List of High Priests of Israel

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

This page gives one list 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 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 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.

Though Phinehas and his descendants are not directly attested as high priests, this portion of the genealogy given in I Chronicles 5:30-41 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.

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 I Chronicles 5:30-34, 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 captivity, the High Priests officiated in Temple of Jerusalem. Information about who served in that office diverges between the Bible, Josephus and the Seder 'Olam Zuta. While Josephus and Seder 'Olam Zuta each mention 18 high priests,[4] the genealogy given I Chronicles 5:34-41 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.

I Chronicles 5:34-41
(* Also mentioned in Book of Ezra 7:1–5)
Josephus[5] Seder 'Olam Zutta Other Biblical information
Zadok* Zadok Zadok Zadok was High Priest during the reign of King Solomon and the construction of the First Temple.
Ahimaaz Ahimaaz Ahimaaz
Azariah Azariah Azariah 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 Joash
- - Jehoiarib
- - Jehoshaphat -
- Jehoiada[6] Jehoiada 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 - -
- Phideas Pediah -
- Sudeas Zedekiah -
Azariah Juelus Joel Azariah II is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26:14-18 as a "chief priest" opposing King Uzziah. In I 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 -
Ahitub Urias Urijah 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 A Azariah is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 31:10 as "the chief priest, of the house of Zadok" under King Hezekiah.
Zadok Odeas Hoshaiah -
Shallum* Shallum Shallum Shallum, son of Zadok
Hilkiah* Elcias Hilkiah Hilkiah, priest at the time of King Josiah.
Azariah IV* Azaros Azariah IV Azariah IV, son of Hilkiah (1 Chr 6:13)
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, 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 Exile[edit]

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 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"[8]

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.

Hasmonean dynasty[edit]

Herodian-Roman period[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 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 Buzzi, 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 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.
  8. ^ Jewish Encyclopedia: Judas Maccabseus
  9. ^
  10. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 20.5.2
  11. ^ Antiquities of the Jews 20.8.5