Bible Topics
in the Christian Library
Personalities Of The Old Testament
AARON – The Orator Turned Idolater
Exodus 32

 1. Our present study discusses one of the better known men of the Bible. Aaron is quickly associated with a number of historical events in Israeli history. ASK – What are some of the events that you think of when Aaron’s name is mentioned? It could be his going to Pharaoh with Moses to demand the release of Israeli slaves; being the founder of the Priesthood; he and Hur holding up Moses arms in battle; the gold calf incident; etc.  ASK – What is the one incident with which Aaron is typically identified? It will be the gold calf worship at Sinai (Ex 32).

 Aaron’s history is an interesting study of how one can serve God but allow personal weaknesses to bring tragic results. A study of his character will be most beneficial to all who seek to discover ways to live and follow God faithfully.


  a. Family History – Aaron was the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed (Ex 6:20). They were from the tribe of Levi. Aaron was born in Egypt while the nation was enslaved. His sister was Miriam and his brother was Moses. Moses was three years younger than Aaron (Ex 7:7). Aaron’s wife was Elisheba and together they had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar (Ex 6:23).

  b. His  Character – He was a devout, good, and religious man. Yet he struggled with maintaining strength of character. He was easily led into wrong when away from Moses’ influence. Even though his character is marred by several significant mistakes, Aaron must have been truly penitent because God allowed him to serve a long time and later honored his name (cf Ps 106:16).

  c. His Life – his first 83 years were spent in Egyptian bondage. When God sent Moses back to Egypt to free Israel, Aaron served with Moses and gained the release of Israel. For 40 years Aaron served as the High Priest of God’s people. In this role he helped to organize a religious system that stood intact for 1,500 years. He died when he was 123 years old. His death occurred at Mt Hor (Nu 33:38). His influence in Israel was strong and is evident in the fact the people mourned his death for forty days.

 Even though Aaron is recognized as an important historical figure in Israeli history, he made some serious mistakes. There are three significant events that reveal a tendency in Aaron that is common to today’s society. Look at each and consider the common failing that is shared by all three.

  a. The gold calf incident (Ex 3:21-32) – The mistake of following the majority.
  When Moses ascended Sinai to receive the Law, he had placed Aaron and Hur in charge (Ex 24:13-14). After Moses had been gone forty days, the Israelis were ready to appoint another leader. They demanded that Aaron make a god to lead them (32:1). Aaron quickly capitulated to the mob’s demands showing very little leadership and commitment to God. He constructed an image according to the mob’s specifications. When confronted by the angry Moses, Aaron tried to rationalize his wrong by two absurd excuses: he said the mob forced him to do it and he claimed he just threw the gold into the fire and the calf just “happened” to result (Ex 32:21-24). 

  b. The derision of Moses’ wife (Nu 12:1-15) – The mistake of pride.
  Miriam and Aaron complained about Moses’ marriage to the Cushite woman (an African woman from Ethiopia). Their complaint was a cover-up of their real problem – they were jealous because Moses had been given the greater role of leadership (12:2-8). Their act of jealousy enraged God and God caused leprosy to defile Miriam (12:9-10). It may be that Miriam was the one struck with the disease because she was the leader and Aaron merely followed. Once again his weak character allowed him to make a tragic mistake.

  c. The waters at Meribah (Nu 20:2-13) – The mistake of anger!
  The forty years wandering was almost concluded. The Israelis were facing a water shortage. The people grew impatient and began murmuring. Moses and Aaron became the targets of their harsh words. Together the brothers disobeyed God’s instructions and took glory upon themselves striking the rock instead of speaking to it (20:10-11). This demonstration of anger prevented both from entering into Canaan.

 NOTE: These three incidents reveal that Aaron struggled with a major weakness. All of these events share in common one factor – Aaron allowed himself to be persuaded to replace God’s will with his personal will! This is seen in the pressure to create the mob’s idol, in the jealousy that prodded the criticism of Moses, and the angry outburst toward the murmuring Israelis. ASK – How is Aaron’s failing illustrated in our modern day?

 Although Aaron had significant weaknesses, he also had some good points that must be considered. These could be viewed as his “virtues” and were evidence that God found his heart to be truly penitent (cf Ps 106:16). Here is a quick list that helps us appreciate Aaron.

  a. He supplemented Moses’ leadership with his personal skills (Ex 4:14-16).

  b. He stood by Moses when facing the hardhearted Pharaoh (Ex 7:10-13).

  c. He held up Moses’ arms in the great battle against the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-13).

 d. He daily assisted Moses in leading Israel (Ex 24:14).

  e. He remained loyal to Moses when some of Israel rebelled against Moses (Nu 16:3).

  f. He provided leadership in the religious life of the nation (Ex 28:1).

 From this survey of Aaron the following lessons become evident. Contemplate each of these and consider how it applies to Christians.

  a. One moment of weakness can ruin a reputation and forever forget skills!

  b. God’s gracious forgiveness is able to erase man’s repeated failures!

  c. The greatest of human skills cannot help a man stand in the face of great temptations or fierce opposition. The only way to find success in rejecting temptation and angry opponents is to trust in God (Josh 1:6-9).

Copyright 1999 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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