Four Bad Priests

Urijah, Pashur, Nadab and Abihu

The Bible is packed with good examples of characters we can emulate, since ‘things … written aforetime were written for our learning’, Rom. 15. 4. Conversely, there are also many bad examples, people whose traits we must avoid. Such examples should serve as salutary warnings to us as believers.

In this article, we will consider a set of priests who made poor decisions that damaged their testimony with serious repercussions for themselves and others around them. There is a stringent list of physical qualifications for priestly service, Lev. 21. 16-24. Although the priests we examine in this article would have satisfied these physical requirements, they all had some spiritual deficiency; they lacked some aspect of the fruit of the Spirit, Gal. 5. 22, 23, which adversely affected their activity.

Urijah: a priest without faithfulness

King Ahaz had visited Damascus, 2 Kgs. 16. 10, where he encountered an idol altar central to that city’s false system of worship. Ahaz was most impressed by this altar’s size and style, so the wicked king of Judah sent a blueprint of the foreign altar to Urijah the priest in Jerusalem. Ahaz requested Urijah to construct a replica altar after the Damascene original; the priest was asked to instal this copy in the Jerusalem temple.

What did Urijah do? Would he remain loyal to God and refuse to follow the king’s wicked instructions? No! Instead, Urijah chose to aid and abet the king in vandalizing the temple by rearranging the divinely appointed order of worship. Urijah was not faithful to God’s word, which he had been taught.

Application to us: Modern-day believers require a firm grasp of biblical truth, particularly regarding local assembly principles. Then, we must practise this doctrine and defend it vigorously. Such faithfulness to God and His word is urgently needed in an era of widespread departure.

Pashur: a priest without meekness

We covered Jeremiah the priestly prophet in a previous study in this series. Pashur was part of the temple’s political hierarchy in Jeremiah’s time, Jer. 20. 1. Pashur haughtily rejected Jeremiah’s word from the Lord, refusing to acknowledge Jeremiah’s God-given mandate or message.

When Jeremiah continued to preach, Pashur silenced him, then vindictively arranged to have the prophet flogged. Any assault on the Lord’s servant is an assault on the Lord Himself, as Paul discovered in the dust of the Damascus road, Acts 9. 4. Pashur was guilty of this deliberate show of defiance against God’s word, so he was condemned to an exile’s death in Babylon, Jer. 20. 6.

Application to us: We might imagine, like proud Pashur, that we are above correction and beyond the need for advice. We might doubt that God would use other people to speak to us. When the Lord does have a message for us, we might suppose we can afford to ignore it as Pashur did. Rather, we should have gentle, loving hearts that are meekly receptive to others. We must be tuned in to hear God’s word to us, whether it comes directly from the scriptures or indirectly through fellow believers.

Nadab and Abihu: priests without temperance

This pair of Aaron’s sons was included among Israel’s original set of priests, Exod. 28. 1. Tragically, the priestly careers of Nadab and Abihu were cut short when they offered ‘strange fire’ before the Lord, Lev. 10. 1. Their innovation in incense ingredients resulted in immediate judgement. It was essential for God’s commandments to be obeyed. There was no scope for human creativity in interpreting the Lord’s instructions to Moses.

The subsequent narrative hints that this fatal action of Nadab and Abihu was made when they were under the influence of alcohol, v. 9. Clouded perception can lead to poor decision making; recall Lemuel’s advice on why rulers should abstain from alcohol, Prov. 31. 4.

Application to us: The need for self-control is paramount. Temperance, so vital in effective Christian testimony, can be compromised by alcohol. ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit’, Eph. 5. 18. In summary, spiritual sensibility is essential in every act of priestly service for the Lord.