palm isle, the fourth and youngest son of Aaron (1 Chr. 6:3). He
was consecrated to the priesthood along with his brothers (Ex.
6:23); and after the death of Nadab and Abihu, he and Eleazar
alone discharged the functions of that office (Lev. 10:6, 12;
Num. 3:4). He and his family occupied the position of common
priest till the high priesthood passed into his family in the
person of Eli (1 Kings 2:27), the reasons for which are not
recorded. (See ZADOK ¯T0003864.)
said by Jehovah. (1.) One of the descendants of Aaron by Eleazar
(1 Chr. 6:7,52). He was probably the last of the high priests of
Eleazar's line prior to the transfer of that office to Eli, of
the line of Ithamar.
(2.) A Levite, son of Hebron, of the lineage of Moses (1 Chr.
(3.) A "chief priest" who took an active part in the
reformation under Jehoshaphat (2 Chr. 19:11); probably the same
as mentioned in 1 Chr. 6:9.
(4.) 1 Chr. 6:11; Ezra 7:3. (5.) One of the high priests in
the time of Hezekiah (2 Chr. 31:15). (6.) Zeph. 1:1. (7.) Neh.
11:4. (8.) Neh. 10:3. (9.) Ezra 10:42.
brother of the king, the son of Ahitub and father of Abiathar (1
Sam. 22:20-23). He descended from Eli in the line of Ithamar. In
1 Chr. 18:16 he is called Abimelech, and is probably the same as
Ahiah (1 Sam. 14:3, 18). He was the twelfth high priest, and
officiated at Nob, where he was visited by David (to whom and
his companions he gave five loaves of the showbread) when he
fled from Saul (1 Sam. 21:1-9). He was summoned into Saul's
presence, and accused, on the information of Doeg the Edomite,
of disloyalty because of his kindness to David; whereupon the
king commanded that he, with the other priests who stood beside
him (86 in all), should be put to death. This sentence was
carried into execution by Doeg in the most cruel manner (1 Sam.
22:9-23). Possibly Abiathar had a son also called Ahimelech, or
the two names, as some think, may have been accidentally
transposed in 2 Sam. 8:17; 1 Chr. 18:16, marg.; 24:3, 6, 31.
When David was not permitted to build the temple, he proceeded,
among the last acts of his life, with the assistance of Zadok
and Ahimelech, to organize the priestly and musical services to
be conducted in the house of God. (1.) He divided the priests
into twenty-four courses (1 Chr. 24:1-19), sixteen being of the
house of Eleazar and eight of that of Ithamar. Each course was
under a head or chief, and ministered for a week, the order
being determined by lot. (2.) The rest of the 38,000 Levites
(23:4) were divided also into twenty-four courses, each to
render some allotted service in public worship: 4,000 in
twenty-four courses were set apart as singers and musicians
under separate leaders (25); 4,000 as porters or keepers of the
doors and gates of the sanctuary (26:1-19); and 6,000 as
officers and judges to see to the administration of the law in
all civil and ecclesiastical matters (20-32).
This arrangement was re-established by Hezekiah (2 Chr. 31:2);
and afterwards the four sacerdotal courses which are said to
have returned from the Captivity were re-divided into the
original number of twenty-four by Ezra (6:18).
ascent, the high priest when the ark was at Shiloh (1 Sam. 1:3,
9). He was the first of the line of Ithamar, Aaron's fourth son
(1 Chr. 24:3; comp. 2 Sam. 8:17), who held that office. The
office remained in his family till the time of Abiathar (1 Kings
2:26, 27), whom Solomon deposed, and appointed Zadok, of the
family of Eleazar, in his stead (35). He acted also as a civil
judge in Israel after the death of Samson (1 Sam. 4:18), and
judged Israel for forty years.
His sons Hophni and Phinehas grossly misconducted themselves,
to the great disgust of the people (1 Sam. 2:27-36). They were
licentious reprobates. He failed to reprove them so sternly as
he ought to have done, and so brought upon his house the
judgment of God (2:22-33; 3:18). The Israelites proclaimed war
against the Philistines, whose army was encamped at Aphek. The
battle, fought a short way beyond Mizpeh, ended in the total
defeat of Israel. Four thousand of them fell in "battle array".
They now sought safety in having the "ark of the covenant of the
Lord" among them. They fetched it from Shiloh, and Hophni and
Phinehas accompanied it. This was the first time since the
settlement of Israel in Canaan that the ark had been removed
from the sanctuary. The Philistines put themselves again in
array against Israel, and in the battle which ensued "Israel was
smitten, and there was a very great slaughter." The tidings of
this great disaster were speedily conveyed to Shiloh, about 20
miles distant, by a messenger, a Benjamite from the army. There
Eli sat outside the gate of the sanctuary by the wayside,
anxiously waiting for tidings from the battle-field. The full
extent of the national calamity was speedily made known to him:
"Israel is fled before the Philistines, there has also been a
great slaughter among the people, thy two sons Hophni and
Phinehas are dead, and the ark of God is taken" (1 Sam.
4:12-18). When the old man, whose eyes were "stiffened" (i.e.,
fixed, as of a blind eye unaffected by the light) with age,
heard this sad story of woe, he fell backward from off his seat
and died, being ninety and eight years old. (See ITHAMAR
Eli, Heb. eli, "my God", (Matt. 27:46), an exclamation used by
Christ on the cross. Mark (15:34), as usual, gives the original
Aramaic form of the word, Eloi.
father of abundance, or my father excels, the son of Ahimelech
the high priest. He was the tenth high priest, and the fourth in
descent from Eli. When his father was slain with the priests of
Nob, he escaped, and bearing with him the ephod, he joined
David, who was then in the cave of Adullam (1 Sam. 22:20-23;
23:6). He remained with David, and became priest of the party of
which he was the leader (1 Sam. 30:7). When David ascended the
throne of Judah, Abiathar was appointed high priest (1 Chr.
15:11; 1 Kings 2:26) and the "king's companion" (1 Chr. 27:34).
Meanwhile Zadok, of the house of Eleazar, had been made high
priest. These appointments continued in force till the end of
David's reign (1 Kings 4:4). Abiathar was deposed (the sole
historical instance of the deposition of a high priest) and
banished to his home at Anathoth by Solomon, because he took
part in the attempt to raise Adonijah to the throne. The
priesthood thus passed from the house of Ithamar (1 Sam.
2:30-36; 1 Kings 1:19; 2:26, 27). Zadok now became sole high
priest. In Mark 2:26, reference is made to an occurrence in "the
days of Abiathar the high priest." But from 1 Sam. 22, we learn
explicitly that this event took place when Ahimelech, the father
of Abiathar, was high priest. The apparent discrepancy is
satisfactorily explained by interpreting the words in Mark as
referring to the life-time of Abiathar, and not to the term of
his holding the office of high priest. It is not implied in Mark
that he was actual high priest at the time referred to. Others,
however, think that the loaves belonged to Abiathar, who was at
that time (Lev. 24:9) a priest, and that he either himself gave
them to David, or persuaded his father to give them.
Aaron was the first who was solemnly set apart to this office
(Ex. 29:7; 30:23; Lev. 8:12). He wore a peculiar dress, which on
his death passed to his successor in office (Ex. 29:29, 30).
Besides those garments which he wore in common with all priests,
there were four that were peculiar to himself as high priest:
(1.) The "robe" of the ephod, all of blue, of "woven work,"
worn immediately under the ephod. It was without seam or
sleeves. The hem or skirt was ornamented with pomegranates and
golden bells, seventy-two of each in alternate order. The
sounding of the bells intimated to the people in the outer court
the time when the high priest entered into the holy place to
burn incense before the Lord (Ex. 28).
(2.) The "ephod" consisted of two parts, one of which covered
the back and the other the breast, which were united by the
"curious girdle." It was made of fine twined linen, and
ornamented with gold and purple. Each of the shoulder-straps was
adorned with a precious stone, on which the names of the twelve
tribes were engraved. This was the high priest's distinctive
vestment (1 Sam. 2:28; 14:3; 21:9; 23:6, 9; 30:7).
(3.) The "breastplate of judgment" (Ex. 28:6-12, 25-28;
39:2-7) of "cunning work." It was a piece of cloth doubled, of
one span square. It bore twelve precious stones, set in four
rows of three in a row, which constituted the Urim and Thummim
(q.v.). These stones had the names of the twelve tribes engraved
on them. When the high priest, clothed with the ephod and the
breastplate, inquired of the Lord, answers were given in some
mysterious way by the Urim and Thummim (1 Sam. 14:3, 18, 19;
23:2, 4, 9, 11,12; 28:6; 2 Sam. 5:23).
(4.) The "mitre," or upper turban, a twisted band of eight
yards of fine linen coiled into a cap, with a gold plate in
front, engraved with "Holiness to the Lord," fastened to it by a
ribbon of blue.
To the high priest alone it was permitted to enter the holy of
holies, which he did only once a year, on the great Day of
Atonement, for "the way into the holiest of all was not yet made
manifest" (Heb. 9; 10). Wearing his gorgeous priestly vestments,
he entered the temple before all the people, and then, laying
them aside and assuming only his linen garments in secret, he
entered the holy of holies alone, and made expiation, sprinkling
the blood of the sin offering on the mercy seat, and offering up
incense. Then resuming his splendid robes, he reappeared before
the people (Lev. 16). Thus the wearing of these robes came to be
identified with the Day of Atonement.
The office, dress, and ministration of the high priest were
typical of the priesthood of our Lord (Heb. 4:14; 7:25; 9:12,
It is supposed that there were in all eighty-three high
priests, beginning with Aaron (B.C. 1657) and ending with
Phannias (A.D. 70). At its first institution the office of high
priest was held for life (but comp. 1 Kings 2:27), and was
hereditary in the family of Aaron (Num. 3:10). The office
continued in the line of Eleazar, Aaron's eldest son, for two
hundred and ninety-six years, when it passed to Eli, the first
of the line of Ithamar, who was the fourth son of Aaron. In this
line it continued to Abiathar, whom Solomon deposed, and
appointed Zadok, of the family of Eleazar, in his stead (1 Kings
2:35), in which it remained till the time of the Captivity.
After the Return, Joshua, the son of Josedek, of the family of
Eleazar, was appointed to this office. After him the succession
was changed from time to time under priestly or political
the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed, a daughter of Levi (Ex.
6:20). Some explain the name as meaning mountaineer, others
mountain of strength, illuminator. He was born in Egypt three
years before his brother Moses, and a number of years after his
sister Miriam (2:1,4; 7:7). He married Elisheba, the daughter of
Amminadab of the house of Judah (6:23; 1 Chr. 2:10), by whom he
had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. When the
time for the deliverance of Isarael out of Egypt drew nigh, he
was sent by God (Ex. 4:14,27-30) to meet his long-absent
brother, that he might co-operate with him in all that they were
required to do in bringing about the Exodus. He was to be the
"mouth" or "prophet" of Moses, i.e., was to speak for him,
because he was a man of a ready utterance (7:1,2,9,10,19). He
was faithful to his trust, and stood by Moses in all his
interviews with Pharaoh.
When the ransomed tribes fought their first battle with Amalek
in Rephidim, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the scene of the
conflict with the rod of God in his outstretched hand. On this
occasion he was attended by Aaron and Hur, his sister's husband,
who held up his wearied hands till Joshua and the chosen
warriors of Israel gained the victory (17:8-13).
Afterwards, when encamped before Sinai, and when Moses at the
command of God ascended the mount to receive the tables of the
law, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy
of the elders of Israel, were permitted to accompany him part of
the way, and to behold afar off the manifestation of the glory
of Israel's God (Ex. 19:24; 24:9-11). While Moses remained on
the mountain with God, Aaron returned unto the people; and
yielding through fear, or ignorance, or instability of
character, to their clamour, made unto them a golden calf, and
set it up as an object of worship (Ex. 32:4; Ps. 106:19). On the
return of Moses to the camp, Aaron was sternly rebuked by him
for the part he had acted in this matter; but he interceded for
him before God, who forgave his sin (Deut. 9:20).
On the mount, Moses received instructions regarding the system
of worship which was to be set up among the people; and in
accordance therewith Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the
priest's office (Lev. 8; 9). Aaron, as high priest, held
henceforth the prominent place appertaining to that office.
When Israel had reached Hazeroth, in "the wilderness of
Paran," Aaron joined with his sister Miriam in murmuring against
Moses, "because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married,"
probably after the death of Zipporah. But the Lord vindicated
his servant Moses, and punished Miriam with leprosy (Num. 12).
Aaron acknowledged his own and his sister's guilt, and at the
intercession of Moses they were forgiven.
Twenty years after this, when the children of Israel were
encamped in the wilderness of Paran, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
conspired against Aaron and his sons; but a fearful judgment
from God fell upon them, and they were destroyed, and the next
day thousands of the people also perished by a fierce
pestilence, the ravages of which were only stayed by the
interposition of Aaron (Num. 16). That there might be further
evidence of the divine appointment of Aaron to the priestly
office, the chiefs of the tribes were each required to bring to
Moses a rod bearing on it the name of his tribe. And these,
along with the rod of Aaron for the tribe of Levi, were laid up
overnight in the tabernacle, and in the morning it was found
that while the other rods remained unchanged, that of Aaron "for
the house of Levi" budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds (Num.
17:1-10). This rod was afterwards preserved in the tabernacle
(Heb. 9:4) as a memorial of the divine attestation of his
appointment to the priesthood.
Aaron was implicated in the sin of his brother at Meribah
(Num. 20:8-13), and on that account was not permitted to enter
the Promised Land. When the tribes arrived at Mount Hor, "in the
edge of the land of Edom," at the command of God Moses led Aaron
and his son Eleazar to the top of that mountain, in the sight of
all the people. There he stripped Aaron of his priestly
vestments, and put them upon Eleazar; and there Aaron died on
the top of the mount, being 123 years old (Num. 20:23-29. Comp.
Deut. 10:6; 32:50), and was "gathered unto his people." The
people, "even all the house of Israel," mourned for him thirty
days. Of Aaron's sons two survived him, Eleazar, whose family
held the high-priesthood till the time of Eli; and Ithamar, in
whose family, beginning with Eli, the high-priesthood was held
till the time of Solomon. Aaron's other two sons had been struck
dead (Lev. 10:1,2) for the daring impiety of offering "strange
fire" on the alter of incense.
The Arabs still show with veneration the traditionary site of
Aaron's grave on one of the two summits of Mount Hor, which is
marked by a Mohammedan chapel. His name is mentioned in the
Koran, and there are found in the writings of the rabbins many
fabulous stories regarding him.
He was the first anointed priest. His descendants, "the house
of Aaron," constituted the priesthood in general. In the time of
David they were very numerous (1 Chr. 12:27). The other branches
of the tribe of Levi held subordinate positions in connection
with the sacred office. Aaron was a type of Christ in his
official character as the high priest. His priesthood was a
"shadow of heavenly things," and was intended to lead the people
of Israel to look forward to the time when "another priest"
would arise "after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:20). (See