Was Zadok a Jebusite?

Zadok the Priest
by Cornelis de Vos (1584 – 1651)

A few days ago, Fencekicker at Journal of Heresies, in response to my post on the Religious Syncretism in Israel and Judah, asked the reason I believe Zadok was a Jebusite. Since it was difficult to respond to his question in a simple sentence, I decided to write this post giving the reasons I believe Zadok was a Jebusite and not an Israelite.

Scholars differ on whether Zadok, who served as the priest under David and Solomon, was an Israelite or a Jebusite. There are many issues related to Zadok and his genealogy.

Writing in the Anchor Bible Dictionary, George W. Ramsey wrote:

“Zadok’s genealogy constitutes a problem which has long puzzled scholars. If Zadok’s father Ahitub was the brother of Ichabod (1 Sam 14:3), this would incorporate Zadok into the family of Eli. This would make Zadok brother to Ahimelech and uncle of Abiathar (1 Sam 22:2. This genealogy, however, conflicts with the point of 1 Sam 2:27–36 and 1 Kgs 2:26–27, which seek to explain how it came about that Zadok’s family superseded the family of Eli in the priestly service.”

“Another tradition, traced in detail in 1 Chr 5:29–34; 6:35–38 (English: 6:3–8, 50–53), also posits Ahitub as Zadok’s father but derives both from a line which does not include Eli. In the Chronicler’s version Zadok derived from a line descended from Aaron’s son Eleazar, and 1 Chr 24:3 specifically contrasts his descent from Eleazar with the descent of his co-priest Abiathar from another son of Aaron, Ithamar” (ADB 6: 1034)

Another issue, one that has a direct relation to the question asked by Fencekicker, is the reason David appointed two priests and how Zadok attained a position of influence in the reign of David. Zadok association with David begins after David conquered Jerusalem.

When David subjugated the Canaanite population that has not been conquered in the days of Joshua and during the period of the Judges, he put them to forced labor (2 Samuel 20:24). Later on, the writer of Kings declared that the remnant of the Canaanite population was still under forced labor in the days of Solomon:

“All the people who were left of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, who were not of the people of Israel – their descendants who were left after them in the land, whom the people of Israel were unable to destroy utterly – these Solomon made a forced levy of slaves, and so they are to this day” (1 Kings 9:20-21).

The remnant of the Canaanite population did not become Israelites, worshiping the God of Israel. They kept their religion and maintained the worship of their God. When David conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites, the population of the city was not eliminated. To the contrary, the Jebusite population constituted the majority of those living in the new capital, the city of David.

According to the book of Genesis, Melchizedek king of Jerusalem, was also a priest of El Elyon, “God Most High” (Genesis 14:18). The meaning of the name Melchizedek is “My King is [the god] Zedek.” In the book of Hebrews, the name Melchizedek is interpreted to mean “King of Righteousness” (Hebrews 7:2).

Another king of Jerusalem is called Adonizedek (Joshua 10:1). The meaning of the name Adonizedek is “My Lord is [the god] Zedek.” Thus, the name Zedek and Zadok are associated with the Canaanite god Zedek.

When David conquered Jerusalem and made it the capital of the United Monarchy, he named the city after himself, “the City of David” (2 Samuel 5:7, 9). He became the king of Jerusalem and also assumed the duties of the priest of the cult there. This is the meaning of the expression in Psalm 110: 4: “You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.”

David and his descendants offered sacrifice in Jerusalem because they were priests. They were priests not because they were Levites, but because they were priests after the tradition established by Melchizedek, king of Jerusalem.

Thus, David appointed Abiathar to serve as the priest for the Israelite population and Zadok to be the priest for the Canaanite population who lived in Jerusalem. Zadok also served in the Tabernacle that was at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16:39). The Gibeonites were the Canaanite people who deceived Israel in the days of Joshua (Joshua 10:1).

After Abiathar was banished to Anathoth, Zadok became the sole priest for the nation. Eventually, Zadok is classified as a Levite since the Levites were people consecrated to religious duty. Samuel was an Ephraimite and also a Levite.

Several scholars have rejected the view that Zadok was a Jebusite on the grounds that David would not appoint a pagan priest to the service of Yahweh. However, it is possible that eventually Zadok became a Yahwist.

The fact is that, in early Israel, many people identified Yahweh with Baal. Saul’s son was named Eshbaal, “Man of Baal” (1 Chronicles 8:33) and one of David’s sons born in Jerusalem was called Beeliada, “Baal Knows” (1 Chronicles 14:7). In addition, the name of one of the soldiers who served in David’s army was Bealiah, “Baal is Yahweh.”

These are some of the reasons that point to the fact that Zadok was a Jebusite who later became a follower of Yahweh.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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22 Responses to Was Zadok a Jebusite?

  1. >The most basic point here is that Chronicles is a document assembled from various sources. Note the varying lineages, try to trace the lineages in chapter five for instance; some are arranged from father to son and next arranged from son to father. It was a document created as a compilation of multiple sources written well after the exile (notice the last names mentioned in the lists and it will give an idea of the date).It is too much of a stretch to link Zadok with Jebusites or even Melchizedek. I could argue successfully that Abram met Melchizedek at or near Shechem and Mount Gerizim not Jerusalem.Basically, the Books of Chronicles, Kings, and Samuel are unreliable because they were written to legitamize the dynasty of David and his appointed priests.


    • Michael Holm says:

      Disagree – and think it is not a stretch at all to link Zadok with the Jebusites and Melchizedek – Canaanite Priest King of Jerusalem .. whose main Patron God was Zedek .. and when David took over Jerusalem . the kings name was “Adoni-zedek”

      David did not get rid of the patron God of the City .. and why would he .. given David was Polytheist ..as was everyone else .. Jerusalem had many people of many religions.. what other God would you have for the Patron God .. YHWH was dragged out during war time but was not much used for anything else.. The priest-hood of the city was maintainted.. makes perfect sense with the History/Archeaology


      • Michael,

        I agree with you. David did not expel the Canaanites from Jerusalem. In fact, he married Canaanite women who lived in Jerusalem. The Jebusites lived in Jerusalem after David conquered the city. They kept their religion. They also needed a priest and that priest was Zadok.

        Claude Mariottini


  2. >Napoleon,There are many different views on the reliability of Samuel and Kings as historical documents. I do not spouse the minimalist view that these documents are unreliable. Rather, I believe that Samuel and Kings were based on historical events.As for Zadok, it is impossible to ascertain his origin. I believe that he may not have been an Israelite but a Jebusite. Although the book of Chronicles reflects the theology of the post-exilic community, this fact does not take away the reliability of Samuel and Kings.Thank you for visiting my blog.Claude Mariottini


  3. >The main point is that a genealogy of a kohen (priest) was to be kept strictly so there was no question of lineage. If the Jewish community today was faced with the decision of claiming any particular man was a priest based on the lineage like Zadok’s, they would rule that his lineage was not strictly kept and therefore could not serve in such a function.The books that I mentioned are not reliable as “Divinely Inspired.” For historical investigation these books can shed light on what is happening behind the scenes, if you don’t read with a mind full of dogma from a religious leader. A majority view is rarely correct, it is easy to believe a lie and hard to find the truth. AKA Minimalist, Thank You.I was talking about the unreliablity of passages like 1 Chron 6:27-28. The order is corrupt. Shimei is the son of Gershom (This name is mispelled, Gershon is correct [Exodus 6 and throughout the Torah], big deal), then it should be Jahath. I am comparing this line to Exodus 6 and 1 Chron 23:7-10 (internal conflict).Or how about.. 1 Chron 6:32. Mahli and Mushi were brothers, not father and son. These instances are but a few of many.If this is what you mean then we agree.


  4. >My ordering is father to son:1 Chron 6:5 Gershom, Libni, Jahath, Zimmah (listed father to son)1 Chron 6:27-28 Gershom, Jahath, Shimei, Zimmah (listed son to father)1 Chron 23:6- Gershom, Shimei, ?, Jahath (listed father to son)


  5. >Napoleon,The genealogies in the book of Chronicles are problematic. Many solutions have been proposed but at times, scholars do not agree with these solutions.Since these genealogies had to be recreated in the post-exilic time, it is possible that some inconsistencies were added to the text.The purpose of the Levitical genealogies was to ascertain which family was responsible for specific duties in the temple.Claude Mariottini


  6. >It is unfounded to assume that the Jebusites were pagan. Melchizedek was a Jebusite priest and God promised that Christ would be a priest forever after his order. Abraham's connection to the Jebusites is due to kinship. The priests of both Abraham's Horite people and the Jebusites are traced back to Africa, which is the point of origin of the sacrificng priesthood, verifiably the oldest known religious office.


  7. >Alice,Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, what you say in your comment is not correct.The Jebusites lived in Jerusalem, a city that was pagan and did not become Israelite until centuries later when David conquered it.Abraham's people were not Horites. The Horites of the Bible have been identified with the Hurrians of history.Neither the Hurrians (Horites), nor the Semites (Abraham's people) nor the Jebusites are traced to Africa.Thank you for your comment.Claude Mariottini


  8. >Analysis of the Genesis genealogies reveals that the lines of Kain and Seth intermarried. Methuselah married Naaman, daughter of Lamech (Gen. 4) The lines of and Ham and Shem intermarried also and their descendentsare traced from Kush both who was African. http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com/2010/07/tracing-christs-kushite-ancestors.htmlAbraham was kin to Melchizadek, the Jebusite ruler-priest of Salem.The Hurrians and the Horites have been improperly identified as being the same groups. The Hurrians were an ethnic group. The Horites were a priestly caste, who were devotees of Horus who they called "son of God". Horus is the pattern whereby Abraham's people came to expect Messiah, the promised Son (Gen. 3:15).Check these facts here: http://jandyongenesis.blogspot.com All research is listed alphabetically in the INDEX.


  9. Pingback: Day 146: Zadok | Sandie's Bible Blog

  10. Ajuoga says:

    I guess you are missing a point by confusing the Ahitub of Chronicles 6:8 and Ahitub of 1 Samuel 14:3. the one of Chronicles was a son to Amariah while the one in Samuel was a son to Phinehas…. This among other assumptions you have made kind of water down your theory.


    • Ajuoga,

      Maybe you misunderstood my point. Zadok has nothing to do with the Ahitub of 1 Samuel. The Chronicler tried to make Zadok a Levite by saying that his father was Ahitub, the son of Amariah, also a Levite.

      There is no evidence that Zadok was a Levite. It is only the Chronicler to tries to make him a Levite so that he may serve as a priest in the temple. The evidence seems to show that Zadok was not a Levite.

      Thank you for your comment.

      Claude Mariottini


  11. Joshua says:

    Interesting but wish more knew YHWH was tetragrammaton 4 letter word for Canaanite Storm god with female Shekinah as consort.
    Imagine Hebrews 13:10 isn’t taught in seminaries and Bible schools or Galatians 5:4!


    • Joshua,

      Your statement that Yahweh is a Canaanite storm god with a female Shekinah as a consort finds no support in the Bible and there is no evidence, none whatsoever, that this is true.

      Claude Mariottini


  12. Pingback: Was Zadok a Jebusite? | Dr. Claude Mariottini – Professor of Old Testament – Rotimi Onayemi : For The God of Super Freaks

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