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[disambiguation needed] 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 records 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.


  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