Priest And King Or Priest-King In 1 Samuel 2:35 -- By: Karl Deenick

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 73:2 (Fall 2011)
Article: Priest And King Or Priest-King In 1 Samuel 2:35
Author: Karl Deenick

Priest And King Or Priest-King In 1 Samuel 2:35

Karl Deenick

Karl Deenick is pastor of the Branch Christian Church in Launceston, Tasmania, Australia, and is currently a Th.M. student in theology at Ridley College in Melbourne, Australia.

The two books of Samuel are arguably an account of the rise of the kingship in Israel and in particular of the establishment of the house of David. And yet the account begins with a slightly peculiar focus on priesthood in the form of the account of the birth of Samuel and the decline of the priestly line of Eli. Perhaps the most significant moment in this prelude of 1 Sam 1-7 is the prophecy regarding the judgment of Eli and his line. In 1 Sam 2:35 Yahweh promises:

והקימתי לי כהן נאמן כאשר בלבבי ובנפשי יעשה ובניתי לו בית נאמן והתהלך לפני משיחי כל הימים

The ESV, for instance, represents the translation tradition and renders this as: “And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever.”1 This is often seen as an indication that the priesthood and the kingship will co-exist in two distinct persons.2 This translation follows the Masoretic pointing. However, the unpointed text presents another curious possibility: “And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, he will do just as is in my heart and my soul. And I will build for him a sure house and my anointed one will walk before me all the days.” This translation requires only a slight re-pointing of the MT from וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי־משִׁיחִיְ to וְהִתְהַלֵּךְ לְפָנַי מְשִׁיחִי and taking מְשִׁיחִי as the subject of the verb. With that slight change kingship is cast from the outset not merely as an office in addition to the priesthood, but as the eventual solution to the demise of the house of Eli and of the priesthood itself. The aim here will be to demonstrate the reasons for going against the translation history and the Masoretic pointing in preference for this alternate reading.

I. Grammatical Data

It first ought to be shown that this translation is at least a grammatical possibility. According to the grammars it is not at all unusual that a suffixed preposi...

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