I. History of Disruption and Restoration of the Levitical Priesthood

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The Levitical priesthood performed specific functions associated with the sacrificial system, the calendar, teaching the people, and they were also prominent among the judges.

As seen in Jeremiah 52, when the House of Judah was fully conquered by the Babylonians, the wealthy people of Judah were taken into exile, Solomon's Temple was destroyed, and the high priest was put to death. The disruption in the priesthood was based upon the execution of the high priest and the exile of the wealthy class rather than the destruction of Solomon's Temple. From this time onward there is no historical record of the existence of the ark. The poor people who remained in the land may have included some Levites and priests. However, Ezra 2:2, 36 shows that when Zerubbabel returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple, there were priests who returned with him. We have no history that preserves exactly how the priesthood functioned during the period of exile, yet the priesthood existed without an ark and without a Temple. When the Second Temple was destroyed in 70, the priests were still known and the priesthood could have continued as it had been during the Babylonian exile when there was neither ark nor Temple. Some inventiveness could have enabled the priesthood to perform their functions because during the Second Temple period, they found some means to function without an ark during the tenth day of the seventh month, the Day of Atonement. Political considerations prevented the continuation of the priesthood, yet this was a method of fulfilling the prophecy in Mal 2:3.

There was a serious complaint against the Levitical priesthood in Mal 2. The punishment to that priesthood for its continuing sin is discussed in Mal 2:3 where the eventual sentence is: “take you [= priests] away”. This language is similar to that of exile rather than a permanent abolition.

There is evidence from the Tanak that this priestly exile will be ended and the sacrificial system will be functioning again, even prior to the time of the Third Temple that is discussed in Ezek 40-48 where the Aaronic Priesthood is shown to function. This renewal of the functioning of the Aaronic priesthood is implied by the uses of the daily-sacrifice (Hebrew tamid, Strong's number 8548) in the prophesies of Daniel, especially Dan 11:31; 12:11, but also Dan 8:11, 12, 13. Through these prophesies of Daniel, the Tanak recognizes the legitimate functioning of this priesthood once again prior to the Messianic era of worldwide peace.

Thus the Aaronic Priesthood is now in a temporary exile, but not made void. During this time of exile there are no two priests to blow the two silver trumpets according to Num 10:10. No one outside the lineage of Aaron is qualified to do this. The best that could be done is to simulate the priesthood in the sense of determining what they would determine and then act accordingly. If someone would imagine differently, there is the challenge of proving who would have the authority to appoint two priests to perform this
function.