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(Last update 6/23/00)

A subject not mentioned in most Bible studies, is that of the "second High Priest," who was called the (High) Priest Anointed for War. Scripture only gives a brief non-specific mention to this person and his role:

Deuteronomy 20:1-3: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them.

This High Priest did not serve in the Tabernacle/Temple as did the High Priest we read much more about in the Tenakh. Rather, his assignment centered around the caring and preparedness of the men going to battle -- to assure they were prepared physically and spiritually, even sending home those he deemed unfit to fight.

The first Priest anointed for war that we find mention of, was Phineas, the grandson of Aaron:

Midrash Rabbah - Leviticus XX:2 - Elisheba the daughter of Amminadab did not enjoy happiness in the world. True, she witnessed five crowns [attained by her relatives] in one day: her brother-in-law was a king, her brother was a prince, her husband was High Priest, her two sons were both Deputy High Priests, Phinehas her grandson was a Priest anointed for war.

Talmud - Mas. Sotah 43a - Thus it states: And Moses sent them, a thousand of every tribe, to the war, them and Phinehas* — ‘them’ refers to the Sanhedrin; ‘Phinehas’ was the [priest] Anointed for Battle;

* Num. XXXI, 6.

Elsewhere in Midrash Rabbah (below) we find reference to the same person, this time called, "the War Messiah." What is interesting here is the footnote, which links the Priest Anointed for War to the coming Messiah. This is especially significant regarding Yeshua, as the first time He came as the Temple High Priest (in order to be the final Yom Kippur sacrifice for sin) whereas He will return the second time as the "War Messiah" to smite His enemies (i.e., Isaiah 59:17 where He wears the "garments of vengeance."):

Midrash Rabbah - The Song of Songs II:33 - MY BELOVED SPOKE AND SAID UNTO ME. He spoke through Elijah and said through the Messiah. What did he say to me? RISE UP, MY LOVE, MY FAIR ONE, AND COME AWAY. R. Azariah said: FOR LO, THE WINTER (HA-SETHAW) IS PAST: this refers to the kingdom of the Cutheans which seduces (mesithah) the world and leads it astray by its falsehoods, as we read, If thy brother, the son of thy mother, entice thee--yesitheka (Deut. XIII, 7). THE RAIN IS OVER AND GONE: this refers to the subjection of Israel. THE FLOWERS APPEAR ON THE EARTH: the conquerors have appeared on the earth. Who are they? R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Isaac: As it is written, And the Lord showed me four craftsmen (Zech. II, 3), namely, Elijah, the Messiah, Melchizedek, and the War Messiah.* THE TIME OF THE ZAMIR IS COME: the time has come for Israel to be delivered; the time has come for uncircumcision to be cut off; the time has come for the kingdom of the Cutheans to expire; the time has come for the kingdom of heaven to be revealed, as it says, And the Lord shall be king over all the earth (ib. XIV, 9). AND THE VOICE OF THE TURTLE IS HEARD IN OUR LAND: Who is this? This is the voice of the Messiah

* Lit.,the priest anointed for war’, an expression originally applied to the priest who accompanied the troops. Cf. Suk. 52a, where instead of ' War Messiah ' we have ' Messiah son of Joseph’. The two are probably identical, Messiah the son of Joseph being regarded as the forerunner of the Messiah during the wars that will precede his advent. 

The grouping of Elijah, the Messiah, Melchizedek, and the War Messiah together (in the above section), is also interesting as the last three are linked to Yeshua, who was and again will be preceded by Elijah the prophet.

There are distinctions made in Talmud between the two High Priests. As might be expected, the Temple High Priest is given a higher "rank" than his counterpart. However the following section of the Talmud, shows distinctions drawn between the Deputy Temple High Priest and the High Priest Anointed for War, with the former taking precendent regarding issues of defilement, but the latter's life being considered more important (if one had to choose between the two of them) as he has a responsibility to many people:

Talmud - Mas. Nazir 47b - The question was propounded: As between [the High Priest] anointed for a war, and the deputy [High Priest], which is of superior sanctity? Does the [High Priest] anointed for war take precedence, because he is qualified to go to war, or does the deputy take precedence, because he is qualified to perform the Temple service?* — Come and hear: For it has been taught: The only difference between a [High Priest] anointed for war and a deputy is that if they were both walking by the way and encountered a meth mizwah, the [High Priest] anointed for war is to defile himself, but not the deputy. But has it not been taught: A [High Priest] anointed for war takes precedence of a deputy? — Mar Zutra replied: As far as saving his life is concerned, the [High Priest] anointed for war has a superior claim for many [people] depend upon him, but as regards defilement, the deputy is of superior sanctity, as has been taught: R. Hanina b. Antigonus said that the reason the office of deputy to the High Priest was created, was that should any disqualification happen to him [the High Priest], he can enter and minister in his stead.

* But once a priest had been anointed for war, he could no longer take part in the Temple service.