Aaron, the first high priest of Israel and head of the whole priestly order, was eldest son of Amram and Jochebed and brother of Moses and Miriam. (Exodus 6:20) Aaron was born in Egypt 83 years before the Exodus and three years before birth of his brother Moses. (Exodus 2:1,4; 7:7) According to the uniform genealogical lists, Aaron was fourth from Levi (Exodus 6:16-20; 1 Chronicles 6:1-3). Sons of Levi according to generation where Gershon and Kohath and Merari.

Levi and his family were very enthusiastic for the national honor and religion, and Aaron inherited his full portion of this spirit of his clan (Genesis 34:25; Exodus 32:26). His mother Jochebed, was also of the Levitical family (Exodus 6:20). Miriam, his sister, was about 10 years older, since she was set to watch the novel cradle of the infant brother Moses, at whose birth Aaron was three years old (Exodus 2:1,4; 6:20; 7:7).

Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon. She was the prince of the tribe of Judah, by whom Aaron had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar (Exodus 6:23; 1 Chronicle. 2:10)

Mission of Exodus:

When Moses fled from Egypt, Aaron remained in his country to share the hardships of his people and possibly render some service to them. Moses entreated of God his brother Aaron’s cooperation and service in his mission to Pharaoh and to Israel. So Aaron was sent by God to meet his brother Moses who had just spent 40 years out in the Sinai with Jethro, He was appointed by God to assist Moses in all needed to do in bringing about the Exodus (Exodus 4:27).

They both were commissioned as deliverers of Israel. While Moses, who had great gifts and with the grace of God, was slow of speech (Exodus 4:10). Aaron was a ready spokesman, and became his brother's representative, being called his ‘mouth’ and his ‘prophet’ to speak for him (Exodus 4:16; 7:1). After their meeting in the wilderness the two brothers returned together to Egypt on the hazardous mission to which Yahweh had called them (Exodus 4:27-31).

At first they appealed to their own people, recalling the God’s promises and declaring the imminent deliverance. But the hearts of the people were hardened by bondage, heavy burden of their labour and with the care of material things and hence they did not heed to them. The two brothers then forced the issue by appealing directly to Pharaoh himself, Aaron still speaking for his brother (Exodus 6:10-13). He was faithful to his master’s trust, and stood by Moses in all his interviews with Pharaoh. He also performed, at Moses' direction, the miracles, which confounded Pharaoh and his magicians.

At Mount Sinai:

Aaron next comes into prominence, when Israelites camped in front of Mt. Sinai, and when Moses at the command of God ascended the mountain to receive the ten commandments, 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, from far away, the manifestation of the glory of God (Ex. 19:24; 24:9-11). While Moses remained on the mountain with God to receive Ten Commandments from God, Aaron returned to the people; and yielded to their demands through fear, ignorance, instability or whatever reason. Aaron exercised some kind of headship over the people in the absence of Moses as Moses made Aaron and Hur as judges to them on legal matters. As per God's Command Aaron was to place Manna before the Testimony.

Golden Calf:

Despairing of seeing again their leader, who had disappeared into the mystery of communion with the invisible God, Israelites appealed to Aaron to prepare them more tangible gods, and to lead them back to Egypt (Exodus 32). To the greatest lapse in his judgment, he made a golden calf and set it up as an object of worship (Exodus. 32:4; Psalms. 106:19). He might however have yielded reluctantly, is evident from the ready zeal of his tribesmen, whose leader he was. (Exodus 32:26-28). When Moses returned to the camp, Aaron was sternly rebuked by him for his part in this matter; but Moses interceded for him before God, who forgave his sin else he should have died for this incident of idolatry. (Deut. 9:20).

Consecration as Priest:

On the Mount of Sinai, 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. The consecration of Aaron and his sons were lasting seven days. Their vestments were as per God's instructions. Aaron was anointed with oil in great profusion, poured on his head where it is said that the precious ointment ran down upon his beard and to the skirt of his garment, later it became a legend. Aaron’s sons were adorned with tunics, sashes and cap for glory and beauty.

Battle with Amalekites:

At Rephidim, when Moses overlooked the battle with the Amalekites from a nearby hill with the rod of God in his outstretched hand, it was Aaron and Hur, his brother-in-law, Miriam's husband, who held up Moses' tired arms until Joshua and the chosen warriors of Israel gained the victory. (Exodus 17:8-13).

Criticized Moses:

After the departure of Israel from Sinai, Aaron again displayed a failure in good judgment at Hazeroth when he and his sister Miriam spoke out against Moses for marrying an Ethiopian woman. Once again, The Lord vindicated Aaron, and punished Miriam smitten with leprosy (Numbers 12:1-16). The sacred office of Aaron, requiring physical, moral and ceremonial cleanness of the strictest order, seems to have made him immune from this form of punishment. After Aaron acknowledged his and Miriam's guilt, at the intercession of Moses they were forgiven by God and made her whole again.

Rebel against Moses and Aaron:

Twenty years after this, when the children of Israel were encamped in the wilderness of Paran Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Aaron and his sons Aaron stood courageously with Moses. This rebellion was subdued and the authority of Moses and Aaron vindicated by the miraculous overthrow of the rebels. A fearful judgment from God fell upon them and they were being destroyed by the plague, Aaron, at Moses' command, rushed into their midst with the lighted censer, and the destruction was stayed.(Numbers 16:1-50)

Aaron’s budded Rod:

The Divine will in choosing Aaron and his family to the priesthood was then fully attested by the miraculous budding of his rod. At the command of God, all the chiefs of the tribes were ordered to bring to Moses an Almond rod with the name of his tribe engraved on it. These, along with the rod of Aaron for the tribe of Levi, were laid overnight in the tabernacle within the Tent of the Testimony. When Moses entered the tent the following day, he found that Aaron's rod had budded, blossomed and yielded almonds while all other rods remained unchanged. (Num. 17:1-10). When this miraculous sign was seen by the people, they accepted it as final. That staff was afterwards preserved in the Tabernacle known as Aaron's Rod as a token of the Divine will. (Hebrews 9:4)

Divestment from High priesthood:

Neither Moses nor Aaron was permitted to enter the Promised Land. Aaron was involved in the sin of his brother about the water-from-the-rock incident at Meribah (Numbers 20:8-13), and for that presumptuous disobedience to God's instructions for which entry to Canan was prohibited. (Numbers 20:24). Towards the end Aaron does not come prominently into view until the time of his death. When the Israelites reached 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 Aaron was divested his priestly sacred vestments, and formally put upon his eldest living son Eleazar as successor to his father in the high priest's office, which he held for more than twenty years.

Death and mourning:

Shortly after the last camp at Kadesh was broken, as the people journeyed eastward to the plains of Moab, Aaron died on the top of the Mount Hor, being 123 years old (Num. 20:23-29; Deut. 10:6; 32:50), People, all the house of Israel, mourned for him thirty days. From the station Moserah, a remarkable funeral procession was made its way to Mount Hor. (Numbers 33 ). 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 sacrilege of offering unholy fire on the altar of incense, contrary to God's command.

First High Priesthood of Aaron:

Aaron was the first anointed priest. Aaron was appointed directly by God to be the first high priest. He and his sons were consecrated to continue the priesthood through time (Leviticus 8 and 9). 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. In connection with the planning and erection of the tabernacle ("the Tent"), Aaron and his sons being chosen for the official priesthood, elaborate and symbolical vestments were prepared for them (Exodus 28); and after the erection and dedication of the tabernacle, he and his sons were formally inducted into the sacred office (Leviticus 8). It appears that Aaron alone was anointed with the holy oil (Leviticus 8:12), but his sons were included with him in the duty of caring for sacrificial rites and things. They served in receiving and presenting the various offerings, and could enter and serve in the first chamber of the tabernacle; but Aaron alone, the high priest, the Mediator of the Old Covenant, could enter into the Holy of Holies, and that only once a year, on the great Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16:12-14).

Priestly Succession:

The elder two sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihud were guilty of offering strange fire on the altar of burnt-offering . This sacrilegious act caused judicial death of Nadab and Abihu. 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). He was appointed to the charge of the sanctuary. Eleazar took part with Moses in numbering the people ( 26:3,4), and assisted at the inauguration of Joshua. He assisted in the distribution of the land after the conquest ( Jos 14:1). The high-priesthood remained in his family till the time of Eli, into whose family it passed, till it was restored to the family of Eleazar in the person of Zadok ( 1Sa 2:35; 1Ki 2:27). The sons of Aaron, received thirteen cities by lot from the tribe of Judah and from the tribe of the Simeonites and from the tribe of Benjamin. The priestly family of Aaron is known as Aaronite. (Joshua 21:4)

Aaron was a forerunner of Jesus 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).

(Excerpts from 'Light of Life - The Bible : A Family Companion' to be launched)

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