TODAY’S READING: 1 CHRONICLES 5-6
1 Chronicles 6:1-15 details the sons of Levi. In these verses it lists 23 high priests from the exodus to the exile.
The number 23 is not used often in the Bible, but when it used it speaks of death.
The first mention of twenty-three is found in Judges 10:1-2, which says, “After Abimelech there arose to save Israel Tola the son of Puah, so of Dodo, a man of Issachar, and he lived at Shamir in the hill country of Ephraim. And he judge Israel twenty-three years. Then he died and was buried at Shamir.”
So, there are two things mentioned about Tola. First, he saved Israel. Second, he died after 23 years as judge. So, the number 23 is linked with death.
2 Kings 23:31 says, “Jehoahaz was twenty-three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.” In other words, Jehoahaz died when he was 23 years old.
Jeremiah 25:3 says, “For twenty-three years, from the thirteenth year of Josiah the son of Amon, king of Judah, to this day, the word of the Lord has come to me, and I have spoken persistently to you, but you have not listened.” Man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Therefore, if we do not listen to the word of God, we die.
Therefore, the number 23 symbolizes death.
I believe that the priesthood really ended after the 23 priests when Israel and Judah were in exile. While the temple was rebuilt after the exile, the Bible seems to indicate that God’s presence never returned to the temple as the ark of the covenant is never mentioned again. Therefore, God’s presence had departed, or been rejected, and death reigned.
Hebrews 7:11 says that perfection was not attainable under the Levitical priesthood, which was the priesthood of the 23 priests from the exodus to the exile, for under this priesthood the people received the law. But, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:6 that the letter, the law, kills.
This would mean that Jesus was the 24th high priest of Israel. But, as Hebrews says, Jesus was a high priest of a different order, the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5:9-10 says, “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
Speaking of Melchizedek, Hebrews 7:3 says, “He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.” Therefore, unlike all the Levitical priests who died, Jesus lives forever and his priesthood continues forever.
So, Hebrews 7:11-12, 15-16 says, “Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well…This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become a priest, not on the basis of legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life.”
All the Levitical high priests died. And, their ministry ended in death when Israel and Judah went into exile. But, Jesus Christ is the true high priest based on his indestructible life. He lives forever.
Hebrews 7:23-25 says, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
What is the significance of Jesus as the 24th high priest?
The number 12 symbolizes power and authority throughout the Bible. Of course 24 is 2 times 12. The number two often symbolizes union. As the 24th high priest Jesus has all power and authority that unites us, reconciles us, with the Father.
In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Even though Jesus is technically the 24th high priest, he is the only mediator between God and man, according to 1 Timothy 2:5. To say Jesus is our only mediator is just another way of saying he is our only priest.