Yes, David was a priest in the order or “in the way” of Melchizedek. No, he was not a priest after the order of Aaron or anything to do with the Tabernacle or Ark. David had a heart for God so he did many good works. Near the end of his life (1 Chronicles 22 -26), David made plans for the Temple and helped to organize the Levites and Priest. At times in his life, David did things that might border on priestly rights and duties and we will look at all (or many) of these. This topic cannot be discussed without Psalm 110 being brought into the conversation, so it will be.
I will start with the NO answer. David could not work in the Tabernacle or with the Ark simply because he was not a son of Aaron or Levi. (Levities 8 + 9) David did do some questionable things that could be mistaken as priestly duties and rights. But even these actions need to be viewed in the light of some other leaders.
- King Saul – 1 Samuel 13 is the story of Saul offering a sacrifice. Verse 9 has Saul ordering “someone” to bring the offering to him. The context of the story makes it sound like he did the cutting and sprinkling of the blood. Verse 13 has Samuel telling Saul his kingdom and lineage will not last. (Saul’s line could have ruled “for all time”.) He actually “lost the kingdom” in 1 Samuel 15.
- Jeroboam – 1 Kings 11,12, and 13. 11:6 explains that Solomon had not followed God or His commands and that the nation of Israel would be divided. Jeroboam also had a promise of a lasting kingdom if he did right (vs. 39). 12:31 (NIV) Jeroboam built shrines on high places and appointed priests from all sorts of people, even though they were not Levites. 13:33 +34 repeats his disobedience and the outcomes.
- King Uzziah – 2 Chronicles 26: 18,19,21. Uzziah was a grandson of David who actually had done well until he gave into his pride. He went into the Temple and was offering incense. The real Priest confronted him. He broke out with leprosy and lived separately until he died.
Please set these examples and all of the other “kings” of Israel next to Deuteronomy 17: 14-20. These verses were the Lord’s rules for the kings who would reign over His people. Verse 18 states that he is to make a copy (his own) of the Law and read it every day. If David had done this it is a good bet that Solomon did not, because he broke the rules in verses 14 -17 very well. In Jeremiah, King Josiah held a Passover because the Book of the Law was found during a Temple cleaning and he had never seen or read it before. Makes you wonder what the priest was working from?
If my three examples were judged for making sacrifices, burning incense, and allowing non-Levitical priests. It would stand to reason if David had done these types of things he also would have been held guilty. He had his problems but acting as a Priest in the order of Aaron was not one of them.
WELL HE DID –
- Eat the Bread of Presence (1 Samuel 21:1-9). Yes, this was after he lied and deceived Ahimelech the priest, and thought about killing Doeg. I will give this one up as God’s grace and mercy and not David’s right behavior. A point of interest here is that Ahimelech’s questions to David were about legal purity and not a family origin.
- Wear a linen ephod. 2 Samuel 6: 12 – 23 and 1 Chronicles 15:27 has David along with the Levites wearing linen ephods as they moved the Ark of God to Jerusalem. An ephod is a piece of clothing. Yes, ephods are frequently associated with “priest”. In the case of the tribe of Dan stealing one and the “house priest” it belonged to, it may seem that the robe was also worshiped. Even if David was trying to “blend” in at the start of the parade by the end he may have taken off the ephod and was dancing around in his underwear. A priest of the order of Aaron could not have done that, but one from the order of Melchizedek could have. Sorry, David wearing an ephod, to me, is more like everyone trying to dress like the pastor.
- Move the Ark to Jerusalem. This is David acting more like Melchizedek than Aaron. The Tabernacle of Moses was still in use in Gibeon (2 Chronicle 1:3). This Tabernacle of David or Tent of David has more to do with him wanting the blessing of God than him doing priestly functions. The Tabernacle of David is a type of how to worship by grace away from the rules of the Law. 1 Chronicles 16:1-7 has David putting the priest and Levites in charge of a 24-hour praise session around the Ark. Verse 37 – 40 has the priestly families split into two groups and doing duty in two locations – Jerusalem and Gibeon.
- Build his own altar. In 1 Chronicles 21: 18 – 30 and 2 Samuel 24: 18 – 25 David was ordered to build an altar by the prophet Gad. He had to do this to stop a plague that his actions had started (counting the people). This altar became the area where the Temple of Solomon was built. David had people with him so I will suggest that he did not build the altar or kill the animals, which had to be done by a priest.
- Arranged the priest and Levities into divisions. He also ordered that provisions be made and collected to build the Temple, that the leaders of the people were to help Solomon, and he changed the duties of the Levites because they were not going to be carrying the Ark and the Tabernacle around (1 Chronicles 22+ 23). Chapter 24: 3 states that the heads of the priestly families were there with him. He was not making these decisions by or for himself, but as a king who wanted Jehovah served and glorified.
- Write Psalm 110. Some scholars will state a slightly different view on that – did he write it, was it written in his style, or was it written about him? To me, because it is so prophetic, David wrote it and I just don’t feel he is the object of the conversation. Matthew 22:43-45, Mark 12:36+37, Luke 20:42-44, and Acts 2:25 + 34 deal with verse one and the question of how David can call his son Lord and Messiah. If you rewrite verse one as it should be, it would say – “Jehovah says to my Adonay”. Adonay has several meanings – God, ruler, husband, or someone in authority, that is an earthly authority. (Check the lettering to see the difference in the word Lord.) I am not sure that David would have talked about himself as a priest in the order of Melchizedek (vs 4), that is very boastful. If he did he would have had all of his clothes on!
Yes, David was a priest but of the order of Melchizedek. (<- That link is to Melchizedek in Hebrews, which I hope explains him at a deeper level) Melchizedek is an interesting character, he is mentioned in three books of the Christian Bible but volumes have been said about him. He is first mentioned in Genesis 14:18 as the “priest of God Most High” who shares a meal with and then blesses Abraham and is given an offering. Psalm 110 adds to Melchizedek’s persona by bringing in the concept of eternal priesthood and adding the word “order”. The Hebrew word dibrah (#1700 Strong’s) left me confused so I went to several translations for clarity. The KJV and NIV use the word “order” while others use “like” or “in the same way”. The Book of Hebrews (Chapter 7 discusses Melchizedek’s history) really adds to Melchizedek’s resume when he and Jesus are compared to each other. (More will be written later as this ballooned out of this study in ways I did not expect.). But back to the question of was David a priest. Hebrew 7:12 states that a change of the priesthood and a change of the Law must go hand-in-hand, and verse 14 dispels David as a priest under the Law of Moses because he was of the tribe of Judah. So, David was a priest but not in the order of Aaron because the Law did not change and he was from the wrong tribe.
It took a while to piece together the thoughts on righteous kingship and priest. Moses gave me an example of that type of leadership. There is no doubt of Moses’ calling and his authority but the plagues and other miracles were before the Law was given. Moses’s work before Aaron and his sons were selected, should show that he was working as Melchizedek did, a “king/priest of righteousness”. Exodus 19:6 (which is before the giving of the Law) says all of Israel was to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. The episode with the golden calf changed what could have happened. When God gave the Law the priesthood was given to Aaron. The priesthood of “all of Israel” in the “order of Melchizedek” went to the family of Aaron, not the entire nation. David would fit into the order of Melchizedek because he was the king of Jerusalem and righteous, having a heart for God.
This thought is found again in Revelation 1:6 – we are kings (kingdom) and priests unto God. Different translations use kings or kingdoms but it is in line with Exodus 19:6. I have seen several of these “plan A/plan B” or “what if” things recently. God had a big plan but stubborn hearts temporally changed the first plan to a second plan. God’s plan A is not dead but on hold until we accept God’s plan, which is what Jesus gave us at the cross.
So, the bold things David did, he did as a king/priest in the “order” of Melchizedek. Some of his actions would not have fit under the Law of Moses and the priesthood of Aaron.
Imagine – Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org