Vol. 9, No. 2
~ Page 14 ~
Though there were "twelve tribes of Israel" (Genesis 49:28), under the law of Moses all priests were to be of the tribe of Levi, and of one family in that tribe: "Aaron and his sons" (Exodus 29:4-9). Furthermore, we read that the Aaronic priesthood was to be "everlasting" and "perpetual" (Exodus 29:9; 40:15, KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB), and that a "stranger that comes near shall be put to death" (Numbers 3:10; 18:7).
But we also read that a "stranger," Jesus, of the tribe of "Judah" (Micah 5:2; Isaiah 11:1; Matthew 2:6; Hebrews 7:14; Revelation 5:5) God has made "a priest forever" (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21), of "which tribe Moses said nothing concerning priests" (Hebrews 7:14).
How could the priesthood be exclusively "Levitical" (Hebrews 7:11), only be of "Aaron and his sons" (Exodus 29-4-9), and yet Jesus "of the tribe of Judah" (Hebrews 7:14) become "a priest forever" (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21)? Does the Bible have a contradiction?
The explanation lies in mistranslations of the Hebrew word olam. Its usual meaning is "everlasting," as of God's existence (Psalm 90:2; 93:2), and as of Jesus' existence, "whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting," and who is "the same, yesterday, and for ever" (Micah 5:2; Hebrews 13:8).
But the Hebrew verb from which olam is derived only means "everlasting" in certain contexts, as noted above about God and Jesus. Its lexical meaning is "hide, conceal" (Gesenius, p. 633), and so points to a "hidden time" (Gesenius, p. 612), "unlimited but not endless" (Leopold, p. 195), of "indefinite duration" (Davidson, p. 601).
In regards to time, since olam, excluding context, only denotes a period of "indefinite duration," the context in which olam appears tells the reader how long a period of time is being considered. For example, Jonah, inside the stomach of a "great fish" said that the "earth with its bars closed upon me for ever" (olam, Jonah 2:6). But actually the duration of his olam stay in the fish was "three days and three nights" (Jonah 1:17), though he certainly felt that it was "for ever."
In another example, a Hebrew slave, refusing legal freedom after six years from a loving master, asking to retain his slave status, had his master to "bore his ear through with an awl," then serves his master "for ever" (olam, Exodus 21:2-6). In this example the "indefinite duration" of olam is that the slave will serve his master the rest of his life.
Similarly, God's plan, "according to the eternal purpose ...in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 3:11), was that Jesus would become a "priest for ever," not "after the order of Aaron" (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:11, 21). This means that olam, in reference to the exclusive Aaronic priesthood, translated as "everlasting" and "perpetual" (Exodus 29:9; 40:15), is mistranslated. The word olam in Exodus 29:9; 40:15 does not contradict Jesus' priesthood if it is translated "unlimited but not endless" (Leopold, p. 195). The "all" of Exodus 40:15 in the NIV is not in the Hebrew text. Its omission leaves a translation that harmonizes with the lexical definition of olam: "a priesthood for their generations of indefinite duration" (Davidson, p. 601).
The olam "statute" of Exodus 29:9 God did not plan to be "perpetual" (as in the KJV, NKJV, ASV. NASB), but only a "statute" to last until Jesus became a "priest forever (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21). Necessarily there was "a change of the law" because the Aaronic priesthood was "changed" (Hebrews 7:12) when Jesus "erased the handwriting, with its decrees, that was against us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14).
Furthermore, the olam "priesthood" of Exodus 40:15 God did not plan to be "everlasting" (as in the KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB), but only a "priesthood" to last until Jesus became a "priest forever" (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 7:21).
Another "change of the law" (Hebrews 7:12), showing that the translation of olam as "perpetual" and "everlasting" (Exodus 29:9; 40:15), is incorrect is that the law restricting the priesthood to males of Aaron's family (Exodus 29:4-9) now has been changed (Hebrews 7:12), making all Christians of all families on the earth, both male and female, now a "dedicated priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).
The sacrifices of Christian priests are not burnt-offerings of sheep or goats (Leviticus 1:10) but of (1) church contributions, "a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God" (Philippians 4:15-18); (2) other contributions, "sharing, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Hebrews 13:16); (3) going about "doing good" (Hebrews 13:16); (4) sacrifices "of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name" (Hebrews 13:15); and of (5) "your bodies as living sacrifices, dedicated and well pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service" (Romans 12:1).
Whereas the Old Testament priests (always of the tribe of Levi, Hebrews 7:5), were never kings, and Old Testament kings were never priests (cf. Uzziah's presumption, 2 Chronicles 26:16-21), beginning with David always of the tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 2:4; Psalm 78:68-70), New Testament priests, both men and women, are called "a royal priesthood" (1 Peter 2:9), being made "kings [and queens] and priests for our God, and they reign with Christ (Revelation 17:14) now on the earth (Revelation 1:6; 5:10). The KJV and the NKJV err in saying that "they shall reign on the earth." Christians now reign on the earth over "sin" in their "mortal bodies" (Romans 6:12). Instead of Christian kings and queens waiting to reign with Christ for a thousand years on this earth, there is no promise that Jesus will ever set a foot on this earth again, but there is a definite promise that Christians will "meet the Lord in the air" and "will always be with the Lord!" (1 Thessalonians 4:17).