The Essential Aaron Story in the Bible: Meaning & Key Verses


Lord’s Library editors created this resource on the Aaron story in the Bible to give you a basic summary of his life and significance.

As the brother of Moses and the inaugural high priest of the Israelites, the Aaron story in the Bible is pivotal to both the Exodus and the foundational rites of Levitical priesthood. Aaron’s early life is intrinsically linked to the Israelites’ story of bondage in Egypt. Born to Amram and Jochebed, Aaron was Moses’ older brother by three years. See Exodus 7:7: “And Moses was fourscore years old, and Aaron fourscore and three years old, when they spake unto Pharaoh.”

His upbringing in Egypt, amidst the Israelites’ suffering, set the stage for his future role as a leader and priest. The Aaron story in the Bible is primarily chronicled in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, presenting portraits of his life from Egypt’s bondage to the wilderness wanderings.

Aaron’s designation as the first high priest established a framework that has influenced Judeo-Christian tradition for thousands of years. Aaron’s story in the Bible is also spotted by what occurred during the episode of the golden calf in Exodus 32, which offers insight into the theme of atonement.

From a spokesperson and confidant to his brother Moses to a leader in his own right, the Aaron story in the Bible highlights key themes like faith, obedience, and divine intervention that are central to the narrative of the Bible. Read on to learn more about Aaron’s ministry, impact on the priesthood, and his role in the Exodus and the golden calf.

The Gospel

Aaron Story in the Bible

Aaron Story in the Bible: Early Life & Ministry

Aaron’s early life and ministerial calling set the stage for some of the most pivotal events in Bible history.

Born in Egypt to Amram and Jochebed of the tribe of Levi during a time when the Israelites were enslaved by the Pharaoh, Aaron’s birth is set against the backdrop of oppression, as described in Exodus 6:20 and Numbers 26:59. His lineage is crucial, placing him in a family rooted in the Levitical tradition.

  • Exodus 6:20: “And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.”
  • Numbers 26:59: “And the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi in Egypt: and she bare unto Amram Aaron and Moses, and Miriam their sister.”

The Bible also mentions his siblings, Moses and Miriam, who would also play instrumental roles in the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt.

Aaron’s calling came when God chose Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. Moses expressed concern over his speaking abilities, so God appointed Aaron as his spokesman in Exodus 4:16: “And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.” This partnership marked the beginning of Aaron’s journey as a prophet and a key figure in the Exodus.

Aaron Story in the Bible: The Exodus

Aaron’s role in the Exodus begins with his divine appointment as Moses’ spokesman. This partnership established Aaron as an essential figure in the communication between God, Moses, and the people.

One of Aaron’s first significant actions in the Exodus story is his participation in confronting Pharaoh. Aaron, carrying a rod as a symbol of his authority through God, performs miracles before Pharaoh to demonstrate God’s power. In a notable episode, Aaron casts down his rod before Pharaoh and his servants, turning it into a serpent. See Exodus 7:10: “And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent.”

Throughout the plagues that God sends upon Egypt, Aaron is instrumental in executing God’s commands. Alongside Moses, Aaron stretches out his hand to bring about some of the plagues, including turning the waters of Egypt into blood in Exodus 7:19: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, Say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and stretch out thine hand upon the waters of Egypt, upon their streams, upon their rivers, and upon their ponds, and upon all their pools of water, that they may become blood; and that there may be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood, and in vessels of stone.”

He also summons frogs to cover the land in Exodus 8:6: “And Aaron stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt; and the frogs came up, and covered the land of Egypt.” These divine acts serve not only to pressure Pharaoh but also to affirm the power of the God of Israel over the gods of Egypt, with Aaron acting as a key tool in the Lord’s toolbelt.

Beyond the miracles and plagues, Aaron’s role in the Exodus encompasses status among the Israelites. As Moses’ brother and representative, Aaron helped to rally the people, addressing their doubts and fears throughout the journey. His presence provided a sense of stability and trust in God’s promise, reinforcing Moses’ leadership and the collective resolve of the Israelites to pursue freedom from slavery.

Aaron Story in the Bible: Role in the Priesthood

Aaron was the first high priest of Israel. His appointment to this sacred position laid the groundwork for the Levitical priesthood, establishing religious and ceremonial systems that would influence Israelite worship to today.

The inauguration of Aaron into the priesthood is of major significance. In Exodus 28:1, God commands Moses: “And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest’s office.” This not only elevates Aaron and his descendants to a position of spiritual leadership but also establishes the priesthood as a means of mediating between God and the people of Israel.

The detailed instructions for the priestly garments, as described in Exodus 28, underscore the sacredness of Aaron’s role. These garments, including the breastplate, ephod, robe, and turban, were designed for glory and beauty, signifying the high priest’s unique position as God’s representative. The Urim and Thummim, placed within the breastplate of judgment, further highlight the high priest’s responsibility in discerning God’s will for the Israelites. Through these vestments, Aaron’s role was not only spiritual but also symbolic; symbolizing the holiness required to approach God.

Aaron’s consecration as high priest, detailed in Leviticus 8, involves an elaborate ceremony performed by Moses. This event includes sacrifices, anointing with oil, and the sprinkling of blood. These things are designed to dignify purification and dedication to God’s service. See Leviticus 8:33-35:

  • Leviticus 8:33-35: “And ye shall not go out of the door of the tabernacle of the congregation in seven days, until the days of your consecration be at an end: for seven days shall he consecrate you. As he hath done this day, so the LORD hath commanded to do, to make an atonement for you. Therefore shall ye abide at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation day and night seven days, and keep the charge of the LORD, that ye die not: for so I am commanded.”

The ordination of Aaron and his sons establishes a formal structure for worship and sacrifice, ensuring that the priesthood operates according to God’s commandments. This ceremony solidified Aaron’s role in mediating the covenant relationship between God and the Israelites.

Perhaps the most critical aspect of Aaron’s priesthood is his role on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), as outlined in Leviticus 16. On this holiest day, Aaron was to enter the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Tabernacle, to make atonement for himself, his household, and the entirety of Israel. See Leviticus 16:14-15:

  • Leviticus 16:14-15: “And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times. Then shall he kill the goat of the sin offering, that is for the people, and bring his blood within the vail, and do with that blood as he did with the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle it upon the mercy seat, and before the mercy seat:”

This act of atonement, involving the sacrifice of a bull and two goats, symbolizes the purification from sin and the restoration of the relationship between God and His people. See Leviticus 16:6-10:

  • Leviticus 16:6-10: “And Aaron shall offer his bullock of the sin offering, which is for himself, and make an atonement for himself, and for his house. And he shall take the two goats, and present them before the LORD at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. And Aaron shall cast lots upon the two goats; one lot for the LORD, and the other lot for the scapegoat. And Aaron shall bring the goat upon which the LORD’S lot fell, and offer him for a sin offering. But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the LORD, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness.”

Aaron’s role on this day exemplifies the core function of the high priesthood: to intercede on behalf of the people.

One of the significant challenges Aaron faced was the Korah’s Rebellion. This rebellion is led by Korah, a Levite, along with Dathan and Abiram from the tribe of Reuben, and 250 community leaders. They challenge Moses and Aaron’s authority, questioning why the brothers hold higher positions and arguing that the entire congregation is holy and capable of approaching God.

Aaron’s role in this event is more implicit, being primarily associated with Moses in the narrative. The rebels’ contention centers on the special status of Moses and Aaron, with a particular focus on the priesthood and access to the divine. See Numbers 16:3: “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the LORD?”

Moses proposes a test to determine whom God has chosen. He instructs Korah and his followers to bring censers with incense before the Lord, and Aaron is to do the same. This act is meant to let God show who is holy and has been chosen for priesthood. The ground opens up and swallows Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their households, while fire from the Lord consumes the 250 men offering the incense. See Numbers 16:31-35:

  • Numbers 16:31-35: “And it came to pass, as he had made an end of speaking all these words, that the ground clave asunder that was under them: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods. They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. And all Israel that were round about them fled at the cry of them: for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also. And there came out a fire from the LORD, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.”

At Meribah, the Israelites’ complaint about the lack of water presents another critical moment in Aaron’s leadership. Alongside Moses, Aaron is instructed by God to speak to a rock to bring forth water. Instead, Moses strikes the rock twice with his staff, an act of disobedience for which both he and Aaron are punished by God with the denial of entry into the Promised Land. See Numbers 20:7-12:

  • Numbers 20:7-12: “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink. And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”

Aaron Story in the Bible: The Golden Calf

Aaron’s role in the episode of the golden calf, as recounted in the Book of Exodus, represents one of the most contentious and instructive events in Biblical history. This incident not only highlights the challenges of leadership and the pitfalls of idolatry but also offers important lessons on repentance and God’s forgiveness.

The golden calf occurred while Moses was on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments from God (in Exodus 32). During his absence, the people of Israel grew anxious and demanded a tangible god to worship. Left in charge, Aaron caved to the pressure of his people’s demands, instructing them to bring their gold earrings, which he then used to fashion a golden calf.

The Bible states in Exodus 32:4: “And he received them at their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool, after he had made it a molten calf: and they said, These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.” This act of creating an idol marks a significant lapse in Aaron’s judgment, directly contravening God’s commandments against idolatry.

The worship of the golden calf incurs the wrath of God, who threatens to destroy the Israelites for their apostasy. Moses intercedes on their behalf, mitigating the divine punishment but not before significant consequences unfold. Upon descending from the mountain and witnessing the idolatry, Moses shatters the tablets of the Ten Commandments in a symbolic act of broken covenant. He then destroys the calf and consecrates the Levites to restore order and reaffirm their commitment to God.

When confronted by Moses, Aaron offers a defense that appears to minimize his responsibility, suggesting the people were set on evil and that the calf emerged miraculously from the fire. See Exodus 32:22-24: “And Aaron said, Let not the anger of my lord wax hot: thou knowest the people, that they are set on mischief. For they said unto me, Make us gods, which shall go before us: for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we wot not what is become of him. And I said unto them, Whosoever hath any gold, let them break it off. So they gave it me: then I cast it into the fire, and there came out this calf.”

Despite this, Aaron’s role as a high priest is not stripped from him, suggesting a process of repentance and graceful forgiveness at play. This episode serves as a pivotal moment for Aaron, illustrating the grave consequences of yielding to peer pressure and the importance of unwavering faith in the Lord.

For modern readers, Aaron’s experience with the golden calf serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of spiritual integrity and the dangers of compromising on God’s Word. It also emphasizes the need for strong, principled leadership capable of withstanding popular pressure to conform to ungodly practices. It reassures us of the possibility of forgiveness and restoration after fleshly failure as well.

Final Thoughts

Aaron’s establishment as the first high priest has a lasting impact on Jewish religious practice and theology. The rituals and principles he instituted underpin the Levitical system of worship, influencing subsequent generations of priests. Additionally, Aaron’s legacy is evident in the continued observance of the Day of Atonement in Judaism and the conceptual framework it provides for understanding sin, repentance, and redemption.

Aaron’s death is recorded in Numbers 20:28: “And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.” He died on Mount Hor at the age of 123, after transferring his priestly garments to his son Eleazar, signifying the continuation of the priesthood lineage.

As the first high priest, Aaron set a precedent for worship and intercession that would define the spiritual life of Israel. His life serves as a testament to the power of redemption and the importance of dedicated service to God.

Through his initial steps toward becoming the first high priest of Israel, Aaron embodies the complexities of faith, leadership, and devotion. His actions and experiences serve as foundational elements for understanding the establishment of the priesthood and the spiritual legacy that would shape the Israelite nation.

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Timothy Andrew
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Timothy Andrew

Timothy Andrew

Tim is the Founder of Lord's Library. He believes the Bible commands us to minister "as of the ability which God giveth" (1 Peter 4:11). Tim aspires to be as The Lord's mouth by "taking forth the precious from the vile" (Jeremiah 15:19) and witnessing The Gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4) to the whole world.

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