“O profane and wicked prince of Israel, whose day has come, whose time of punishment has reached its climax, this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Take off the turban, remove the crown. It will not be as it was: The lowly will be exalted and the exalted will be brought low. A ruin! A ruin! I will make it a ruin! It will not be restored until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs; to him I will give it.(Ezekiel 21:25-27)
The turban was worn by the High Priest, the crown by the King. The Lord had deliberately kept these two offices separate, with the priests always coming from the family of Levi and Kings from the family of Judah. The third holy office (prophet) could be held by someone from any tribe and indeed there were priests who were also prophets (Ezekiel and Zechariah for example) and at least one king who was also a prophet (David). In Abraham’s time there had been one man (Melchizedek) who was both King and Priest (Genesis 14:18) but there was never another since the birth of the Nation. To prove the Lord was serious about this mandatory separation, when King Uzziah tried to officiate as a priest, he was immediately stricken with leprosy.
But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. They confronted him and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.”
Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. While he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him.
King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died. He lived in a separate house —leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land. (2 Chron. 26:16-21)
A New Priesthood
So Ezekiel’s prophecy actually called for a suspension of both offices, High Priest and King, and then proclaimed they would remain suspended until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs. The “he” in the passage refers to an individual and the “it” to the combined office of King/Priest. In other words, someone like Melchizedek. (In Ezekiel 44 we read that the Lord has become more and more displeased with the Levitical priesthood for their behavior down through time and as He takes His place in the Millennial Temple He will declare that only those from the faithful line of Zadok will be authorized to minister before Him. But even among them there is no mention of a Levitical High Priest in the Millennium.)
The idea of a priest in the order of Melchizedek was first put forth in Psalm 110.
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies. Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth.
The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook beside the way; therefore he will lift up his head.
The Hebrew word translated LORD is the unspeakable Name of God, represented by the four letters YHWH in the Hebrew text. The one translated Lord is Adonai, and is used by a junior to address a senior. The only one senior to King David, the author of Psalm 110, and yet not the LORD has to be His Son, the Messiah. Therefore, this Psalm tells us the Messiah is appointed a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Placing Jesus in the context of Psalm 110, the writer of Hebrews wrote;
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.(Hebr. 6:19-20)
Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. (Hebr. 7:26-28)
But the Messiah is also the Lion of Judah, King of Israel, heir to David’s throne.(Luke 1:32-33) It seems to me then, that the “he” Ezekiel referred to in our opening prophecy is the Messiah, who we know as Jesus and who, like Melchizedek, is both King and High Priest.
When Were These Offices Suspended?
The last legitimate King to sit on David’s throne was Jeconiah, aka Jehoiachin, about 600 BC, around the time of Ezekiel’s prophecy. The LORD was so offended by this King’s behavior that He pronounced a blood curse on the Royal line.
Is this man Jehoiachin a despised, broken pot, an object no one wants? Why will he and his children be hurled out, cast into a land they do not know? O land, land, land, hear the word of the LORD!
This is what the LORD says: “Record this man as if childless, a man who will not prosper in his lifetime, for none of his offspring will prosper, none will sit on the throne of David or rule anymore in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:28-30)
To this day, there hasn’t been a legitimate King in Israel since. By the way, it was this curse that made the virgin birth necessary to preserve the Messiah’s claim to the throne. It’s a complicated issue that I explained in detail in my study entitled“The Virgin Mary Had a Baby Boy.”
The last legitimate High Priest was Onias III who was murdered during the reign of the Syrian conqueror Antiochus Epiphanes, about 174 BC. Realizing that the office of High Priest could vastly enrich its holder, Antiochius began auctioning it off to the highest bidder. (The first “winner” was Jason, brother of Onias, causing speculation that he was behind his brother’s death.) This practice was continued by the Romans and soon only the wealthiest families could afford to bid for the office. Hereditary claims were no longer the deciding factor in determining who held the office of High Priest.
How do we know that these two suspended offices will really be combined? The Bible tells us so. In my study “The Branch” I explained that this phrase appears four times in Old Testament prophecy, each one revealing one of the Messiah’s assignments on Earth. In one of these, Zechariah 6:12-13, we read, … this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.
In the verses just preceding, the Lord had told Zechariah to fashion a crown of silver and gold and place it on the head of Joshua, the High Priest. (Zech. 6:9-11) This was after the return from Babylon but before the time of Antiochus, making Joshua a legitimate holder of the office. Silver was the coin of redemption and symbolized the priesthood. Gold of course stands for royalty, the King. Then Zechariah used Joshua as a stand-in for the Messiah saying, “Here in the man whose name is the Branch …” It’s interesting that the name Joshua is a variant of Yeshua, the Lord’s Hebrew name, making him a clear model of the Messiah in this instance. In Him there finally will be harmony between the two offices and the promise of Psalm 110 will be fulfilled.
As you read this, we have a Great High Priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. (Hebrews 8:1-2) And one day soon He’ll appear in the sky with all His Holy Ones, and by the end of that glorious daythe LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (Zech 14:9) Maranatha. Come Lord Jesus, our King and High Priest forever.