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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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the son of Amram and Jochebed, of the tribe of Levi. Aaron was three years older than his brother Moses; and when God appeared in the burning bush, Moses having excused himself from the undertaking committed to him, by urging that he was slow of speech, Aaron, who was an eloquent man, was made his interpreter, and spokesman; and in effecting the deliverance of the Hebrews we therefore find them constantly associated. During the march of the children of Israel through the wilderness, Aaron and his sons were appointed by God to exercise for ever the office of priests in the tabernacle.

Moses having ascended the mountain to receive the law from God, Aaron, his sons, and seventy elders, followed him, Exodus 24:1-2; Exodus 24:9-11; not indeed to the summit, but "afar off," "and they saw the God of Israel," that is, the glory in which he appeared, "as it were the paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven for clearness;"—a clear and dazzling, azure, a pure, unmingled splendour like that of the heavens. "And upon the nobles of Israel," Aaron, his sons, and the seventy elders, "he laid not his hand,"—they were not destroyed by a sight which must have overwhelmed the weakness of mortal men had they not been strengthened to bear it; "and they did eat and drink,"—they joyfully and devoutly feasted before the Lord, as a religious act, upon the sacrifices they offered. After this they departed, and Moses remained with God on the very summit of the mount forty days.

During this period, the people, grown impatient at the long absence of Moses, addressed themselves to Aaron in a tumultuous manner, saying, "Make us gods which shall go before us: for, as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him." Aaron sinfully yielded to the importunities of the people; and having ordered them to bring the pendants and the earrings of their wives and children, he melted them down, and then made a golden calf, probably in imitation of the Egyptian Apis, an ox or calf dedicated to Osiris. In this instance the image was dedicated to Jehovah the true God; but the guilt consisted in an attempt to establish image worship, which, when even ultimately referring to God, he has forbidden. Neither are images to be worshipped, nor the true God by images;—this is the standing unrepealed law of Heaven. The calf was called a golden calf, as being highly ornamented with gold. Having finished the idol, the people placed it on a pedestal, and danced around it, saying, "These be thy gods, O Israel;" or, as it is expressed in Nehemiah, "This is thy God," the image or symbol of thy God, "which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt." Moses, having hastened from the mount by the command of God, testified to the people, by breaking the tables of the law in their presence, that the covenant between God and them was now rendered of none effect through their offence. He also indignantly reproved Aaron, whose sin indeed had kindled against him the anger of the Lord, so that he would "have destroyed him but that Moses prayed for him."

After the tabernacle was built, Moses consecrated Aaron to the high priesthood with the holy oil, and invested him with his priestly robes,—his garments "of glory and beauty;" but Aaron's weakness was again manifested in concurring with Miriam, his sister, to censure and oppose Moses, through envy. Aaron, as being the elder brother, could not perhaps brook his superiority. What the motive of Miriam might be does not appear; but she being struck with leprosy, this punishment, as being immediately from God, opened Aaron's eyes; he acknowledged his fault, and asked forgiveness of Moses both for himself and his sister.

Aaron himself became also the object of jealousy; but two miraculous interpositions confirmed him in his office of high priest, as of Divine appointment. The first was the destruction of Korah, who sought that office for himself, and of the two hundred and fifty Levites who supported his pretensions, Numbers 16. The second was the blossoming of Aaron's rod, which was designed "to cause the murmurings of the Israelites against him to cease," by showing that he was chosen of God. Moses having, at the command of God, taken twelve rods of an almond tree from the princes of the twelve tribes, and Aaron's separately, he placed them in the tabernacle before the sanctuary, after having written upon each the name of the tribe which it represented, and upon the rod of Aaron the name of Aaron. The day following, when the rods were taken out, that of Aaron "was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds." This rod therefore was laid up by the ark, to perpetuate the remembrance of the miracle, and to be a token of Aaron's right to his office.

Aaron married Elisheba, the daughter of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah, by whom he had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, Exodus 6:23 . The two first were killed by fire from heaven, as a punishment for presuming to offer incense with strange fire in their censers, Leviticus 10:1-2 . From the two others the succession of high priests was continued in Israel.

The account of the death of Aaron is peculiarly solemn and affecting. As he and Moses, in striking the rock at Meribah, Num. xvi, had not honoured God by a perfect obedience and faith, he in his wrath declared unto them that they should not enter into the promised land. Soon after, the Lord commanded Moses, "Take Aaron, and Eleazar, his son, and bring them up to mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments,"—his splendid pontifical vestments,—"and put them upon Eleazar, his son; and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there." This command was carried into effect in the presence of all Israel, who were encamped at the foot of the mountain; and his son being invested with the father's priestly dress, Aaron died, and all the people mourned for him thirty days. His sepulchre was left unmarked and unknown, perhaps to prevent the superstitious reverence of future ages. In Deuteronomy it is said that Aaron died at Mosera; because that was the name of the district in which mount Hor was situated.

2. The PRIESTHOOD being established in Aaron and his family, the nature of this office among the Israelites, and the distinction between the high priest and the other priests, require here to be pointed out.

Before the promulgation of the law by Moses, the fathers of every family, and the princes of every tribe, were priests. This was the case both before and after the flood; for Cain and Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job, Abimelech, Laban, Isaac, and Jacob, themselves offered their own sacrifices. But after the Lord had chosen the family of Aaron, and annexed the priesthood to that line, then the right of sacrificing to God was reserved to that family only. The high priesthood was confined to the first-born in succession; and the rest of his posterity were priests simply so called, or priests of the second order. Both in the high priest and the second or inferior priests, two things deserve notice,—their consecration and their office. In some things they differed, and in others agreed. In their consecration they differed thus: the high priest had the chrism, or sacred ointment, poured upon his head, so as to run down to his beard, and the skirts of his garment, Exodus 30:23; Leviticus 8:12; Psalms 133:2 . But the second priests were only sprinkled with this oil, mixed with the blood of the sacrifice, Leviticus 8:30 . They differed also in their robes, which were a necessary adjunct to consecration. The high priest wore at the ordinary times of his ministration in the temple, eight garments;—linen drawers—a coat of fine linen close to his skin—an embroidered girdle of fine linen, blue and scarlet, to surround the coat—a robe all of blue with seventy-two bells, and as many embroidered pomegranates upon the skirts of it; this was put over the coat and girdle—an ephod of gold, and of blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen, curiously wrought, on the shoulders of which were two stones engraved with the names of the twelve tribes; this was put over the robe, and girt with a curious girdle of the same—a breastplate, about a span square, wrought with gold, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen, and fastened upon the ephod by golden chains and rings; in this breastplate were placed the urim and thummim, also twelve several stones, containing the names of the twelve tribes—a mitre of fine linen, sixteen cubits long, to wrap round his head—and lastly, a plate of gold, or holy crown, two fingers broad, whereon was engraved, "Holiness to the Lord;" this was tied with blue lace upon the front of the mitre. Beside these garments, which he wore in his ordinary ministration, there were four others, which he wore only upon extraordinary occasions, viz. on the day of expiation, when he went into the holy of holies, which was once a year. These were: linen drawers—a linen coat—a linen girdle—a linen mitre, all white, Exodus xxviii; Leviticus 16:4 . But the inferior priests had only four garments: linen drawers—a linen coat—a linen girdle—a linen bonnet. The priest and high priest differed also in their marriage restrictions; for the high priest might not marry a widow, nor a divorced woman, nor a harlot, but a virgin only; whereas the other priests might lawfully marry a widow, Leviticus 21:7 .

In the following particulars the high priest and inferior priests agreed in their consecration; both were to be void of bodily blemish—both were to be presented to the Lord at the door of the tabernacle—both were to be washed with water—both were to be consecrated by offering up certain sacrifices—both were to have the blood of a ram put upon the tip of the right ear, the thumb of the right hand, and the great toe of the right foot, Exodus 29:20 . In the time of consecration, certain pieces of the sacrifice were put into the priest's hand, which was called "filling his hand;" hence the Hebrew phrase, "to fill the hand," signifies consecration.

In the discharge of their offices, the high priest differed from the other priests in these particulars: the high priest only, and that but once a year, might enter into the holy of holies—the high priest might not mourn for his nearest relations by uncovering his head, or tearing any part of his garments, except the skirt; whereas the priest was allowed to mourn for these six,—father, mother, son, daughter, brother, and sister if she had no husband, Leviticus 21:2; Leviticus 21:10-11; but they agreed in these respects; they both burnt incense and offered sacrifices—they both sounded the trumpet, either as an alarm in war, or to assemble the people and their rulers—they both slew the sacrifices—both instructed the people—and both judged of leprosy.

For the more orderly performance of these offices, the high priest had his sagan, who, in case of the high priest's pollution, performed his duty. The high priest and his sagan resembled our bishop and his suffragan.

3. Aaron was a TYPE of Christ, not personally, but as the high priest of the Jewish church. All the priests, as offering gifts and sacrifices, were in their office types of Christ; but Aaron especially,

1. As the high priest.

2. In entering into the holy place on the great day of atonement, and reconciling the people to God; in making intercession for them, and pronouncing upon them the blessing of Jehovah, at the termination of solemn services.

3. In being anointed with the holy oil by effusion, which was pre- figurative of the Holy Spirit with which our Lord was endowed.

4. In bearing the names of all the tribes of Israel upon his breast and upon his shoulders, thus presenting them always before God, and representing them to him.

5. In being the medium of their inquiring of God by urim and thummim; and of the communication of his will to them. But though the offices of Aaron were typical, the priesthood of Christ is of a different and higher ORDER than his, namely, that of MELCHIZIDECK. See CALF , See PRIEST , See TYPE , See EPHOD , See BREASTPLATE , See URIM .

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Aaron'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​a/aaron.html. 1831-2.
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