2 Kings 23:4

And the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest, and the priests of the second order, and the keepers of the door, to bring forth out of the temple of the LORD all the vessels that were made for Baal, and for the grove, and for all the host of heaven: and he burned them without Jerusalem in the fields of Kidron, and carried the ashes of them unto Bethel.

What are these priests of the second order?


There is some doubt about whether 2 kings 23:4 should be translated as:

  • priests of the second order, or,
  • priests next in rank

For example, see the comments of Matthew Poole -

The priests of the second order; either those two who were next in degree to the high priest, and in case of his sickness were to manage his work; of whom see 2 Samuel 8:17; or the heads of the twenty four courses which David had appointed, 1 Chron 24.

Similarly, Ellicot says this:

(4) The priests of the second order.—Thenius is probably right in reading the singular, the priest of the second rank, i.e., the high priest’s deputy, after the Targum, unless the heads of the twenty-four classes be intended (“the chief priests” of the New Testament). (See also 2 Kings 25:18.)


New International Version 2 Kings 23:

4a The king ordered Hilkiah the high priest, the priests next in rank and the doorkeepers to remove from the temple of the LORD all the articles made for Baal and Asherah and all the starry hosts.

second in rank,
הַמִּשְׁנֶה֮ (ham·miš·neh)
Article | Noun - masculine singular
Strong's 4932: A repetition, a duplicate, a double, a second


and the priests of the second order. Not the "deputy-high priests," of whom there seems to have been only one at this period of the history (2 Kings 25:18); nor the "heads of the courses," who were not recognized as a distinct class of priests till much later; but merely the common priests, as distinguished from the high priest. (So Keil, Bahr, and others.)

According to Pulpit, there were only high priests and common priests:
priests of the second order = common priests

Barnes' opinion was similar:

The priests of the second order - This is a new expression; and probably refers to the ordinary priests, called here "priests of the second order," in contrast with the high priest

The same Hebrew word is used to describe musicians in 1 Chronicles 15:

16David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their fellow Levites as musicians to make a joyful sound with musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals.

17 So the Levites appointed Heman son of Joel; from his relatives, Asaph son of Berekiah; and from their relatives the Merarites, Ethan son of Kushaiah; 18and with them their relatives next in rank: Zechariah, b Jaaziel, Shemiramoth, Jehiel, Unni, Eliab, Benaiah, Maaseiah, Mattithiah, Eliphelehu, Mikneiah, Obed-Edom and Jeiel, the gatekeepers.

Here too, there seemed to be just two classes. In both cases, we are not talking about a huge number of people.

What were the priests of the second-order?

The jury is still out on this one. Interestingly, the Bible never mentions priests of the 3rd-order :)

  • Christ is represented by the priests of the first order. The priests of the second order are those of the church. The word second also means 'booty'. The prize of war is Christ himself as the singular pearl, and the booty is the secondary treasure made of of many things.
    – Bob Jones
    Oct 27 '21 at 16:31

The-Second (Ha-Sheni הַשֵּׁנִֽי) Order of Priests descended from ידַעְיָ֖ה Yedaiah , among the בְנֵֽי־אֶלְעָזָ֡ר sons of Eleazar. - stated in [1 Chronicles 24:4-7]

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