, priest at the time of King Josiah and the discovery of the lost Book of the Law.
Azariah IV* Azaros Azariah IV - contemporary of King Jehoiakim Azariah IV, son of Hilkiah1 Chronicles 6:13
Seraiah* Sareas Seraiah - contemporary of King Jeconiah and of King Zedekiah Seraiah, 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, based on the biblical references to "Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest". According to Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi), this is a misreading of the phrase, as "the high priest" does not refer to Jehozadak, who was exiled to Babylon without having served as high priest, but to his son Joshua, who ascended from Babylon at the end of the exile.[7]

After the Babylonian captivity[edit]

Dates and contemporaries are taken from James C. VanderKam's From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests After the Exile.[8]

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 (423-405/4 BC) and some supposing one more Johanan and one more Jaddua in the following time, the latter Jaddua being contemporary of Alexander the Great.


It is unknown who held the position of High Priest of Jerusalem between Alcimus' death and the accession of Jonathan Apphus. Josephus, in Jewish Antiquities XX.10, relates that the office was vacant for seven years, but this is 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"[10]

  • It has been argued that the founder of the Qumran community, the Teacher of Righteousness (?159-153 BC). was High Priest (but not necessarily the sole occupant) during the inter-sacerdotium and was driven off by Jonathan.[citation needed]

Hasmonean dynasty[edit]

Herodian-Roman period[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 10:151–153 (10.8.6, in the order: book, chapter and verse.)
  2. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 10:151–153 (10.8.6)
  3. ^ According to Abu l-Fath, a Samaritan chronicler writing in the 14th century CE, this transfer was the result of a civil war between the followers of Uzzi and Eli. Samaritans claim descent from the followers of Uzzi, who in this account stayed at Mount Gerizim while Eli's followers moved to Shiloh. (Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles, The Keepers, An Introduction to the History and Culture of the Samaritans, Hendrickson Publishing, 2002, p. 11–12.)
  4. ^ The list in Antiquities of the Jews 10:151-153 contains 17 high priests, but Josephus also mentioned the High Priests Seraiah in 10:149 and Jehoiada in 9.7.
  5. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 10:151–153 (10.8.6, in the order: book, chapter and verse.)
  6. ^ Josephus mentions Jehoiada as high priest in his account of Athaliah's reign (Antiquities of the Jews 9.7) but not in list of High Priests (Antiquities of the Jews 10:151-153)
  7. ^ Judaica Press Tanach with Rashi Commentary on II Chronicles 5:41.
  8. ^ James C. VanderKam, From Joshua to Caiaphas: High Priests After the Exile, 2004, page 491
  9. ^ Josephus, Antiquities. Book 12, Chapter 2 (43)
  10. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Judas Maccabeus
  11. ^[bare URL]
  12. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.2
  13. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5

External links[edit]

  • Article in the Jewish Encyclopedia
  • Génébrard, Gilbert (1599). Chronographiæ libri quatuor. Priores duo sunt de rebus veteris (in Latin). Lyon: Jean Pillehotte. p. 35. Seder Olam Zutta chronology
  • Meyer, John (1699). Seder 'Olam sive Chronicon Hebræorum majus et minus (in Latin). Amsterdam: John Wolters. p. 102. Seder Olam Zutta chronology