Aaron had the distinctive privilege of being Moses' close associate and also the one selected as the first high priest of God's people. He and the firstborn son of each generation of his lineage were dedicated in a special anointing ceremony to officiate before God and on behalf of God's people as high priests.
Aaron, the first priest of ancient Israel, was the older brother of Moses. His parents Amram and Jochebed were Kohathites of the tribe of Levi. Two aspects of Aaron's earlier years provided a matrix out of which he responded to God's call to help Moses when he returned to Egypt. First, Aaron was committed to the God of the "fathers"Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ( Exod 3:1-6 ). Second, he understood that God had made a covenant with Abraham that included him and the people of Israel.
Pre-Sinai. Aaron agreed to help his brother Moses in the cause of seeking the release of his people from bondage. He and Moses were Yahweh's human instruments, carrying out Yahweh's mighty, unprecedented salvation-acts.
First, he accepted God's call to be Moses' mouthpiece before Pharaoh ( Exod 4:10-17 ; 5:1-13 ; 6:10-13 ; 6:28-7:7 ), a risky assignment. Both he and Moses were to be Yahweh's messengers in a hostile, polytheistic setting.
Second, as Moses' prophet ( Exod 7:1 ) he was an important proclaimer of God's word to Pharaoh and the other Egyptians. He fulfilled his priestly role by serving as mediator and intercessor on behalf of the people of Israel.
Third, like Moses he was moved by the Spirit of God and was used to effect miracles a number of times on the way to Sinai.
At Sinai. God graciously granted both Moses and Aaron new revelation during Israel's encampment at Sinai.
Second, Aaron and Moses were leader-participants in the covenant Yahweh made between himself and the people of Israel.
Third, Yahweh delivered specific instructions to Aaron and Moses at Sinai about how they were to lead Israel to become his holy nation and kingdom of priests.
The Break in Loyalty. Aaron was directly responsible for a grave offense against God when Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the written law of Israel ( Exod 32:1-10 ). He gave in to the demands of the people, collecting the necessary materials and supervising the making of a golden calf. He then told the people, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." Aaron then set up an altar and proceeded to lead the people in worshiping the calf.
Aaron acted against what he knew God wanted. Perhaps he had not completely detached himself from the Apis-bull worship of Egypt or from some insidious feature of Baal worship present in Egypt. In spite of his sin, Aaron was restored to his position of high priest. This is a most remarkable incident demonstrating the grace and compassion of God.
High Priest of God Most High. Aaron was duly attired and dedicated as God's priest (Lev 8-9). He ministered before Yahweh, whose presence-cloud dwelt above the mercy seat over the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place of the tabernacle ( Exod 40:38 ).
Aaron was chief as he ministered with other priests in presenting offerings and sacrifices to Yahweh for himself and for the people of Israel. He was an intercessor and mediator before Yahweh among his people. His priestly vestments, especially the ephod and breastplate adorned with precious stones inscribed with the names of the tribes, emphasized in a special way this ministry before God on behalf of the people.
Harvey E. Finley
Bibliography. W. F. Albright, History, Archaeology and Christian Humanism; O. T. Allis, ZPEB, 1:1-4; B. S. Childs, The Book of Exodus; L. G. Cox, Exodus; C. F. H. Henry, God Who Speaks and Shows; J. P. Hyatt, Exodus; C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, The Pentateuch; D. F. Kinlaw, Leviticus.
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the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed, a daughter of Levi ( Exodus 6:20 ). Some explain the name as meaning mountaineer, others mountain of strength, illuminator. He was born in Egypt three years before his brother Moses, and a number of years after his sister Miriam ( Exodus 2:1 Exodus 2:4 ; 7:7 ). He married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab of the house of Judah ( 6:23 ; 1 Chronicles 2:10 ), by whom he had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. When the time for the deliverance of Isarael out of Egypt drew nigh, he was sent by God ( Exodus 4:14 Exodus 4:27-30 ) to meet his long-absent brother, that he might co-operate with him in all that they were required to do in bringing about the Exodus. He was to be the "mouth" or "prophet" of Moses, i.e., was to speak for him, because he was a man of a ready utterance ( Exodus 7:1 Exodus 7:2 Exodus 7:9 Exodus 7:10 Exodus 7:19 ). He was faithful to his trust, and stood by Moses in all his interviews with Pharaoh.
When the ransomed tribes fought their first battle with Amalek in Rephidim, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the scene of the conflict with the rod of God in his outstretched hand. On this occasion he was attended by Aaron and Hur, his sister's husband, who held up his wearied hands till Joshua and the chosen warriors of Israel gained the victory ( 17:8-13 ).
Afterwards, when encamped before Sinai, and when Moses at the command of God ascended the mount to receive the tables of the law, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy of the elders of Israel, were permitted to accompany him part of the way, and to behold afar off the manifestation of the glory of Israel's God ( Exodus 19:24 ; 24:9-11 ). While Moses remained on the mountain with God, Aaron returned unto the people; and yielding through fear, or ignorance, or instability of character, to their clamour, made unto them a golden calf, and set it up as an object of worship ( Exodus 32:4 ; Psalms 106:19 ). On the return of Moses to the camp, Aaron was sternly rebuked by him for the part he had acted in this matter; but he interceded for him before God, who forgave his sin ( Deuteronomy 9:20 ).
On the mount, Moses received instructions regarding the system of worship which was to be set up among the people; and in accordance therewith Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the priest's office ( Leviticus 8 ; 9 ). Aaron, as high priest, held henceforth the prominent place appertaining to that office.
When Israel had reached Hazeroth, in "the wilderness of Paran," Aaron joined with his sister Miriam in murmuring against Moses, "because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married," probably after the death of Zipporah. But the Lord vindicated his servant Moses, and punished Miriam with leprosy ( Numbers 12 ). Aaron acknowledged his own and his sister's guilt, and at the intercession of Moses they were forgiven.
Twenty years after this, when the children of Israel were encamped in the wilderness of Paran, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram conspired against Aaron and his sons; but a fearful judgment from God fell upon them, and they were destroyed, and the next day thousands of the people also perished by a fierce pestilence, the ravages of which were only stayed by the interposition of Aaron ( Numbers 16 ). That there might be further evidence of the divine appointment of Aaron to the priestly office, the chiefs of the tribes were each required to bring to Moses a rod bearing on it the name of his tribe. And these, along with the rod of Aaron for the tribe of Levi, were laid up overnight in the tabernacle, and in the morning it was found that while the other rods remained unchanged, that of Aaron "for the house of Levi" budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds ( Numbers 17:1-10 ). This rod was afterwards preserved in the tabernacle ( Hebrews 9:4 ) as a memorial of the divine attestation of his appointment to the priesthood.
Aaron was implicated in the sin of his brother at Meribah ( Numbers 20:8-13 ), and on that account was not permitted to enter the Promised Land. When the tribes arrived at Mount Hor, "in the edge of the land of Edom," at the command of God Moses led Aaron and his son Eleazar to the top of that mountain, in the sight of all the people. There he stripped Aaron of his priestly vestments, and put them upon Eleazar; and there Aaron died on the top of the mount, being 123 years old ( Numbers 20:23-29 . Compare Deuteronomy 10:6 ; 32:50 ), and was "gathered unto his people." The people, "even all the house of Israel," mourned for him thirty days. Of Aaron's sons two survived him, Eleazar, whose family held the high-priesthood till the time of Eli; and Ithamar, in whose family, beginning with Eli, the high-priesthood was held till the time of Solomon. Aaron's other two sons had been struck dead ( Leviticus 10:1 Leviticus 10:2 ) for the daring impiety of offering "strange fire" on the alter of incense.
The Arabs still show with veneration the traditionary site of Aaron's grave on one of the two summits of Mount Hor, which is marked by a Mohammedan chapel. His name is mentioned in the Koran, and there are found in the writings of the rabbins many fabulous stories regarding him.
He was the first anointed priest. His descendants, "the house of Aaron," constituted the priesthood in general. In the time of David they were very numerous ( 1 Chronicles 12:27 ). The other branches of the tribe of Levi held subordinate positions in connection with the sacred office. Aaron was a type of Christ in his official character as the high priest. His priesthood was a "shadow of heavenly things," and was intended to lead the people of Israel to look forward to the time when "another priest" would arise "after the order of Melchizedek" ( Hebrews 6:20 ). (See MOSES)
a teacher; lofty; mountain of strength
(a teacher, or lofty ), the son of Amram and Jochebed, and the older brother of Moses and Miriam. ( Numbers 26:59 ; 33:39 ) (B.C. 1573.) He was a Levite, and is first mentioned in ( Exodus 4:14 ) He was appointed by Jehovah to be the interpreter, ( Exodus 4:16 ) of his brother Moses, who was "slow of speech;" and accordingly he was not only the organ of communication with the Israelites and with Pharaoh, ( Exodus 4:30 ; 7:2 ) but also the actual instrument of working most of the miracles of the Exodus. ( Exodus 7:19 ) etc. On the way to Mount Sinai, during the battle with Amalek, Aaron with Hur stayed up the weary hands of Moses when they were lifted up for the victory of Israel. ( Exodus 17:9 ) He is mentioned as dependent upon his brother and deriving all his authority from him. Left, on Moses departure into Sinai, to guide the people, Aaron is tried for a moment on his own responsibility, and he fails from a weak inability to withstand the demand of the people for visible "gods to go before them," by making an image of Jehovah, in the well-known form of Egyptian idolatry (Apis or Mnevis). He repented of his sin, and Moses gained forgiveness for him. ( 9:20 ) Aaron was not consecrated by Moses to the new office of the high priesthood. ( Exodus 29:9 ) From this time the history of Aaron is almost entirely that of the priesthood, and its chief feature is the great rebellion of Korah and the Levites. Leaning, as he seems to have done, wholly on Moses, it is not strange that he should have shared his sin at Meribah and its punishment. See MOSES. ( Numbers 20:10-12 ) Aarons death seems to have followed very speedily. It took place on Mount Hor, after the transference of his robes and office to Eleazar. ( Numbers 20:28 ) This mount is still called the "Mountain of Aaron." See HOR. The wife of Aaron was Elisheba, ( Exodus 6:23 ) and the two sons who survived him, Eleazar and Ithamar. The high priesthood descended to the former, and to his descendants until the time of Eli, who, although of the house of Ithamar, received the high priesthood and transmitted it to his children; with them it continued till the accession of Solomon, who took it from Abiathar and restored it to Zadok (of the house of Eleazar). See ABIATHAR.
ar'-un, sometimes pronounced ar'on ('aharon--Septuagint Aaron, meaning uncertain:
Gesenius suggests "mountaineer"; Furst, "enlightened"; others give "rich," "fluent." Cheyne mentions Redslob's "ingenious conjecture" of ha-'aron--"the ark"--with its mythical, priestly significance, Encyclopedia Biblica under the word):
the more detailed account in Numbers 20, a second incidental record in the list of stations of the wanderings in the wilderness (Numbers 33:38,39), and a third casual reference (Deuteronomy 10:6) in an address of Moses. These are not in the least contradictory or inharmonious. The dramatic scene is fully presented in Numbers 20: Moses, Aaron and Eleazar go up to Mount Hor in the people's sight; Aaron is divested of his robes of office, which are formally put upon his eldest living son; Aaron dies before the Lord in the Mount at the age of 123, and is given burial by his two mourning relatives, who then return to the camp without the first and great high priest; when the people understand that he is no more, they show both grief and love by thirty days of mourning. The passage in Numbers 33 records the event of his death just after the list of stations in the general vicinity of Mount Hor; while Moses in Deuteronomy 10 states from which of these stations, namely, Moserah, that remarkable funeral procession made its way to Mount Hor. In the records we find, not contradiction and perplexity, but simplicity and unity. It is not within the view of this article to present modern displacements and rearrangements of the Aaronic history; it is concerned with the records as they are, and as they contain the faith of the Old Testament writers in the origin in Aaron of their priestly order.
Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. The sacrilegious act and consequent judicial death of Nadab and Abihu are recorded in Leviticus 10. Eleazar and Ithamar were more pious and reverent; and from them descended the long line of priests to whom was committed the ceremonial law of Israel, the succession changing from one branch to the other with certain crises in the nation. At his death Aaron was succeeded by his oldest living son, Eleazar (Numbers 20:28; Deuteronomy 10:6).
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