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Melchizedek and the Zadokites


David T

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As I've been reading some histories of Israel and Judah from secular sources, some interesting elements of the Genesis - 2 Kings (Deuteronomist) narrative have given me some things to think about.

What is termed the Zadokite line of Aaronites has many problems in its genealogical information actually tying them to Aaron. What I've seen proposed - and it seems more and more likely - is that the Zadokites were part of the indigenous Jerusalemite priesthood class that were present when Jerusalem was taken over from the Jebusites during the early years of the Davidic dynasty, and established as the cultic center of the Judahite state.

Salem we see having other pre-Israelite king/priests with Zadokite names, such as Melchizedek, Adonizedek, etc. It appears that later compilers, to express a legitimacy and connection with the Aaronite priesthood, crafted a false genealogical connection, so that in a way, the once separate priesthood lines became meshed into one, believed to have a single line - Aaronite (even though the Zadokite priesthood was much older).

David himself seems to have had two contending priesthood advisors - one Zadokite, one Aaronite/Elide.

I've also seen it suggested that Tzedek, 'Righteousness', is actually an epithet of El, which also allows for Melchizedek being referred to as a Priest of El Elyon (God Most High). That eventually these Zadokite priests unto the Most High God became came intertwined with the Aaronite priesthood of Yahweh.

The Genesis - Divided Kingdom narratives are very difficult to interpret, when all of the political polemics are taken into consideration. For example, is it chance that the Aaron (who created a golden calf to be worshipped when the Israelites were separated from the Mount of God) has two sons named Nadab and Abihu who are destroyed for improper worship, and that Jeroboam (who created golden calves to be worshipped when separated from the Jerusalem Temple) has two sons named Nadab and Abijah?

The Priestly situation of early Israel is fascinating. I'm interested in any thoughts of others who may have done more historical research in this area.

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In "Who Wrote the Bible?" Richard E. Friedman notes that the two priests of David represented the Aaronic and Mosaic lines of priesthood. One descended from Aaron (Zadok) and the other from Moses (Abiathar). When Abiathar tried to get another Davidic son placed on the throne, Solomon had him exiled with the Mosaic priests.

Later, these Mosaic priests would temporarily regain some power, as Jeremiah is believed to be from that line (according to Friedman). The Deuteronomists were squarely Aaronic Priests, seeking to enthrone the Temple as the only appropriate place of worship. Mosaic priests would have approved of high places and altars in the wilderness, which is what Lehi and the Rekhabites also supported.

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If I understand what you are saying, you are equating the Jebusite priesthood with the Melchizedek priesthood. Is that correct?

In essence, yes.

In "Who Wrote the Bible?" Richard E. Friedman notes that the two priests of David represented the Aaronic and Mosaic lines of priesthood. One descended from Aaron (Zadok) and the other from Moses (Abiathar). When Abiathar tried to get another Davidic son placed on the throne, Solomon had him exiled with the Mosaic priests.

Later, these Mosaic priests would temporarily regain some power, as Jeremiah is believed to be from that line (according to Friedman). The Deuteronomists were squarely Aaronic Priests, seeking to enthrone the Temple as the only appropriate place of worship. Mosaic priests would have approved of high places and altars in the wilderness, which is what Lehi and the Rekhabites also supported.

From what I've seen, it looks like the connections between Zadok and Aaron are tenuous at best, even though that is the firm Deuteronomist POV. It appears possible to me that, upon taking over Jebus, David and his house became associated with the resident priesthood of the Zadokites (the Priesthood of Melchizedek), which had continual clashes with the Levitical Priesthood. In the mind of the Deuteronomists, the Levitical priesthood was the legitimate priesthood, and meshed the Zadokites with the Aaronites in order to preserve both the Aaronite supremacy and David's reputation.

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According to JST of Genesis 14, Melchizedek converted the city of Salem who were wicked like the other cities. And if I'm reading it right it says that Melchizedek and the people of Salem were translated. I don't see any reason to think that the Jebusites had the priesthood when David conquered their city. But from D&C 84:14 we know Melchizedek gave Abraham the priesthood, so I see no problem with the Melchizedek priesthood being passed through Abraham.

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Mapman, that's how I read it, as well. I do not see any connection between the Jebusites and priesthood. In fact, it would not make sense for God to allow the Jebusites to fall, IF they were the current holders of the Melchizedek Priesthood.

More evidence, especially considering the LDS scriptures, for the two priesthoods descending through the lines of Aaron and Moses.

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According to JST of Genesis 14, Melchizedek converted the city of Salem who were wicked like the other cities. And if I'm reading it right it says that Melchizedek and the people of Salem were translated. I don't see any reason to think that the Jebusites had the priesthood when David conquered their city. But from D&C 84:14 we know Melchizedek gave Abraham the priesthood, so I see no problem with the Melchizedek priesthood being passed through Abraham.

I'm familiar with that reading, but I am not taking the JST into consideration for discerning the historical record. I believe the JST was prepared through inspiration, but its key purpose appears to me as a Targum/Midrash to to make the scriptures 'updated' and more relevant to the modern saints (who did not have historical background of the ancient neat east), and new doctrines and teachings were introduced in a familiar context that showed an example/precedent for the new doctrines. The Enoch/Melchizedek passages in the JST concerned the goal of the saints at the time these passages were written by Joseph: the creation of a Zion People, and application of the United Order.

I am also very willing to accept that modern scriptures use a form of 'symbolic shorthand' to simplify complicated historical events (much like the OT genealogies, and even the NT Genealogy of Christ).

I'm a firm believer that history and science do not contradict True Religion. I am currently unwilling to ignore scholarship that raises difficulties with traditional understandings and interpretations of scriptures, ancient and modern. In many cases, the questions raised and the research that comes from it grants a greater personal insight to the way the Lord has worked throughout history, and creates a much stronger historical link between prophetic writings of the ancient past, as well as in modern times.

In other words, I believe it's possible to have a simplified 'Religious History' arranged in a form of symbolic shorthand for didactic purposes that is different in its details from a much more complicated 'Actual History' - and yet have both be True, and beneficial.

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It's clear that the Davidic Kings claimed a form of priesthood that was separate from the Levitical order. Psalm 110 associates this priesthood with that of Melchizedek. Melchizedek and Adonizedek are presented as ancient priests of El, associated with a proto-Jerusalem. One of David's priests, the one who remains associated with his family at the new Capital, Jerusalem, is Zadok. Later redactors tried (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to cover up the fact that Zadok wasn't really an Aaronide.

Christians were very willing to accept that Jesus, a Son of David, was associated with the Melchizedek Priesthood distinct from the corrupt Levitical priesthood. I think there's something significant here.

I know that the persona of Melchizedek became expanded upon greatly in Apocalyptic/Post Exilic literature as a divine Being, and especially among the Qumran writings, and that this contributed to the acceptance and association of Jesus with Melchizedek. But this is something different from what I'm looking for.

What I'm trying to untangle is the system and understanding of historic origins of Israelite-associated priesthood during the Israelite Monarchy.

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It's clear that the Davidic Kings claimed a form of priesthood that was separate from the Levitical order. Psalm 110 associates this priesthood with that of Melchizedek. Melchizedek and Adonizedek are presented as ancient priests of El, associated with a proto-Jerusalem. One of David's priests, the one who remains associated with his family at the new Capital, Jerusalem, is Zadok. Later redactors tried (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to cover up the fact that Zadok wasn't really an Aaronide.

Christians were very willing to accept that Jesus, a Son of David, was associated with the Melchizedek Priesthood distinct from the corrupt Levitical priesthood. I think there's something significant here.

I know that the persona of Melchizedek became expanded upon greatly in Apocalyptic/Post Exilic literature as a divine Being, and especially among the Qumran writings, and that this contributed to the acceptance and association of Jesus with Melchizedek. But this is something different from what I'm looking for.

What I'm trying to untangle is the system and understanding of historic origins of Israelite-associated priesthood during the Israelite Monarchy.

Robert Eisenman who wrote James, the Brother of Jesus and Maccabees, Zadokites, Christians and Qumran discusses the role of the Zadokim in relation to a non-Levitical priesthood that Jesus and his brother James would have belonged to. HIs scholarship in this area suggests that Jesus was a member of the Zadokim or Righteous One (not the DSS one) and as such would be part of a priesthood that was different than the Levitical, but yet was significant enough to allow him access to inside of the temple. His brother, James, also presumably had this priesthood because we are told that he officiated in the temple from time to time. A variation on Zadokim would be MelkaZadok or King of Righteousness. If so, then Jesus priesthood would indeed be a royal bloodline and priesthood.

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