God Speaks Directly to Aaron Only Twice
Leviticus 10:8-11; Numbers 18:1-24
There are only two occasions in the Bible where God speaks directly to Aaron.
God of course speaks directly to Aaron’s brother Moses again and again and again throughout the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Moses’ recounting of events and law in Deuteronomy. But only twice does the Vice President of the Israelite Exodus and Wandering Venture Company receive direct instructions from the Lord.
These two instances fall at Numbers 18 over the first 24 verses and more briefly in Leviticus 10 over verses 8 through 11.
The latter is the somewhat puzzling and seemingly out of place instruction from the Lord to Aaron regarding priestly intoxication following the episode where God dramatically killed Aaron’s two eldest sons for an infraction (also puzzling) of proper routine as they performed a sacrificial rite as priests.
Bible Bits is not interested here in untangling the reasons for the Lord’s execution of Nadab and Abihu, other than to note that our oddly placed passage of interest has long carried, because of its placement, an interpretation of partly explaining God’s motivations for the killings.
Here’s the entirety of Leviticus 10 from the freely-distributable World English Bible translation. God speaks directly to Aaron at verses 8 through 11:
1 Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer, and put fire in it, and laid incense on it, and offered strange fire before Yahweh, which he had not commanded them. 2 And fire came forth from before Yahweh, and devoured them, and they died before Yahweh.
3 Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what Yahweh spoke of, saying, “‘I will show myself holy to those who come near me, And before all the people I will be glorified.'” Aaron held his peace. 4 Moses called Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Uzziel the uncle of Aaron, and said to them, “Draw near, carry your brothers from before the sanctuary out of the camp.” 5 So they drew near, and carried them in their coats out of the camp, as Moses had said.
6 Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons, “Don’t let the hair of your heads go loose, neither tear your clothes; that you don’t die, and that he not be angry with all the congregation: but let your brothers, the whole house of Israel, bewail the burning which Yahweh has kindled. 7 You shall not go out from the door of the Tent of Meeting, lest you die; for the anointing oil of Yahweh is on you.” They did according to the word of Moses.
8 Yahweh spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 “Drink no wine nor strong drink, you, nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, that you don’t die: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations: 10 and that you are to make a distinction between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; 11 and that you are to teach the children of Israel all the statutes which Yahweh has spoken to them by Moses.”
12 Moses spoke to Aaron, and to Eleazar and to Ithamar, his sons who were left, “Take the meal offering that remains of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire, and eat it without yeast beside the altar; for it is most holy; 13 and you shall eat it in a holy place, because it is your portion, and your sons’ portion, of the offerings of Yahweh made by fire: for so I am commanded. 14 The waved breast and the heaved thigh you shall eat in a clean place, you, and your sons, and your daughters with you: for they are given as your portion, and your sons’ portion, out of the sacrifices of the peace offerings of the children of Israel. 15 The heaved thigh and the waved breast they shall bring with the offerings made by fire of the fat, to wave it for a wave offering before Yahweh: and it shall be yours, and your sons’ with you, as a portion forever; as Yahweh has commanded.”
16 Moses diligently inquired about the goat of the sin offering, and, behold, it was burned: and he was angry with Eleazar and with Ithamar, the sons of Aaron who were left, saying, 17 “Why haven’t you eaten the sin offering in the place of the sanctuary, seeing it is most holy, and he has given it you to bear the iniquity of the congregation, to make atonement for them before Yahweh? 18 Behold, its blood was not brought into the inner part of the sanctuary: you certainly should have eaten it in the sanctuary, as I commanded.”
19 Aaron spoke to Moses, “Behold, this day they have offered their sin offering and their burnt offering before Yahweh; and such things as these have befallen me: and if I had eaten the sin offering today, would it have been pleasing in the sight of Yahweh?” 20 When Moses heard that, it was pleasing in his sight.
(Leviticus 10, World English Bible)
The direct communication from the Lord to Aaron in the Book of Numbers comes in the midst of lengthy and involved instructions from God to Moses regarding the priestly role of Aaron and his direct sons and descendants, and the assistant-to-the-priest and tabernacle maintenance role all the other cousins of Moses and Aaron from the root tribal line of forefather Levi.
Aaron is the first of all Hebrew priests, all future priests will come only from Aaron’s direct line, and all these males will become priests.
At the same time, all other male persons from the patriarchal tribe of Levi — Levi is the great-grandfather of brothers Moses and Aaron — will be assistants to priests and serve roles in tabernacle movement and maintenance. These persons are referred to as Levites, and come in three groupings as explained in the fine print of Numbers chapter 3 in verses 21 thru 37. (And yes, the priests are from the tribe of Levi, but are not called “Levites.” Also, apparently nobody thought to refer to the priestly class, descending exclusively from Aaron, as the “Aaronites.”)
As Aaron is the first of all priests, God sees fit to give orders and instructions regarding the priesthood directly to Aaron himself, bypassing Aaron’s “boss” and younger brother, Moses.
There is a lot going on in Numbers 18 and surrounding chapters. The content is particularly important to the Lord, and covers the distinctions — sometimes subtle and subject to misinterpretation and failure — between the Levite and Priestly classes and their duties for God, roles involving ceremony, and jobs involving the tabernacle (and later, the temple). The consequences for overstepping boundaries are severe — see the smoking corpses of Nadab and Abihu above — so a full grasp of the nuanced details are important.
And so we give you here the entirety of Numbers 18 and its thicket of instruction, most of which (verses 1 through 24) is of the Lord speaking directly to Aaron. From the World English Bible:
1 Yahweh said to Aaron, You and your sons and your fathers’ house with you shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary; and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood. 2 Your brothers also, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, bring you near with you, that they may be joined to you, and minister to you: but you and your sons with you shall be before the tent of the testimony. 3 They shall keep your charge, and the charge of all the Tent: only they shall not come near to the vessels of the sanctuary and to the altar, that they not die, neither they, nor you.
4 They shall be joined to you, and keep the charge of the tent of meeting, for all the service of the Tent: and a stranger shall not come near to you.
5 You shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar; that there be wrath no more on the children of Israel. 6 I, behold, I have taken your brothers the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are a gift, given to Yahweh, to do the service of the tent of meeting.
7 You and your sons with you shall keep your priesthood for everything of the altar, and for that within the veil; and you shall serve: I give you the priesthood as a service of gift: and the stranger who comes near shall be put to death.
8 Yahweh spoke to Aaron, I, behold, I have given you the charge of my heave-offerings, even all the holy things of the children of Israel; to you have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to your sons, as a portion forever. 9 This shall be your of the most holy things, [reserved] from the fire: every offering of theirs, even every meal-offering of theirs, and every sin-offering of theirs, and every trespass-offering of theirs, which they shall render to me, shall be most holy for you and for your sons.
10 As the most holy things shall you eat of it; every male shall eat of it: it shall be holy to you.
11 This is your: the heave-offering of their gift, even all the wave-offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them to you, and to your sons and to your daughters with you, as a portion forever; everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of it. 12 All the best of the oil, and all the best of the vintage, and of the grain, the first fruits of them which they give to Yahweh, to you have I given them. 13 The first-ripe fruits of all that is in their land, which they bring to Yahweh, shall be your; everyone who is clean in your house shall eat of it.
14 Everything devoted in Israel shall be yours. 15 Everything that opens the womb, of all flesh which they offer to Yahweh, both of man and animal shall be your: nevertheless the firstborn of man shall you surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals shall you redeem. 16 Those who are to be redeemed of them from a month old shall you redeem, according to your estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary (the same is twenty gerahs). 17 But the firstborn of a cow, or the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat, you shall not redeem; they are holy: you shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and shall burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savor to Yahweh. 18 The flesh of them shall be your, as the wave-breast and as the right thigh, it shall be your. 19 All the heave-offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to Yahweh, have I given you, and your sons and your daughters with you, as a portion forever: it is a covenant of salt forever before Yahweh to you and to your seed with you.
20 Yahweh said to Aaron, You shall have no inheritance in their land, neither shall you have any portion among them: I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. 21 To the children of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel for an inheritance, in return for their service which they serve, even the service of the tent of meeting. 22 Henceforth the children of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting, lest they bear sin, and die. 23 But the Levites shall do the service of the tent of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute forever throughout your generations; and among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithe of the children of Israel, which they offer as a heave-offering to Yahweh, I have given to the Levites for an inheritance: therefore I have said to them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.
25 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 26 Moreover you shall speak to the Levites, and tell them, When you take of the children of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave-offering of it for Yahweh, a tithe of the tithe.
27 Your heave-offering shall be reckoned to you, as though it were the grain of the threshing floor, and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 Thus you also shall offer a heave-offering to Yahweh of all your tithes, which you receive of the children of Israel; and of it you shall give Yahweh’s heave-offering to Aaron the priest. 29 Out of all your gifts you shall offer every heave-offering of Yahweh, of all the best of it, even the holy part of it out of it. 30 Therefore you shall tell them, When you heave the best of it from it, then it shall be reckoned to the Levites as the increase of the threshing floor, and as the increase of the wine-press. 31 You shall eat it in every place, you and your households: for it is your reward in return for your service in the tent of meeting. 32 You shall bear no sin by reason of it, when you have heaved from it the best of it: and you shall not profane the holy things of the children of Israel, that you not die.
(Numbers 18, World English Bible)
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