What will God do with the continually failing Levitical priesthood? God announces that he will elect his own faithful priest from a household that can be counted on. In this episode, join Tim and Jon as they follow the royal priesthood all the way to David, anointed priest-king of Jerusalem, fulfillment of Melchizedek’s role, and foreshadowing of the coming priest-king Jesus.
There’s a group of people in 2 Samuel 6 that are just called the “carriers of the ark of Yahweh.” Those are Levites! But they’re not called Levites here. It’s as if somebody doesn’t want us to be distracted with the line of Levi right now. There’s something new happening where the king and all of the tribes are coming together in unity to recreate Eden on the high place of Jerusalem. And David takes up the role of Israel’s priest and king in Jerusalem.
In part one (0:00-14:30), Tim and Jon trace the biblical theme of the royal priesthood all the way from Adam and Eve to Moses and Aaron.
From the beginning, God creates humans in his image to be a physical embodiment of his divine presence in a sacred space. When Adam and Eve are exiled from Eden, the first sacred space, the divine presence becomes inaccessible to humans—unless God chooses to make it available. He does so through priests (in Hebrew, cohen), people who act as the gateway between heaven and earth.
Although he is not specifically a priest, Abraham is chosen to be a vehicle of Eden’s blessings in the world (Genesis 12). Generations later, Moses takes up this mediatory role.
God selects Aaron as the first priest in concession to Moses’ disobedience and stubbornness. Things start going wrong the moment Aaron steps into the narrative (Exodus 4).
After Moses and Aaron lead Israel out of Egypt, God gives Moses a series of laws and instructions on Mount Sinai, all regarding priests and the construction of the Tabernacle as a representation of the Eden space. During this time, God designates all of Israel to be a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:5-6).
At the base of the mountain, Aaron is already failing his role as a priest by constructing an idol, a golden calf to represent Yahweh’s presence. Moses steps into the priestly role he abdicated in Exodus 4 by interceding and offering his own life for the sins of Aaron and Israel (Exodus 32). In the process, Moses literally begins to shine and take on a fuller representation of the divine glory and the image of God.
In part two (14:30-28:00), the team picks up the priestly narrative in the time of the judges.
From the time of Moses to the time of the judges, priests take a backseat in the biblical narrative except to be featured in a very negative light. This sets the stage for 1 Samuel, which opens with a priest named Eli who sits on a throne. His two sons are as corrupt as any of the priests we meet in Judges, stealing people’s offerings and having sex with women in the Tabernacle.
1 Samuel 2:27–35
And a man of God came to Eli and said to him,
“This is what Yahweh says:
‘Did I not clearly reveal myself to the house of your father, when they were in Egypt under Pharaoh?
And I chose him out of all the tribes of Israel
to be a priest for me,
to go up to my altar,
to burn incense,
and to wear an ephod in my presence.
And I gave to the house of your father all the food offerings of the sons of Israel.
Why do you scorn my sacrifice and offering that I commanded for my dwelling?
Why do you honor your sons more than me
by fattening yourselves on the choice parts of every offering made by my people?’
“Therefore, Yahweh the God of Israel, declares:
‘I had said that your house and the house of your father would walk before me forever.’
But now Yahweh declares:
‘Far be it from me!
Those who honor me I will honor,
but those who despise me will be treated as cursed.
Look, the days are coming
when I will hew off your arm
and the arm of the house of your father,
so that none in your house will reach old age...
And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest,
who will do according to what is in my heart and soul,
and I will build for him a faithful house,
and it will walk before my anointed one for all days.’”
God’s calling for priests is to honor him––these priests have done the opposite. God is so upset he cancels his promise to the Levitical priesthood and instead announces that he will elect his own faithful priest from a household that can be counted on.
Samuel takes over from Eli and he is a faithful priest, but not Yahweh’s promised faithful priest. Samuel anoints Saul, who is definitely not the faithful priest either. After Saul disqualifies himself as king of Israel, God sends Samuel to the household of Jesse to anoint his chosen ruler.
1 Samuel 16:13
Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers, and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.
The Hebrew word for anointed means “messiah.” In David, we encounter the first fulfillment of God’s promised anointed ruler. When David becomes king, he moves the capital of Israel and the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem, the city where Melchizedek once ruled as priest-king. David is also both priest and king.
In part three (28:00-36:30), Tim and Jon explore the way David steps into his priestly authority over Israel.
2 Samuel 6:12-20
Now it was told King David, saying, “The Lord has blessed the house of Obed-edom and all that belongs to him, on account of the ark of God.” David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And so it was, that when the bearers of the ark of the Lord had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling. And David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, and David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouting and the sound of the trumpet. Then it happened as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. So they brought in the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent which David had pitched for it, and David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord. When David had finished offering the burnt offering and the peace offering, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord of hosts. Further, he distributed to all the people, to all the people of Israel, both to men and women, a cake of bread and one of dates and one of raisins to each one. Then all the people departed each to his house. David returned to bless his household.
David is dressed like a high priest, wearing a linen ephod. And he is functioning like a priest, officiating over the ceremony, offering sacrifices (6:13,17), and setting up the tabernacle (6:17).
Interestingly, “the bearers of the ark” were Levites, but they are not named. It’s like the biblical author doesn’t want us to be distracted by the Levitical line because something new is happening. The king and all of the tribes of Israel are coming together in Yahweh’s presence in a recreation of Eden, with David as Israel’s priest and king.
In part four (36:30-47:00), the team discusses God’s covenant promises to David in 2 Samuel 7.
Right after David establishes Jerusalem and the Tabernacle as the new cosmic mountain (Eden), we find the high point of the David narrative: God’s promise to David of future descendants, land, and a house for God. David’s high-priestly role culminates in his desire to build a temple for God. God’s response to David channels all the high points of his promises to Abraham (Genesis 12) to David’s family specifically.
God’s covenant promises to David in 2 Samuel 7:9-16 I will make your name great...
I will make a place for my people,
and I will plant them,
and they will dwell in their place.
They will not be troubled,
and sons of evil won’t oppress them…
I will give you rest from all your enemies...
Yahweh will build a house for you,
I will raise up your seed after you,
one who will come out of your loins,
and I will establish his kingdom.
He (the seed) will build a house for my name
and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
I will be to him as a father,
and he will be to me as a son.
When he does evil,
I will punish him with the rod-of-humans,
and with strikes of the sons of humanity,
but my loyal love will not be removed from him…
But faithful will be your house and your kingdom forever before me,
your throne will be firm forever.
While we might expect these promises to foreshadow eventual fulfillment in Jesus, that’s not actually what’s happening. For one thing, Jesus never does evil requiring punishment (verse 14). Instead, Yahweh and the narrator are setting us up to expect the failure of the Davidic line and to see God’s continued faithfulness to his own promise to David.
The plot tension is thick here in the story of the Bible. From the inauguration of the Levitical priesthood, we’ve been expecting a priest from another line. And in a not-so-surprising turn of events, God chooses a small, humble shepherd boy to step into a Melchizedek-type role as priest-king of Jerusalem.
An utterance of Yahweh to my lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
Your strong scepter,
may Yahweh send forth from Zion.
Rule in the midst of your enemies!
Your people are noble,
in the day of your power,
in holy array.
From the womb of the dawn,
the dew is yours,
I have begotten you.
Yahweh swore an oath,
and he will not renege,
“You are a priest forever,
on account of Melchizedek.”
Yahweh is at your right hand,
he shatters kings in the day of his wrath.
He will judge among the nations,
making full of corpses,
he shatters the head over a mighty land.
He will drink from the stream on the path,
then, he will lift up (his) head.
In this poem, David speaks of someone else that receives the covenant oath of Yahweh, and David calls that one “lord,” a common term when addressing a king. It makes most sense that David is here portrayed as speaking of his future seed that will receive the messianic inheritance.
Psalm 110 portrays an image of God who shares in God’s rule, and the kingdom of priests is with him, ushering in the new creation.
The future seed of David receives two promises from Yahweh in this poem.
Jesus saw himself as David’s lord and priest-king, the fully realized image of God who will bring new creation. Jesus does what David never fully accomplished—he builds a true house for God on the high place of Jerusalem.
Interested in more? Check out Tim’s full library here.
Show produced by Dan Gummel. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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