Aaron [etymology doubtful. The name possibly means bright, shining].
The brother of Moses and his senior by three years (Ex. 7:7). He was a descendant of Levi through Kohath and Amram (Ex. 6:14-27). As we do not read of perils attending his infancy, it may be inferred that he was born before the promulgation of the nefarious Egyptian edicts dooming the Hebrew male children to death. He was younger than his sister Miriam (q. v.). He married Elisheba, daughter of Amrninadab and sister of Nahshon, of the tribe of Judah, who bore him four sons, Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Ex. 6:23; Num. 3:2).
When Moses at Horeb was called to stand forth as the deliverer of his oppressed countrymen, and, wishing to escape the mission, complained that he was "slow of speech, and of a slow tongue," God repelled the objection, and said, "Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well." Aaron was forthwith instructed to go out and meet Moses in the wilderness. He did so. The brothers met and embraced each other (Ex. 4:10-16, 27). Returning to Egypt, they gathered together the elders of Israel and intimated to them the approaching deliverance (29-31).
The wonder-working rod of Moses was, apparently with the divine sanction, transferred to Aaron, and is hence forth usually known as Aaron's rod (Ex. 4:17; 7:9, 19). Acts of smiting with this rod brought on in succession the ten Egyptian plagues (7:17, 19, 20 ; 8:5, etc.). At the Red Sea, Moses was directed to lift up the rod (this time called his) and the waters would be divided (14:16). Aaron and Hur supported Moses arms during the battle with Amalek (17:12).
Aaron and two of his sons, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders were permitted to accompany Moses into the mount before he received the tables of the law, and to behold the God of Israel (Ex. 24:1, 9, 10).
During the prolonged stay of Moses in the mount, the people became impatient at the absence of their leader and turned to Aaron with the demand that he make them gods to go before them. Aaron weakly yielded and made the golden calf (Ex. 32).
According to instructions which Moses received, Aaron and his sons were to fill the office of priest. Accordingly, after the tabernacle had been completed, and was ready for actual services to begin, Aaron and his four sons were solemnly consecrated to the priesthood by being anointed with oil and clothed in splendid typical official vestments (Ex. 28; 40:13-16; Lev. 8). Aaron was thus the first high priest, an office which he filled for nearly forty years.
Shortly after leaving Sinai, he joined with Miriam in finding fault with Moses for having married a Cushite woman (Num. 12:1-16). The rebellion of Korah was directed as much against the exclusive priesthood of Aaron and his sons as against the civil authority of Moses. The divine appointment of Moses and Aaron to their respective offices was at tested by the destruction of the rebels; and Aaron's right to the priesthood was further and specially vindicated by the budding of his rod (Num. 16 and 17).
Toward the close of the journey in the wilderness, when the people were encamped for the second time at Kadesh, Aaron and Moses dishonored God by their conduct when they smote the rock. For this sin they were denied the privilege of entering the promised land. Soon afterwards by divine direction Aaron was led by Moses up mount Hor and stripped of his sacred vestments, which were transferred to his son Eleazar. There he died, at the age of one hundred and twenty-three years. The nation publicly mourned for him thirty days (Num. 20, 33:37-39, and see PRIEST).