Question:

I have heard all my life that priests in the Old Testament when entering the tabernacle had a rope tied to their leg in case they were killed because of some sin in their life, they could be pull outsince no one else could enter the Tabernacle.

Thank you


Answer:

This is a myth that has been traced to the Middle Ages. "The rope on the high priest legend is just that: a legend. It has obscure beginnings in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna, or any other Jewish source. It just is not there." [Dr. W.E. Nunnally]. The source appears to be from a text on Jewish mysticism.

"It would seem that the first traceable reference to this custom is in the Zohar, a thirteenth century mystical Jewish commentary on the Torah written by Moses de Leon. The Zohar is the basic text of Kaballah, the practice of Jewish mysticism.

Here's the reference: "Rabbi Yitzchak said, A chain was tied to the feet of the High Priest, when he entered THE HOLY OF HOLIES, so that if he dies there they will take him out, SINCE IT IS FORBIDDEN TO ENTER THERE… Then there is joy among the higher and lower beings. If not, they were all in sorrow and all knew that their prayer was not accepted."
Zohar Vol. 16 Emor, Section 34. Yom Kippur, Par. 251.

[Dustin Germain, "The Rope Around The High Priest's Ankle- Myth's That'll Preach"].

There are biblical flaws in the myth. There are multiple priests and any priest can enter the tabernacle's holy place. There was a room at the back of the tabernacle, the holy of holies, that only the high priest could enter once a year. However, on the day of atonement, prior to entering the holy of holies, the high priest made sacrifices for his personal sins. Thus, there would be no sins attributed to the high priest prior to entering the holy of holies. "And Moses said to Aaron, "Go to the altar, offer your sin offering and your burnt offering, and make atonement for yourself and for the people. Offer the offering of the people, and make atonement for them, as the LORD commanded. ... And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of meeting, and came out and blessed the people. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people" (Leviticus 9:7, 23; see also Leviticus 16).

Some versions of the myth claims that people would know when to pull out the priest when the bells on his garments ceased to tinkle. The problem is that before the priest entered the holy of holies, he changed into plain linen garments. "He shall put the holy linen tunic and the linen trousers on his body; he shall be girded with a linen sash, and with the linen turban he shall be attired. These are holy garments. Therefore he shall wash his body in water, and put them on" (Leviticus 16:4).