As It Is Written . . .
by Patrick Henry Reardon
Were it not for the contrary evidence, we might not suspect how important Israel's priests and the whole tribe of Levi became during their exile in Babylon. The idea is surprising at first. Because of the reforms of Hezekiah in the eighth century and of Josiah in the seventh, the ritual service of the priests and Levites had been restricted to the temple in Jerusalem; they could not offer sacrifice anywhere else. For that reason, we might have anticipated, after the temple's destruction in 587, a corresponding loss of importance for the tribe of Levi, and especially the house of Aaron. Without an altar, we would expect the priesthood to decline in importance.
Clearly, however, this was not the case. On the contrary, the priests and Levites became more important during that half-century of exile, particularly as scholars and teachers of the Torah. When the children of Israel returned to the Holy Land, beginning in 538, the priests and Levites among them enjoyed a level of authority notably higher than they enjoyed before the exile, because they had in the intervening years made themselves sopherim, "scribes," scholars of the Torah.
THIS ARTICLE ONLY AVAILABLE TO SUBSCRIBERS.
FOR QUICK ACCESS:
Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
• Not a subscriber or wish to renew your subscription? Subscribe to Touchstone today for full online access. Over 30 years of publishing!
Transactions will be processed on a secure server.
Order Touchstone subscriptions in bulk and save $10 per sub! Each subscription includes 6 issues of Touchstone plus full online access to touchstonemag.com—including archives, videos, and pdf downloads of recent issues for only $29.95 each! Great for churches or study groups.
OR get a subscription to Touchstone to read on your Kindle for only $1.99 per month! (This option is KINDLE ONLY and does not include either print or online.)
Your subscription goes a long way to ensure that Touchstone is able to continue its mission of publishing quality Christian articles and commentary.
more from the online archives
calling all readers
"There are magazines worth reading but few worth saving . . . Touchstone is just such a magazine."
—Alice von Hildebrand
"Here we do not concede one square millimeter of territory to falsehood, folly, contemporary sentimentality, or fashion. We speak the truth, and let God be our judge. . . . Touchstone is the one committedly Christian conservative journal."
—Anthony Esolen, Touchstone senior editor