Islamic view of Aaron
|Russian icon of Aaron from the 17th Century.|
|Prophet, High Priest|
Eastern Orthodox Church: September 4Maronite Church: September 4
- 1 Account in the Hebrew Bible
- 2 Aaron in religious traditions
- 3 Descendants
- 4 Art history
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Account in the Hebrew Bible
Great-grandfather: Levi, third of 12 sons and tribes of Israel
Aaron’s function included the duties of speaker and implied personal dealings with the Egyptian royal court on behalf of Moses. 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 Exodus 7:9–12) proving his rod was victorious.
During the journey in the wilderness, Aaron was not always prominent or active; and he sometimes appeared guilty of rebellious or treasonable conduct. At the battle with Amalek, he was chosen with Exodus 32:26).
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 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 10:1–10).
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
Aaron offered the various sacrifices and performed the many ceremonies of the consecration of the new priests, according to divine instructions (
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 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 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 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.
Of the death of Aaron there are two accounts.
Aaron in religious traditions
Jewish Rabbinic 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. 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 that it is said fifteen times in the Pentateuch that "the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron." Under the influence of the priesthood that shaped the destinies of the nation under Persian rule, a different ideal of the priest was formed, according to Malachi 2:4–7, and the prevailing tendency was to place Aaron on a footing equal with Moses. "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, who strongly implies this when introducing in his record of renowned men the glowing description of Aaron’s ministration.
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 tranquility. 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. "Take off thy priestly raiment and place it upon thy son Eleazar!" said Moses; "and then follow me." Aaron did as commanded; and they entered the cave, where was prepared a bed around which angels stood. "Go lie down upon thy bed, my brother," Moses continued; and Aaron obeyed without a murmur. Then his soul departed as if by a kiss from God. 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!" When the Israelites cried in bewilderment, "Where is Aaron?" angels were seen carrying Aaron's bier through the air. 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). He died, according to Seder Olam Rabbah ix., R. H. 2, 3a, on the first of Ab." 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). The seeming contradiction between Numbers 20:22 et seq. and Deuteronomy 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."[note 2]
The rabbis also dwell with special laudation on the brotherly sentiment which united Aaron and Moses.
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."
While Aaron and his descendants were the high priests of Judaism, Melchizedek, a person who lived more than seven centuries before Moses, is considered a high priest and Christ is said to be of the same rite of Melchizedek of the New Covenant (see the Book of Hebrews).
However, in the Eastern Orthodox and Maronite churches, Aaron is venerated as a saint whose feast day is shared with his brother Moses and celebrated on September 4. (Those churches that follow the traditional Julian Calendar celebrate this day on September 17 of the modern Gregorian Calendar). Aaron is also commemorated with other Old Testament saints on the Sunday of the Holy Fathers, the Sunday before Christmas.
Aaron 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.
In the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 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 includes a quorum of one or more of each office of the Aaronic priesthood.
Aaron (Arabic: هارون, Hārūn) is also mentioned in the Quran as a prophet of God. The Quran praises Aaron repeatedly, calling him a "believing servant" as well as one who was "guided" and one of the "victors". Aaron is important in Islam for his role in the events of the Exodus, in which, according to the Quran and Muslim tradition, he preached with his brother Moses to the Pharaoh of the Exodus. Aaron's significance in Islam, however, is not limited to his role as the helper of Moses. Islamic tradition also accords Aaron the role of a patriarch, as tradition records that the priestly descent came through Aaron's lineage, which included the entire House of Amran.[note 3]
Aaron in the Quran
The Qur'an contains numerous references to Aaron, both by name and without name. It says that he was a descendant of Abraham (Qur'an 4: 163) and makes it clear that both him and Moses were sent together to warn the Pharaoh about God's punishment (Qur'an 10: 75). It further adds that Moses had earlier prayed to God to strengthen his own ministry with Aaron (Qur'an 20: 29-30) and that Aaron helped Moses as he too was a prophet (Qur'an 19: 53) and was very eloquent in matters of speech and discourse (Qur'an 28: 34). The Qur'an adds that both Moses and Aaron were entrusted to establish places of dwelling for the Israelites in Egypt, and to convert those houses into places of worship for God (Qur'an 10: 87).
The incident of the Golden Calf as it is narrated in the Qur'an paints Aaron in a positive light. The Qur'an says that Aaron was entrusted the leadership of Israel while Moses was up on Mount Sinai for a period of forty days (Qur'an 7: 142). It adds that Aaron tried his best to stop the worship of the Golden Calf, which was built not by Aaron but by a wicked man by the name of Samiri (Qur'an 19: 50). When Moses returned from Mount Sinai, he rebuked Aaron for allowing the worship of the idol, to which Aaron pleaded with Moses to not blame him when he had no role in its construction (Qur'an 7: 150). The Qur'an then adds that Moses here lamented the sins of Israel and said he only had the power to protect himself and Aaron (Qur'an 5: 25).
Aaron is later commemorated in the Qur'an as one who had a "clear authority" (Qur'an 23: 45) and one who was "guided to the Right Path" (Qur'an 37: 118). It further adds that Aaron's memory was left for people who came after him (Qur'an 37: 119) and he is blessed by God along with his brother (Qur'an 37: 120). The Qur'an also calls the Virgin Mary a "sister of Aaron" (Qur'an 19: 28). Muslim scholars debated as to who exactly this "Aaron" was in terms of his historical persona, with some saying that it was a reference to Aaron of the Exodus, and the term "sister" designating only a metaphorical or spiritual link between the two figures, all the more evident when Mary was a descendant of the priestly lineage of Aaron, while others held it to be another righteous man living at the time of Christ by the name of "Aaron". Most scholars have agreed to the former perspective, and have linked Mary spiritually with the actual sister of Aaron, her namesake Miriam, whom she resembled in many ways. The Qur'an also narrates that, centuries later, when the Ark of the Covenant returned to Israel, it contained "relics from the family of Moses and relics from the family of Aaron" (Qur'an 2: 248).
Aaron in Muhammad's time
Muhammad, in many of his sayings, speaks of Aaron. In the event of the Mi'raj, his miraculous ascension through the Heavens, Muhammad is said to have encountered Aaron in the fifth heaven. According to old scholars, including Ibn Hisham, Muhammad, in particular, mentioned the beauty of Aaron when he encountered him in Heaven. Martin Lings, in his biographical Muhammad, speaks of Muhammad's wonderment at seeing fellow prophets in their heavenly glory:
Of Joseph he said that his face had the splendour of the moon at its full, and that he had been endowed with no less than the half of all existing beauty. Yet this did not diminish Muhammad's wonderment at his other brethren, and he mentioned in particular the great beauty of Aaron.
Aaron was also mentioned by Muhammad in likeness to Ali. Muhammad had left Ali to look after his family, but the hypocrites of the time begun to spread the rumor that the prophet found Ali a burden and was relieved to be rid of his presence. Ali, grieved at hearing this wicked taunt, told Muhammad what the local people were saying. In reply, the Prophet said: "They lie, I bade thee remain for the sake of what I had left behind me. So return and represent me in my family and in thine. Art thou not content, O Ali, that thou should be unto me as Aaron was unto Moses, save that after me there is no prophet."
According to Islamic tradition the tomb of Aaron is located on Jabal Harun, or Aaron's Mountain, near Petra in Jordan. At 1350 meters above sea-level it is the highest peak in the area; and it is a place of great sanctity to the local people for here. A 14th-century Mamluk mosque stands here with its white dome visible from most areas in and around Petra.
Although his father is described as both an apostle and a prophet, Aaron is merely described as a prophet. The Kitab-I-Iqan describes Imran as being his father.
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 to the Aaronic mythos. The painting offers a portrayal of the single figure of Aaron in his priestly garments celebrating Yom Kippur in the wilderness Tabernacle. The Mola "Aaron" is considered the unique single figure of Aaron to have been painted by an 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 may have importance in relationship to mid-17th-century Jewish history. "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.
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- Ginzberg, Louis. The Legends of the Jews. Translated by Henrietta Szold and Paul Radin. 7 vols. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1909-1938.
- Kaufmann, Yehezkel. The Religion of Israel. Translated by Moshe Greenberg. New York: Schocken Books, 1960.
- expand by hand
- Funk and Wagnalls, 1901–1906; which cites
- Numbers Rabbah 9
- Leviticus Rabbah 10
- Midrash Peṭirat Aharon in Jellinek’s Bet ha-Midrash, 1:91–95
- Yalḳuṭ Numbers 764
- Sabine Baring-Gould, Legends of Old Testament Characters
- Chronicles of Jerahmeel, ed. M. Gaster, pp. cx1:130–133
- Holweck, F. G., A Biographical Dictionary of the Saint. St. Louis, MO: B. Herder Book Co. 1924.
- Meek, Theophile James. "Aaronites and Zadokites." The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures 45 (April, 1920): 149-166.
- Meek, Theophile James. Hebrew Origins. Rev. ed. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950.
References in the Qur'an
- Aaron's prophecy: 6:84,
- Aaron is made helper of Moses: 28:35
- Aaron and Moses sent to Pharaoh: 21:48
- Praise for Aaron: 37:122
- The Golden Calf: 20:94
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