The last few Torah Portions have been about the tabernacle and the Priesthood. Understanding how Moses built the tabernacle based on his heavenly vision seems simple enough. We can read about this in Hebrews 8:5;
“They offer service in a replica and foreshadower of the heavenly—one that is just as Moses was instructed by God when he was about to complete the tabernacle. For He says, “See that you make everything according to the design that was shown to you on the mountain.” (Ex. 25.40)
Ok, but we need to keep going with our understanding of-“as above, so below.” If the earthly tabernacle is an image of the heavenly tabernacle where the Holy One dwells, could the Priesthood mirror the divine celestial beings? The Hebrew texts seem to speak about the Israelite Priesthood in angelic terms.
The first mention of Cherubim is in the Genesis account, where they are placed at the gates of the Garden to keep Adam and Chavah from the Tree of Life. Guess who else sits at the gates of Jerusalem to guard? The Priests. The cherubim guard the Garden in Genesis 3:24, just like Adam, a King/Priest, was placed in the Garden to guard (samar) it in Genesis 2:15.
Interestingly, a scholar named Hyde has translated the word angel as “Those who draw near to God, to minister to Him (Hyde, De Rel. Vett. Persarum, p. 263).” In around 70 Hebrew Scriptures, the Priests minister before the Lord.
Angel, or malak in Hebrew, means messenger. It can apply to humans or celestial. This general definition is where things get tricky. God calls the Priests angels in Malachi 2:7;
“For the lips of a priest should keep knowledge, And people should seek the law from his mouth; For he is the messenger (angel) of the Lord of hosts.”
The cherubim decorate the tabernacle from the holy of holies to the covering of the Tent of Meeting (1 Kg 6/Ex 26 &36). Priests decorate the tabernacle, ministering in every aspect of offerings and sacrifices.
Angels are intercessors or mediators, as the Akkadian derivative of kuribu (root of keruv, where we derive the word cherub) means to pray or to bless. The Priests pray to and bless God and His people (Num 6.24-26).
Seraph, or seraphim, are mentioned in Isaiah 6 and are described as burning before the throne, saying “holy, holy.” An interesting tidbit that Dr. Dinah Dye, Ancient Near East Scholar and founder of Foundations in Torah, mentions is how in the Jerusalem museum, the Isaiah scroll only has the seraphim saying holy twice, not thrice. Why is this important? It could point us to the Holy of Holies, where the High Priest ministers before the Ark of the Covenant, a picture of the throne of God.
I am still working these images out in my brain, but hopefully, you are encouraged to see the Priesthood in a new light. The Holy One could have created the Israelite Priesthood to mimic the heavenly angels, but they failed. For hundreds of years, we have projected that failure onto divine beings. However, the Bible is stock full of stories on how human angels/messengers failed, not celestial angels. The earthly angels were supposed to live on manna just like celestial beings do. Manna is connected to the instructions of the Spirit of God.
Psalm 78:24-25: Had rained down manna on them to eat, And given them the bread of heaven. Men ate angels’ food; He sent them food to the full.
Nehemiah 9:20: You also gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, and did not withhold Your manna from their mouth and gave them water for their thirst.
You would not know it by the sheer magnitude of books and teachings describing angels, but the Scriptures do not give us much information about them. Angels are mentioned around 91 times in Scripture, whereas Priests show up 386 times in the texts. Unfortunately, as humans, we can be driven by sensationalism. Maybe we think if we could understand the unseen realm, we could gain power over things we cannot control. What if, instead of gaining knowledge of the heavenly host, we learned about the job of a Priest? Power comes from knowing what your God-given purpose is and living in it. Those who follow Yeshua are called a kingdom of Priests (1 Pt 2.9). Do we know what God created Priests to do? Here are a few of their duties;
Distinguish between good and evil, clean and unclean. (Lev 10:10)
Speak what God tells them to speak. (Mal 2.7)
Minister before the Lord and to his people. (Ex 30.30/Heb 1.7/2 Cor 11.15)
Reconcile the nations to the Holy One as we have inherited the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5.18). Remember, we have not inherited the ministry of division. Dividing between light and darkness, yes, dividing between our fellow humans, no.
Praise God. (Ps 148.2 & 135.1)
Make judgments. There seems to be a Divine council in the heavenly realm and then an earthy counsel established in the Sanhedrin. The earthly council was an ancient Israelite court with 71 judges who ruled in righteousness and justice. (Ps 82.1 & Dt 16.18)
Hopefully, you can see how celestial and earthly messengers are called angels. There are divine and earthly beings who make up a council that administers justice. Heavenly angels, as well as the Priests, minister before the throne of God. It is the job of both divine and earthly servants to praise the Holy One. Being a part of a priesthood is a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it. Shalomie homies.