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Aaron’s Death on Mount Hor


The English language includes many idiomatic expressions for death and dying. We might say someone “kicked the bucket” or is “pushing up daisies.” More respectful expressions include “passed on” or “departed this life.” Christians might say a fellow believer has been “promoted to glory.” And it’s certainly accurate to say that someone has “gone to meet their Maker.”

A common expression in the Pentateuch for death and dying is found in today’s reading: Aaron was to be “gathered to his people” (vv. 24, 26). This idiom functioned as a reminder of previous generations from which Aaron had descended and with whom death would reunite him. There was also a literal dimension; in the Ancient Near East, family members were often put in the same tombs. Finally, in context this expression served as an encouraging reminder of God’s faithfulness, in that an individual’s life and death are seen as part of a larger story ultimately orchestrated by the Lord.

Aaron had been involved in Moses’ sin at Meribah, when they had not honored God before the people. Moses disobeyed His instructions to speak to the rock, striking it instead to obtain water. God said that as a result neither would be permitted to enter the Promised Land (vv. 12, 24). Given this punishment, the notice concerning the time and location of Aaron’s death may have been welcomed. Mount Hor was “near the border of Edom” (v. 23), a nation that the Israelites had walked around earlier in the chapter.

God had a purpose for even this sad occasion. An orderly, divinely approved transition in priestly leadership from Aaron to his son Eleazar was needed (vv. 25–28). This was the final way in which Aaron could serve his people. His journey on Earth was complete.

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BY Brad Baurain

Bradley Baurain is Associate Professor and Program Head of TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) at Moody Bible Institute. Bradley has the unique privilege of holding a degree from four different universities (including Moody). He has just published his first book, On Waiting Well. Bradley taught in China, Vietnam, the United States, and Canada. Bradley and his wife, Julia, have four children and reside in Northwest Indiana.

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