Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 28, 1968

Priest — Vs — Prophet

Harold E. Turner

As the fifth chapter of Hosea opens we read these word, "Hear this 0 ye priests ...; for unto you pertaineth the judgment. Here is evidence a conflict of minds that we see many times in the Old Testament. The mind of the priest versus the mind of the prophet. The conflict may, at first, be confusing as we recall that both priests and prophets were commissioned of God. As far back as Gen. 14:18 we read of Melchizedek, "priest of God most high." In Hosea 1: 1 the book is introduced, "The word of Jehovah that came unto Hosea the son of Beeri." So we see that both had divine appointments.

However, the priestly office was infiltrated by ruthless men and they became the occasion for the apostasy of Israel and thus created the conflict between themselves and God's spokesmen, the prophets. In Hos. 4:6 Jehovah laments, "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge."

The priest's work was divided into two sections. They were to care for the sacrificial ceremonies and also be instructors of the law (Lev. 10:8-11). This second function was badly abused, "for the priest's lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth; for he is the messenger of Jehovah of hosts. But ye are turned aside out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble in the law" (Mal. 2:7,8).

Perhaps we might be sympathetic toward the priest if this failure was attributed to over work, too big of a job, etc. However, the motive behind the failure is repugnant. "They feed on the sins of the people, and set their hearts on their iniquity." According to Lev. 6:26 the priests would eat the meat sacrificed for the sin offering. Naturally, the more offerings that were made the more secure were the priests so they, "set their hearts on their iniquity."

They encouraged sin, withheld knowledge and refused to instruct as commanded. They traded a nation for their own bellies sake. Thus, the priest became one-sided in their function. They emphasized and over emphasized the rituals and the sacrifices.

In contrast we see the prophet (the mouth piece for God) as he emphasized practical application and, if you'll pardon the expression, heart felt religion. "They shall go with their flocks and their herds to seek Jehovah; but they shall not find him: he hath withdrawn himself from them" (Hos. 5:6). Is this an occasion where God refuses to extend grace to a penitent people? Certainly not, "for I desire goodness and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings" (Hos. 6:6). Should we understand that God had rejected his own council? Has he no interest in sacrifices? The prophet is simply emphasizing what the priests failed to emphasize. God was and is interested in the outward act only as that act is the expression of a righteous heart.

This conflict between priest and prophet has no end in this life. It shall continue as long as man lives. In the New Testament the Pharisees represent the priests as they emphasize tradition and overlook righteousness; Jesus represents the prophets as he rebukes them severely for their inconsistency and hypocrisy. Perhaps we should be warned lest our religion degenerated into nothing but deceitful acts and empty forms.

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