Aaron (c. 13th century BCE) was the elder brother of Moses, and by acting as Moses’ mouthpiece he contributed in the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. (Exodus 1-10) Subsequently he made the golden calf to console the people during Moses’ absence on Mount Sinai. (Exodus 32) An explanation for Aaron’s consent to make the golden calf is thus:

When arriving at Sinai Moses immediately goes to mediate with God for the people, thus Moses is superior in that he can come closer to God. Aaron could only approach with Nadab and Abihu and the seventy elders of Israel, by special command, near enough to see God’s glory, but not to enter his immediate presence.

During his brother absence on Sinai, Aaron grew momentarily tired in his responsibility; giving into the demands of the people for visible gods he made the golden calf.

Perhaps it seemed more prudent to him to make an image of Jehovah in the well known form of Egyptian idolatry (Apis or Mnevis), rather than risking the total alienation of the people to false gods; and his weakness was rewarded by seeing a «feast to the Lord» degraded to the lowest form of heathenish sensuality; and knowing, from the words and deeds of Moses, that the covenant with God was utterly broken. He repented and Moses gained forgiveness for him (Deuteronomy 9:20).

Moses consecrated Aaron to a new office of high priesthood of the Sanctuary (Exodus 28-29, Leviticus 8-9), the only instance that his individual character is seen as presumptuous.

However, his position is perceived in biblical literature as the archetypal priest and the founder of hereditary priesthood. In rabbinic Judaism, Aaron is seen as a peace maker, one being close to the people. A.G.H.


Smith’s Bible Dictionary, Philadelphia, A. J. Holman, Co., Revised Ed., p. 1
Bowker, John, The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions, New York, Oxford University Press, 1997, p. 1