AARON: The brother of Moses. In the Yahwistic sources of the Pentateuch he is called "Aaron, the Levite," i.e., the priest. He is first mentioned when Yahweh appoints him as spokesman for Moses in the mission to Pharaoh (Ex. iv. 10-17, 27-31); and consistently he always appears with Moses before the Egyptian king. Later Aaron and Hur support Moses during the battle with the Amalekites (Ex. xvii. 8-13). When the covenant was made at Sinai, Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, with seventy elders, accompanied Moses to the mountain; but Moses alone "went up into the mount


of God" (Ex. xxiv. 1-2, 9-18; cf. xix. 24). While Moses delayed on the mountain Aaron made the golden calf; and later he sought to excuse himself by saying that he had acted under compulsion of the people, who were impatient at the long absence of their leader (Ex. xxxii.). In the narrative of Num. xii., Aaron again appears in an unfavorable light. He is said to have died at Mosera, in the wilderness, and Eleazar, his son took his place as priest (Deut. x. 6). Finally, he is incidentally mentioned in Josh. xxiv. 5 and 33. The significant fact in all these notices is that the Yahwistic sources recognize Aaron as priest. In the Priest code Aaron's genealogy and family are given in detail (Ex. vi. 20, 23). He is three years older than Moses (Ex. vii. 7). He is made Moses's "prophet" before Pharaoh (Ex. vii. 1-2), and, accordingly, plays an important part in all transactions at the Egyptian court. By means of his rod the miracles are performed (Ex. vii., viii.). During the wandering Aaron retains his prominent position, although subordinate to Moses. The hungry people murmur against both brothers, and, at Moses's command, Aaron replies to them, and later preserves a pot of manna before Yahweh (Ex. xvi.). The priesthood is instituted at Sinai and solemnly conferred upon Aaron, his four sons, and their descendants (Ex. xxviii.). Of these four sons, only Eleazar and Ithamar remain after the destruction of Nadab and Abihu (Lev. x. 1-7). Aaron is not only original ancestor and type of the priests as distinguished from the Levites, but also, in narrower sense, prototype of the high priest, who was always from his family and apparently the first-born son in direct line. A few of the laws of P are delivered to Aaron as well as Moses (Lev. xi. 1, xiii. 1, xiv. 33, xv. 1; Num. xix. 1). After the departure from Sinai, Korah and his followers rebel against Moses and Aaron; and Yahweh miraculously vindicates the supremacy of the latter (Num. xvi.-xvii.; the narrative is amplified by an account of the uprising of Dathan and Abiram and a contest between Levites and priests). Aaron dies on Mount Hor, and Eleazar becomes priest in his stead (Num. xx. 22-29, xxxiii. 38-39). Of other Old Testament passages in which Aaron is mentioned none is noteworthy except Mic. vi. 4, where he is joined with Moses and Miriam. (F. BUHL.)

It is important for the history of the priesthood in Israel to notice that in the narratives of J and E (called "Yahwistic" above) the priestly function of Aaron is quite subordinate, he being mainly represented there as the spokesman and the minister of Moses and, along with Hur, as his representative-a "judge " of the people (Ex. xxiv. 13, 14). It is in the priestly tradition that the idea of Aaron's sacerdotal functions is elaborately developed.

J. F. M.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: S. Baring-Gould, Legends of O. T. Characters, 2 vols., London, 1871; J. Wellhausen, Geschichte Israels, chap. iv., Berlin. 1878; H.van Oort, Die Aaroneiden in ThT, xviii. (1884) 289 and 235; J.Bensinger. Hebraische Archaologie, pp. 405-428, Freiburg, 1894; W. Nowsck, Archaologie, ii. 87-130, ib. 1894; A. Kuenen in ThT, xxiv. (1890) 1-42; A. van Hoonseker, Le Sacerdoce Levitique dans la loi et dans l'histoire des Hebreux, Louvain, 1899; S. I. Curtiss, The Levitical Priests. Edinburgh, 1877.


CCEL home page
This document is from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at
Calvin College. Last modified on 10/03/03. Contact the CCEL.
Calvin seal: My heart I offer you O Lord, promptly and sincerely