The Law of the First-Born--Part 2
Jan 05, 2009
Ezekiel 44 is one of the most important prophecies about the change of priesthood that was to come.
In its Old Testament context, it speaks in terms of the change from Eli to Zadok in the days of Solomon. But it prophesies of the greater change from the Order of Levi to the Order of Melchizedek. For this reason, the priesthood was conferred upon ZADOK, which is the main root of Melchizedek.
The reason for the original change in the priesthood was that Eli's sons were corrupt and wicked. 1 Samuel 2:12 says, "Now the sons of Eli were worthless men; they did not know the Lord." The literal wording in Scripture is that they were "the sons of Belial." The Hebrew language often employs such idioms as the sons of light, sons of thunder, sons of wisdom, children of Abraham, children of the devil, etc. It means that they were acting as if their father was thunder, wisdom, Abraham, and the devil.
Obviously, Hophni and Phineas were the sons of Eli, not someone named Belial. But the point is that they were not qualified to hold the priesthood. 1 Sam. 2:13-17 says that they were stealing the offerings, and verse 22 says that they were having sex with the women worshipers.
So a man of God was sent to tell Eli that his priesthood would end and that God would appoint "a faithful priest" to replace him (vs. 35). Verse 36 goes on to say that Eli's household would then beg for employment in the house of God, saying, "Please assign me to one of the priest's offices so that I may eat a piece of bread."
Eli's sons themselves were killed in battle shortly afterward, when the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant. This is the occasion where God forsook Shiloh, and this priestly city was destroyed (Ps. 78:60). Eli himself fell backward and broke his neck when he heard the news (1 Sam. 4:18). Thus, God treated him as if he were a first-born donkey that was not redeemed by the lamb (Ex. 13:13).
This shows us a spiritual application of the law of the first-born. And the fact that Eli represented an entire lineage and order of priesthood, makes the whole story highly prophetic of things to come. Eli himself was first replaced by Eleazar, the son of Abinadab (1 Sam. 7:1). He was the high priest during Saul's reign. He was succeeded by Abiathar, whose priesthood extended through the reign of David.
Then, because Abiathar went against the will of David by backing Adonijah instead of Solomon, he was replaced by Zadok (1 Kings 2:27, 35).
This story forms the background to Ezekiel 44, and the entire story must be understood in the context of the law of the first-born. Ezekiel 44:10-14 speaks of "the Levites who went far from Me, when Israel went astray." They ministered in an idolatrous manner (vs. 12). So God says in verse 13 and 14,
" (13) And they shall not come near to Me to serve as a priest to Me, nor come near to any of My holy things . . . but they shall bear their shame and their abominations which they have committed. (14) Yet I will appoint them to keep the charge of the house, of all its service, and of all that shall be done in it."
It is presumed that these idolatrous priests have repented by this time. For this reason they are given employment in the house of God, according to the prophecy in 1 Sam. 2:36. However, the priestly office is said to be given to "Zadok."
" (15) But the Levitical priests, the sons of Zadok, who kept charge of My sanctuary when the sons of Israel went astray from Me, shall come near to Me to minister to Me . . . ."
As I said earlier, this new priestly dynasty was descended from Levi, but it was through a different lineage. It was the best type that could be provided under the Old Covenant. But when we come to the New Covenant, we find that Zadok represented the Order of Melchizedek. Melchi means "king," and Zadok means "Righteousness." Hence, Melchizedek is called the King of Righteousness (Heb. 7:2). The original Melchizedek in Genesis 14:18 was Shem, who held the title, King of Salem (or Jerusalem). He was the holder of the birthright that had been passed down from Adam since the beginning.
In the days of Melchizedek, the birthright had not yet been divided. The scepter, birthright, and priesthood were still united in one man. Shem, who outlived Abraham, passed this birthright down to Isaac, who gave it to Jacob, who then divided it among three sons: Judah, Joseph, and Levi.
These divisions of the original birthright were later to be re-united under Jesus Christ. Since Jesus was born of the lineage of David, of the tribe of Judah, He could not obtain the High Priesthood through the Old Covenant which had given it exclusively to the tribe of Levi. Thus, the New Covenant made a change, taking the priesthood from Levi, and reverting back to an older Order of priesthood--that of Melchizedek.
This change took place for the same reason that the priesthood had been taken from Eli and his sons. It was because the priests in Jesus' day were "sons of Belial," even as had been the sons of Eli. Those priests in Jesus' day claimed to be children of Abraham (John 8:39), but Jesus said in verse 44, "You are of your father, the devil," based on His previous statement in verse 41: "You are doing the deeds of your father."
Some have tried to make this literal, saying that these priests were literal offspring of the devil. Such people do not understand the Hebrew idioms that are used all the time in Scripture. Even so, Jesus' statement has the same meaning as that which was spoken of Eli's sons--the sons of Belial.
Thus, the Levitical priesthood in Jesus' day was replaced by the Melchizedek Order, even as Eli had been replaced by Zadok a thousand years earlier. The New Covenant required a better priesthood. This is discussed in Heb. 5-8.
The High Priest of the Melchizedek Order is Jesus Christ, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Since earthly genealogy is not a requirement for this new priesthood, Jesus could be its High Priest, though He was of Judah. Yet coming of the lineage of David, He was the rightful Heir to the throne--the King. So in His first coming, Jesus re-united the Throne with the Priesthood.
In His second coming, He comes of Joseph-Ephraim in order to reunite the birthright of Joseph (that is, Sonship) with the Throne and Priesthood. The reunification process is not yet complete, though the process of Sonship has been an on-going work from the beginning. It cannot be completed, however, until the historic fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.
Meanwhile, there is an interim priesthood during the Pentecostal Age, even as there was an interim priesthood between Eli and Zadok. Recall that Eleazar and Abiathar were interim high priests until Zadok became the high priest. So also is it today. Abiathar was replaced because he did not back the rightful Heir to the Throne. Solomon was a type of Jesus Christ. Abiathar backed Adonijah, the would-be usurper.
If you read my book, The Struggle for the Birthright, you will see how much of the modern priesthood of Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity has backed Adonijah. Adonijah today is the Israeli state, and his usurping movement is called Zionism. Scripture has chosen to focus upon the backing of Adonijah as the main cause of Abiathar's disqualification for priesthood in the Age of Peace ("Solomon").
Ezekiel 44:10-14 says they "became a stumblingblock of iniquity" to the people. Eli's corrupt sons are also the example of how NOT to minister. And Eli's broken neck makes him the unclean donkey of Ex. 13:13, not having the character of the Lamb.
This is the second part of a series titled "The Law of the First-Born." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones