Priests of the Bible – 8. Zadok
Zadok along with Abiathar were the two priests that served during the time of David, sharing priestly duties once David became king. As we noted earlier, the parting of the ways of the two came when at the end of David’s life, Adonijah tried to become king and was supported by Abiathar although it was Solomon who was the one David intended to follow him as king when he died and Solomon was supported by Zadok. Solomon overcame the coup, Abiathar was deposed in disgrace and Zadok became the High Priest.
Zadok, which appropriately means “righteous”, “just”, traces his ancestry back to Aaron, through Eleazar and Phineas (all discussed earlier) and from what we can work out High Priests that followed him, until after the return of the Exile with later infiltration of Greeks and Romans were descendants of Zadok. Zadok first appears on the scene while David was exiled but was soon to take the Throne, upon Saul’s death: “And these are the numbers of the bands that were ready armed to the war, and came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord … And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father’s house twenty and two captains” 1 Chronicles 12: 23,28.
We don’t get the impression of Zadok taking much of the limelight, at least not until at the time of transition from David to Solomon (when he is called upon, along with Nathan the prophet, to anoint Solomon as king), but all we read suggests Zadok carried out his duties faithfully and was loyal to David and then to Solomon. He played his part bringing the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, when David danced before the Lord, and thereafter played an important part in the worship of YHWH centered around the Tabernacle: “And Zadok the priest, and his brethren the priests, before the tabernacle of the Lord in the high place that was at Gibeon” 1 Chronicles 16:9 and “And David distributed them, both Zadok of the sons of Eleazar, and Ahimelech of the sons of Ithamar, according to their offices in their service” 1 Chronicles 24:3. During the time of Absolam’s rebellion, he supported David in his hour of need. Other than mention of Zadok’s priestly duties, there seems not much we can find out about concerning Zadok the man from his words and deeds, that is until toward the time of David’s death when along with Nathan he played his part in ensuring the kingly crown was passed onto Solomon rather than to his older brother, Adonijah. Regarding the transition from Tabernacle (under David) to Temple (under Solomon) worship, we can’t say for sure what was Zadok’s part other than that he faithfully carried out his priestly duties.
It is worth noting, as we look far into the future, to Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple (Ezekiel 40 – 48) during the period of the Exile of Judah to Babylon, Zadok is referenced by name four times as he looks ahead at a Temple yet to come, with the priests being Zadok’s descendants. There is debate among scholars what this Temple that has never been built refers to and whether literal or actual, and if actual when it is meant to happen, and this is something I consider in my book “Prophets of the Bible”. One stand out feature is the importance of holiness and the role of the Zadok priesthood when it came to “teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean” Ezekiel 44:23. In wrapping up, I refer again to the prophecy the unnamed prophet gave to Eli, in particular: “And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in mine heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever” 1 Samuel 2:35. The prophet was looking far into the future and was merely passing on the words of the Lord, even when with limited understanding, but one wonders if these words somehow applied to Zadok.
As part of researching Zadok, there are several helpful videos and articles. One I will draw attention to that particularly impacted me is titled: “Zadok and Abaithar Priesthoods – David Wilkerson” (see here). Wilkerson makes the distinction between these two anointed priests but the former, Abiathar, losing that anointing evidenced by his actions siding with Adonijah, the unrighteous candidate, in the matter of the kingly succession, whereas Zadok making the righteous choice and maintaining that anointing as evidenced by the Ezekiel references. His point is that many a Christian leader (and he included himself) can begin well and used by God but fall away from being blessed by God through sin. Unlike Abiathar, Zadok continued in the blessing. In another sermon, “A Remnant Priesthood (David Wilkerson)”, he argues that God is seeking such among His people today, a righteous remnant, a holy people, who function in the Zadok mold.
As I write this, my fellow countrymen anticipate the coronation of King Charles III in less than two months’ time. One of the anthems we expect to be played during that event is “Zadok the Priest” (see here for a rendition, and above for lyrics). According to Wikipedia: “Zadok the Priest is a British anthem that was composed by George Frideric Handel for the coronation of King George II in 1727. Alongside The King Shall Rejoice, My Heart is Inditing, and Let Thy Hand Be Strengthened, Zadok the Priest is one of Handel’s coronation anthems. One of Handel’s best-known works, Zadok the Priest has been sung prior to the anointing of the sovereign at the coronation of every British monarch since its composition and has become recognised as a British patriotic anthem. Part of the traditional content of British coronations, the texts for all four anthems were picked by Handel—a personal selection from the most accessible account of an earlier coronation, that of James II in 1685. The text is a translation of the traditional antiphon, Unxerunt Salomonem, itself derived from the biblical account of the anointing of Solomon by the priest Zadok (1 Kings 1:38-40). These words have been used in every English, and later British, coronation since that of King Edgar at Bath Abbey in 973”.