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I’m reading Leviticus 21:7-9, 13, 14 that define the rules of marriage for the Priest and High Priest. It’s pertinent that the high priest must only marry a virgin from his clan: My questions are these?

  1. If none of the children of the presiding High priest donor met this criteria how would they decide the next high priest?
  2. Is it allowed by law for the high priest to marry more than a wife? If so, I assume if he meet this criteria with only one of his wives he would be qualified.
  3. What’s the selective process of an high priest?
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I will answer Q2 and then Q1 & 3 as almost the same question.

Marriage for priests

There is no definitive Scripture about this, however, there is no record of any priest having more than one wife in the Bible and the Rabbinic tradition says that priests could only have one wife. That is all we can say about this.

Succession of priesthood

Again, there are no rules about this in the Scripture except that the high priest had to be the (usually eldest) son of of the progeny of Aaron (Num 16:40; 17; 18:1-8).

However, there are at least two instances where the normal succession of High Priests was interrupted.

Incident #1 - Num 3:4.

Aaron had four sons, "Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar." (Ex 6:23). Under normal circumstances, Nadab, being the eldest son (Num 3:2) would have been high priest at the death of Aaron. However, Nadab and Abihu sinned by offering "strange" fire before the LORD and thus were died. Since they had no children, the next oldest son, Eleazar became high Priest at Aaron's death.

Incident #2 - 1 Kings 2:26, 27, 35

Eli was high priest during the time of the Judges but was descended from Ithamar (1 Sam 1:9, 1 Kings 2:27) and not Eleazar, for reasons that are never explained in the scripture record. Because of Eli's neglect and the his sons' wickedness (1 Sam 2:12-25), there was a prophecy that Eli's priestly line would be cut off (1 Sam 2:27-36). This was fulfilled during the time of Solomon when Abithar the priest was replaced by a descendant of Eleazar, Zadok (1 Chron 24:3), as High Priest, 1 Kings 2:26-27, 35.

Thus, there were no definitive Torah rules about how the priesthood was determined other that a direct descendant of Aaron.

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