Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
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"âAbraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Exodus 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 (Exodus 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 (Exodus 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.
First, they were granted an unparalleled privilege. Moses and Aaron were allowed to enter into God's holy presence on Sinai (Exodus 19:24; 24:9-10 ).
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 (Exodus 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 (Leviticus 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 (Exodus 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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