The priesthoods of Shiloh and Dan could boast of an illustrious origin (I Sam.
As certain sanctuaries, Shiloh, Shechem, Bethel, &c., grew in importance, the priesthoods that officiated at them would acquire special prestige.
Priesthoods, whose traditions connect them with the south, are subordinated; the ecclesiastical records are re-shaped or re-adjusted; and a picture is presented of hierarchical jealousies and rivalries which (it was thought) were settled once and for all in the days of the exodus from Egypt.
Nabonidus, in fact, had excited a strong feeling against himself by attempting to centralize the religion of Babylonia in the temple of Merodach (Marduk) at Babylon, and while he had thus alienated the local priesthoods the military party despised him on account of his antiquarian tastes.
The reason of this will appear more clearly in the sequel; it is enough to observe at present that, before our English word was formed, the original idea of a presbyter had been overlaid with others derived from pre-Christian priesthoods, so that it is from these and not from the etymological force of the word that we must start in considering historically what a priest is.