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Aaron, a Levite known as the eldest son of Amram and his wife Jochebed, and elder brother of Moses. He is considered the traditional founder, ancestor and head of the Jewish priesthood, who, in company with Moses, led the Israelites out of Egypt. The greater part of his life-history is preserved in Biblical narratives.
Although Aaron was said to have been sent by Yahweh (Jehovah) to meet Moses at the "mount of God" (Horeb, Exodus 4:27),he plays only a secondary part in the incidents at Pharaoh's court. After the "exodus" (Greek, going out) from Egypt a striking account is given of the vision of the God of Israel vouchsafed to him and to his sons Nadab and Abihu on the same holy mount (Exodus 24:1; 9-11), and together with Hur he was at the side of Moses when the latter, by means of his wonder-working rod, enabled Joshua to defeat the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16).
Hur and Aaron were left in charge of the Israelites when Moses and Joshua ascended the mount to receive the Tables of the Law (Exodus 24: 12-15), and when the people, in dismay at the prolonged absence of their leader, demanded a god, it was at the instigation of Aaron that the golden calf was made. This was regarded as an act of apostasy which, according to one tradition, led to the consecration of the Levites, and almost cost Aaron his life (Deuteronomy 9:20). The incident paves the way for the account of the preparation of the new tables of stone which contain a series of laws quite distinct from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 33 and following).
Kadesh, and not Sinai or Horeb, appears to have been the original scene of these incidents (Deuternomy 33:8 and following, compared with Exodus 32:26 and following), and it was for some obscure offence at this place that both Aaron and Moses were prohibited from entering the Promised Land (Numbers 20). In what way they had not sanctified (an allusion in the Hebrew to Kadesh "holy") Yahweh is quite uncertain, and it would appear that it was for a similar offence that the sons of Aaron mentioned above also met their death (Leviticus 10:3; cp. Numbers 20:12, Deuternomy 32:51). Aaron is said to have died at Moserah (Deuteronomy 10:6), or at Mount Hor; the latter is an unidentified site on the border of Edom (Numbers 20:23, 33:37; for Moserah see Numbers 30-31), and consequently not in the neighbourhood of Petra, which has been the traditional scene from the time of Josephus (Antiquities iv. 4. 7).
Several difficulties in the present Biblical text appear to have arisen from the attempt of later tradition to find a place for Aaron in certain incidents. In the account of the contention between Moses and his sister Miriam (Numbers 12), Aaron occupies only a secondary position, and it is very doubtful whether he was originally mentioned in the older surviving narratives. It is at least remarkable that he is only thrice mentioned in Deuteronomy (9:20, 10:6, 32:50).
The parts of the narrative which the JEDP theory of the formation of the text of the Pentateuch identify as having been written after the Babylonian exile give him a greater share in the plagues of Egypt, represent him as high-priest, and confirm his position by the miraculous budding of his rod alone of all the rods of the other tribes (Numbers 17). The latter story illustrates the growth of the older exodus-tradition along with the development of priestly ritual: the old account of Korah's revolt against the authority of Moses has been expanded, and now describes (a) the divine prerogatives of the Levites in general, and (b) the confirmation of the superior privileges of the Aaronites against the rest of the Levites, a development which can scarcely be earlier than the time of Ezekiel (44:15 and following).
Aaron's son Eleazar was buried in an Ephraimite locality known after the grandson as the hill of Phinehas (Joshua 24:33). Little historical information has been preserved of either. The name Phinehas (apparently of Egyptian origin) is better known as that of a son of Eli, a member of the priesthood of Shiloh, and Eleazar is only another form of Eliezer the son of Moses, to whose kin Eli is said to have belonged. The close relation between Aaronite and Levitical names and those of clans related to Moses is very noteworthy, and it is a curious coincidence that the name of Aaron's sister Miriam appears in a genealogy of Caleb (1 Chronicles 4:1) with Jether and Heber.
In view of the confusion of the traditions and the difficulty of interpreting the details sketched above, the recovery of the historical Aaron is a work of peculiar intricacy. He may well have been the traditional head of the priesthood, and R. H. Kennett has argued in favour of the view that he was the founder of the cult at Bethel (Journ. of Theol. Stud., 1905, pp. 161 sqq.), corresponding to the Mosaite founder of Dan. This throws no light upon the name, which still remains quite obscure: and unless Aaron (Aharon) is based upon Aron, ``ark'' (Redslob, R. P. A. Dozy, J. P. N. Land), names associated with Moses and Aaron, which are, apparently, of South Palestinian (or North-Arabian) origin.
the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed, a daughter of Levi (Ex. 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 (2:1,4; 7:7). He married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab of the house of Judah (6:23; 1 Chr. 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 (Ex. 4:14,27-30) 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 (7:1,2,9,10,19). 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 (Ex. 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 (Ex. 32:4; Ps. 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 (Deut. 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 (Lev. 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 (Num. 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 (Num. 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 (Num. 17:1-10). This rod was afterwards preserved in the tabernacle (Heb. 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 (Num. 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 (Num. 20:23-29. Comp. Deut. 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 (Lev. 10:1,2) 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 Muslim 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 Chr. 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" (Heb. 6:20).
Source: An unnamed encyclopedia from a project that puts out-of-copyright texts into the public domain. This is from a *very* old source, and reflects the thinking of the turn of the last century.