Priestly divisions

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

The priestly divisions or sacerdotal courses (Hebrew: mishmar (מִשְׁמָר)) are ritual work groups in Judaism. According to 1 Chronicles 24, they were originally formed during the reign of King David. However, modern scholarship treats these priestly courses either as a reflection of practices after the Babylonian captivity, or as an idealized portrait of how the Chronicler thought temple administration ought to occur, with the reference to David being a method for the Chronicler to legitimize his views about the priesthood.[1]

The Chronicler refers to these priests as "descendants of Aaron."[2] In the biblical traditions upon which the Chronicler drew, Aaron had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar.[3] However, Nadab and Abihu died before Aaron and only Eleazar and Ithamar had sons. In Chronicles, one priest, Zadok, from Eleazar's descendants and another priest, Ahimelech, from Ithamar's descendants, were designated by King David to help create the various priestly work groups.[4]

Sixteen of Eleazar's descendants were selected to head priestly orders while only eight of Ithamar's descendants were so chosen. The passage states that this was done because of the greater number of leaders among Eleazar's descendants. Lots were drawn to designate the order of ministering for the heads of the priestly orders when they entered the temple in Jerusalem. Each order was responsible for ministering during a different week and shabbat, and were stationed as a watch at the Tabernacle. All of the orders were present during biblical festivals. See also Kohen. Their duties involved offering the daily and Jewish holy day sacrifices (korbanot in Hebrew), and blessing the people in a ceremony known as nesiat kapayim ("raising of the hands"), the ceremony of the Priestly Blessing.

Division Name Scriptural Reference
First Jehoiarib 1 Chronicles 24:7
Second Jedaiah 1 Chronicles 24:7
Third Harim 1 Chronicles 24:8
Fourth Seorim 1 Chronicles 24:8
Fifth Malchijah 1 Chronicles 24:9
Sixth Mijamin 1 Chronicles 24:9
Seventh Hakkoz 1 Chronicles 24:10
Eighth Abijah 1 Chronicles 24:10
Ninth Jeshua 1 Chronicles 24:11
Tenth Shecaniah 1 Chronicles 24:11
Eleventh Eliashib 1 Chronicles 24:12
Twelfth Jakim 1 Chronicles 24:12
Thirteenth Huppah 1 Chronicles 24:13
Fourteenth Jeshebeab 1 Chronicles 24:13
Fifteenth Bilgah 1 Chronicles 24:14
Sixteenth Immer 1 Chronicles 24:14
Seventeenth Hezir 1 Chronicles 24:15
Eighteenth Happizzez 1 Chronicles 24:15
Nineteenth Pethahiah 1 Chronicles 24:16
Twentieth Jehezkel 1 Chronicles 24:16
Twenty-first Jachin 1 Chronicles 24:17
Twenty-second Gamul 1 Chronicles 24:17
Twenty-third Delaiah 1 Chronicles 24:18
Twenty-fourth Maaziah 1 Chronicles 24:18

Following the Temple's destruction[edit]

Following the Temple's destruction at the end of the First Jewish Revolt and the displacement to the Galilee of the bulk of the remaining Jewish population in Judea at the end of the Bar Kochva Revolt, Jewish tradition in the Talmud and poems from the period record that the descendants of each priestly watch established a separate residential seat in towns and villages of the Galilee, and maintained this residential pattern for at least several centuries in anticipation of the reconstruction of the Temple and reinstitution of the cycle of priestly courses. Specifically, this Kohanic settlement region stretched from the Beit Netofa Valley, through the Nazareth region to Arbel and the vicinity of Tiberias. In subsequent years, there was a custom of publicly recalling every Sabbath in the synagogues the courses of the priests, a practice that reinforced the prestige of the priests' lineage.[5] Such mention evoked the hope of return to Jerusalem and reconstruction of the Temple.

A manuscript discovered in the Cairo Geniza in Fostat (Old Cairo), dated 1034 CE, brings down the customary formula recited weekly in the synagogues, during the Sabbath day, and which reads: “Today is the holy Sabbath, the holy Sabbath unto the Lord; this day, which is the course? [Appropriate name] is the course. May the Merciful One return the course to its place soon, in our days. Amen.”[6] After which, they would recount the number of years that have passed since the destruction of Jerusalem, and conclude with the words: “May the Merciful One build his house and sanctuary, and let them say Amen.”

Three stone inscriptions were discovered bearing the names of the priestly wards, their order and the name of the locality to which they had moved after the destruction of the Second Temple: In 1920, a stone inscription was found in Ashkelon showing a partial list of the priestly wards; in 1962 three small fragments of one Hebrew stone inscription bearing the partial names of places associated with the priestly courses (the rest of which had been reconstructed) were found in Caesarea Maritima, dated to the third-fourth centuries;[7][8] in 1970 a stone inscription was found on a partially buried column in a mosque, in the Yemeni village of Bayt al-Ḥaḍir, showing ten names of the priestly wards and their respective towns and villages. The Yemeni inscription is the longest roster of names of this sort ever discovered, unto this day, although the seventh-century poet, Eleazar ben Killir, also wrote a liturgical poem detailing the 24-priestly wards and their places of residence.[9] Historian and geographer, Samuel Klein (1886–1940), thinks that Killir's poem proves the prevalence of this custom of commemorating the courses in the synagogues of Ereẓ Israel.[10] The purpose of composing these lists was to keep in living memory the identities and traditions of each priestly family, in hopes that the Temple would be quickly rebuilt.[11]

The names legible on the stone column discovered by Walter W. Müller in 1970, in a mosque in Yemen, read as follows:[12]

English Translation Original Hebrew
[Se‘orim ‘Ayṯoh-lo], fourth ward שְׂעוֹרִים עיתהלו משמר הרביעי
[Malkiah, Beṯ]-Lehem, the fif[th] ward מַלְכִּיָּה בית לחם משמר החמשי
Miyamin, Yudfaṯ (Jotapata), the sixth ward מִיָמִין יודפת משמר הששי
[Haqo]ṣ, ‘Ailebu, the seventh ward הַקּוֹץ עילבו משמר השביעי
Aviah ‘Iddo, Kefar ‘Uzziel, the (eighth) ward אֲבִיָּה עדו כפר עוזיאל משמר
the eighth (ward). Yešūa‘, Nišdaf-arbel השמיני יֵשׁוּעַ נשדפארבל
the ninth ward משמר התשיעי
Šekhaniyahu, ‘Avurah Cabūl, the t[enth] ward שְׁכַנְיָה עבורה כבול משמר העשירי
Eliašīv, Cohen Qanah, the elev[enth] ward אֶלְיָשִׁיב כהן קנה משמר אחד עשר
Yaqīm Pašḥūr, Ṣefaṯ (Safed), the twelfth[th] ward יָקִים פַּשְׁחוּר צפת משמר שנים עשר
[Ḥū]ppah, Beṯ-Ma‘on, the (thirteenth) ward חוּפָּה בית מעון משמר שלשה
the thirteenth (ward). Yešav’av, Ḥuṣpiṯ Šuḥīn עשר יֶשֶׁבְאָב חוצפית שוחין
the fourteenth wa[rd] משמר ארבע עשר

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steven Schweitzer (1 March 2009). Reading Utopia in Chronicles. A&C Black. pp. 29–30. ISBN 978-0-567-36317-6. 
  2. ^ 1 Chronicles 24:1
  3. ^ Leviticus 10, Numbers 3, 1 Chronicles 24
  4. ^ 1 Chronicles 24:3
  5. ^ Robert Bonfil, Jews in Byzantium: Dialectics of Minority and Majority Cultures, Brill: Leiden 2012, p. 42 ISBN 978-9-004-20355-6
  6. ^ Bodleian Library, Oxford Ms. Heb. 2738/6, fol. 899 in Vardaman, E. Jerry and Garrett, J.L., The Teacher's Yoke, Waco TX 1964
  7. ^ Avi-Yonah, Michael (1962). "A List of Priestly Courses from Caesarea". Israel Exploration Journal. 12 (2): 137–139. Retrieved 15 May 2017 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)). 
  8. ^ Avi-Yonah, Michael (1964). "The Caesarea Inscription of the Twenty-Four Priestly Courses". Eretz-Israel: Archaeological, Historical and Geographical Studies. L.A. Mayer Memorial Volume (1895-1959): 24–28. Retrieved 15 May 2017 – via JSTOR. (Registration required (help)).  (Hebrew)
  9. ^ Poem entitled, Lamentation for the 9th of Ab, composed in twenty-four stanzas, and the last line of each stanza contains the name of the village where each priestly family lived.
  10. ^ Samuel Klein, Barajta der vierundzwanzig Priester Abteilungen (Baraitta of the Twenty-Four Priestly Divisions), in: Beiträge zur Geographie und Geschichte Galiläas, Leipzig 1909; Enrico Tuccinardi, Nazareth, the Caesarea Inscription, and the hand of God, (translated from the French by René Salm), Academia, pp. 6–7
  11. ^ Enrico Tuccinardi, Nazareth, the Caesarea Inscription, and the hand of God, (translated from the French by René Salm), Academia, p. 7
  12. ^ Ephraim E. Urbach, Mishmarot u-maʻamadot, Tarbiz (A Quarterly for Jewish Studies) 42, Jerusalem 1973, pp. 304 – 327 (Hebrew); Rainer Degen, An Inscription of the Twenty-Four Priestly Courses from the Yemen, pub. in: Tarbiẕ - A Quarterly for Jewish Studies, Jerusalem 1973, pp. 302–303