Did Moses also function as High Priest?

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JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Sophomore
We know his main office was that of prophet. But the Lord tells him in Exodus 25:22: "And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel." The KJV draws out the singular nature of the second person. It seems God was saying He would meet with Moses, in the holy of holies, of which it was only lawful for the high priest to enter, and that only once a year (cf. also Numbers 7:89). The only other explanations I can come up with are: 1) the "thee" here is imputed as referring to the high priest; or 2) Moses stayed on the other side of the veil but heard the Lord speak from behind the veil. Perhaps this was only for a time? Before the office of High Priest was instituted? Thoughts?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The proper way to regard Moses is as the mediator of the Old Covenant. He is completely unique in his role as mediator. He variously combines the offices of judge (king), prophet, and priest. No one would ever do such a thing again until the Christ fulfilled the triple office.

With regard to Ex.25, that passage cannot be extracted out of the descriptive context laying out the appearance and function of the Tabernacle. So, the first thing the language is saying has to do with the nature of the ark. What was it? What was its purpose. In the broader context, we are taught to understand that this dwelling was the movable pavilion of the God-King Jehovah, and the ark was his throne. So, the language of communion and instruction in respect to his "commandment" or law has to do with what kings typically do from their thrones.

This is not to say that God did not commune with Moses specially. He did, see Ex.33:7-11. Since neither the Tabernacle nor its furniture was finished, it is doubtful there was a physical throne of any kind in that tent. But, it is instructive for it tells us that Moses had (at least for a time) a degree of intimacy with God that was unlike anything anyone else knew--even the high priest Aaron and his successors.

I propose that when the Tabernacle itself was completed, and set up, Moses might have continued to have similar access to the Holy of Holies. Or, perhaps in order to demonstrate the uniqueness of the perpetual office of the Aaronic priesthood, that space and its rules were kept inviolate once it was commissioned. Moses could have continued to meet with God standing outside of the veil. I think an argument may be made for both.

But the fact that Moses went up the mountain to unprecedented intimacy with God, the fact that he spoke "face to face" with God in the tent, Ex.33:11, and the obvious "backward" trend that being relegated outside the veil would communicate: all this commends the idea that Moses would have continued to have unique access to the throne/ark. Ex.34:33-35 indicate that Moses continued to meet intimately with God, and there would be no other place than the Tabernacle to do this, once it was built. I think Moses wore his veil before the people, other than when he came from the presence of Jehovah to preach to them, for 40yrs until he died.

I don't think the formation of the Levitical priesthood changed Moses' status or his access.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Preaching last week, I came across a passage in Joshua that has a little bearing on the question.
Joshua 7:6-10
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord GOD....​
10 So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up...! 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you.​

Here is a passage where Joshua is said to commune with the Lord GOD "before the ark." And not only he, but also the elders of Israel, which must have been some company if it was anything like Ex.24:1. All those people are not going to fit in the whole Tabernacle; however, the courtyard would hold them. So, we ought to reason that in some sense even coming to the Tabernacle precincts was equivalent to attending the ark.

And this makes consistent sense with the purpose of the primary sense of the words in Ex.25:22. Here is a case where the nation is assembled before the ark-throne of their God-king, abased, at a loss to understand or explain what has happened to them (their failure at Ai).

Is it possible that Joshua, perhaps; plus Eleazar the high priest, also entered the Tabernacle itself, going even up to the veil? I suppose this could very well describe what is happening. All the elders are "before the ark" in some sense, and Joshua is closer than most.

I would still place him outside the veil, however. And this might mark an important distinction between him and Moses. Just as Solomon was "David's greater son" in only a certain sense, and in most other ways he was less than his father; so also Joshua is Moses' successor (as judge-mediator for all Israel) and accomplishes what Moses could not by leading Israel into the land and to conquest. But Moses remains the unique mediator of the Old Covenant, he is still without peer in his access to the LORD's presence.
 
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