The Kingdom of Priests

Yael Eckstein  |  January 18, 2022

Black and white drawing of a man rejoicing with other men around him.

…you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. — Exodus 19:6

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Yitro, which means “Jethro,” from Exodus 18:1–20:23

Growing up in Chicago, I never fully appreciated how special it was to be a Jew. I was surrounded by other Jews. I went to all-Jewish schools. I lived in a heavily Jewish neighborhood. I mean, I was certainly aware of the numbers, that we Jews are a tiny percentage of the world. But I definitely did not understand what this really meant. The only difference I really felt from the general society around me was that I followed the practices and customs of Judaism according to Torah law, and they didn’t.

When I got older, moved to Israel, and started getting involved in the work of The Fellowship, my perspective really changed. For the first time in my life, I would regularly meet people who had never met a Jew before, or even if they had, it was rarely an Orthodox Jew from Israel. I started to see myself through the eyes of the people I would meet. I started to understand how special it is to be Jewish.

The Kingdom of Priests

In this week’s Torah portion, God entered into a covenant with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. In Exodus 19, God introduced the covenant by telling Israel that they would become “for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

“Kingdom of priests” in Hebrew is mamlechet kohanim. The Hebrew word kohen, like the name Cohen, means “priest.” And it doesn’t refer only to the family of Aaron who served as priests in the Tabernacle and Temple. Even the pagan “priests” in the Bible are called kohen. In other words, a kohen is someone who helps people get closer to the god that they are worshipping.

When God called Israel a “kingdom of priests,” He gave us a very distinct mission. Like a priest, it would be the job of the Jewish people, the entire kingdom of priests, to help the rest of the world get closer to God.

I am grateful every day that I experience, firsthand, this “priestly” role of the Jewish people. I see with my own eyes how, over 3,000 years later, so many people all over the world know and worship the God of Israel because of the mission given at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Your Turn:

Praise the God of Israel today and thank Him for living in a time when Jews and Christians are drawing closer together in love and friendship.