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The Adoration of the Golden Calf by Nicolas Poussin

Biblical longevity
Name Age LXX
Methuselah 969 969
Jared 962 962
Noah 950 950
Adam 930 930
Seth 912 912
Kenan 910 910
Enos 905 905
Mahalalel 895 895
Lamech 777 753
Shem 600 600
Eber 464 404
Cainan 460
Arpachshad 438 465
Salah 433 466
Enoch 365 365
Peleg 239 339
Reu 239 339
Serug 230 330
Job 210? 210?
Terah 205 205
Isaac 180 180
Abraham 175 175
Nahor 148 304
Jacob 147 147
Esau 147? 147?
Ishmael 137 137
Levi 137 137
Amram 137 137
Kohath 133 133
Laban 130+ 130+
Deborah 130+ 130+
Sarah 127 127
Miriam 125+ 125+
Aaron 123 123
Rebecca 120+ 120+
Moses 120 120
Joseph 110 110
Joshua 110 110

In the Hebrew Bible, Aaron (pronounced /ˈɛərən/;[1] Hebrew: אַהֲרֹןAhărōn, Arabic: هارونHārūn), sometimes called Aaron the Levite (אַהֲרֹן הַלֵוִי), was the brother of Moses, (Exodus 6:16-20)[2] and represented the priestly functions of his tribe, becoming the first High Priest of the Israelites. While Moses was receiving his education at the Egyptian royal court and during his exile among the Midianites, Aaron and his sister remained with their kinsmen in the eastern border-land of Egypt (Goshen).There are many Aarons in Ireland and are usualy intellegent and handsom. Aaron there gained a name for eloquent and persuasive speech; so that when the time came for the demand upon the Pharaoh to release Israel from captivity, Aaron became his brother’s nabi, or spokesman, to his own people (Exodus 7:1)[3] and, after their unwillingness to hear, to the Pharaoh himself (Exodus 7:9).[4] Various dates for his life have been proposed, ranging from approximately 1600 to 1200 B.C.


The meaning of the name "Aaron" is unclear. Possible meanings are:

  1. Pregnancy - In Hebrew - הריון, herayon. In Ancient Egyptian herr is to conceive and hrara is conception.[5]
  2. From the mountain - In Hebrew הר - har, which may refer to place of his own death.[6]
  3. High mountain - In Arabic هارون - haroun or harun.
  4. One of light [7]
  5. From Hebrew אַהֲרֹן (Ahărōn), possibly meaning "bearer of martyrs",
  6. Related to the Ancient Egyptian aha rw ("warrior lion", or possibly "elevated", "exalted" or "high mountain").


Descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Great-Grandfather: Levi, third of 12 sons and tribes of Israel

Grandfather: Kohath

Father: Amram

Mother: Jochebed

Sister: Miriam

Brother: Moses

Uncles: Izhar, Hebron, Uzziel

Sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, Ithamar

Grandson: Phinehas


Aaron’s function included the duties of speaker and implied personal dealings with the Egyptian royal court on behalf of Moses, who was always the central moving figure. The part played by Aaron in the events that preceded the Exodus was, therefore, ministerial, and not directive. He, along with Moses, performed “signs” before his people which impressed them with a belief in the reality of the divine mission of the brothers (Exodus 4:15-16).

At the command of Moses he stretched out his rod in order to bring on the first three plagues (Exodus 7:19, 8:1,12). In the infliction of the remaining plagues he appears to have acted merely as the attendant of Moses, whose outstretched rod drew the divine wrath upon the Pharaoh and his subjects (Exodus 9:23, 10:13,22). The potency of Aaron’s rod had already been demonstrated by its victory over the rods of the Egyptian magicians, which it swallowed after all the rods alike had been turned into serpents (Exodus 7:9). During the journey in the wilderness, Aaron is not always prominent or active; and he sometimes appears guilty of rebellious or treasonable conduct. At the battle with Amalek, he is chosen with Hur to support the hand of Moses that held the “rod of God” (Exodus 17:9). When the revelation was given to Moses at Mount Sinai, he headed the elders of Israel who accompanied Moses on the way to the summit. Joshua, however, was admitted with his leader to the very presence of the Lord, while Aaron and Hur remained below to look after the people Exodus 24:9-14. It was during the prolonged absence of Moses that Aaron yielded to the clamors of the people, and made a Golden Calf as a visible image of the divinity who had delivered them from Egypt (Exodus 32:1-6) (it should be noted that in the account given of the same events, in the Qur'an, Aaron is not the idol-maker and upon Moses' return begged his pardon as he had felt mortally threatened by the Israelites (Quran 7:142-152)) At the intercession of Moses, Aaron was saved from the plague which smote the people (Deuteronomy 9:20, Exodus 32:35), although it was to Aaron’s tribe of Levi that the work of punitive vengeance was committed (Exodus 32:26).


File:Aaron high priest.jpg

At the time when the tribe of Levi was set apart for the priestly service, Aaron was anointed and consecrated to the priesthood, arrayed in the robes of his office, and instructed in its manifold duties (Exodus 28, Exodus 29).

On the very day of his consecration, his sons, Nadab and Abihu, were consumed by fire from the Lord for having offered incense in an unlawful manner (Leviticus 10).

Scholarly consensus is that in Aaron's High Priesthood the sacred writer intended to describe a model, the prototype, so to say, of the Jewish High Priest. God, on Mount Sinai instituting a worship, also instituted an order of priests. According to the patriarchal customs, the firstborn son in every family used to perform the functions connected with God's worship. It might have been expected, consequently, that Reuben's family would be chosen by God for the ministry of the new altar. However, according to the biblical narrative it was Aaron who was the object of God's choice. To what jealousies this gave rise later, has been indicated above. The office of the Aaronites was at first merely to take care of the lamp which was to burn perpetually before the veil of the tabernacle Exodus 27:21. A more formal calling soon followed (Exodus 28:1). Aaron and his sons, distinguished from the Common People by their sacred functions, were also to receive holy garments suitable to their office.[8]

Aaron offered the various sacrifices and performed the many ceremonies of the consecration of the new priests, according to the divine instructions (Exodus 29), and repeated these rites for seven days, during which Aaron and his sons were entirely separated from the rest of the people. When, on the eighth day, the High Priest had inaugurated his office of sacrifice by killing the animals, he blessed the people (very likely according to the prescriptions of Numbers 6:24-26)[9], and, with Moses, entered into the tabernacle to possess it. They "came forth and blessed the people. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the multitude: And behold a fire, coming forth from the Lord, devoured the holocaust, and the fat that was upon the altar: which when the multitude saw, they praised the Lord, falling on their faces" (Leviticus 9:23-24). In this way the institution of the Aaronic priesthood was established.[8]

Rebellion of Korah

From the time of the sojourn at Mount Sinai, where he became the anointed priest of Israel, Aaron ceased to be the minister of Moses, his place being taken by Joshua. He is mentioned in association with Miriam in a jealous complaint against the exclusive claims of Moses as the Lord’s prophet. The presumption of the murmurers was rebuked, and Miriam was smitten with Tzaraath. Aaron entreated Moses to intercede for her, at the same time confessing the sin and folly that prompted the uprising. Aaron himself was not struck with the plague on account of sacerdotal immunity; and Miriam, after seven days’ quarantine, was healed and restored to favor (Numbers 12). Micah a prophet in Judaism, mentions Moses, Aaron, and Miriam as the leaders of Israel after the Exodus (a judgment wholly in accord with the tenor of the narratives).[10] In the present instance it is made clear by the express words of the oracle (Numbers 12:6-8) that Moses was unique among men as the one with whom the Lord spoke face to face. The failure to recognize or concede this prerogative of their brother was the sin of Miriam and Aaron.

The validity of the exclusive priesthood of the family of Aaron was attested after the ill-fated rebellion of Korah, who was a first cousin of Aaron. When the earth had opened and swallowed up the leaders of the insurgents (Numbers 16:25-35), Eleazar, the son of Aaron, was commissioned to take charge of the censers of the dead priests. And when the plague had broken out among the people who had sympathized with the rebels, Aaron, at the command of Moses, took his censer and stood between the living and the dead till the plague was stayed (Numbers 17:1-15, 16:36-50).

Another memorable transaction followed. Each of the tribal princes of Israel took a rod and wrote his name upon it, and the twelve rods were laid up over night in the tent of meeting. The next morning Aaron’s rod was found to have budded and blossomed and produced ripe almonds (Numbers 17:8). The miracle proved merely the prerogative of the tribe of Levi; but now a formal distinction was made in perpetuity between the family of Aaron and the other Levites. While all the Levites (and only Levites) were to be devoted to sacred services, the special charge of the sanctuary and the altar was committed to the Aaronites alone (Numbers 18:1-7). The scene of this enactment is unknown, as is the time mentioned.


Aaron, like Moses, was not permitted to enter Canaan with the others.[11] The reason alleged is that the two brothers showed impatience at Meribah (Kadesh) in the last year of the desert pilgrimage (Numbers 20:12-13), when Moses brought water out of a rock to quench the thirst of the people.[11] The action was construed as displaying a want of deference to the Lord, since they had been commanded to speak to the rock, whereas Moses struck it with the wonder-working rod (Numbers 20:7-11).[11]

Of the death of Aaron we have two accounts.[11] The principal one gives a detailed statement that soon after the incident at Meribah, Aaron, with his son Eleazar and Moses, ascended Mount Hor.[11] There Moses stripped Aaron of his priestly garments and transferred them to Eleazar.[11] Aaron died on the summit of the mountain, and the people mourned for him thirty days (Numbers 20:22-29; compare 33:38-39).[11] The other account is found in Deut. 10. 6, where Moses is reported as saying that Aaron died at Mosera and was buried there.[11] There is a significant amount of travel between these two points, as the itinerary in Numbers 33:31-37 records seven stages between Moseroth (Mosera) and Mount Hor.[11]

Rabbinical literature

The older prophets and prophetical writers beheld in their priests the representatives of a religious form inferior to the prophetic truth; men without the spirit of God and lacking the will-power requisite to resist the multitude in its idolatrous proclivities.[12] Thus Aaron, the first priest, ranks below Moses: he is his mouthpiece, and the executor of the will of God revealed through Moses, although it is pointed out[13] that it is said fifteen times in the Pentateuch that “the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron.” Under the influence of the priesthood which shaped the destinies of the nation under Persian rule, a different ideal of the priest was formed, as is learned from Malachi 2:4-7; and the prevailing tendency was to place Aaron on a footing equal with Moses.[12] “At times Aaron, and at other times Moses, is mentioned first in Scripture—this is to show that they were of equal rank,” says Mekilta. בא, 1;[12] expressly infers this when introducing in his record of renowned men the glowing description of Aaron’s ministration.[12]


In fulfilment of the promise of peaceful life, symbolized by the pouring of oil upon his head (Leviticus Rabbah x., Midrash Teh. cxxxiii. 1), Aaron's death, as described in the Haggadah, was of a wonderful tranquillity.[14] Accompanied by Moses, his brother, and by Eleazar, his son, Aaron went to the summit of Mount Hor, where the rock suddenly opened before him and a beautiful cave lit by a lamp presented itself to his view.[14] "Take off thy priestly raiment and place it upon thy son Eleazar!" said Moses; "and then follow me."[14] Aaron did as commanded; and they entered the cave, where was prepared a bed around which angels stood.[14] "Go lie down upon thy bed, my brother," Moses continued; and Aaron obeyed without a murmur.[14] Then his soul departed as if by a kiss from God.[14] The cave closed behind Moses as he left; and he went down the hill with Eleazar, with garments rent, and crying: "Alas, Aaron, my brother! thou, the pillar of supplication of Israel!"[14] When the Israelites cried in bewilderment, "Where is Aaron?" angels were seen carrying Aaron's bier through the air.[14] A voice was then heard saying: "The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found on his lips: he walked with me in righteousness, and brought many back from sin" (Malachi 2:6).[14] He died, according to Seder Olam Rabbah ix., R. H. 2, 3a, on the first of Ab."[14] The pillar of cloud which proceeded in front of Israel's camp disappeared at Aaron's death (see Seder 'Olam, ix. and R. H. 2b-3a).[14] The seeming contradiction between Numbers 20:22 et seq. and Deutronomy 10:6 is solved by the rabbis in the following manner: Aaron's death on Mount Hor was marked by the defeat of the people in a war with the king of Arad, in consequence of which the Israelites fled, marching seven stations backward to Mosera, where they performed the rites of mourning for Aaron; wherefore it is said: "There [at Mosera] died Aaron."[14][14][15]

The rabbis also dwell with special laudation on the brotherly sentiment which united Aaron and Moses.[14] When the latter was appointed ruler and Aaron high priest, neither betrayed any jealousy; instead they rejoiced in one another's greatness.[14] When Moses at first declined to go to Pharaoh, saying: "O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send" (Exodus 4:13), he was unwilling to deprive Aaron, his brother, of the high position the latter had held for so many years; but the Lord reassured him, saying: "Behold, when he seeth thee, he will be glad in his heart" (Exodus 4:14).[14] Indeed, Aaron was to find his reward, says Shimon bar Yochai; for that heart which had leaped with joy over his younger brother's rise to glory greater than his was decorated with the Urim and Thummim, which were to "be upon Aaron's heart when he goeth in before the Lord" (Canticles Rabbah i. 10).[14] Moses and Aaron met in gladness of heart, kissing each other as true brothers (Exodus 4:27; compare Song of Songs 8:1), and of them it is written: "Behold how good and how pleasant [it is] for brethren to dwell together in unity!" (Psalms 133:1).[14] Of them it is said: "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed [each other]" (Psalms 85:10); for Moses stood for righteousness, according to Deuteronomy 33:21, and Aaron for peace, according to Malachi 2:6. Again, mercy was personified in Aaron, according to Deuteronomy 33:8, and truth in Moses, according to Numbers 12:7 [16].[14]

When Moses poured the oil of anointment upon the head of Aaron, Aaron modestly shrank back and said: "Who knows whether I have not cast some blemish upon this sacred oil so as to forfeit this high office."[14] Then the Shekhinah spake the words: "Behold the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard of Aaron, that even went down to the skirts of his garment, is as pure as the dew of Hermon" (Psalm 133:2-3) [17].[14]


According to Tanhuma,[18] Aaron’s activity as a prophet began earlier than that of Moses.[19] Hillel held Aaron up as an example, saying: “Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace; love your fellow creatures and draw them nigh unto the Law!”[19][20] This is further illustrated by the tradition preserved in Abot de-Rabbi Natan 12, Sanhedrin 6b, and elsewhere, according to which Aaron was an ideal priest of the people, far more beloved for his kindly ways than was Moses.[19] While Moses was stern and uncompromising, brooking no wrong, Aaron went about as peacemaker, reconciling man and wife when he saw them estranged, or a man with his neighbor when they quarreled, and winning evil-doers back into the right way by his friendly intercourse.[19] The mourning of the people at Aaron’s death was greater, therefore, than at that of Moses; for whereas, when Aaron died the whole house of Israel wept, including the women. Numbers 20:29[19][21] Moses was bewailed by “the sons of Israel” only (Deuteronomy 34:8).[19] Even in the making of the Golden Calf the rabbis find extenuating circumstances for Aaron.[19][22] His fortitude and silent submission to the will of God on the loss of his two sons are referred to as an excellent example to men how to glorify God in the midst of great affliction.[19][23] Especially significant are the words represented as being spoken by God after the princes of the Twelve Tribes had brought their dedication offerings into the newly reared Tabernacle: “Say to thy brother Aaron: Greater than the gifts of the princes is thy gift; for thou art called upon to kindle the light, and, while the sacrifices shall last only as long as the Temple lasts, thy light shall last forever.”[19][24]


Recently, the tradition that Kohanim are actually descended from a single patriarch, Aaron, was found to be apparently consistent with genetic testing.[25] The majority of Kohanim, but not all, share a direct male lineage with a common Y chromosome, and testing was done across sectors of the Jewish population to see if there was any commonality between the Y chromosomes of Kohanim. The results were found to cluster rather closely around a specific DNA signature, found in the Semitic Haplogroup J1, which the researchers named the Cohen modal haplotype, implying that many of the Kohanim do share a distinctive common ancestry. This information was also used to support the claim that the Lemba (a sub-Saharan tribe) are in fact descendant from a group of Jewish Priests.

The Cohen Modal Haplotype or CMH is found in haplogroup J1, which geneticists estimate originated in the Southern Levant (modern day Israel, Jordan; biblical Canaan) or North Africa (Egypt) approximately 10,000 - 15,000 years ago.[26] Biblical tradition holds that Abraham and his ancestors, the Semitic tribes, originated from Southern Arabia or East Africa (Genesis 10); Aaron and Moses were 7th generation descendants from Abraham (Exodus 6). An estimated 20% of the modern Jewish community fall into haplogroup J1. The traditional date for Abraham is circa 2200-2000 BC. Behar, et al., found Kohanim in a variety of haplogroups (E3b, G2, H, I1b, J, K2, Q, R1a1, R1b), which included those which originated in the Levant (J1, J2) and those from Southern Arabia, East Africa, or another geographic region.[27]


Aaron married Elisheba, daughter of Amminadab and sister of Nahshon (Exod 6:23). The sons of Aaron were Eleazar, Ithamar, Nadab and Abihu[28]. A descendant of Aaron is an Aaronite, or Kohen, meaning Priest[29][30]. Any non-Aaronic Levite descended from Levi but not of the priestly division [31] would be assigned to assist the Levitical priests of the family of Aaron in the care of the tabernacle and later of the temple.[32]



Russian icon of Aaron (18th century, Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Karelia, Russia).

Aaron is considered a type of Christ, the high priest of the new dispensation. In the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Maronite Church he is venerated as a saint, with a feast day celebrated on September 4, together with Moses (for those churches which follow the traditional Julian Calendar, September 4 falls on September 17 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). He is also commemorated, together with other righteous saints from the Old Testament on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers (the Sunday before Christmas).

He is commemorated as one of the Holy Forefathers in the Calendar of Saints of the Armenian Apostolic Church on July 30. He is commemorated on July 1 in the modern Latin calendar and in the Syriac Calendar.

Latter-day Saints

In the LDS church, the Aaronic order is the lesser order of priesthood, comprising the grades (from lowest to highest) of deacon, teacher and priest. The chief office of the Aaronic priesthood is the presiding bishopric; the head of the priesthood is the bishop. Each ward has one or more quorums of each office of the Aaronic priesthood.[33]


Aaron is believed to be a Prophet in Islam and is known as Harun, which is the Arabic name for Aaron. His role also found an analogue in the person of Ali, to whom Muhammad said: Will you not be pleased that you will be to me like Aaron was to Moses? [34]

In the Quran Aaron was not involved with the creation of the Golden Calf and made efforts to dissuade the Israelites from worshiping it, a significant difference from the older texts.[35]

Art history

Depictions of Aaron within art history are rare. Other than Aaron's inclusion in the crowd of revelers around the Golden Calf ceremony—most notably in Nicolas Poussin’s “The Adoration of the Golden Calf” (ca. 1633-34, National Gallery London)—there is little else. The recent discovery in 1991 of Pier Francesco Mola’s “Aaron, Holy to the Lord” (ca. 1650, Private Collection, New York: image available for study at Fred R. Kline Gallery Archives) adds significantly to the Aaronic mythos. The painting offers a dramatic, deeply psychological portrayal of the single figure of Aaron in his priestly garments celebrating Yom Kippur in the wilderness Tabernacle. The Mola “Aaron” is considered, quite surprisingly, the unique single figure of Aaron to have been painted by a European old master artist, circa 15th-18th centuries (A.Pigler, "Barockthemen" Vol. 1; although unknown to Pigler). The carefully rendered Judaic iconographic details in the Mola painting are rare and the subject itself may have importance in relationship to mid-17th century Jewish history, characterized by a controversial messianic movement involving a serious contender for a new Messiah, Shabtai Zvi, whose influence was felt in Jewish communities worldwide (Harris Lenowitz, "The Jewish Messiahs"). It is highly probable that the Zvi messianic phenomenon was noted by the Catholic Church as a possible threat to Jesus, their sanctified Messiah. It may be significant to note, in considering the possible influence of the Roman Catholic Church in choices of lay-commissioned religious art during this period and considering as well the importance of Aaron in the Christian tradition, that "Aaron, Holy to the Lord" was originally commissioned along with a now lost pendant of Moses (both from Mola) by the nobel Colonna family, wealthy Catholic art patrons living in Rome (Getty Museum Archives).

See also


  1. Wells, John C. (1990). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow, England: Longman. p. 2. ISBN 0582053838.  entry "Aaron"
  5. Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary , Vol. 1, Budge, E. A., Dover publications, New York, p.450.
  6. Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius'
  7. Scofield Reference Bible, Proper Names
  8. 8.0 8.1 Wikisource-logo.svg "Aaron". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  10. Micah 6:4
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 11.8 Jewish Encyclopedia
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 - AARON
  13. Sifra, Wa-yiḳra, 1
  14. 14.00 14.01 14.02 14.03 14.04 14.05 14.06 14.07 14.08 14.09 14.10 14.11 14.12 14.13 14.14 14.15 14.16 14.17 14.18 14.19 14.20 - AARON
  15. See Mek., Beshallaḥ, Wayassa', i.; Tan., Huḳḳat, 18; Yer. Soṭah, i. 17c, and Targum Yer. Num. and Deut. on the abovementioned passages.
  16. (Tan., Shemot, ed. Buber, 24-26)
  17. (Sifra, Shemini, Milluim; Tan., Korah, ed. Buber, 14)
  18. ed. Buber, 2:12
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 19.6 19.7 19.8 - AARON
  20. Abot, 1:12
  21. Numbers 20:29
  22. Sanhedrin 7a
  23. Zebahim 115b
  24. Tanhuma, ed. Buber, בהעלותך, 6
  25. Skorecki et al., 1997.
  26.; Semino, et al., “Origin, Diffusion, and Differentiation of Y-Chromosome Haplogroups E and J: Inferences on the Neolithization of Europe and Later Migratory Events in the Mediterranean Area.” Am J Hum Genet. 2004 May; 74(5).
  27. Behar, DM; Thomas MG, Skorecki K, Hammer MF, Bulygina E, Rosengarten D, Jones AL, Held K, Moses V, Goldstein D, Bradman N, Weale ME (2003). "Multiple Origins of Ashkenazi Levites: Y Chromosome Evidence for Both Near Eastern and European Ancestries". Am. J. Hum. Genet. 73: 768–779.
  28. 1 Chronicles 24:1 Now these are the divisions of the sons of Aaron. The sons of Aaron; Nadab, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar.
  29. Dictionary of Jewish usage: a guide to the use of Jewish terms
  30. Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible
  31. Studies in Luke: Journeying to the Cross
  32. According to Samaritan sources a civil War broke out between the Sons of Itamar Eli (Bible)} and the Sons of Phineas-which resulted in the division of those who followed Eli and those who followed High Priest Uzzi ben Bukki at Mount Gerizim Bethel {A third group followed neither}. Ironically likewise according to Samaritan sources the high Priests line of the sons of Phineas died out in 1624 C.E. with the death of the 112th High Priest Shlomyah ben Pinhas when the priesthood was transferred to the sons of Itamar; see article Samaritan for list of High Priests from 1613 to 2004-the 131st High priest of the Samaritans is Elazar ben Tsedaka ben Yitzhaq} See article Samaritan
  33. - Aaronic Priesthood Table of Contents - Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part A. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  34. Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 57, Number 56
  35. Quran Chp.20 vr.89

Further reading

External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Aaron. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.
New title High Priest of Israel
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