(Ex. 32:4,8; Deut. 9:16; Neh. 9:18). This was a molten image of
a calf which the idolatrous Israelites formed at Sinai. This
symbol was borrowed from the custom of the Egyptians. It was
destroyed at the command of Moses (Ex. 32:20). (See AARON
T0000002; MOSES T0002602.)
Calves were commonly made use of in sacrifices, and are
therefore frequently mentioned in Scripture. The "fatted calf"
was regarded as the choicest of animal food; it was frequently
also offered as a special sacrifice (1 Sam. 28:24; Amos 6:4;
Luke 15:23). The words used in Jer. 34:18, 19, "cut the calf in
twain," allude to the custom of dividing a sacrifice into two
parts, between which the parties ratifying a covenant passed
(Gen. 15:9, 10, 17, 18). The sacrifice of the lips, i.e.,
priase, is called "the calves of our lips" (Hos. 14:2, R.V., "as
bullocks the offering of our lips." Compare Heb. 13:15; Ps. 116:7;
The golden calf which Aaron made (Ex. 32:4) was probably a
copy of the god Moloch rather than of the god Apis, the sacred
ox or calf of Egypt. The Jews showed all through their history a
tendency toward the Babylonian and Canaanite idolatry rather
than toward that of Egypt.
Ages after this, Jeroboam, king of Israel, set up two idol
calves, one at Dan, and the other at Bethel, that he might thus
prevent the ten tribes from resorting to Jerusalem for worship
(1 Kings 12:28). These calves continued to be a snare to the
people till the time of their captivity. The calf at Dan was
carried away in the reign of Pekah by Tiglath-pileser, and that
at Bethel ten years later, in the reign of Hoshea, by
Shalmaneser (2 Kings 15:29; 17:33). This sin of Jeroboam is
almost always mentioned along with his name (2 Kings 15:28
(1.) The translation of a word which is a generic name for
horned cattle (Isa. 65:25). It is also rendered "cow" (Ezek.
4:15), "ox" (Gen. 12:16).
(2.) The translation of a word always meaning an animal of the
ox kind, without distinction of age or sex (Hos. 12:11). It is
rendered "cow" (Num. 18:17) and "ox" (Lev. 17:3).
(3.) Another word is rendered in the same way (Jer. 31:18). It
is also translated "calf" (Lev. 9:3; Micah 6:6). It is the same
word used of the "molten calf" (Ex. 32:4, 8) and "the golden
calf" (1 Kings 12:28).
(4.) In Judg. 6:25; Isa. 34:7, the Hebrew word is different.
It is the customary word for bulls offered in sacrifice. In Hos.
14:2, the Authorized Version has "calves," the Revised Version
a calf. (1.) One of the sons of Midian, who was Abraham's son by
Keturah (Gen. 25:4).
(2.) The head of one of the families of trans-Jordanic
Manasseh who were carried captive by Tiglath-pileser (1 Chr.
A cow and her calf were not to be killed on the same day (Lev.
22:28; Ex. 23:19; Deut. 22:6, 7). The reason for this enactment
is not given. A state of great poverty is described in the words
of Isa. 7:21-25, where, instead of possessing great resources, a
man shall depend for the subsistence of himself and his family
on what a single cow and two sheep could yield.
father's brother. (1.) The son of Omri, whom he succeeded as the
seventh king of Israel. His history is recorded in 1 Kings
16-22. His wife was Jezebel (q.v.), who exercised a very evil
influence over him. To the calf-worship introduced by Jeroboam
he added the worship of Baal. He was severely admonished by
Elijah (q.v.) for his wickedness. His anger was on this account
kindled against the prophet, and he sought to kill him. He
undertook three campaigns against Ben-hadad II., king of
Damascus. In the first two, which were defensive, he gained a
complete victory over Ben-hadad, who fell into his hands, and
was afterwards released on the condition of his restoring all
the cities of Israel he then held, and granting certain other
concessions to Ahab. After three years of peace, for some cause
Ahab renewed war (1 Kings 22:3) with Ben-hadad by assaulting the
city of Ramoth-gilead, although the prophet Micaiah warned him
that he would not succeed, and that the 400 false prophets who
encouraged him were only leading him to his ruin. Micaiah was
imprisoned for thus venturing to dissuade Ahab from his purpose.
Ahab went into the battle disguised, that he might if possible
escape the notice of his enemies; but an arrow from a bow "drawn
at a venture" pierced him, and though stayed up in his chariot
for a time he died towards evening, and Elijah's prophecy (1
Kings 21:19) was fulfilled. He reigned twenty-three years.
Because of his idolatry, lust, and covetousness, Ahab is
referred to as pre-eminently the type of a wicked king (2 Kings
8:18; 2 Chr. 22:3; Micah 6:16).
(2.) A false prophet referred to by Jeremiah (Jer. 29:21), of
whom nothing further is known.
house of God. (1.) A place in Central Israel, about 10 miles
north of Jerusalem, at the head of the pass of Michmash and Ai.
It was originally the royal Canaanite city of Luz (Gen. 28:19).
The name Bethel was at first apparently given to the sanctuary
in the neighbourhood of Luz, and was not given to the city
itself till after its conquest by the tribe of Ephraim. When
Abram entered Canaan he formed his second encampment between
Bethel and Hai (Gen. 12:8); and on his return from Egypt he came
back to it, and again "called upon the name of the Lord" (13:4).
Here Jacob, on his way from Beersheba to Haran, had a vision of
the angels of God ascending and descending on the ladder whose
top reached unto heaven (28:10, 19); and on his return he again
visited this place, "where God talked with him" (35:1-15), and
there he "built an altar, and called the place El-beth-el"
(q.v.). To this second occasion of God's speaking with Jacob at
Bethel, Hosea (12:4,5) makes reference.
In troublous times the people went to Bethel to ask counsel of
God (Judg. 20:18, 31; 21:2). Here the ark of the covenant was
kept for a long time under the care of Phinehas, the grandson of
Aaron (20:26-28). Here also Samuel held in rotation his court of
justice (1 Sam. 7:16). It was included in Israel after the
kingdom was divided, and it became one of the seats of the
worship of the golden calf (1 Kings 12:28-33; 13:1). Hence the
prophet Hosea (Hos. 4:15; 5:8; 10:5, 8) calls it in contempt
Beth-aven, i.e., "house of idols." Bethel remained an abode of
priests even after the kingdom of Israel was desolated by the
king of Assyria (2 Kings 17:28, 29). At length all traces of the
idolatries were extirpated by Josiah, king of Judah (2 Kings
23:15-18); and the place was still in existence after the
Captivity (Ezra 2:28; Neh. 7:32). It has been identified with
the ruins of Beitin, a small village amid extensive ruins some 9
miles south of Shiloh.
(2.) Mount Bethel was a hilly district near Bethel (Josh.
16:1; 1 Sam. 13:2).
(3.) A town in the south of Judah (Josh. 8:17; 12:16).
a descendant of the tribe of Levi (Ex. 6:25; Lev. 25:32; Num.
35:2; Josh. 21:3, 41). This name is, however, generally used as
the title of that portion of the tribe which was set apart for
the subordinate offices of the sanctuary service (1 Kings 8:4;
Ezra 2:70), as assistants to the priests.
When the Israelites left Egypt, the ancient manner of worship
was still observed by them, the eldest son of each house
inheriting the priest's office. At Sinai the first change in
this ancient practice was made. A hereditary priesthood in the
family of Aaron was then instituted (Ex. 28:1). But it was not
till that terrible scene in connection with the sin of the
golden calf that the tribe of Levi stood apart and began to
occupy a distinct position (Ex. 32). The religious primogeniture
was then conferred on this tribe, which henceforth was devoted
to the service of the sanctuary (Num. 3:11-13). They were
selected for this purpose because of their zeal for the glory of
God (Ex. 32:26), and because, as the tribe to which Moses and
Aaron belonged, they would naturally stand by the lawgiver in
The Levitical order consisted of all the descendants of Levi's
three sons, Gershon, Kohath, and Merari; whilst Aaron, Amram's
son (Amram, son of Kohat), and his issue constituted the
The age and qualification for Levitical service are specified
in Num. 4:3, 23, 30, 39, 43, 47.
They were not included among the armies of Israel (Num. 1:47;
2:33; 26:62), but were reckoned by themselves. They were the
special guardians of the tabernacle (Num. 1:51; 18:22-24). The
Gershonites pitched their tents on the west of the tabernacle
(3:23), the Kohathites on the south (3:29), the Merarites on the
north (3:35), and the priests on the east (3:38). It was their
duty to move the tent and carry the parts of the sacred
structure from place to place. They were given to Aaron and his
sons the priests to wait upon them and do work for them at the
sanctuary services (Num. 8:19; 18:2-6).
As being wholly consecrated to the service of the Lord, they
had no territorial possessions. Jehovah was their inheritance
(Num. 18:20; 26:62; Deut. 10:9; 18:1, 2), and for their support
it was ordained that they should receive from the other tribes
the tithes of the produce of the land. Forty-eight cities also
were assigned to them, thirteen of which were for the priests
"to dwell in", i.e., along with their other inhabitants. Along
with their dwellings they had "suburbs", i.e., "commons", for
their herds and flocks, and also fields and vineyards (Num.
35:2-5). Nine of these cities were in Judah, three in Naphtali,
and four in each of the other tribes (Josh. 21). Six of the
Levitical cities were set apart as "cities of refuge" (q.v.).
Thus the Levites were scattered among the tribes to keep alive
among them the knowledge and service of God. (See PRIEST
the Oldest 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. Compare
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