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AARON, the traditional founder and head of the Jewish 
priesthood, who, in company with Moses, led the Israelites 
out of Egypt (see EXODUS; MOSES) . The greater part of 
his life-history is preserved in late Biblical narratives, 
which carry back existing conditions and beliefs to the 
time of the Exodus, and find a precedent for contemporary 
hierarchical institutions in the events of that period.  
Although Aaron was said to have been sent by Yahweh (Jehovah) 
to meet Moses at the ``mount of God'' (Horeb, Ex.iv.27),he 
plays only a secondary part in the incidents at Pharaoh's 
court.  After the ``exodus'' from Egypt a striking account 
is given of the vision of the God of Israel vouchsafed to 
him and to his sons Nadab and Abihu on the same holy mount 
(Ex. xxiv. 1 seq. 9-11), and together with Hur he was at the 
side of Moses when the latter, by means of his wonder-working 
rod, enabled Joshua to defeat the Amalekites (xvii. 8-16).  
Hur and Aaron were left in charge of the Israelites when 
Moses and Joshua ascended the mount to receive the Tables of 
the Law (xxiv. 12-15), and when the people, in dismay at the 
prolonged absence of their leader, demanded a god, it was at 
the instigation of Aaron that the golden calf was made (see 
CALF, GOLDEN). This was regarded as an act of apostasy 
which, according to one tradition, led to the consecration 
of the Levites, and almost cost Aaron his life (cp. Deut. 
ix. 20). The incident paves the way for the account of the 
preparation of the new tables of stone which contain a series 
of laws quite distinct from the Decalogue (q.v.) (Ex. xxxiii. 
seq.).  Kadesh, and not Sinai or Horeb, appears to have been 
originally the scene of these incidents (Deut. xxxiii. 8 
seq. compared with Ex. xxxii. 26 sqq.), and it was for some 
obscure offence at this place that both Aaron and Moses were 
prohibited from entering the Promised Land (Num. xx.).  In 
what way they had not ``sanctified'' (an allusion in the 
Hebrew to Kadesh ``holy'') Yahweh is quite uncertain, and 
it would appear that it was for a similar offence that the 
sons of Aaron mentioned above also met their death (Lev. x. 3; 
cp.  Num. xx. 12, Deut. xxxii. 51). Aaron is said to have 
died at Moserah (Deut. x. 6), or at Mt. Hor; the latter is 
an unidentified site on the border of Edom (Num. xx. 23, 
xxxiii. 37; for Moserah see ib. 30-31), and consequently 
not in the neighbourhood of Petra, which has been the 
traditional scene from the time of Josephus (Ant. iv. 4. 7). 

Several difficulties in the present Biblical text appear to 
have arisen from the attempt of later tradition to find a 
place for Aaron in certain incidents.  In the account of the 
contention between Moses and his sister Miriam (Num. xii.), 
Aaron occupies only a secondary position, and it is very doubtful 
whether he was originally mentioned in the older surviving 
narratives.  It is at least remarkable that he is only thrice 
mentioned in Deuteronomy (ix. 20, x. 6, xxxii. 50). The 
post-exilic narratives give him a greater share in the plagues of 
Egypt, represent him as high-priest, and confirm his position 
by the miraculous budding of his rod alone of all the rods of 
the other tribes (Num. xvii.; for parallels see Gray comm. 
ad loc., p. 217).  The latter story illustrates the growth 
of the older exodus-tradition along with the development of 
priestly ritual: the old account of Korah's revolt against the 
authority of Moses has been expanded, and now describes (a) 
the divine prerogatives of the Levites in general, and (b) 
the confirmation of the superior privileges of the Aaronites 
against the rest of the Levites, a development which can 
scarcely be earlier than the time of Ezekiel (xliv. 15 seq.). 

Aaron's son Eleazar was buried in an Ephraimite locality 
known after the grandson as the ``hill of Phinehas'' (Josh. 
xxiv. 33). Little historical information has been preserved of 
either.  The name Phinehas (apparently of Egyptian origin) 
is better known as that of a son of Eli, a member of the 
priesthood of Shiloh, and Eleazar is only another form of 
Eliezer the son of Moses, to whose kin Eli is said to have 
belonged.  The close relation between Aaronite and Levitical 
names and those of clans related to Moses is very noteworthy, 
and it is a curious coincidence that the name of Aaron's 
sister Miriam appears in a genealogy of Caleb (1 Chron. iv. 
17) with Jether (cp. JETHRO) and Heber (cp. KENITES). In 
view of the confusion of the traditions and the difficulty of 
interpreting the details sketched above, the recovery of the 
historical Aaron is a work of peculiar intricacy.  He may 
well have been the traditional head of the priesthood, and 
R. H. Kennett has argued in favour of the view that he was 
the founder of the cult at Bethel (Journ. of Theol.  Stud., 
1905, pp. 161 sqq.), corresponding to the Mosaite founder 
of Dan (q.v.). This throws no light upon the name, which 
still remains quite obscure: and unless Aaron (Aharon) is 
based upon Aron, ``ark'' (Redslob, R. P. A. Dozy, J. P. 
N. Land), names associated with Moses and Aaron, which are, 
apparently, of South Palestinian (or North-Arabian) origin. 

For the literature and a general account of the Jewish 
priesthood, see the articles LEVTTES and PRIEST. . (S. A. C.) 

Source:  An unnamed encyclopedia from a project that puts out-of-copyright texts into the public domain.
This is from a *very* old source, and reflects the thinking of the turn of the last century.