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ZADOK (Heb. צָדוֹק, "righteous"), priest in the time of king *David. Zadok established a high priestly dynasty which continued until approximately 171 B.C.E., both in the First and Second Temple periods. He first appears, together with *Abiathar, as the priest in charge of the Ark at the time of Absalom's revolt (II Sam. 15:24–37). He and Abiathar joined David in his flight from Jerusalem, carrying the Ark with them, but the king ordered them to return to the capital to inform him of events in Absalom's court. There they had freedom of movement and were able to deliver messages to David about the rebels' intrigues (ibid. 17:15ff.). After Absalom's death, Zadok and Abiathar acted according to a message sent to them by David requesting them to suggest to the people that the king should be called back (ibid. 19:12–13). They are mentioned next to each other in both lists of David's chief officials (ibid. 8:17; 20:25), where Zadok is always mentioned before Abiathar. They are heard of again in the story of the dynastic struggle in David's last days (I Kings 1–2). When *Adonijah plotted to usurp the throne, Zadok remained faithful to David, while Abiathar joined the usurper (ibid 1:7,8). When David became aware of the plot, he instructed Zadok and *Nathan the prophet to anoint *Solomon king (ibid. 32ff.). For his loyal service in anointing Solomon, Zadok was made chief priest (ibid. 2:35), while Abiathar was deposed from the priesthood and banished to Anathoth (ibid. 2:26–27). Zadok must have died shortly afterwards, for he is never again mentioned and in the list of the main officials, which was compiled in the middle of the reign, it is his son Azariah who holds the title of priest (I Kings 4:2; the mention of Zadok and Abiathar in verse 4 is probably an interpolation).


The question of Zadok's origin is extremely obscure, for there is no clear and accurate picture of his background in the Bible. In the narrative he appears, as it were, from nowhere. In II Samuel 8:17 he is called the "son of Ahitub" and seems to be connected with the House of *Eli, but this verse is clearly the result of a textual corruption. Indeed, the prophecy of I Samuel 2:27–36 (cf. I Kings 2:27) makes it clear that the House of Zadok was considered to have supplanted the House of Eli. Nor are the genealogies in Chronicles and Ezra (I Chron. 5:27–34; 6:35–38; 24:3; Ezra 7:2), which treat Zadok as a descendant of the Aaronide house of Eleazar, any more reliable, for they repeat the error of II Samuel 8:17. Zadok thus remains without a genealogy in the ancient texts.

It seems likely, however, that the reason David made Zadok an equal to Abiathar, who had served him loyally from the time of his break with Saul, is connected with the position occupied by Zadok before he entered the service of David. Several hypotheses have been consequently advanced about his origin:

a) Zadok was the priest of *Gibeon, where the Tabernacle stood (cf. II Chron. 1:3), while Abiathar served before the Ark at Jerusalem (Auerbach; Grintz). This hypothesis is based on I Chronicles 16:37ff., where the two are mentioned as the principal sanctuaries in David's time. In support of this theory it is pointed out that after the exile of Abiathar not only was Zadok made the sole chief priest, but Solomon went to Gibeon to sacrifice (I Kings 3:4).

b) Zadok was appointed priest already by Saul, replacing Abijah (= *Ahimelech; cf. Jos., Ant., 5:350; Wellhausen).

c) The proper name Ahio in II Samuel 6:3–4 should be read as 'aḥiw, "his [Uzzah's] brother," this nameless brother being Zadok (Sellin, Budde). According to this theory Zadok served the Ark at Kiriath-Jearim and afterwards remained at Jerusalem, as one of the two men who carried the Ark (*Uzzah would have been replaced by Abiathar; II Sam. 15:29).

d) Since Zadok does not appear until after the capture of Jerusalem and since his genealogy is not given, he may have been a priest of Jebusite Jerusalem before the conquest by David (Rowley). According to this theory, David permitted him to retain his priestly function in order to help reconcile the old inhabitants to their new master.

It is safer to admit that Zadok's origin is unknown; it can be assumed that he was indeed of levitical origin, though not from the same branch as the house of Eli.

The House of Zadok

I Chronicles 5:34–40 gives a list of the successors of Zadok as head of the priesthood in Jerusalem. It contains eleven names from *Ahimaaz (Zadok's son) to Jehozadak. This gives exactly 12 generations of priests from the building of the Temple under Solomon to its reconstruction after the Exile. The list of Zadok's ancestors given immediately before, in I Chronicles 5:29–34, also contains exactly 12 generations from the erection of the Sanctuary in the desert to the building of the Temple; and 12 generations of 40 years corresponds exactly to the 480 years in I Kings 6:1 as the period from the Exodus to the erection of the Temple. This symmetry is deliberate, and other parts underline the artificial nature of the list. Ahimaaz was undoubtedly Zadok's son (II Sam. 15:36), but Azariah was another son of Zadok, not his grandson (as I Chron. 5:35 states). Moreover, the list is incomplete; though it contains some names which are found elsewhere in the Bible (Azariah, II Kings 4:2; *Hilkiah, II Kings 22:4; *Seraiah, II Kings 25:18; Jehozadak, Hag. 1:1), it omits *Jehoiada (II Kings 12:8), Urijah (or *Uriah; II Kings 16:10; Isa. 8:2), and at least two others who are mentioned in the narrative part of Chronicles itself (II Chron. 26:20; 31:10). Another difficulty is that the series Amariah-Ahitub-Zadok recurs in identical form among the immediate ancestors of Zadok (I Chron. 5:33–34) and among his descendants (verses 37–38). The list, however, seems to express a real fact, namely the continuity of Zadok's line, but it cannot be used as the basis of a detailed history of his house.

J.M. Grintz attempted to reconstruct a list of the high priests by comparing those mentioned in Josephus (Ant., 10:152) with those retained in Seder Olam Zuta 5–6. He claims that the list he obtained by this process is authentic and that those names which appear in the list, but not in I Chronicles, represent a lineage other than that of the House of Zadok. This new, otherwise not attested, dynasty (probably of the House of Abiathar) began to serve, according to Grintz, in the Temple after Solomon's death, but was deposed during the reforms of King *Josiah, being, as it seems, suspected of idolatrous inclinations.

J.R. Bartlett, on the other hand, doubts that the high priests of Jerusalem were directly descended from Zadok. He claims that they were rather appointed in each case by the kings, on the basis of merit. According to this view, the term "House of Zadok" was fixed only in Josiah's time, in order to distinguish between the Jerusalemite priests and the priests of the high places.

The fortunes of the House of Zadok after the Exile are reflected in the position given to them in the books of Ezekiel and Chronicles. In Ezekiel 40–48, the exiled Zadokites expect as reward for their faithfulness that they alone shall perform the priestly functions in the new temple; the rest of the levites are to be reduced to the status of servants. The Book of Chronicles shows that after the return this program was not put into practice.

In the Second Temple period, the House of Zadok retained the high priesthood continuously until the Hasmonean revolt. In the Book of Nehemiah (12:10ff.) there is a list of high priests from *Jeshua to *Jaddua, i.e., down to the time of Darius II (cf. Neh. 12:22), or until about 400 B.C.E. This list may be incomplete, and it presumes that the succession always passed from father to son; yet it does collect the information given in Nehemiah, and the name before the last (*Johanan, 12:22) is found in the Elephantine papyri as the name of the high priest in 411 and again in 408 B.C.E. (Cowley, Aramaic, 30:18; 31:17).

There is no information about the following century and a half. After this, Josephus and the Book of Maccabees make it possible to trace the line from Onias *I in the middle of the third century B.C.E. to Simeon the *Just and to Onias *III, who held the office of high priest when Antiochus Epiphanes succeeded to the throne c. 175 B.C.E. His son, Onias *IV, was too young to succeed to his father's office, to which *Jason II Macc. 4:7,20) and *Menelaus (II Macc. 4:23–26; though not a priest) were successively appointed by bribing the Seleucid ruler to appoint them. After the death of *Alcimus in 159 B.C.E., the office remained vacant for seven years (Jos., Ant., 12:413, I Macc. 9:54–57), until the Maccabean *Jonathan was nominated high priest by Alexander Balas. But only in the early years of *Simeon, Jonathan's successor, was the high priesthood irrevocably transferred from the Zadokites to the Hasmoneans. This seems to have given the appropriate occasion for the crystallization of the *Dead Sea Sect (see, e.g., Cross). The sect probably originated with a group of priests deeply disturbed by prevalent trends, especially in the high priesthood. The Hasmoneans were considered usurpers and the sect maintained the exclusive right of the Zadokites to fill the high priestly office.

Meanwhile, Onias IV had been conveyed by, or had gone with, a number of those who remained loyal to his father's memory to Egypt, where he obtained permission (c. 154 B.C.E.) from the Egyptian king to rebuild a disused temple at *Leontopolis (On) and to appoint "priests of his own race" to serve it (e.g., Jos., Ant., 12:388; 13:62, 79, 185). This last statement can refer only to priests of his own Zadokite family as distinct from the contemporary Hasmonean line in Jerusalem. This Zadokite priesthood presided over the temple at Leontopolis until it was closed by Vespasian in 73 C.E. (Jos., War, 7:433–646).


A. Cody, A History of Old Testament Priesthood (1969), 88–93, 139–40 and passim; W.R. Arnold, Ephod and Ark (1917), 61–62; R.H. Kenne Tt, Old Testament Essays (1928), 82–90; E. Auerbach, in: ZAW, 49 (1931), 327–28; H.H. Rowley, in: JBL, 58 (1939), 113–41; idem, in: Festschrift Alfred Bertholet (1950), 461–72; Wellhausen, Proleg., 115–28; A. Bentzen, in: ZAW, 51 (1933), 173–76; K. Budde, in: ZAW, 52 (1934), 42–50; C.E. Hauer, in: JBL, 82 (1963), 89–94; M.A. Cohen, in: HUCA, 36 (1965), 88–90; R.A. Rosenberg, ibid., 167–70; J.R. Bartlett, in: JTS, 19 (1968), 1–18; J.M. Grintz, in: Zion, 23–24 (1958–59), 124–40 (Eng. Sum. I–II); de Vaux, Anc. Isr., index, S.V. Sadoq; E. Sellin, Geschichte des israelitisch-juedischen Volkes, 1 (1924), 167; F.M. Cross, The Ancient Library of Qumran (1958), 128ff.