A strange saying appears in Matthew 23 where
the Messiah mentions, "Moses' seat" to his
disciples. The complete text goes as follows,
"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses'
seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you
observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after
their works: for they say, and do not" (Matt.
23:2-3). This statement comes directly after
the Messiah had encounters with the Pharisees and
Sadducees who tried to "entangle him" with
his speech (Matt. 22:15). The Pharisees
challenged the Messiah regarding paying taxes (Matt.
22:17-22), of which they were silenced by His
answer. The Sadducees then tried to entangle
Him with a question regarding the resurrection
(Matt. 22:23-28), but the Messiah had an answer for
this as well (Matt. 22: 29-32). Then finally a
lawyer came to challenge Him asking which was the
greatest commandment (Matt. 22:35-36). His
answer astonished them and the chapter is concluded
with, "And no man was able to answer him a word,
neither durst any man from that day forth ask him
any more questions" (Matt. 22:46). All
this was just before the Messiah mentions the seat
of Moses. The big question is, what is the
seat of Moses? To answer this question we need
to first do some historical research.
Seat of Moses in History:
The phrase, "Moses seat" is mentioned only
once in the entire scriptures, but in extra biblical
sources this phrase is also mentioned, but only a
few times. Rabbi R. Aha, in a 4th century
Midrashim called the "Pesikta De-Rab Kahana,"
describes Solomon's throne “like the
Kathedra of Moses," This is the exact phrase as
used in Matthew 23. In 1704, a Jesuit Priest
named Jean Paul visited the Jews at Kai-Feng Fu
(China). He mentions a, “magnificent and
highly elevated chair, with a beautiful embroidered
cushion" (Kenneth Newport, “A Note on the Seat
of Moses,” Andrews Univ. Seminary Studies
28 (1990), p. 56). He mentions later that it
is the chair of Moses and describes how they taught
the Torah from this chair on the Sabbath.
Though mentioned rarely, it is obvious that there is
a seat for the leadership of Israel to sit. In
fact, recently there have been archeological
discoveries verifying such a seat existed.
In 1934, Eleazar L. Sukenik, who wrote a study
titled, "Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and
Greece," mentions several examples of
"seats of Moses" in archeology (E. L. Sukenik,
Ancient Synagogues in Palestine and Greece, London,
1934, p. 57-61). These seats were located in
Temples and Synagogues in and near Israel.
Some of these seats faced directly away from
Jerusalem possibly signifying that the law comes
from Jerusalem. Though very little is
mentioned in scripture and throughout history, these
seats seemed to have significant importance to the
Seat of Moses in Exodus:
Though there is enough historical and archeological
evidence to support a literal seat of Moses, all one
really needs to do is study the book of Exodus to
understand it's purpose. In Exodus 18, Moses
was growing weary of sitting in judgment of the
people of God. His father in law, Jethro, came
to eat with him before God (Ex. 18:12). The
next day, "Moses sat to judge the people: and
the people stood by Moses from the morning unto the
evening" (Ex. 18:13). The Hebrew word for
"sat" is yâshab, which means,
"to sit down, specifically as judge" (Strong's
Concordance, H3427). This seat is where Moses
sat to judge the people, but this was too much for
one man to do (Ex. 18:18). Jethro then gave
Moses advice to avoid growing weary of dealing with
all the people. His suggestion was to,
"provide out of all the people able men, such as
fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and
place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and
rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of
tens" (Ex. 18:21). This is the beginnings
of the Levitical Priesthood, who was to judge the
people of Israel. "Moses chose able men
out of all Israel, and made them heads over the
people, rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds,
rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens" (Ex.
18:25). These men sat in "Moses seat"
throughout the land to judge the people with God's
law. As Israel grew, there was greater need
for more than just Moses to sit in judgment, which
is why others were chosen. Moses sat in
judgment in the Tabernacle of God to judge
"great matters" (Ex. 18:22) and "hard
causes" (Ex. 18:26), but the others sat in
"Moses seat" throughout the land in smaller
"tabernacles" so to say to judge "small
matters" (Ex. 18:22, 26). The book of
Exodus explains the need for more than Moses to
judge the matters of the people (Ex. 18:21).
It also expounds on how to build the tabernacle of
God after the pattern of the heavenly taberancle
(Ex. 25:9 through the end of the book). The
book of Leviticus continues what Exodus started by
explaining the procedures of this tabernacle (Lev.
1:1 and the rest of the book).
So the tabernacle was a tiered system of judgment.
The highest seat was that of Moses at the Tabernacle
of God, but there were several lower seats for,
"rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of
fifties, and rulers of tens" (Ex. 18:25).
These lower seats sat in judgment for smaller
matters, but the great matters were reserved for the
Tabernacle with Moses judgment. This system
was also used during the time of the Messiah.
The High Priest occupied Moses seat in the Temple of
God, but there were lesser seats of Moses throughout
the land that other Priests sat in judgment.
The great matters went to the High Priest, but the
lesser matters went to the lesser Temples
(synagogues). Believe it or not, we still
practice this Levitical Priesthood today. The
Tabernacle/Temple is what we would call a Judicial
Court. Our court system is a tiered system as
well. At the top we have the Supreme Court
(Temple of God), and the lower courts we call
Appellate Courts (Synagogues). If one
disagrees with an Appellate Court's (Synagogue's)
decision, they can appeal all the way up to the
Supreme Court (Temple). For more on how this
works please see my video titled,
System. This system is what the scriptures
call the Levitical Priesthood and is what the
Messiah referred to as "Moses seat" in
Did the Messiah Mean in Matthew 23?
In Matthew 23, the Messiah referred to the Levitical
Priesthood as "Moses seat." This was correctly
done for clearly the seat Moses sat in is what Exodus
and Leviticus define as the Levitical Priesthood.
In Exodus, God explains what the system is and how
it is structured. In Leviticus, God explains
the rules that govern that system. The
question to ask is, what did the Messiah mean in
Matthew 23:2? This sure sounds contradictory
to what He taught just before and after this
statement. Let's take a look to see if we can
gain some understanding.
First, we need to realize that this seat was not a
teaching seat. It was a judgment seat (Ex.
18:16). It might be true that the Priest's
taught from this seat, but it's primary purpose was
that of judgment at trial. This is the seat
where the Levites construed the law of God. We
need to remember that the Levitical Priesthood is
what we would call today the Judicial System.
Our Judicial System comes directly from the
Levitical Priesthood of the scriptures. Just
as our Judicial System construes the law of the
United States, so did the Levitical Priesthood
construe the law of God. We need to remember
that the Bible is a law book written in legal code.
The Ten Commandments placed in the arc of the
covenant is the law of the land, under the Ten
Commandments are over seven hundred statutes placed
on the outside of the arc of the covenant.
Throughout Israel's history are several judgments by
the Levitical Priesthood that construes the law for
our understanding. Many times we might not
understand a law as it is written, but when brought
to court a decision is made that helps us understand
the intent of the law. This is what the
Levitical Priesthood was for. Their judgments
interpret/construe the law for us to help us
understand. From all this comes various
doctrines of law such as baptism, justification and
sanctification. For more on this please read
my article, How to
Study. With this understanding we can
better understand what the Messiah meant.
When the Messiah said, "The scribes and the
Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore
whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and
do; but do not ye after their works: for they say,
and do not" (Matt. 23:2-3), this is exactly
what He meant. The scribes and Pharisees are
the leaders of Israel under the Levitical
Priesthood. The High Priest sits directly in
Moses seat, other Levites sit in lesser seats of
Moses, and other non-Levites might have roles as
well such as the Apostle Paul being a prosecuting
attorney (Acts 9:1-2) and Malchus being the High
Priest's servant (John 18:10). This is the
Judicial System (Levitical Priesthood) of God.
When they sit in judgment over a case concerning the
people of God, we are to respect their judgment.
Especially since this is a commandment of God (Ex.
22:28, Deut. 17:10-11). We are to respect the
judgment given and obey it. After all, this is
the example the Messiah gave us. He accepted
the judgment given him by this same authority, even
though they were wrong (Matt. 26:59-60, 63).
We to are to respect this authority for it was God
who ordained this authority. Today, our
Judicial System is appointed by God and we are told
to accept this authority as well (Rom. 13:1-7).
If you do your research, you will find that modern
courts, as well as ancient courts, made decisions in
law with remarkable accuracy.
We are to accept their judgment as from God Himself,
if God so chooses, He can protect us when they
error. The Apostle Paul stated so in 1 Cor.
10:13. Here he says, "There hath no
temptation taken you but such as is common to man:
but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be
tempted above that ye are able; but will with the
temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be
able to bear it." The Greek word for
"temptation" is peirasmos which means
"a putting to proof" (Strong's Concordance
- G3986). This is a legal term which implies
being brought to trial. Paul uses it in Acts
20:19 when he said, "Serving the Lord with all
humility of mind, and with many tears, and
temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of
the Jews." This is obviously referring to
the many times the Jews accused him of breaking
their laws (Acts 23:1-5). In fact, Paul
answers this whole question here when he said,
"Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was
the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not
speak evil of the ruler of thy people" (Acts
23:5). Paul knew he was to respect the High
Priest and accept his decision. Why object
when the God he serves is able to protect him.
In fact, throughout the book of Acts God did this
very thing for his people. Peter was saved
from jail by the angel of God in Acts 12:10-11.
We are to do the same. If we are brought to
trial we are to accept the judgment given us, even
if it were wrong. God can spare us if He
chooses, but His law requires that we honor and
respect this Levitical Priesthood that He created.
This is a hard understanding to accept. I
firmly believe that the Levitical Priesthood is for
today and has not been abolished. This is
contrary to what most believe, but since the Law of
God was said to be "for ever,"
including the Levitical Priesthood (Ex. 28:43,
29:28, Lev. 6:18, Num. 18:23, and many more), I
believe we should still practice it today. In
fact, we do practice this same law with our Judicial
System, although it has been modified today. I
contend that we should correct this modification and
practice it exactly as God intended. For more
on the Levitical Priesthood please see my video
The Levitical Priesthood for Today.